Art Is Hard is an independent record label ran by two young lads, David West and Richard Walsh, based in three locations (this is just one of the many mysterious talents they possess), yet are primarily based in the Southwest. They have the potential to extend the southwest music scene with their remarkable music taste and co-op and office based wages to release stuff for bands residing from the Southwest. Their first release was a 9 track compilation in September 2010 and have since released a split 7” featuring New Years Evil and The Black Tambourines and are soon to release a 3 part cassette by My Name Is Ian. “Me and rich had been putting on gigs in Weymouth for quite a while and although it sounds like a cliché, starting a label felt like the natural progression.” David explains. “In terms of coming up with the idea and starting a label it all moved along fairly slowly and unseriously right up until the day we bought the t-shirts for the first release and there was suddenly no going back and a bit like “shit we actually have to do this!” An independent label based in the southwest undoubtedly struggles with profits due to the adverse music scene. “Its cynical views like this that make the southwest the musical void it really is.” The guy has a point. There are numerous bands that have become recognised despite hailing from the southwest. Muse, Metronomy and Joss Stone are perhaps the most distinguished Devonshire acts. He continues, “But in all seriousness it is hard when there are only a couple of medium sized cities and they’re all very spread out. Unfortunately it isn’t a case of build it and they will come. So yes you’re right, a couple of extra sales would be nice for the bands and the future of the label.” Tall Ships are a band from Falmouth who have used layers of math-rock riffs to soar their way to success regardless of forming in Cornwall. “I would’ve quite liked to put out Tall Ships debut EP” David elucidates, “it feels like we’ve known them for ages and we always knew people would really like them once they started getting out of the southwest/Falmouth.” David realises that having signed a band with such potential would have gained Art Is Hard attention, “I think what I’m really trying to get at is that if we were around at the time, I’d like to think they would’ve said yes we’d love to release our EP with you.” “Putting the southwest on the map musically is something we’ve always attempted to do; whether it be split 7” singles or putting on music festivals.” David rejoined when asked whether he is content with developing the southwest music scene knowing there’s potential profit if they were to relocate “For our fourth release we are putting out our first band from outside the region, and it’s purely about being fans and sharing aesthetics. Profit doesn’t even come into it till later on when we calculate how many weeks of the month we’ll have to live off cuppa soups.” It’s rare to see a label who avoids having a manipulative input. I asked if Art Is Hard have any control over what the bands do musically, in which David replied “Pretty much none at all, the most input we’ve had so far is helping the band decide on tracklistings. I’m not sure its something I’d feel comfortable doing by any means.” This is reassuring. Labels often seem to prioritize their money and success over the music. Consequently, Art Is Hard state their views on ‘selling out’ as far as record labels and bands go, an issue that has been exhausted by Journalists, and explain whether there’s a specific level of success that they want to achieve. “There’s quite a lot of stigma in alternative music attached to high aspirations and ‘selling out’. Ultimately we want to be thought of in years to come as one of the greats. Be able to place ourselves aside labels like Factory, K records, Sub Pop and Dischord, who have not only championed movements but also created them.” “In terms of selling out, there are a lot of unnecessary negative feelings attached. People seem to forget how hard it is for bands in terms of getting ‘what they’re due’. If there was an opportunity to receive increased recognition and get a bit of money on the side then I would certainly encourage that. I think the key is not compromising any of their values or their ‘brand’ image.” Various magazines and blogs have wasted hours debating the issue of ‘selling out’ and David has concluded the issue in one. It's statements like this that convey Art Is Hard are worthy of being on that aforementioned list of major labels. Abandoning the tedious subject, I ask David about his music taste. “I’m never quite sure to believe people who say they grew up listening to Television and Minor Threat or something like that.” He begins to illustrate how his love for music was initiated. “Up until when I first heard Arctic Monkeys about 6 years ago, I’d always been more of a passive receiver of music. After hearing them, roughly the same time broadband internet came around, I really started to investigate and start writing and promoting music myself. That’s not to say I’d be buying mp3’s from iTunes and happily attending ‘cheese nights’ if I hadn’t heard Arctic Monkeys, they were just a timely placebo.” David’s honesty is admirable. There’s no extensive list conveying a number of influential bands that most music fans feel obliged to love. The lack of pretentiousness is yet another reassuring aspect of Art Is Hard, enhancing their capability of getting ‘what they’re due’. Finally, I ask the clichéd question ‘What would you advise people who want to start a label?’ in which David replies ‘I’m going to give the standard response I’m afraid, just go for it! Try not to take too much notice of anything that’s come before you, don’t follow press release templates, don’t pay PR companies and most of all just have fun. As a side note, be prepared to have your opinion change 10 times a week, if I answered this interview again next week you’d probably get completely different answers!’ Discography aih001 - Brink of the clouds - 9 track compilation released as a tshirt released September 2010 aih002 - New Years Evil / The Black Tambourines split 7" and digital EP released November 2010 aih003 - My Name is Ian - Man Club (3 part Cassette club) released March, April and May aih004 - Breathe Out - S/T Photozine 21.3.10 Videos