Friday, 18 September 2015

Tuff Love

There is no doubt that Tuff Love are one of scotland's most exciting new bands. Having played with the likes of Purfect Pussy, Joanna Gruesome, Paulo Nutini and even getting a personal invite to support Ride on their triumphant comback tour; it's already been a busy and very special year for the three-piece.

Now, as the days get shorter and the winter tours begin its time for some new material and new track 'Duke' effortlessly continues Tuff Love's fine form. Taken from the upcoming EP Dregs, released on November 5th via Lost Map Records, this shimmering guitar led track is all you need to get over that sore summer hangover. Lofi fuzz and dreamy vocals take you back to that sun drenched festival feild that always feels so far away in the early September drizzle.

In November the Glasgow trio will take their exciting new EP on tour and will definitely be worth checking out. Dates are as follows:

Nov 5 – Iceland Airwaves, Reykjavík
Nov 7 - Limbo, Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh 
Nov 8 – Swn Festival, Cardiff 
Nov 9 – The Harley, Sheffield 
Nov 10 – The Musician, Leicester 
Nov 11 – The Hope & Ruin, Brighton 
Nov 12 – Dalston Victoria, London 

Nov 13 – Beacons Metro X DIY, Leeds 

Nov 14 – The Castle, Manchester 

Nov 15 – The Fulford Arms, York 

Nov 21 - Hug & Pint, Glasgow 

Monday, 31 August 2015

The Art Is Hard 5th Birthday Bash

Art Is Hard Records may only just be old enough to start primary school but they've had a pretty busy last five years. From humble beginnings releasing purely south west based bands to becoming one of the UK's most influential DIY record labels. It is no surprise then, that last Saturday's fifth birthday party, hosted over three stages at the Exchange and the Stag and Hound in Bristol, had everything.

The afternoon began in the cosy, and perhaps fittingly modest, bar of the Stag and Hound where Exeter's Skeleton Frames drenched the room in a spectacularly dark and dingy shoe gaze. After a quick nip round the corner to the Exchange it was time to see Caramel, a band I'd heard about but not listened to before the gig. Featuring members from the brilliant Joanna Gruesome, including Owen Williams (also of Grubs), the Cardiff and Bristol based band really impressed with their lively punk riffs and shouty vocals.

Sadly an awkward hotel check-in time meant we missed a few bands sets. Luckily however we were back in time for Manchester's brilliant Fruit Bomb. The four-piece treated the growing Exchange crowd to tracks like 'Normcore Girlfriend', released as part of Art Is Hard's Family Portrait compilation, and recent single 'Goin' Home'. 

Fruit Bomb where not the only Family Portrait artists to bring their rowdy sounds to the party. Abattoir Blues and Bruising also made appearances at the Exchange, the latter of whom proving just why they are one of the most talked about DIY bands around at the moment despite a slight delay due to new guitar troubles.

Grubs, who are set to release their debut album on September 11th, were next on. Despite some troubles remembering their own songs the band whistled through a set that had all the charm we've come to expect from the trio and which was finished off in style with a raucous rendition of 'Gym Shame'.

Soon afterwards we found ourselves upstairs in the Stag and Hound awaiting a second set from Roxy of Grubs this time however as her own project Two White Cranes. It was a set to remember as every song was met with what seemed like endless woops from friends and fans alike. The set contained great tracks from both her debut and recently released second album and was described as her "favourite ever set" on Two White Cranes' Facebook.

After a quick ear rest it was time for the noise to really start with a string of heavy bands all in quick succession. First Birdskulls unleashed their ever darkening sound on the Stag and Hound with tracks from their imminent debut Trickle. Soon after being involved in Birdskull's very rough and sweaty mosh, Bloody Knees exploded into action in the Exchange swamping the room with the sludgy pop punk sound that has made them favourites with the likes of the NME and DIY magazine.

In a day of amazing sets it was the next that would really take my breath away. Nai Harvest, the night's special guests began with an empty looking room as people slowly stumbled in from the pummelling of Bloody Knees. That soon changed. A set that featured tune after tune from debut album Hairball and a cover of Teenage Fanclub's 'Ain't That Enough' that even got me singing along; strong praise indeed I assure you. The mesmerising set ended with a rapturous singalong to 'Buttercups' before singer Ben Thompson leapt onto bandmate Lew Currie's bass drum, taking in the crowd's sticky excitment as he flung his guitar to the ground.

As the night drew to a close there was just one question on everyone's lips: Trust Fund or The Black Tambourines? We decided to compromise, Trust Fund first then catch the end of The Black Tambs'. 

A crowded Exchange eagerly awaited the much hyped Trust Fund and he didn't let his home crowd down. Shapes were thrown and lyrics were sung by a buzzing crowd. It seemed as though there was not a person in the room who wasn't loving the icon of Bristols DIY scene. A hypnotic rendition of 'Cut Me Out' glued us to the Exchange until the end of the set.

As the final bars echoed out we were on the run around the corner for The Black Tambourines. Total chaos awaited. Bodies flew around the small room. Feet swooped past heads. As the set came to an end a microphone disappeared into the crowd, then another before guitarist Josh Spencer-Fletcher was dragged above the crowd, still slashing at the strings of his guitar. The finale proved too much for bassist Jake Willbourne who found himself disappearing over the drum kit and onto the floor. And they say punk is dead!

From mellow beginnings to dazzling glory, the Art Is Hard 5th Birthday Party pretty much summed up the label's short history. It was brilliant.

Monday, 24 August 2015

It Must Be Grubs!

It's been a long and work filled summer but finally I have a moment to unleash my pent up musical excitement. It's been a while now since I eagerly awaited the brilliant Grubs as they prepared to play in Bristol's cosy Start The Bus bar. A year on and I am preparing again for the quick trip up to Bristol to see the band again, only this time there is an album on the way.

It Must Be Grubs will feature the bands only two previously released tracks 'Dec 15' and 'Gym Shame'. These quick bursts of youthful exuberance will be joined by recently streamed new track 'Windwaker'. Here we hear Roxy Brennan (of Joanna Gruesome and many, many more) provide both main and backing vocals along side band-mate Owen Williams (also of Joanna Gruesome, Caramel and more).

The album is released on September 11th via both Reeks of Effort and Tuff Enough Records. You can pre-order the record on its own or with a t-shirt. Oh yeah, and there's a cute dog on the cover. Get it here.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Big Catch Up 7 - Art Is Hard Have Been Busy!

Any regular readers of this blog will know that I adore Art Is Hard Records and by the looks of it that isn’t going to change any time soon! While we’ve all been slaving away they’ve continued to churn out more and more gold (in some cases literally).

A few years ago Art is Hard introduced four bands on a compilation titled ‘Family Portrait’. One of these bands, Joanna Gruesome, went on to win the Welsh Music Prize for their debut album, Weird Sister. Another, Playlounge, have gone on to become one of the key figures of UK DIY and have even hopped across the pond once or twice.

It is unsurprising then that the thought of a ‘Family Portrait Volume 2’ sent shivers of joy down my spine. Once again four bands came together for the compilation, which was for each of them their first physical release.

Kicking off are Canada’s Living Hour who provide a thick fog of shimmering shoegaze. Brighton’s rowdiest new boys Abattoir Blues follow with gangling guitars and farce vocals aplenty. The pair are joined by DIY band of the moment Bruising, who’ve exploded onto the scene receiving bucket loads of love from the likes of DIY magazine, and Fruit Bomb who share members with Nai Harvest and provide suitably up-beat indie riffs in tracks ‘Normcore Girlfriend’ and ‘Naked’.

In more recent Art Is Hard news, last week the label announced it’s latest release from Early Ghost. Single, ‘Now I Always Wander If I Like It Here’ is a laid back gem from the band who’ve been seen supporting Neutral Milk Hotel. Soft, questioning vocals lie fittingly over velvety guitar twangs and a tapped out drum beat. Released on a suitably gold cassette, this is just really, really good.

Lastly I don’t think I’ve had a chance to write about the new singles club, the Hand Cut Record Club. Following on from last years pizza club this provides a new hand cut 7’ every three weeks, of which just 50 will be made.

Falmouth’s surf punks The Red Cords where the proud makers of the first single in the form of ‘Scratch It Off’ and have been joined more recently by the likes of Double Denim and Dignan Porch. Totness’s Dog are behind the latest single and it really is something special. 'All Dressed Up Not Dancing' is only the second song the band has put out and mixes a continuous sharp keyboard poke with soft vocals. Fans of Happyness will adore this track and the bands other online material.

It’s perhaps fitting to end this catch up series with Dog, a band who I believe we will be seeing a lot more of. Definitely a band who are worth keeping an eye on.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Big Catch Up 6 - I Discovered Ought

I am one of those very lucky people who will be attending the End of the Road Festival later this year and I can’t wait. Mac Demarco, Alvvays, Future Islands and of course the Fat White Family, will all be there. However there is one band that I am perhaps even more excited to see.

Montreal’s Ought have been around for a while and their debut album came out last April so it’s fair to say I’ve been pretty slow here. I first saw a live video of them playing at Pitchfork music festival in Paris and it just blew me away. Exquisitely atmospheric their sound is timeless. Guitarist and Vocalist Tim Beeler Darcy’s punchy vocals sit charmingly above floating keyboards and winding bass lines as the band build up into exciting choruses to which you just have to sing along.

Debut album, More Than Any Other Day, is full to the brim with brilliant tracks of Ought’s hypnotic cross of post punk and indie. This really is the kind of album that you cannot stop listening to.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Big Catch Up 5 - Girlpool - Before The World Was Big

Girlpool’s debut EP, which I wrote about on this very blog, was snapped up in moments by none other than Wichita Recordings. Now they are back with a debut album in the form of Before The World Was Big. Cleo Tucker and Harmony Trividad prove that best friends can make simple but brilliant music together with ease.

Opener ‘Ideal World’ is driven gently by Trividad’s bass while the pair perfectly harmonize, a feature that is dominant throughout the ten tracks on the album. The title track sees the pair’s instruments coming together in a way that almost seems as though they are finishing each other’s senesces. This creates an enticing synergy that reflects their close friendship.

There is a gentle sweetness that makes this album about as loveable as you can get. Combined with the fascinatingly beautiful harmonies and intriguing simplicity of just a guitar and a bass, this makes Girlpool’s debut one of the best of the year so far.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Big Catch Up 4 - Birdskulls Have Made An Album

After a quick jaunt up to Leeds my catch up continues: 

On my list of reasons for being proud to live in Exeter, Birdskulls are right up there next to having a football team who once held Man U to a nil-nil draw. It’s no surprise then, that the announcement of their debut album, Trickle, which will be released on Brighton based label Dog Knights Productions, really got me through the darkest of those revision filled days.

To make things more exciting, we were also treated to a brand new single in the form of  ‘Good Enough’, which premiered, on Noisey. This is Birdskulls at their grungy best as guitarist and front man Jack Pulman, also of the brilliant Abattoir Blues, angrily shouts “I don’t wonna go to bed”. If the whole album is as good as this one track we are most definitely in for a treat.

Birdskulls are off on tour supporting Best Friends next month so look out for them and get there early to sample some top-notch grunge.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Big Catch Up 3 - Nai Harvest - Hairball

My last post on this blog was all about these guys. They’ had just released ‘All The Time’ from their upcoming album Hairball. Fast-forward almost four months and that album is out and it’s everything I could have ever hoped for!

Tracks like ‘Melanie’ and the hugely catchy ‘Gimme Gimme’ are genuine DIY anthems backing up the fantastic early tasters ‘Sick On My Heart’ and ‘All The Time’. Meanwhile ‘Ocean of Madness’ is slower, but still as brilliantly memorable.

Ben Thomason and Lew Currie’s ability to write fantastic indie pop songs full of dazzling glittery guitars and hopping drums make this album perhaps the most fun record you’ll buy all year.

If you’ve never listened to Nai Harvest (where have you been hiding?!) it’s always worth remembering that ‘Hold Open My Head’ is one of the best songs to come out of the UK’s DIY scene this century!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Big Catch Up 2 - I Went To See Yak Again (Twice)

Since I was lucky enough to see Yak support Peace in Bristol in January they’ve really exploded into action. A debut single already released and nestled nicely in my record collection and the Plastic People EP on its way later this year, this band will be big and soon.

Yak’s first visit to Exeter was back in February so it’s a bit of a disgrace I’m only just mentioning it. In a support slot for Palma Violets, the band set about their fuzz filled set with suitably rumbling bass lines and shimmering guitar feedback. The night was young but the room was full to see one of the UK’s hottest new bands and they definitely didn’t disappoint.

It wasn’t long before they where back, this time with a headline slot at Exeter’s finest underground club, The Cavern. Equally hotly tipped, The Big Moon joined Yak as supports and got the party started with their fun filled set, which included fantastic new single ‘Sucker’.

Soon after Yak were on, and playful as ever. Front man Ollie Burslem presented a rather unappealing looking buffest for audience members to pick at before singing through cardboard cups and writhing around on the floor.

I’ve seen Yak three times now and their phenomenally tight, gigantic sound is no doubt taking them to the top.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Big Catch Up 1 - Marching Church - This World Is Not Enough

Elias Rønnenfelt took a break from the country-infused post punk of Iceage to release this gem. While Marching Church began life as a Rønnenfelt solo project, for debut album, ‘This World Is Not Enough,’ he is joined by a full band complete with strings and horns.

‘This World Is Not Enough’ takes us through an array of varied sounds from the pumping drums of opener ‘Living in Doubt’ to the shrouded darkness of ‘You’re Father’s Eyes’. The Iceage front man’s often bleak but always fascinating lyrics tie together each song with illustrious ribbons of pure pretension.

I can see that this album will not be for everyone. If you’re a fan of beautifully grandiose music and Nick Cave-esque vocals this album was lovingly crafted with you in mind and you’ve in for a treat.

The Big Catch Up

Weary heads are emerging from the thick, suffocating cloud of exam time stress and sweltering nervous anticipation. I have finally finished exams (hopefully forever) and therefore I have returned to spread my opinions via this deep crevice of Internet space that I call my own.

While your heads have been buried deep in textbooks, red eyes straining to grapple with just a few more lines of Hamlet, your ears have missed a lot. For this reason I’ve put together this little catch up to introduce what you’ve missed and I’ve failed to rave about in the last few weeks. 

You can expect a new post every day for the next seven days as part of this feature. I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Nai Harvet - All The Time

Sheffield punks Nai Harvest know how to write a tune. It was not surprise then when, in early February, they announced that their debut album Hairball was on its way! 'All The Time' is the most recent of the album's tracks to appear online, bringing with it yet more mind-bending riffs and pounding drum.

Frontman Ben Thompson’s pop vocals rudely interrupt the tracks jumpy guitar hook to trample on a pile of feedback. His forceful, yet playful sounding vocals stutter, "I-I-I- I want it all the time" he shouts. The duo alternate between the punchy early riff and its insistent pop shriek and a slower hopping section of almost funky indie sound over which Thompson vigorously shouts "I want to break free".

'All The Time' joins the beautifully named 'Sick on My Heart', a frantic fuzz-ball of punk goodness, as the only two track from Hairball to have appeared online as of yet. If these two beauties are anything to go by there will no doubt be sweat next month when the band take their noisy surf rock neighbours Best Friends on tour with them. It's not one you want to miss!

The tour dates with Best Friends are as follows: 


16 - Cardiff, Clwb Ifor Bach
17 - London, Birthdays
18 - Brighton, Sticky Mike's Frog Bar
19 - Nottingham, Bodega
20 - Birmingham, The Oobleck
21 - Glasgow, Broadcast
22 - Manchester, Soup Kitchen
23 - Leeds, The Brudenell Social Club
24 - Sheffield, The Harley

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The Cribs - Different Angle

Wakefield's finest, The Cribs, recently declared "punk rock and indie are dead" in the steady build-up to the soon to be released For All My Sisters. Whether this hasty defence of the poppier new sound found on the bands sixth studio album is needed remains to be seen with just a handful of tracks online so far. The most recent of which, 'Different Angle' leaped into the brains of many when it was premiered on Steve Lamac's 6 Music show yesterday evening.

Unmistakably Cribsy, the wailing guitars of charismatic front man Ryan Jarman dominate the song, continually strutting around the fret board with the confidence of a band that have been carefully developing their sound for over a decade. Soft coos and distant vocals sit beneath the assertive guitars.

It's not until well into the second half of the single that the cries of brothers Gary and Ryan smash through the wall of noise. As the shroud of sound around the pair backs away timidly, they repeatedly question "when you look at me from a different angle, do you see something that you just can't handle?" Moments later a flutter of guitar strings waves away the track into ponderous silence.

While this change of sound might not be sitting well with some fans of retro Cribs, there is no denying they have earned the right to try something new. While 'Different Angle' doesn't quite matched up to For All My Sisters lead single 'Burning For No One', I can see that its repetitive charm could well gnaw its way into the brains of the masses, finally giving this fantastic British band the chance to make it big time.

So The Cribs are on the search for big time success, can you really find it in your heart to blame them? In the meantime I can assure you, punk rock and indie are very much alive and kicking!

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Musical Love Affair: Sorry, No - Boy/Girl Party

Manchester's Luke Bather has been making music under the Sorry, No umbrella since 2010 now. His melancholy brand of lo-fi sadcore has produced some exquisite parcels of DIY goodness, none better than 2013's charming 'Boy/Girl Party' released as part of Art Is Hard Records fabulous Postcard Club.

Sweet chimes join a gently strummed guitar as Bather's sweet vocals flutter in on the gentle breeze of sound. A distant fizzing synth murmurs as the young singer wistfully exclaims, "I got a little less excited, as the days rolled by". It's 'Boy/Girl Party's beautifully innocent and youthful lyrics that really make it memorable, Bather softly contemplates the excitement and gut-wrenching nerves that are synonymous to hosting a party.

As the song grows a fog of synth buzz bleeds into the mix of dancing drums and whispering guitars before everything but a gentle guitar and Bather's solitary vocals plunges away into the distance. Seconds later a cacophony of noise flitters back into action lead by the ever present electronic buzz. 

"You're all invited to the party" Bather sings moments before the music cuts leaving just a gentle glow of sound. If the party refereed to is the brilliant Postcard Club it's true, this delightful track and many more from the likes of Theo Verney and Trust Fund are available here for as much money as you feel is fair.

Friday, 6 March 2015

The Magic Gang - No Fun

Doesn't it seem as though The Magic Gang have been around for ages? The exciting young four-piece exploded into the crowded Brighton scene, covering onlookers with a warm exuberance that quickly spread throughout the land. There was only one thing missing from the UK's most hotly tipped new band - songs. With just two rough songs on an empty looking SoundCloud, including indie floor filler 'She Won't Ghost', the band have kept us waiting and waiting for new material.

As drowsy heads rose on yet another crisp Monday morning, soberly mapping out plans for the forthcoming week, a buzzing elation ignited within fuzzy brains. Laptops across the UK lit up with the news of a first proper single from The Magic Gang. The song in question, 'No Fun', will be released via Telharmonium Records on April 16 and its a cracker!

A rumbling bass brings in inquisitive guitar echos before heaving feedback makes way for flying riffs. As the chaotic smoke of strums clears, frontman Jack Kaye's Weezer inspired vocals take a trip on the constant wave of bass thunder. As a whirring chorus commences it's almost impossible to not imagine yourself in a sweat drenched mosh roaring along.

The long wait for 'No Fun' was indeed.. no fun, however it's eventual arrival brings with it more than enough joy and excitement to make up for it. On the evidence of this first single this will by no means be the last time we eagerly await fantastic new music from this thrilling Brighton band.

Theo Verney - Mountain Rose

Over the last few years Brighton's Theo Verney has been building up a bit of a reputation. Slamming bricks of sludgy distorted guitars under raucous howling vocals to build rooms of pure noise. Now Theo's back and better than ever.

'Mountain Rose' is the first song to appear from Verney's upcoming Brain Disease EP and offers up a slightly more refined sound than the unadulterated fuzz of previous releases. Built on foundations of sprinting guitars and a hopping drum beat, Verney's vocals are soft, gently filling in all cracks and crevices of the chugging verses.

A heavy riff demolishes any sense of calm as a punchy chorus explodes into life. "I wont get knocked down!" insists Verney, calling out from beneath boisterous guitars and crashing cymbals. The gallop of guitars once again takes over, quickly rebuilding what was demolished just moments before, only for it to be once again crushed under the weight of more fearsome guitars.

A shimmering guitar solo is the perfect interlude between the final lethal rounds of wrecking-ball guitars. The song quickly collapses out of view leaving just a murmuring cloud of dusty feedback.

Verney's Brain Disease EP is out soon on Marshall Teller Records and if this first peak is anything to go by we are in for a treat. If an upcoming EP isn't exciting enough a debut album is also on its way to our ears in the not-too distant future!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Mourn - Mourn

Madrid's Hinds (formerly Deers) took 2014 by storm touring their playful summer tunes and bringing the fiesta wherever they went. Travel east to Spain's second city and you'll find group of young Catalonians. Barcelona's Mourn, from a distance seem to have popped up over night, releasing their self-titled debut LP on February 16 on Captured Tracks.

Opener 'Your Brain Is Made of Candy' paces out of the blocks before trotting along echoed guitar strums and leaping into a drum lead gallop. A sudden finish to what has become a raucous opener sounds almost as if some ludicrous person has pulled the plug on the four teenagers. They quickly set things straight by jumping into the suitable named 'Dark Issues'. Thundering drums and ragged guitar riffs create a shroud of post-punk smog which leaks slowly into your jubilant ears.

'You Don't Know Me' and 'Marshall' offer up a mesmerising few minutes of heavy head-banging guitars at the album's midpoint. 'Squirrel' then meanders towards a more indie sound with a busily bumbling bass solo which plunges into a pool of slashed guitar chords.

 Youthful anger opens 'Jack' as singer Jazz Rodríguez Bueno calls out "you think you're awesome, I say you're boring, you called me a baby, I just said fuck you!". This fury continues until the albums bitter end in the form of the band's first ever song, 'Boys Are Cunts'. Scratching guitars accompany vocals reminiscent of Savages' front women Jenny Beth. Soft coos then morph into agonising screams of punk rock euphoria as the album explosively arrives at an abrupt finish.

On the surface Mourn's music is far from the dreamy indie rock of Hinds. However, as front women Bueno and Carla Pérez Vas chant "Your brain is made of candy" a fierce wave of youth power crashes against the glistening beaches of Barcelona. Despite their sound differences, Spain's two brightest new bands are leading the latest wave of exciting young European musicians and the future is looking sunny!

Monday, 9 February 2015

An Interview With... Art Is Hard Records

I've been pouring my musical heart out onto this blog for a little while now and while I try to keep things diverse one name seems to keep popping up. Art Is Hard Records was, until fairly recently, my local label. Set up by two friends, David and Richard, The label's love of local bands and links with the UK's extensive DIY scene helped introduce me to a whole new world of noisy pleasure. 

I spoke to co-founder David about the past, present and future of Art Is Hard.

How and why did you start Art Is Hard?

The how feels sort of fuzzy thinking back, it just sort of happened. Me and Richard had been talking about doing it for ages. We used to put on gigs in our hometown of Weymouth, mainly just because we wanted to put our tiny seaside town on the map as decent place for music. Starting a label was what we decided to do when we realised no one was going to come to our shows. 

You recently sold the last copies of The Black Tambourines/New Years Evil split EP, your first release. how did that feel?

We were incredibly naive and had no idea what we were doing when we put out two tiny bands from the South West on 7". When 250 copies turned up in my tiny bedroom I rather quickly resigned myself to taking them to my grave, so it's with a mixture of gratitude and sadness. 

What's it been like building up a record label in the South West?

It was originally our plan to only release bands from the South West but it didn't take us long to release most the bands we would of wanted to. We then started getting exciting people from further afield asking us to release them, so we had to break our own rules. I love the south west though, bands seem quite happy just making great stuff without getting really hyped and fizzling out like they might do in other places.

One of the great things about art is hard is how you get lesser known bands heard through initiatives like the pizza club and the post card club, can we expect more to come?

Definitely, this time last year me and Rich lived together and Georgie and Jake who help us out were both close by. We've all got less time at this year so we'd agreed it would be a silly idea to do one but then a couple of weeks ago Rich came to stay and we had a couple of drinks and decided we really missed doing a single's club so hopefully we should be launching the 2015 version very soon. We've got some great stuff lined up already including singles from The Red Cords, Trust Fund and Doe as well as lots of completely new bands.

There seems to be a sudden increase in AIH activity involving bands from across the pond, what's it like working with people so far away and how do those intercontinental relationships come about?

We're in a good position where a lot of good stuff now comes to us which is how we've ended up working with people like Shunkan and Blessin'. It's good fun although it can be a bit tricky trying to organise stuff with the time difference. I keep seeming to read important emails, first thing in the morning when I wake up and then completely forget about them.

2015 marks your fifth birthday, will you be celebrating in style?

I hope so, in terms of the wider music world which we exist in it feels like it's going to be a really big year. All the bands we've been releasing over the last couple of years suddenly have their debut albums coming out so it would be fun to get everyone back together for a big party later in the year. Maybe even a festival...should probably start planning!

If you could sign any band or artist, old or new, who would it be?

I'm not too sure on this actually; it's not something I ever really consider. Sort of like how I never really got celebrity crushes, it's just a weird unrealistic thing. It would be nice to carry on working with bands instead of being a stepping-stone for a bigger label but right now we can't really support that.

Is there anything coming up in 2015 that you are particularly excited for?

Tons! Obviously the aforementioned single's club. We're also doing a Record Store Day release with a dream team of other labels, the debut Shunkan album and also the second part of our Family Portrait series.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to start a label?

Start small and simple and be prepared to spend hours emailing people without a response. p.s. try and just have fun.

Visit Art Is Hard's tumblr to brows the archives and get your hands on some epic free music.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Musical Love Affair: Ides - Prisms

I've not done one of these for a while so it's probably about time I shared with you what I've been adoringly shovelling into my ears by the bucket load. Ides is perhaps best known because she is Alana McArdle, lead singer of Cardiff's noisiest indie-pop rabble - Joanna Gruesome.

On 'Prisms', in the absence of her four band mates, McArdle is almost unrecognisable. There is a vulnerability to the lonely partnership of young woman and guitar as she gently calls out "simple things, they make no sense to me". Perhaps ironically it is the songs beautiful simplicity that gives it a sweet and relatable charm. McArdle's heart-breaking sincerity, as she sings, "I hope that you're as happy as can be", seems to cover a deep frustration revealed as the song softly floats away on a gently flowing river of humming feedback.

Ides four minutes of tender bliss is available as part of Art Is Hard records' 2013 postcard club, where the download is accompanied by a beautiful postcard.