Nov 10 2008

Interview: Sarah Moody of Hardly Art

Published by at 12:00 pm under Interview,MP3's

(pictured above, Sarah Moody spilling a bowl of cereal all over her lap)

Sarah Moody is the General Manager of Hardly Art, a fledgling label founded by Sub Pop early last year. Already they have a roster of six national bands, and boast international distribution extending to the U.K. and New Zealand. Sarah co-manages the label with General Employee Nick Heliotis, who, with a little help from neighbors Sub Pop, run the day-to-day operations. And although Hardly Art do share some resources with Sub Pop, as Sarah mentions below, they are two entirely different labels.

I first spoke with Sarah sometime over the summer when I did a profile on Pretty & Nice, and have since kept in touch with her for various reasons, all of which regarded my obsession with Get Young. (And you know, maybe sometimes I was just looking for a little conversation). So after a while, I figured, why not do an interview! She does cool things! And with music, no less!So here we have an interview with the (soon-to-be) illustrious Sarah Moody, dispelling myths about the relationship between Sub Pop and Hardly Art, illuminating the label’s origin, and generally talking about what it takes to be a wicked sweet record label.

To start things off, how did you get involved with Sub Pop, and how did that lead to your job at Hardly Art?

I interned at Sub Pop in ’04 with Steve Manning in the publicity department – I was a junior in college at the time, so the idea of being somehow involved (albeit unpaid) with one of my favorite labels was a dream come true. I moved to Seattle for the summer, and went in pretty much every day… it was basic stuff for the most part – helping out with mailings, putting together press kits, updating the press database, etc. – but I got to meet some great people and go to a ton of shows, so it seemed like a good deal to me. In the fall I had to go back to Minnesota to finish school, and the following spring I sent Steve an email asking if he’d need help again that summer (this is while attempting to decide whether to move to Chicago or Seattle) – he wrote back almost immediately, so I decided to head west. Shortly after, he offered me a part-time job as his assistant, which eventually led to me being hired full-time in Sub Pop’s publicity department. I was there for about a year and a half, until I was offered the chance to be involved with Hardly Art, and switched over to that job. It’s a classic case of good timing, for the most part.

What are you trying to do differently as president (is that your official title?) and what do you see in the future of Hardly Art?

My official title is General Manager, and Nick (Heliotis) is the General Employee. In terms of how Hardly Art is different as a label, we run on a net profit split system – which tends to be friendlier towards the artist – and our contracts are very fair and basic. We try to make that process as straightforward as possible. Given that there are only two of us in the office here, I like to think that we have a stronger bond with our artists than many larger labels would – we’re here to promote each project and help our bands figure out the game of putting out what tends to be their first record. It’s a pretty supportive system.

How does Hardly Art find their talent? Do you use scouts? How reliant are you on MySpace?

We’re generally on the lookout for bands, which can include anything from finding small web articles, to getting tipped off by a friend or another band, to catching smaller bands at shows… it’s all pretty random. There are a few people at Sub Pop involved in the A&R for Hardly Art, which definitely helps. I personally don’t rely on MySpace much, but I know others use it, or are able to find some crazy band circles/associations just based on filtering through top friends and such. We also receive a decent amount of demo submissions, though I’ve yet to be blown away by any of those.

Is Hardly Art, as I’ve heard, basically Sub Pop in everything but name? How close a link is there between Hardly Art and Sub Pop, and what necessitated Hardly Art’s creation (or is HA an excuse to sign even more, really sweet bands)?

No offense to you or Sub Pop, but I would disagree with that – the association makes sense in some ways, given that we run our label out of the same office, and have a few shared resources (legal, manufacturing, accounting), as well as the same distributor. But overall, I think people lose sight of the fact that Hardly Art is run on a day to day basis by Nick and myself, which is a far cry from the 30+ employees at Sub Pop. We share some of the same ideals, and of course taste in bands, but at the same time, we have far less of a history behind us, and run on a completely different business model. We also tend to be much more interested in bands that are just starting out – the majority of our current roster had never released a proper record until signing on to work with us.

Are you trying to separate the images of the two? and with that, how do you decide if a band will go on Hardly Art or Sub Pop, (if that’s a decision at all)?

Again, I haven’t thought much about this as the two are already pretty separate in my mind. Generally it’s easy to tell which label would be the best fit for a band, but that is largely based on where the band would be most comfortable, as well as the interest level from either label – so it’s pretty easy to tell right from the start. They don’t cross paths terribly often.

Does the name Hardly Art come from the Thermals song “No Culture Icons”? If so, does that have anything to do with Hardly Art’s philosophy?

It does indeed come from that song, and while we don’t blast it every day, I’d like to think it’s a relevant part of our MO.

David and I were trying to figure this one out, from the Sub Pop website: “© 2008, Sub Pop Records, a subsidiary of Hardly Art Records.” Is Sub Pop a subsidiary of Hardly Art, or is that some sort of in-house joke? Are you even at liberty to discuss?

Funny thing is that that was definitely intended as a tongue-in-cheek joke, as we couldn’t figure out any other way to include a link to our site from the Sub Pop website, but I’ve received many confused emails and urgent press requests based on said joke. It’s still pretty good, though.

I notice Hardly Art takes a liking to bands with ampersands – were I to put an ampersand in my bands name, would I get signed to Hardly Art? Is an ampersand a suggested addition to any band name? A step up over the competition, maybe?

Though we may find ampersands aesthetically pleasing, we do have standards, you know!

Do you think Brittany Spears is making a comeback? And if so, why didn’t she perform at the VMAs? I feel this is the most important, and relevant, of my questions. So if you need extra time, please let me know.

Britney Spears made a comeback long ago by banking on the fact that she is a total mess. Given that standard, I’d say she’s pretty well set for life, regardless of the music she releases from here on out.

Thanks Sarah! We look forward to hearing more from Hardly Art bands. Below find a link to their band roster, and check some of them out!

(mp3) The Thermals – No Culture Icons

Here’s a video for “No Culture Icons” by The Thermals, Hardly Art’s namesake song:

YouTube Preview Image

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    Interview: Sarah Moody of Hardly Art « IndieMuse

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    Interview: Sarah Moody of Hardly Art « IndieMuse

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