Really, you’d have to be crazy to launch a record label in these troubled musical times. The major labels are bleeding badly, trimming their rosters and trying desperately to make sense of the digital world. Meanwhile, the indies are raising their profiles, and sometimes even their bottom lines, but with the clutter out there, it’s difficult for them to establish themselves as a distinguishable voice. Also, are you an RIAA disciple or not? Do you fight at all costs, suing students to protect your copyrights and artists? Or do you try to ride the wave of the downloading era in a non-combative manner? (Check out www.riaaradar.com for an interesting take on this and a list of hundreds of RIAA members.)
|Lincoln Street Roughs | Released by Dan Blakeslee | on Peapod Recordings | at the Stone Church, in Newmarket, NH | Sept 19 | at the North Star Cafe, in Portland | with Kristin Miller | Sept 22|
Poplar Street Demos | Released by Trey Hughes | on Peapod Recordings | Sept 4
Yet here comes Ron Harrity, recording engineer, former guitarist for Harpswell Sound, current guitarist for Honey Clouds, and the man behind Idea of North, who’s designed the packaging for a number of CDs in town. His Peapod Recordings dropped four discs on Tuesday, raising its catalog to seven with Harpswell Sound’s three releases as the baseline.
“I’m sort of combining a lot of the stuff I like to do anyway,” he says. “I’m helping with the packaging, the recording, playing on some tracks. With a lot of independent labels, Factory, Creation, Touch and Go, there’s a core of engineers, and a core designer, a community of some sort. I’m all over the place on this first batch, and I might not be that crazy on future stuff, but I do want to work on the future releases, in whichever capacity. I want it to be a group of not just friends but a community.”
He recorded several tracks on the Nord Express retrospective he’s releasing, Loveland1995-2005. An arty guitar/drums duo formed in Baltimore in the early 1990s, Nord Express are here releasing tracks not on their three EPs, plus eight new tunes recorded with Harrity, and a couple odds and ends. Harrity recorded all of the one-man show that is Nathan Halverson’s Nurse/Shark, four tracks full of acoustic guitars, random percussion, and various sounds from field recordings. He also threw in some guitars, the mastering, and design work.
His label’s first releases, like his recording and design work, are slightly odd and deceptively simple. Harrity’s tendencies toward sans-serif fonts, lower-case letters, and photos of everyday objects mirror a taste for live recordings, closely mic’d vocals, and “the weird moment in rock records that become memorable.” This stripped-down sensibility likely led him to fall in love with the music of former and current bandmate Trey Hughes, frontman for Harpswell Sound and now again for Honey Clouds. Recorded while teaching and living with his in-laws in Andover, New Hampshire, on a four-track, these Poplar Street Demos, 16 songs in all, are raw nuggets of lyrical songwriting by one of Portland’s smartest musicians.