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Misplaced Music

Misplaced Music is a Leeds, UK-based label which is so far responsible for a fine selection of beautiful countryish/folkish records and CDs. It was born in 2001 and is developing slowly into a trustworthy home for quiet, inward-looking music (which often seems to include scrapy violins, for some reason). My initial exposure to the label was through buying the Hood tour single at a Hood gig at the Arts Cafe in London. Ah, that was a gig to remember, if only for the incredible Cassetteboy performance which took place – but that’s another story.

Through the magic of the e-mail interview I quizzed the label’s founder Sara in order to git y’all the low-down on a label which you should know about. There are details of the Misplaced releases so far further down the page, and you should check out www.misplacedmusic.co.uk for the latest.

For now, to the questioning…

Is it just you running the label on your own?

I started out on my own, but as I work full time, the to-do list quickly got out of control. These days my husband Richard helps out. He’s a great writer and does our press releases and a fair bit of the fanzine.

You also run the Hood website, is that right?

It seems like I’ve been doing the Hood site (www.hoodmusic.net) for ages, though it’s been only about five or six years. I was looking at the wayback machine the other day (www.archive.org) and they have a couple of earlier incarnations of the site. By no means am I a great web designer, but things have progressed quite a bit!

When did Misplaced start, and why?

It started back in 1999 (I think) when I used to DJ at the University radio station in Duluth, KUMD. They really had nothing as far as a library is concerned, so I had to bring in all of my own collection to play. I literally spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars on absolutely crap records. There are too many labels with more money than sense, shoving out any old thing that crosses their path. It was (and still is) disheartening, but it made me think I could make a better job of it.

How did you get tracks off bands such as Low, Idaho, etc? Do you know them, or did you just write and ask?

Well, Low was an easy one as I’m from Duluth, and Hood, Empress, Vibracathedral Orchestra and Dakota Suite are all from Leeds, where I live now. It’s nice to be able to deal with bands face-to-face. I struggle a bit when everything’s done by e-mail and you don’t really get to know the person you’re writing to all of the time.

Are there any labels (now, or from the past) which you have found an inspiration – and in what way?

I used to aspire to be something like Secretly Canadian, but that was just because they happened to put out a bunch of records at the same time that I really loved. There aren’t any labels that I follow these days, I can’t seem to find any that are reliably good for more than one or two releases… I may be a bit picky though.

Do the releases you’ve put out reflect your own personal musical tastes? What other things do you like musically?

Yes I suppose they do, in a way… Though with the spit 7″s, I asked a band and they picked who they would be paired with. I think it worked well, as I had never heard Vibracathedral Orchestra, Two Dollar Guitar or Idaho before I put those 7″s out!

I am most inclined to listen to singer-songwriter or country music at the minute. The funny thing is that I was never really interested in country music until I moved from the US… same with American literature. Being away from the line of fire definitely puts a different perspective on things.

What are your views on the state of independent labels these days? Do you think MP3 downloads are having an adverse effect on indie labels? Are you a vinyl purist?

I think things are incredibly difficult for indie labels right now. It’s practically impossible to release something on vinyl and expect to break even. CDs are a bit easier, but it’s always a challenge. MP3s are an excellent way to get people to hear music they probably wouldn’t otherwise. I do like vinyl, and hope that I can continue to release it, but it’s getting more and more difficult. In a way MP3s are good for labels like us who get little or no radio play, as people can hear t he music before buying it. But whether they actually go ahead and buy it or not is anyone’s guess.

Who designs your packaging? Is the visual element of a record important to you? Which are some of your favourite record sleeves?

There are loads of great records that I’ve put off buying just because their sleeves were so awful I couldn’t believe that the music they contained would be anything I could possibly like. So, from a business point of view, I guess it is important what the art looks like, but does anyone really give it another thought once they’ve got the record home and on the turntable?

So far with everything I’ve released the bands have designed their own artwork, except for the Low/Vibracathedral Orchestral split 7″ which I did. I’m not really bothered about who does the artwork, and it is nice to see what the bands come up with.

As for my favourite sleeves… well, I’m partial to Hood’s The Cycle of Days and Seasons and The Court & Spark’s Ventura Whites.

You produce a Misplaced fanzine. Are you a fan of fanzines, and do you have favourites from now or the past? How do you feel the internet has affected the ‘international pop underground’ network of fanzines?

It does seem that there are fewer fanzines around now than there used to be, and I’m pretty sure that’s because of the internet. Publishing a fanzine is a time-consuming and expensive business, and I can see the appeal of just putting it on the internet. Personally, I like a tangible object, and will always keep an eye out for a new issue of The Big Takeover or Hermenaut.

To be honest, I never really planned on doing a fanzine, but it seemed like it would be a nice thing to add in with orders. I’ve always loved getting lots of inserts and things when I buy records, and the fanzine is an extension of that.

You recently put on your first Misplaced gig (Maher Shalal Hash Baz/Empress/Deerpark) – do you have plans for more? How will the label develop/diversify?

Misplaced is a hobby, so there aren’t any long-term plans. Whatever happens will be the result of natural evolution, maybe we’ll put on a few gigs in Leeds, maybe we’ll do some t-shirts or badges, we may even sign a band one day… I really don’t have any idea where things may lead.

* * *

mm01 – Low/Vibracathedral Orchestra 7″
Low’s song is very short, sparse and drowsy sounding, with Calvin Johnson on melodica!
Vibracathedral Orchestra have hypnotic mantra-style drones, insistent violins and a tense relentlessness in a Velvet Underground style.

mm02 – Hood 7″ (tour single)
Chilly and forlorn sounding, this is Hood at their most open and honest. Hollow cymbals, restrained bass and guitar arpeggios slowly build tension.

mm03 – Simon Joyner & The Fallen Men/Two Dollar Guitar 7″
Simon Joyner is slightly too miserable for my liking. Plaintive acoustic guitar, violin and don’t-bother-cheering-me-up singing. Two Dollar Guitar is more of the same – a bizarrely depressing cover of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Last Time’, featuring Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley!

mm04 – Dakota Suite/Idaho 7″
Both sides remind me of Red House Painters, with very well-played and very well-recorded sad music. Dakota Suite keep things quiet, including a heartbreaking piano number, ‘Narcolepsy Lake’. Idaho get a bit more electrified, feedback-y and pissed-off sounding, and bring to mind Jeff Buckley.

mm05 – Empress 7″
Loops of scratchy sound build up repetitive melodies, with hushed vocals, simplistic guitar lines and piano overlaid. This reminds me of the homemade, warm sounds of Electroscope in a way.

mm101 – Hood ‘Singles Compiled’ CD / mm102 – Hood ‘Compilations 1995-2002’ CD
These two came together in a limited edition rough fabric bag with a polaroid stuck to the front. Gotta love that packaging! mm101 is a double cd of singles from 1994-1998, mm102 is a single cd of tracks used on compilations/split singles. It’s Hood, therefore it’s fantastic.

mm104 – Charlie Parr ‘Criminals and Sinners’ CD
Nine-track CD of excellent, foot-tappin’, smile-inducin’ country blues tunes which sound not of this time. Excellent steel (I think?) guitar and biscuit tin drums!

mm103 – Time for Rodeo ‘Extended Play’ CD
This isn’t out at the time of writing. So, er, not much to say about it. Yet…