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Harvest Time

Cambridge has never been what you’d call a hotbed of musical endeavour. Aside from the efforts of Syd and his friends some 40ish years ago, you’d be forgiven for thinking that not a whole lot has happened here. There are however a dedicated few who are hell bent on changing things, including Mr Simon Loynes of Harvest Time Recordings, who was recently kind enough to take a few minutes to set the record straight (boom boom!)

Why the hell did you call your label that?

Harvest Time was originally used for the promotions side of things before the label was actually formed, but we liked the name so much, that everything we do uses the name (promotions, online record shop and the label). Harvest Time was the first name I thought of and it stuck. Why Harvest Time specifically? Because that’s what I was doing when it all began.. harvesting.

How did you get the whole thing started? How long have you been running now?

The label started in March 2004 after the success of Harvest Time Promotions, which had at that time been running for one and a half years. So, I guess the label is just over a year old. The whole idea was to release the 7″ subscription series we ran and just see how things went from there. Thankfully, that went pretty well, so we have put out a number of 7″s, CD and CDRs since then, although things are a little quiet a moment. Harvest Time Records, our new online independent music record shop takes up most of our time currently. We are hoping to offer a series of limited, specially packaged CDRs exclusively from the record shop documenting experimental musicians based in Cambridge (and some further a field), but this is currently in the early stages of preparation.

Have you been inspired by any labels in terms of style/ambition/enthusiasm?

Not really in terms of ambition, but certainly in style. Constellation would have been an influence for the packaging. We believe in quality, unique and special packaging, so that’s one of the most important aesthetic traits of Harvest Time. The quality and attention to detail of the packaging is paramount. Musically, I would say the label has become more experimental than the original idea, so a label like Hapna or Eclipse would be something to aspire to.

What kind of a role has the internet played regarding your label? Some people these days operate exclusively via the ‘net, whilst others are still very much mail order based. What’s your stance?

Harvest Time is primarily Internet based, but we do have some mail order customers (when the PO box actually works!). Our releases have been distributed by Cargo, so they were available in the shops, but for the time being, it’s online and mail order only. The internet is a great medium, but it has resulted in a number of disparate scenes rather than one unified scene possibly because of its scale. Ultimately it is a great thing and should eventually bring democratisation of the industry, but how exactly within the internet this achieved, I am not too sure. Eventually the Internet will (hopefully) become a modern representation of the post punk era, with as much communication and dissemination of music being achieved as was then. In many ways, this is being achieved now, but to me at least, it appears still a disparate community. The internet, like most things, has its pros and cons.

Do you feel an affiliation with other labels out there? Is there any kind of community or so-called ‘scene’ – be it local or not – that you feel linked to?

I have good friends who run small labels such as Strange Lights and Tripel Records, who are both based in Cambridge, so we often share ideas and talk about the trials and tribulations of running micro indie labels. As its pretty quiet on the label front at the moment, we don’t feel like we are part of a scene, as we are not releasing enough to warrant this. But as mentioned previously, eventually I would like the label to be similar in terms of quality of output to Eclipse, Hapna, Paw Tracks and the like. Time will tell. The ultimate goal is to have a roster of musicians creating new music and where people feel they can trust the output of the label.

Has there ever been a time when you felt like calling it a day, that the label was too much trouble?

No trouble. Too small to be trouble, maybe this will happen with the record shop, but I hope not!!

Where have you found bands you’ve released stuff by so far? Do you get demos etc sent to you? Do you ask the bands or do they ask you?

Well, the subscription series featured local Cambridge favourites The Broken Family Band. I still think it’s their best release, much more minimal and restrained than their records. Through promotions I have released records such as Of Montreal. I got back in contact with Kevin Barnes and with much help from my friend Keith Symonds (he deserves the credit in getting HTR the Of Montreal release) we released a glorious 7″ called ‘I Was A Landscape In Your Dream’. Same thing with Wooden Ghost. I also use the label as an output for various projects that I am involved in, so there’s no demo stage there . I do also get demos in the post, but as yet (much like the promotions) they fail to make any real impression.

Speaking of which, do you have any hot musical tips for us at the moment?

Don’t know about tips, but I am currently digging the whole Finnish free folk scene, particularly KEMIALLISET YSTÄVÄT. MI and L’AU’s upcoming debut on Young God Records has some amazingly high points and a 7″ entitled ‘The Mans Got Me Beat’ by UM on Strange Lights.

Who decides the artwork for your releases? Do you have a major say in the matter, or do you let the bands decide?

So far, all artwork for Harvest Time Recordings has been drawn/painted by Lucy Graves, which definitely fits in with the initial unique packaging idea. As long as the bands are happy, no trouble as yet, this will continue.

Who do you use to make and print your records? Would you recommend them to others?

Harvest Time uses GZ in the Czech Republic, like many indie labels.

They used to be real cheap (excellent quality/thickness of vinyl for the money), but since becoming part of the EU, the tax has gone up because we now pay their rate of tax, not UK import tax, so it’s a bit more. However, they are generally very good and quick. Looking around for other manufacturers is currently on our to do list as we hear its getting cheaper to do it in the UK. The next release is likely to be a lathe cut 10″ from a guy in New Zealand, so this will be a new experience. Getting your own lathe is the way to go, but that is not too realistic at this point, may be down the line.

Got any advice for the prospective new label mogul?

Keep a good head and always carry a light bulb.

Finally, what would be your dream release – which band, which format, and how would it be packaged?

To release a 7″ by Will Oldham. Simple line artwork on a type of card that I am yet to find. Stark and minimal like the song itself.

Harvest Time Recordings website