Hobbledehoy Records is a small independent label founded and run by one Tom Majerczak. The thing I like most of all about Hobbledehoy (not including the actual released music itself), is that the guy just gets it... whether it's the extra effort making sure that releases are presented nicely, his forward thinking ways of dealing with people accessing music online, or just the friendly note that comes with your mailorder, he gets it. In a time when other record labels are freaking the fuck out about their CD sales dropping, and retaliating by partaking in activities like sending their goons to music blogs to send the message that sharing music is not okay, Tom would probably more likely be popping by to say thanks for the interest and asking what folks thought. That's pretty great I think, and awesomely enough it seems like his friendly but smart approach is paying off.
Hobbledehoy has put out releases by Arrows, Blueline Medic, oh messy life (the solo project of Adam from Lungs/Staying At Home), The Leap Year, Jamie Hay (that bearded bloke from the mighty Conation, A Death In The Family and Fear Like Us), and others.
Tom recently answered some questions about the label.
What led to you starting Hobbledehoy Records?
There was no pivotal moment, but it became something I wanted to do for a long time. In years gone by I found myself drawn to being involved in the musical community beyond just playing an instrument. Meeting new people through booking shows, record store employees, the studio engineer... interesting people in general who weren't necessarily the guitarist from the headlining band on any given evening. These people who had decided to invest so much of their lives into music was eye-opening. Whilst in high-school, an old friend of mine approached me to start a hobby label together. It only lasted for one release, but it's funny looking back now on how things have developed - that was Lee from THE HAWAIIAN ISLANDS first Melbourne band. Our potential second release was halted when the band called it a day. Looking for a new project, the singer from the defunct band and my label friend then together formed THESE HANDS COULD SEPARATE THE SKY (who made a split EP with ARROWS - HOB007). After my first year of University I decided to sell my car and get back into the game. I missed being involved with a record end-to-end. I knew doing it alone and being a student that things were going to move slowly, but that wasn't important.
Last year the you made the move from Melbourne to Adelaide. Did this impact the label at all?
In some respects, but I'm really glad to be here. Financially it has slowed down some things and because of which there have been some missed opportunities, but the city is a nice change of pace. Melbourne is wonderful and I have tentative plans to move back in the future, but musically there is almost too much going on. There's a lot of potential here to work with. Our distributor is in Melbourne and there aren't any Adelaide artists in the family which is a little odd. The move means Hobbledehoy isn't technically a bedroom-label anymore since my workspace is now in a larger separate room, which I'm not complaining about!
You recently gave Arrows first record "Modern Art & Politics", an album originally issued in 2008, a vinyl release. What lead to this decision?
Modern Art & Politics original 2008 release was a pretty significant milestone for the label for a lot of reasons. I was working with friends who's attitudes and approach to their band was just so perfect it rejuvenated my passion for the label. From that time on, I knew exactly the kind of people I wanted to help make records with. We (the band and myself) also had absolutely no idea how well the album would sell, ARROWS previously only self-releasing a couple of EPs in very low-quantities and were tucked away in virtual obscurity. The CD packaging was very expensive and our then international retail distributor released it 3 months late and without promotion by mistake. Our expectations were break-even at best. I always wanted to give it a vinyl release, but for a record that runs for almost an hour it would have to be a 2xLP, which in Australia costs as much as a private jet. I didn't think it could ever happen. The band has done well since its CD release, so during preparations for the move interstate I decided to bite the bullet and do a very short vinyl pressing, fearing the opportunity may not come up again. It's such an important release for the label, one many people first discovered Hobbledehoy with.
How do you feel about your choice after the fact? How did the release go?
Very pleased. After a lot of number crunching prior to I decided to sell it at what was essentially cost as an Hobbledehoy online store exclusive item. A debut record from a small local band released as a gatefold 2xLP over two years later was never going to break the bank, it was just important that it happened. At present there are just 7 copies left, it's done well.
How well are Hobbledehoy artists received internationally in general?
Surprisingly well. Some artists export a lot more than others, but that doesn't necessarily mean their total sales are any greater, the domestic / international proportions are just more skewed. THE CITY ON FILM album still ticks over in Japan, BLUELINE MEDIC's last full-length "42:19" sold a lot more then expected in the USA and people seem to mail-order ARROWS records from the most unlikely corners of the world. The recent 2xLP reissue of their 2008 debut album I did proved particularly interesting, international sales outsold domestic ones.
Your releases were being distributed in the USA by Lumberjack-Mordam when they went under, correct? Was this a huge deal for the label? Do your releases still make it over there?
LMMG (Lumberjack-Mordam Music Group) were an international distributor, typically taking on worldwide-rights for labels. I was lucky to retain Australian / New Zealand rights with Poison City Distribution while LMMG took care of the rest. Not so lucky when they caved about 10 months after the partnership. It was definitely a big deal, they owed a lot of money to Hobbledehoy... and to other labels a lot more (Asian Man Recs reported $50,000+ unpaid). Equally upsetting is they never returned all the stock in their warehouses. A thousand odd Hobbledehoy records, some which are out of print now and in demand that cannot be sold. Most of their staff were lovely people, seemed to be a real management blunder. Our releases still make it into stores within the United States and elsewhere in the world, for the moment I'm sticking with non-exclusive distributors and dealing direct with stores until I find someone comfortable to work with again.
With vinyl and record collecting being such a huge thing right now, why do you feel so many strong Australian releases are not given the vinyl treatment?
It's certainly much bigger now then in recent years, but I don't think it is quite the explosion some people may perceive it to be... at least not in my experience here in Australia. I still move significantly more CDs then vinyl LPs or 7"s. It feels like a very particular type of fan is purchasing more vinyl, which for some bands is great news while other bands don't seem to be so vinyl-friendly. Sometimes I have to remind myself just because I primarily buy LPs that doesn't mean everyone does, I suspect it's mostly the diehards. With Australia's tiny population, that's not a lot of people buying. Vinyl is very expensive to produce too, especially here, it's hardly profitable at the best of times.
From my Hobbledehoy mail ordering experiences, you're most definitely a dude who appreciates and understands the art of sending records through the mail. From the friendly note and stickers to the sometimes inclusion of bonus shit, I can't help but think that you just get what it's all about. What labels did you grow up ordering from and how did they shape your mail order practices today?
That's really kind of you to say, and it's really nice to hear people appreciate it. If there's any room / weight permitting, I always try to add something a little extra. In my early days of mail-order I use to go down to the currency exchange in the city and send US dollars through the post to places like Asian Man and No Idea records. Those guys definitely knew how to make a package received in the mail feel extra special. Later I noticed Polyvinyl would always include candy which was very cool. I briefly added redskins with a lot of orders years ago, but sometimes the heat would melt them and cause a mess in the package... so I cut that out pretty quick. Seems hard candy is key, I've added airheads in the past which went down really well... I just need to find a bulk supplier!
With digital releases becoming more common place do you think the role of the record label has become less important?
I don't believe so. That being said, a lot of the successful independent labels do more than what some people may perceive to be confined rolls of a record label. While some labels conversely do very little for their artists. I think many artists who have done things themselves in the beginning have a far more accurate picture and mature attitude to what their label is or isn't doing for them.
What are your thoughts on music piracy?
Sharing music is a wonderful thing, it's an important part of what makes music so brilliant. Music discovery is also key to a lot of peoples enjoyment. My understanding from talking to our artists over the years is the Hobbledehoy artist general consensus is it's a non-issue. Their primary motive is to be heard. To sell records, being paid, etc are all secondary concerns - still important nonetheless. Hobbledehoy is what I would call an out-of-control hobby, I still have to work outside of it but it remains a labor of love. As of right now, I believe that without music piracy the label and it's current crop of artists would be further lost in obscurity.
What is one thing that bugs you about the independent music community?
The lack of costumes, fireworks & lasers utilised in live shows.
What are some records you have you been flogging the shit out of recently?
TALONS 'Songs For Boats' is a really beautiful album that I've been enjoying. MY DISCO's latest 'Little Joy' has had a lot of rotation. I know it's had a lot negative feedback but I really like LEMURIA's latest 'Pebble' too.
If you could have the Hobbledehoy logo appear on the back of any record ever, what would it be?
I should probably say a Nickleback album so I could sleep on a giant pile of money, hey? My favorite record is THE PROMISE RING 'Nothing Feels Good' so I suppose that... I'd also accept the Ghostbusters motion-picture soundtrack.
Who was your favourite Ghostbuster?
I love Bill Murray, but how can I go past the typecast Hobbledehoy Egon Spengler? Brains of the bunch.
You can find out more about the label or order records at the Hobbledehoy Records website