The history of Seattle independent record labels is a long saga of early promise and even early success undone by changing times, overreaching, or simple running out of luck. In the shadow of that history, the smart, steady rise of Hardly Art represents a beautiful refusal to be bound by other people's misfortunes.
Going from humble beginnings as a mere Sub Pop incubator/imprint in 2007 to becoming the definitive record of Seattle indie pop's sound and spirit (a little bit rainbow, a little bit gutter) in 2016 is no small accomplishment. The fact that Hardly Art did that during the decade in which the decline of the music biz transformed from rumor into headlong certainty verges on the miraculous.
All credit goes to the curatorial instincts and promotional follow-through of general manager Sarah Moody (center), publicist Jason Baxter (right), and digital sales and media coordinator Matt Kolhede (left), who have shown a knack for nurturing the potential of local feminist melodic punk bands. They often sound akin but rarely sound alike. These include Tacocat, Chastity Belt, La Luz, S, and Gazebos. Out-of-town stars Shannon and the Clams, Protomartyr, Colleen Green, and (most recently) Kathleen Hanna's band the Julie Ruin help enlarge and enliven the context.
Hardly Art is one of three organizations nominated for a Stranger Genius Award this year, alongside 12 individual artists. All 15 will be celebrated at the free Stranger Genius Awards party on September 24 at the Moore Theatre. Five of them will go home with $5,000 each. To see everyone nominated this year, go to thestranger.com/genius2016.