Q+A with Manon Raupp founder of Hidden Bay Records about her love of cassettes and the rebirth of the format in underground circles.
Over the past few years, there have been plenty of indie labels putting out flawless releases. Art is Hard
and Howling Owl
in Bristol, Love Thy Neighbour
in Brighton and Killing Moon
in London. They have prided themselves on finding the best new music, packaging it in clever and inventive ways and generally having their finger on the pulse.
There are countless other labels doing the same across Europe. One stands out head and shoulders above the rest. Hidden Bay Records.
To date, this cassette-only label has put out 17 exquisite releases
that cover art-rock, pop-punk, neo-chanson, bedsit indie and neon pop.
We managed to speak to founder Manon Raupp about origins, why cassettes, the day to day struggles of running and label and why the cassette won’t die.
: Who runs the label and how did it come about?
We're two friends running Hidden Bay. I met Cécile Trion a bit less than ten years ago on Myspace. Before finishing Art School, in Toulouse, I felt I needed to start a "serious" project to ensure a smooth transition into post-student life, so I asked Cécile if she wanted to start a record label with me! We had no idea where to start or how much work it would be. We've learnt a lot along the way, even though it's been hard to be taken seriously sometimes due to the fact that we're two girls.
GL: Where did the name come from?
I had a list of ideas floating around, but when I listened to the cover of The Chills by Terry Malts, two bands that I love, I knew I'd found the name... "I've been searching for the hidden bay / Well it's a long long way, the hidden bay"!
GL: Why cassettes over vinyl or downloads?
The main reason is that it's easier to handle: tapes are much cheaper to make than vinyl records, production times are much shorter and they're easier to ship... For an ex-art student, I find the specific format of cassettes exciting from a design viewpoint. Also, there are a lot of small tapes labels we like and we felt we could more easily become part of a smaller, more underground community. As for digital platforms, I mostly buy a lot of tapes and vinyl. I don't personally use streaming platforms, so we haven't really pushed the label in that direction, but we still think it's important to make our releases available to download.
GL: What are the struggles of running a cassette label?
It takes a lot of time especially if you decide to do everything yourself (except dubbing the tapes). Being in touch with several bands at once takes a bit of organising! Lots of hands-on stuff like printing and cutting the artwork, assembling the tapes, and of course daily trips to the Post Office to send everything out to the bands and to the people nice enough to buy our tapes! Then there's the online stuff like doing PR, handling the social media accounts... all of this without the slightest financial gain, of course!
GL: Hidden Bay has a set aesthetic. Do you or the bands design the artwork for the cassettes?
Most often, the bands send us their artwork on which I just add our logo and catalogue number. But I designed the artwork of a few releases; the collage for the Jonny Shitbag and The Smokes album, the drawings on the tape compilation we put out with Life is a Minestrone and the Suburban Pets album! "Îlot de consolation" by Camille Bénâtre was a very special release: I took inspiration from the CD cover of the album to make a linoleum stamp that I applied on hand-sewn cases!
GL: Do you feel like there is a cassette revival going on at the moment?
I think tapes have always been around in certain environments like punk and noise music, but it's true that a lot of cassette-focused record labels have emerged over the past few years. The phenomenon is growing, and even big, popular bands are currently releasing music on tape in addition to the digital or vinyl versions, which is great.
GL: Any reason why this is happening?
When I was younger, I used to download a lot of music but sadly, it's all still in my download folder! On the contrary, when I have a look at my shelves of tapes, I immediately want to take one out and listen to it. I guess some people just need to have a physical connection to their music! I have to admit that Bandcamp has become a very useful service to sell tapes through, and it has undeniably helped a ton of small record labels to gain visibility.
GL: How does social media fit into the running of the label?
I'm not fond of social media but it's the best, and sadly only, way to stay in touch with people and help promote the label, especially seeing as we don't sell a lot of tapes in our own country.
GL: Where do you find the artists?
Mostly through Bandcamp and Twitter. We also receive several demos a week, some which we ended up releasing!
GL: How much time do you spend a day looking for new music?
Usually an hour or two. Probably more if you consider that going to gigs counts as looking for new music!
GL: Andrew Younker appears to be the MVP of Hidden Bay having released three cassettes. How did you start working with him? When did you realise he was something special? What is next for him?
I stumbled upon his Bandcamp one day and we immediately thought he would fit in perfectly with the label, so we asked him if he wanted us to put “Brainchild” out on tape. We're not sure what's next but he's so talented I'm sure he could write ten albums in a month. We'd love to help him release any new material in the future!
GL: What is the French music scene like at the moment?
Some cities are more dynamic than others. I recently liked some bands with a 90's rock style like Tapeworms, Buddy Records, Dirty Slap Records, or T-Shirt, Influenza Records, S.K Records. Le Syndicat des Scorpions, another French label, always puts out interesting music, you should check them out! There's also a pretty big math-rock / noise scene that's been going on for a few years, with bands like La Colonie de Vacances, Api Uiz or Disco Boule.
GL: Do you plan to release more French musicians/bands?
In September we're releasing a French duo from Toulouse who I've seen play loads of times! They're really good and it will probably be Hidden Bay's most experimental release to date! We have a few other ideas as well...
GL: If time and space were no issue, what release would you love to have put out? Why?
That's a tough question! It would be weird for me to extract one of my favourite albums on one of the cult record labels I love Sarah, Creation, Flying Nun, Slumberland, Dischord to name just a few, from its original context, but I would love to have put anything out by Drahla, who are probably my favourite recent band! Or maybe something a bit different from the catalogue but which I really enjoy as well, like Sofiane Saidi & Mazalda.
GL: What are your five favourite releases you have put out and why?
That's an even tougher question! It depends so much on the songs, the artworks, the relationship we built with the artist. Working with bands from Australia, Dumb Things and Lying Down, was a great experience and a bit surreal considering the distance between us. Lunar Quiet's cassingle is definitely something special for us because they're the first band we got in touch with and I still can't believe we released Posse's last songs on tape. Sorry, I can't choose!