Culture //

Let the record play

The phonograph never died, writes Avani Dias as she dives into Sydney’s own vinyl culture (and labels).

The Finer Things: Independent Sydney label's first release
Photo: danmachold via flickr

I own a record player, I own records and I am not an eighty-year-old with grandchildren.  As Dennis Duffy once said in an episode of 30 Rock, “technology is cyclical” and with vinyl sales around the world at their highest in 20 years, he has never been more correct.  One would assume that the present day quintessential vinyl enthusiast would be a Kevin-Spacey-in-American-Beauty-esque man holding onto the fading memories of his teenage days: coming home with a brand new record under his arm, placing the needle on the groove and lighting up a joint to sink into the delightful rhythm of his youth. Despite these assumptions, records now cater to an audience far beyond your everyday, mid-life crisis man. Our generation has jumped on the vinyl-wagon so fast that the majority of artists putting out music these days do so either as a digital release or on vinyl. But the success of the LP comes at the expense of its technological cousin, CDs, which are effectively becoming redundant. This all applies to the Sydney music scene more than ever with a recently formed independent record label, The Finer Things, that relies on the premise of putting out as much of their artists’ music on vinyl as possible.

Four of the guys within the project met at their part time call centre jobs and along with some hefty credit card bills, this is their primary source of funding.  They thank their bosses for “indirectly funding more than 50% of Sydney’s independent music industry” – a figure that is actually very close to the truth.  The label can pride itself on a brilliant bill, ranging from acts with an abundance of local airplay such as Guerre, Rainbow Chan and Nakagin, to up and coming artists such as Vacation or True North who just released his digital EP over the weekend. The label relies on an artisan approach which is transferred from a cottage industry concept – as one of the label founders, Akil Ahamat, describes it, “a traditional form of making things before mass production, where everything is created by particular people in a small community”.

The reason that people enjoy buying records is the physical appeal – you hold a brand new record and have that validation and impermeable proof that you love said band.  Putting the needle on a fresh record is a very pleasant feeling.  So is watching the uneven, spiral troughs scratch the indicator allowing you to marvelously observe and experience the music you are listening to.

The motives for the vinyl comeback are endless, but there are many that simply see it as yet another medium where hipster douches can bask in their pretentious glory.  I mean, those exasperating Bondi Hipsters even made a video about it.  One could also argue that there is a contradiction at hand when so-called “independent” artists are signed to a “record label” simply because they release vinyl. But for The Finer Things, there is, as another founding member Timothy Neumann puts it, no “exclusivity clause”. It’s not an album deal, there is no signing of a piece of paper and it’s not an industry push to make people famous. Instead, the artists use the label to put out an original physical release – which is an inaugural event for most of those on the bill. For Sydney siders Guerre, True North and Nakagin, it’s about the organic process of record making and contributing to a local music scene that is so wonderfully expanding.

The Finer Things: Independent Sydney label’s first release

The digital world of music is an anarchically snowballing out of control, offering more and more to its listeners. In fact, the amount of artists we now have access to is basically overwhelming but vinyl allows us to slow down the tempo of the technological world. We can really appreciate the music we love, instead of just expanding our iTunes library at 400 clicks per minute. Although this project is still in its early days, seeing it slowly blossom has reinvigorated my excitement in the Sydney music scene. As they themselves artfully describe it, The Finer Things in life include good food, good wine, nice cheese, hand crafted leather goods and now, thanks to this label, the Artisans of Electronic Music.

Listen now: