Bristol-based Sarah Records was set up by Clare Wadd and Matt Haynes in 1987. The label had a homespun, fan-friendly honesty, and a wholly independent approach. The groups signed to Sarah mirrored the label’s outlook on life and vice versa. Not punk, necessarily, but still equally DIY and anti corporate. Perhaps more true to the spirit than punk ever was, in fact.
Sarah Records weren’t to be found marching through the streets in an outward display of in-yer-face clichéd activism, instead preferring a chary, learned, even enigmatic approach.
Despite the communal sense to the label’s core, each band were allowed to go about things in ways suited to them. Therefore, there were many different personalities found amongst the label’s roster. For every shoegazer their was a post Manchester vibed ensemble, for every Morrissey or Tennant esque wordsmith there was offset, urban homely folk. All delivered in that unique way that only Sarah bands could.
By the time that grunge came along, the music weeklies quickly lost whatever short-lived admiration they had for the sound of Sarah, and so began seeing the music as a scene for bed wetters. Easy target and all that. (One such magazine still around today will now tell you that Sarah is the greatest indie imprint there ever was).
But back to the late 80s. This was still the period of the fanzine, after all, and so still a time when independent music actually meant independent in its original, truest sense. Self promotion and DIY encompassed a range of things; a gambit of hobbies where, taken independently, the actual music-recording, live gigging, record-pressing and so on, were just part of the wider cause.
Looking back, it seems true that Sarah Records couldn’t really have existed at any other period in time. The music on offer was, yes, post Punk, post Smiths, post Factory Records, post C86 and so on. It’s also hard to imagine it developing its own personality and independence in the era of the internet.
Arguably the finest, most successful couple of acts on Sarah– and arguably their most subtly eclectic– were London’s Bob Wratton-fronted the Field Mice, and Sydney’s purveyor’s of glistening bohemia, Even As We Speak. Two bands still fondly remembered today. The former could sound like Pet Shop Boys on one track, late 80s drone ‘n’ feedback specialists Loop the next.
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