Sarah Records (1987–95) and the Everyday
Aims and Chapter Outline In 1987, Matt Haynes co-founded with Clare Wadd the record label Sarah Records (1987-95). The Bristol-based non-profit independent record label was run from the domestic, everyday setting of a Bristol ‘tiny basement apartment’ (Alborn 1988). The record label spawned from Matt Haynes’ previous engagement with self-publication (as editor of the fanzine Are You Scared To Get Happy?, 1985-87) and self-released and self-distributed, homerecorded music. The aim of the chapter is to examine the relationship between Sarah Records and the everyday, as it is momentarily petrified and ‘lived in the medium of cultural form’ (Osborne 1995: 197). The study of the everyday and its transient materiality will encompass several scales and aspects with an emphasis on urban environment and geography (which unarguably provides the first, most immediate incarnation of material culture). First of all, Sarah Records will be envisioned as a fluid and transient practice through the operative metaphor of the Saropoly game: the record label will be regarded as a practice of playing, that is to say of inhabiting (through diversions) a given space and time (Bristol in the late 1980s-early 1990s). I will open a discursive space between popular music theorists such as Hesmondhalgh, Reynolds, and Borthwick and Moy and thinkers of the everyday such as De Certeau and Lefebvre, notably by linking the do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos to
De Certeau’s notion of making do and sabotage. This initial macro-analysis of Sarah Records as a mundane practice of playing will be complemented by a closer focus on the artefacts released by the label. The way Sarah Records both literally and figuratively mapped the territory of the everyday will be a central concern of the chapter. Thus I will especially examine the status of Bristol within the economy of the record label to show how an alternative cartography of the city was designed through specific artefacts and gestures of appropriation (in techniques as diverse as photographing, writing and borrowing pre-existing names and symbols). Finally, I will offer an emphasis on the archival aspects of Sarah Records and propose that the record label fashioned a coherent spatiotemporal site, likely to be revisited and, as it were, available for future excavation. The material culture of the record label will be considered as that which helped in (paradoxically) creating, sustaining and disseminating a more immaterial narrative or myth of Sarah Records.