Corkonian Cassette Musician on Coping with the Evolving Folk Industry

roslyn-steer-2-by-mary-kelleher

In the city of Cork, Ireland, an underground music scene is blossoming. A small label that has come out of the scene is KantCope records, which has put out some wonderful folk-inspired and experimental music. It was founded as a project by  musician and PhD student Roslyn Steer with her friend. “Me and my friend Mary Kelleher, we joked that if we had a company of any kind we’d call it KantCope. I decided to put out a weird tape, so I said to Mary “D’ya want to make it a KantCope thing?” Since then, Roslyn and her label have been putting out cassette tapes online and at shows, encouraging listeners to engage in a stranger listening experience.

 
“I like that a lot of people have got to go digging out their old tape players, old collection, or they end up listening to it on a weird old hi-fi or in their car. I think that’s kind of fun. The thing with vinyl is that it’s expensive and it takes a long time. It’s super, but if you want to put something out and you’re able to release it, it’s like look, I made this thing! It’s much easier and tapes give you a platform to do that. People can come home from your show with something in their hand. It means you can put out weirder stuff with a smaller audience.” Her last album, You’ll Know was recorded with producer Dan Walsh, using just a couple of mics and an amp in her living room to get a warm yet haunting, familiar tone. The tone of the album was crafted to emulate the experience of wandering into a room and find someone there playing mysterious folk songs. Her first tape however truly embraces the experimental, the a-side composed of a half-hour ambient soundscape called Still Moving.

 
As well as releasing solo material, she plays in the bands Morning Veil, who released their debut last year. She also plays synths in Crevice, who are preparing an album release on tape and digital sometime in 2017. She’ll be playing a gig on International Women’s Day run by the all-girl GASH collective, a Cork-based organisation to help and promote female DJs and electronic producers in Ireland, running workshops and club nights to encourage more women to pursue electronic music. The founder of the collective, Ellen King has released some dark and thumping, minimal techno under the moniker Elll, releasing her intense EP Romance on Bandcamp.

 
Steer describes the Cork scene as one with a lot of energy and collaboration, a diverse place with a sense of community. It does have its problems with the council, shutting down venues leaving artists without hubs to release their albums, but that’s a problem most cities face. The internet has helped her label take off on Bandcamp, getting her in touch with other people doing similar material with a D.I.Y approach. “The biggest advantage is networking, you can come into contact with other tape labels, and you can communicate quickly with artists. It would be scary to ring up somebody and say “Hi, would you like to make an album together, would you like to make a mix for my radio show” but there’s a bit of friendliness around the internet, you can chance your arm a bit more and discover more things.

“There is a saturation I suppose then where there is so much to listen to and so many people to discover. It can be kind of overwhelming but in general, getting the word out about your music is a little easier. You don’t have to rely on flyers and posters, so you’re maybe saving a few trees.”

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