Game On for Leeds Records in Competitive Underground Music Scene

BY :MARCEL THEE

MARCH 27, 2015

Football and underground music may not have a lot in common, but the ardent fandom of football club supporters and fans of certain underground bands shares that same sense of belonging and ownership -- something that one considers uniquely personal and private even when it isn't.

Zaka Sandra Novian, a former music and content writer, loves the English football team Leeds United as much as he adores his ever-growing music collection. Which is why it only made sense that when he decided to set up a record label a few months ago, it would be called Leeds Records. The club's "golden era in the early 2000s" were, according to the label owner, a feeling he wanted to borrow for his new enterprise.

"I just wanted to try my hand at a realm within music that I had yet to traverse," the 24-year-old says.

"I've done some writing for 'zines and webzines, I've published my own webzines, I've played in bands, I've managed bands -- I have yet to only act as a label boss," he adds, half-jokingly.

Having only been active for a little less than half a year, Leeds is still trying to find its footing amid the increasing number of local independent labels popping up in recent years. But Zaka's network is large enough that Leeds has gained momentum relatively quickly, and has signed rising names in the underground scene such as the Young Liars, Strange Fruit, Sirati Dharma, and The Apollo, among others.

Though cheap production costs and hipster value have made cassette tapes the medium of choice for newer labels, Zaka aims to release music in all formats, including mass-appealing CDs (though he still releases music on tape).

"We are open toward releasing music on any format," he says. "Maybe one day we will release records on vinyl. For us, any day that someone listens to [physical music] instead of something from a free download is a good day."

As for marketing and promotion, Zaka says he has big plans ahead. "Though now we can only focus on digital means mostly, with Instagram, Facebook and the like for promotion, we plan on enhancing to let people know about us."

Zaka admits to being influenced by underground Iranian label Barax, whose archival and compilation releases are testament to a non-mainstream yet powerful music scene.

"I want people to have the same feeling toward Leeds Records' releases as I do with my Barax albums," he explains.

To pick bands and musicians to release records for, Zaka had no trouble getting in touch with newer bands, many of whom were more than eager to have somebody bankroll the release of their recordings.

"I have to have a personal connection with bands," Zaka says.

Imam Buana of The Apollo says he enjoys working with Zaka because "there's no hassle." For Imam, the label's "perfectionist" nature is balanced out by its undemanding side. "[Zaka] has really given musicians a chance to expose their art to the public," he adds.

Pandji Dharma from Sirati Dharma thinks the label stands out from the rest in how it approaches and produces bands without interference. "Leeds have got great prospects," he exclaims.

"In these days when it's easy for people to forget about the physical format, and to bypass that route [with digital releases], it's great that a label like Leeds Records exists," says Baldi Calvianca from Strange Fruit, whose mini album "The Dolphin Leap" is out next week.

"We are proud to be a part of that revival, where labels such as these are bringing physical formats back to life."

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