A ten-foot-by-ten-foot room isn’t very big. Add boxes of CDs, records and packaging supplies, and you’re not left with much to work with. But beggars can’t be choosers, and Ron Harrity makes do.
This small space is the official headquarters of Peapod Recordings, an independent record label started by Harrity in 2007. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, maybe bands on the label will: Brown Bird, Foam Castles, Huak, Dead End Armory and Honey Clouds are all a part of Peapod Recordings. These bands play Portland regularly and have gained impressive followings. Playing great music obviously helps attract a fan base, but so does great promotion.
This is where Harrity comes in. He runs the label entirely on his own — a rather ambitious project for someone who already has a full-time job. Most of the work sending physical mailings to college radio stations and magazines is done by Harrity, with occasional help from friends. Punk ethos and a DIY mindset were a part of Peapod Recordings from the very beginning.
“I really loved the bands and the music I was working with, so it just kind of made sense to help them with promotion,” said Harrity.
A musician himself, Harrity used to play with the band Harpswell Sound. He’s currently a member of Honey Clouds. When Harpswell Sound dissolved in 2006, Harrity started to record other bands in rented warehouses around Portland. This sparked the creation of Peapod Recordings. Initially, the name was tacked onto older Harpswell Sound releases for distribution purposes.
“I named the label after a type of boat called the peapod,” said Harrity. “It’s a one-person small boat for lobstering, and it’s super easy to navigate.”
What started as a hobby quickly turned into a passion. Harrity estimates he now personally records about 60-70 percent of the bands on Peapod. He even soundproofed his garage, turning it into a full-fledged studio. Forest City Studios operates separately from the label, opening the door for Harrity to work with other artists in the area.
“Recording with Ron is such a treat,” said Mandy Wheeler, a member of both Foam Castles and Honey Clouds. “He knows exactly what he’s doing, and exactly the sound you are looking for. He is very approachable, and it’s easy to feel comfortable around him.”
Harrity’s initiative to keep the label DIY shows in the relationships he has with the bands on Peapod. There are no contracts for artists to sign, and mutual trust is key. Progressive-punk band Huak had only positive things to say about their experience with Harrity, who is in the middle of mastering the band’s first full-length album “Yorba Linda.”
“Ron is very patient,” said Mike Cunnane, drummer in Huak. “We are obnoxious.”
“Basically, Ron is the secret sauce on our schizophrenic musical cheeseburger,” adds Jacob Lowery, Huak guitarist and vocalist.
The feelings are nothing but mutual with Harrity, who describes Huak as “the nicest band in town.”
Contributing to the local music scene has been and always will be a priority of Peapod Recordings. Harrity sees tremendous value in forming a sense of community, which is evident in the success of his label. “I get pretty involved personally and emotionally,” said Harrity. “I really love the music and love the bands. I feel like we’re working on something together, and that’s what I want.”