Eyes Behind: Friends of Friends Playlist And Interview
LA-based label Friends of Friends are responsible for introducing us to some of today's most exciting electronic artists with a variety of styles and stories to tell. Beyond a label, FoF is a PR and creative marketing hub, and behind it all is founder Leeor Brown. This month, Leeor and his team showcased five years of hard work with a jam-packed, two-disc 5oFoF compilation. He was kind enough to put together a playlist with some highlights from the release, and chat with us about how it all started and what's up next.
What inspired you to start the label?
I was doing radio promotion and PR for a number of electronic acts and Low End Theory, working at a company called Terrorbird Media. Being very close with the artists was kind of my scene, my passion. Watching the rise of digital distribution, the internet, and the way things can move, I felt like well, I have access to great artists and great music, I feel like I have good taste, and I know how to promote it. Why not get one step closer and start releasing records? I happened to be working closely with Daedelus, who's become a very close friend. I had the whole idea for FoF: a friend invites another friend to do a split EP. That was kind of the notion behind the first release. He loved it. He was actually the one that really kicked me in the butt and said, You gotta go do this. It's too good. Let's go.
What were some of the ideas you wanted to bring to the table with FoF?
I was an avid vinyl digger. I'd always find myself digging through Amoeba or whatever, and I had these certain markers for what would constitute taking a risk on a record or not. It would always be the cover art, the label, and whatever collaborations were on the actual release. That was kind of my litmus test for whether or not I would dig something. When I launched the label, I wanted to have that all dialed in. I wanted people to collaborate with their friends, to have their friends or someone in their network do the artwork. Early on, that's pretty much all we did, and that's kind of how we got that core group of Shlohmo, Salva, Groundislava and Ernest Gonzales. It was kind of this crew, even though most of them didn't know each other before they got in here.
You've released a lot of stuff with Shlohmo. How did you first link up?
It's such a crazy story on that guy. I was a regular show host at Dublab and I had met him there. He went by Henry from Outer Space at the time. There was this blog I was going to regularly that was posting beat music, and they posted the Shlomoshun record. I downloaded it and I reached out to him on MySpace like, Man, this is really good—would you be down to work together? He wrote me back like Yo, it's Henry from Dublab. We just met two weeks ago.
Tell me about some of the artists that were big for you growing up.
In high school I was a hip-hop head. I would go to raves and watch the indie rap stages instead of trance or drum and bass. I'd be watching like Jurassic 5, Blackalicious, Outkast, The Roots. In college, it was very clearly more independent instrumental beat stuff as it started to develop, like Mush and Anticon and all the Stones Throw guys. A friend of mine started giving me a lot of Morr Music. They put out a lot of records by The Notwist, Lali Puna, and Ms. John Soda. All those guys really affected me a lot, in terms of rock or song-based music that used electronics.
These days, labels have to get creative in terms of how they're presenting music, and Deru's 1979 is a great example of that. What can you tell me about that release?
Aside from the interactive website, the story that he and his team built, and limited edition vinyl, there were 50 limited edition walnut-encased hand-held projectors. He had a friend design a casing and mill walnut to house this little hand-held projector that fit into the palm of your hand. It's got an internal speaker, and a rechargeable two hour battery. To me, it's the most interesting release of the year in terms of packaging and the way it was released. Who else put out a record that you can take into the middle of the woods and watch all the videos and listen to it in the middle of nowhere? There's some mystical behavior behind that, which I've been from music for a little bit.
Which FoF artists are you most excited about these days?
The next two records we're releasing are both new members of the squad. One of them is Dave Nada who is Nadastrom, he's kind of got that Moombahton thing. This is his project with Matt Nordstrom. We're releasing it here in the US, and we're partnering with Switch's (formerly of Major Lazer) label Dubsided, and they're releasing it in the rest of the world. The cool thing about that to me is that I used to buy every Dubsided record that ever existed.
We also signed Braille, who's Praveen Sharma. He's one half of Sepalcure with Machinedrum. He's one of the dudes who, to me, is like the most unsung hero ever. He's been around forever and has made so much incredible music, but kind of on his own terms. I'm excited to say we're going to be releasing his debut LP as Braille.
You also just released a compilation to celebrate five years running as a label. How did you put that together?
It was our fifth year, and I felt it was important that we celebrate that. I think it's easy to get into an artist, or even a moment in time, but I don't think most people saw FoF for all of what we've done. I had the idea that I wanted to do a singles disc and another disc with our favorite remixes, unreleased material, and new music to kind of show where we're going. It was important for us to show the diversity and depth of the label, and I think that's what the compilation did.
When you're not working on music stuff, what do you like to do?
Prior to the kid, I would say just going to shows and whatnot. But I've turned into a family guy, and now it's really like kicking it with my kid and my wife. He's a little over two and he's talking and walking, it's legitimately the most fun hanging out. Silly as it is, I'm taking my dude to Yo Gabba Gabba! Live! on Saturday, and I'm extremely excited about it, believe or not.
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