To feel the maximum emotional indent of DJ Dodger Stadium’s Friend of Mine, seek similar circumstances to those that inspired its creation. Stream the album in your ear buds, and then abandon your car for several hours and stumble at twilight up Alvarado, Bonnie Brae or another artery of the Westlake neighborhood radiating from MacArthur Park.
If you’re unable to do that, the video for lead single “Love Songs” sketches the trail for you. Cameras on a levitating drone float over the commotion of the park and persistent industry of the streets. The hook — a looped soul-disco sample — moans the isolated lament: “Lately, I’ve been singing love songs by myself.”
“Once we made ‘Love Songs,’ it set the tone for the rest of the album,” says Jerome Potter (alias: Jerome LOL), one half of DJ Dodger Stadium. He wears a week’s stubble and a mildly committed mustache, a Hundreds T-shirt and athletic sweats befitting the former Peninsula High basketball player. “We found the vibe and worked around it.”
“It had the raw soulful sound, which is what we’ve always been interested in,” adds his battery mate, Samo Sound Boy, whose birth name is Sam Griesemer. The New Hampshire-raised DJ/producer sports a shaved head and funereal color scheme.
The duo run the nascent Body High, a fluorescent, eclectic dance-music imprint, which spans techno, house and Jersey club.
The exquisite and doleful Friend of Mine, the label’s first full-length release, doubles as a mission statement of artists consumed by neither trends nor tempo. It balances urban grittiness with urbane intricacy, placing a premium on emotional samples without resorting to tedious nostalgia or wait-for-the-drop formulas.
The group name derives from the view offered from Samo Sound Boy’s old apartment, but DJ Dodger Stadium’s most immediate influence is the teeming life outside their Westlake studio. Neighbors include a Salvadoran ministry, a quinceañera dress retailer, stray cats, an unaccredited law school, abandoned buildings fringed with barbed wire and every habitué of MacArthur Park.
“This neighborhood is incredible; there’s no place like it in the world,” Samo Sound Boy says. “Walking from our apartments to the studio each day gave us a street-level experience. We’ve gotten to feed off that. When you live in New York, everyone gets that, but it’s very different and unique in L.A.”
To sharpen the point, Samo goes to the next room and returns with a surreal painting given to him by a Body High merchandise vendor operating from a nearby storefront. It looks part Haitian voodoo art, part Alcoholics Anonymous plea for sobriety, part Coca-Cola advertisement. Like the group’s music, it’s inscrutable, bright and life-affirming in an oblique way.
Other inspiration comes from flophouse laureate John Fante. Samo lives on the author’s old block in Koreatown, and both producers reread his Ask the Dust during the creation of the record. While archetypes and ethnicities have changed since Depression-era days, a crepuscular melancholy can still be found in L.A.
“In my imagination, the image conjured by the album is someone walking around L.A. who just moved here in the ’30s — even though obviously there was no house and techno then,” Jerome LOL says. “For me, it’s honest music about figuring out your relationship to this city.”
“It’s more of an honest DIY story to me,” Samo Sound Boy counters. “We did it ourselves on our label made up of a very small group of friends. And you can make that work, as fucked as everything seems.”
“Without big drops or tons of build-ups,” Jerome LOL adds, laughing. “With the label and the record, we went against the grain.”
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DJ Dodger Stadium’s album release party is Friday, July 11, at the Echo.
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