Friends of Friends Music celebrates their two year anniversary with a blowout at the Echoplex tomorrow night, showcasing the FoF crew–Mexicans With Guns, Salva, Shlohmo, Groundislava–and some of their most talented friends (Baths! JonWayne! Anenon!)
Music marketing expert and impresario Leeor Brown started the Friends of Friends label two years ago with the intent to release digital-only content coupled with 100 percent organic T-shirts custom-designed by well-known artists. For their first official release, they invited electronic wizard Daedelus, who called in Jogger and L.A. art duo Kozyndan to complete the package. Since then, FoF has released split EPs like Larytta/Beauchamp and Mexicans with Guns/Robot Koch. This year, FoF started producing full-length records, releasing some of the best beats in L.A. and beyond. Next up is an LP from 21-year-old producer/visual artist Henry Laufer a.k.a. Shlohmo, whose Bad Vibes 2xLP drops August 8th.
To preview the show, FoF released “I'll Be Your Friend,” a summer sampler featuring tracks from Mexicans With Guns, Shlohmo, Salva and Groundislava as a free download. Interview with label head Leeor Brown about the evolution of FoF Music below.
How did Daedelus convince you to start Friends of Friends?
It was a project that I started when I was working for Terrorbird Media. I was working with a lot of interesting artists and labels. I just felt like the digital age kind of gave freedom to be able to try it myself and luckily Daedelus — I had been friends with him and promoting his music for a long time — he really pushed me. I came up with the idea for the t-shirt label — having physical products that weren't vinyl or CDs or any kind of typical release — and once I came up with that, he was really gung ho about it. I balked a couple times, being the scared kid that I was. He kept encouraging me, and after a few months, he was kind of like, 'Look, if you don't do something, I'll have to take these songs elsewhere.' Not in a negative way — it was really positive and friendly! He kicked me in the ass and got me going. And so I did it! I wanted to work with all these artists and I wanted to be able to show the public how cool they are in a unique way.
He's been on so many labels over the last ten years–what advice did he give you when it came time to start your own?
The two most influential people were Alfred (Daedelus) and Kev (Alpha Pup) and I asked them both for a lot of advice. They told me to just really believe in the stuff you put out, and watch your overhead! Just work with people you want to invest time in — because the financial side of things … you may not see that for a long time. There's a long tail end of this. My goal was to just try to do interesting things. I didn't actually expect it to develop into a full-blown label like this — it just kind of happened naturally over time.
Why was he most suited to be your first release on FoF?
You want the real answer? I was the number one fan boy. I'll never forget — the first show I ever threw was him in Santa Cruz. First job I got was promoting him on the radio. I loved his music more than anything. It blew my mind in college. This was eight years ago and I was doing radio promotions for Fanatic, doing radio promotions for Ghostly and Mush and Anticon and a few others. Those were who I was listening to — and that's how I got the job, basically. I was playing all that stuff on my college radio show. This was my shit. Luckily got a job doing it and started working with the labels. Slowly but surely, Alfred was the artist that I kept working with. We developed this trust over time. He knew that I had his best interests at heart — I just wanted him to do well — and then he asked me to release his record. I couldn't have asked for a better mentor. He ended up bringing in Jogger too for his first release, and Kozyndan did the art. I was lucky to release it — he really put together something special.
When you sign artists, what advice do you give them?
Don't try to skip steps. Set reasonable goals. Once you hit those, set new ones.
Daedelus told me the key is to do something meaningful and it'll resonate.
I think that's it in a nutshell. It's more complicated than that, but that's where it starts. In the case of all our releases, many of them weren't meant to be full albums — maybe just EPs or singles — and most artists just have this sense of urgency about them, that their art is getting old, and they need to get it out quickly. Where we come in is essentially making sure that the music is unique and special and meaningful. As Alfred explained, if you do something that's truly special, timing doesn't really matter. Nobody can copy something you haven't done yet. If you're in a hurry, if you feel there's a timed nature to what you're doing, you probably aren't standing on your own sound. And that's cool — they all have their place. But the ones that transcend are the ones that are really well thought-out and worked on and lasting. But you don't know if it's lasting or not — you just have to let it be you, and then it has the most chance to do well. Henry (Shlohmo) is amazing to me, for example — the dude does his own press shots, the cover art, videos and the works. Kind of mindblowing for a twenty-one year old to have such a clear vision. But that's what we talked about since day one. After Shlohmoshun and Camping, we didn't wanna do just another beat record — and his new record, Bad Vibes, does that 100%.
What's been the biggest change in FoF since starting two years ago?
Releasing full-lengths. I came across Shlohmo, and I started working with Ernest Gonzales. Both of those records came out in early 2010 and that was kind of the start of the real label. I mean, we did the t-shirt label releases before that. It was cool, but it almost was a novelty project. It was all really fun but I think once we started putting out full lengths and getting press and licensing deals, I decided to start putting more time in it and getting more out of it — it didn't have to be a side project anymore. It could be a way for us all to make money but get behind something. Working in press, working with all these different labels, you see all these people who are spread so thin. Alpha Pup and Low End were doing a good job tying all these things together but there are still a lot of other people doing things and I decided I could create another network of people that includes them — they're all close friends, but Friends of Friends could be its own entity. We're not the center, but we are part of a network where we point people towards different things. All of my artists have their own things happening. Wedidit is one thing. Ernest has his own thing with the Future Latin Movement and Salva has Fright Night. For us, we're more of a guiding voice.