It was only eight years ago that Josh Legg and Kyle Petersen moved to Los Angeles to attend USC. They met on a sailing trip and, after a few years of friendship and many discussions over the current state of the record industry, they decided to launch a management company/record label. Focusing on LA-based artists, Binary Entertainment not only gave emerging producers a home, but spawned the term "dreamwave," which, judging from the sounds on the compilation Binary Presents: LA Lights, is essentially synthpop with occasional touches of house.
Celebrating the release of their first compilation, Binary is hosting a show tonight at the Echoplex, featuring performances from Keenhouse, LexiconDon and Short Circuit. Alfa and The Kids are Radioactive will be DJing.
In a recent phone interview, Legg and Petersen explained the concept behind Binary and dreamwave.
Can you explain what dreamwave is?
Josh Legg: When we started the company, we wanted to find bands on the Eastside and we were focused on indie rock at the time. Personally, we had started getting into electronic music heavily. We were hearing this sound that was coming from mainly European artists that was very nostalgic, synthesizer-based pop music. It was mostly floating around the dance community because that's where the producers were coming from, but we thought it was really great pop music. I think that the characteristics that described it were dreamy and nostalgic and often positive and kind of tropical. We started to fall in love with this kind of music and we came up with what we thought at the time was a joke genre called dreamwave. As we delved more deeply into it and as we found more artists in LA actually making that kind of music, we thought of it as a good opportunity to brand that genre.
Dreamwave itself is kind of an amalgam of dreampop and new wave music. That's where it started and it blossomed from there. Pitchfork uses the term and ABC News did a little feature during South by Southwest last year. We coined it and we're trying to champion it.
Kyle Petersen: It's worked out pretty well for us, being in LA. One thing we sort of noticed was that a lot of the people that were playing this music that we called dreamwave had pictures of LA on their MySpace page. It comes down to this essence of dreamwave, which is idealism. Both Josh and I aren't from LA and with these artists from France putting up pictures of LA, LA represents this idealistic place with beautiful weather with the sun and the sea and palm trees. It's a place where dreams can come true. With both of us being transplants, of course we understand those ideas. Of course, when you get here, you're faced with the realities of life. A lot of people in LA become jaded from that, but we're trying to reestablish that idealist view of LA.
What makes Binary different from other labels?
KP: The way we set it up, initially it was a management company. We wanted to work with artists and nurture them, do all the typical roles of the manager. We were starting from scratch and we wanted to find artists that we could start from scratch with.
We have management deals with all of our artists and then we have separate deals for records, publishing and then merchandise rights as well. A lot of bigger companies like Live Nation have these 360 deals where they are taking revenue from all the different streams that an artist has, like touring, merch, everything, so we sort of have that, but then we have the managers' deal. We like to think of it as an umbrella, but I guess it would be an upside down umbrella, underneath everything. We have the ability to outsource our deals to record companies that we think can do the job more effectively than us. So, if one of our artists was approached by a major label, we would be pretty happy signing away the record rights we have because we would still be attached with the artist for the management deal. It gives us a lot of flexibility.
Being a smaller company, we have the agility to take advantage of situations when they arise and still have things to game from those moves.
Are all of your artists from LA?
JL: They're all located in LA, although many of them are LA transplants, which to some extent is probably part of the reason that they make the music that they do. Keenhouse, for instance, is German. He moved here to become a producer and he's had an artist visa for eight years or something like that now. A couple are local. Two are from West Covina. One just graduated, he's like our young phenom, he's only 18, that's The Kids Are Radioactive. Everyone else is from around the country. I'm from Boston. Kyle is from Chicago.
Keenhouse live at the Echoplex
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How did you meet them?
JL: Fabian and LexiconDon, we met them working at a studio called Hollywood Sound. They were making more hip-hop flavored productions at the time. The rest just came after we set up Binary through our general awareness of the scene. We pride ourselves on trying to keep our ear out to what's next. A lot of it came from digging through MySpace and found people who were from LA who we thought were talented.
KP: It's been a long journey from when we thought we would be working with singer-songwriters and indie bands. It's a long journey on MySpace. There's a budding electro scene on MySpace and we spent a lot of time digging through that. Eventually, we came across The Kids are Radioactive and Short Circuit. Then we saw Keenhouse play a show here in LA.
JL: We were kind of amazed that some of the artists that we've found were so unknown. One of things about the scene in LA is that it is extremely DJ-oriented, but there are all these bedroom producers who care about songwriting, but they don't ever have the opportunity to perform live because the only dance nights that are in LA are DJ-centric. What we're hoping to do in addition is provide a place for these guys to perform as well, which is why we started to throw shows and build a following that way.