LoFreq owner Jalaya gives an insider view into building a brand, industry bridges, and his second label compilation, ‘Cypher Vol. 2’ [INTERVIEW]
LoFreq Records aims to become a household name when it comes to finding the best and the brightest (read: darkest) underground bass talent. The San Fransisco-based label, which is headed up by West Coast bass producer Jalaya Frisella Kunst, has been carefully building its roster since the release of its first label compilation, Cypher Vol. 1. Since then, they’ve been seen on the WTF’s That Spooky Massive line-up (which made CE‘s Top Livestreams of 2020) and meticulously curating the follow-up release to their first full-length project. That all comes to fruition now as LoFreq delivers Cypher Vol. 2 by giving the world another taste of their dark, heavy, and forward-thinking bass sound stamp.
“Super stoked on the roster for Vol. 2, we have some of the day ones and some of my personal favorite hot rising talent, a hefty powerhouse of the representation of the freshest edge in the future of bass music.”Jalaya
Cypher Vol. 2 features a colossal collection of 19 artists, hand-selected by Jalaya and his staff, to continue foraging LoFreq’s unique bass beats that are dark, heavy, and super trippy. The saga began in September of 2020 with Ahee’s “Underground,” followed by Ravenscoon and Yewz‘s “Pegasus,” Xotix and DropTalk’s “Mind Control,” Dark Velvet’s “Che,” and many more. CE was even lucky enough to premiere a track on the album in Rejack’s “Backseat Rhythm.” On building Cypher‘s chapter two narrative, Jalaya tells CE exclusively that “each song is a unique puzzle piece to weave a picture and story through an interconnected sonic journey.”
“Sometimes I think of each song as a chapter in the story of this sneaky SpyBot. The next chapter in his journey through the universe to battle corruption. As a child I came up with a character named Sather with futuristic armor, a rouge Jedi type that was self-trained, he was like a bounty hunter that did jobs to fight against the empire through infiltrated sabotage. This theme is loosely based on that original idea.”Jalaya
LoFreq positioned the album roll-out uniquely, too, by releasing one track at a time over the course of several months, securing a whopping 12 premier spots with some of EDM’s most niche blog outlets that have close eyes on cutting-edge bass music.
“I discovered some of my favorite artists and hidden gems through electronic music blogs. It was such an important part of the culture, when you found the perfect blog it was a fucking goldmine. Soon after I started producing, it was like the new “getting on the radio” to get on one of these critically-acclaimed publications.”Jalaya
To talk about this process in particular, and how the label cultivated such a creative release schedule, label owner Jalaya gives us a refreshing perspective into the backdoor dealings that go on in the music industry. So if you’re looking for an article that talks solely about the music, this isn’t it. The music speaks for itself on this compilation. However, if what you’re looking for is an insider perspective on how the project came together from conception to creation to completion, or how indie labels like LoFreq operate from the inside, or even how to develop relationships with the media, you’ll definitely want to read on.
Part of CE‘s mission is to increase transparency in the industry, so the goal is to give our readership glimpses into the business side of music, which a lot of times is secretive, hidden, and out-of-sight to the masses, often by design. That’s why we commend when label owners can be so forthcoming with how their creatives process and their business process operate in tandem.
When approaching collaborative projects like the Cypher series, Jalaya says, “The selection process starts with an invite package with the cover art, what we offer, and all the information about the vision and album. I am extremely picky about who participates in the compilation and hand-select artists I’ve had my eye on.”
For Jalaya and the folks at LoFreq, their process is all about building community, collaboration, and connection—between the artists, who create for the masses, between media, who get the word out to the masses, and between fans, who in turn support the art. The sooner one realizes that we’re all connected into one big web of support, the better off they’ll be in not only forming music industry connections but in building bridges all throughout all aspects of their life.
“It’s extremely important to create value for the community by giving back in some way. This industry is all about sharing and in order to do this mutually you need to provide value and have something to offer so that they stand to gain something by working with you.”Jalaya
When asked about where he sees LoFreq Records one year from now, Jalaya has already started manifesting a vision for the future, including expanding to more festival takeovers, LoFreq tours, and LoFreq-showcased events. “I also see the community expanding rapidly as one of the household label names in bass music [by] expanding the team and finding the right people with the passion to take things to the next level,” he says.
Read the full interview with Jalaya below, where the LoFreq boss dishes on the inter-workings of the label and how the second volume came together. Also stream Cypher Vol. 2 and support the album on Bandcamp.
LoFreq Records – Cypher Vol. 2
CE: What’s up Jalaya! Our blog’s mission is to increase transparency in the industry, so the goal is to give our readership glimpses into the backdoor dealings of the music biz. So thanks for agreeing to take our questions! We were really excited to work on the WTF’s That Spooky Massive live stream back in October and loved the LoFreq roster in particular. So we were extra excited when you all reached out to us about premiering a track on the album. Actually, I was very impressed with the sheer force of media support you secured for getting this release out, especially with the blog outlets you chose to premiere with.
Tell us how you are so successful with securing these premieres. It was clearly an intentional thing, almost like you all view media as vital collaborators to the creation process… so for those who may not see it this way, tell them you how go about developing these relationships?
J: It’s extremely important to create value for the community by giving back in some way. This industry is all about sharing and in order to do this mutually you need to provide value and have something to offer so that they stand to gain something by working with you. Over the years both Matt and I have developed relationships with different publications in various ways. Whether it’s from having a friend that works with them in some way, past submissions of my own music, working alongside them, adding writers on social media and chatting with them, a respect for what we do, or as simple as just sending an email to the submission box. For those without any sort of connections to these tastemakers. I would recommend doing a little research on who runs these publications and reaching out to them personally or even hiring someone who is well connected in PR to do it for you if you can afford it and want to put all that focus into the music.
Back around 2010-11 was when I discovered some of my favorite artists and hidden gems through electronic music blogs. It was such an important part of the culture, when you found the perfect blog it was a fucking goldmine. Soon after I started producing, it was like the new “getting on the radio” to get on one of these critically-acclaimed publications. Even though blogs, networks, and publications have become less relevant than they used to be, I still believe they play an integral role in Bass Culture today. Each one has their own grassroots community of the hardcore fans and music lovers that want the story behind the music, these are the ride-or-dies that spread the rising talent the most.
CE: We’re really pleased with the artists on the second volume. It really does a great job of including some more established creators in the underground bass scene, while at the same time, exposing us to some music makers that we’ve never even heard of. What was your curation and selection process for the album?
J: Super stoked on the roster for Vol. 2, we have some of the day ones and some of my personal favorite hot rising talent, a hefty powerhouse of the representation of the freshest edge in the future of bass music. The selection process starts with an invite package with the cover art, what we offer, and all the information about the vision and album. I am extremely picky about who participates in the compilation and hand-select artists I’ve had my eye on. Matt also does a great job of developing a personal relationship with many talented artists that he invites to participate. It’s always a goal to get some established artists on board but it’s just as important to give hungry upcoming artists a platform to shine. This compilation is about pushing the boundaries of modern bass music and a huge part of that is finding the hidden gems that have the freshest unique sound. The label is also directly associated with LoFreq Events to showcase the groundbreaking sound with the artists on the label.
CE: So the artwork cover is pretty rad with this dark, futuristic robot spy as the focal point. Tell our readers a little more about how this aesthetic informs the overall vibe of the musical inclusions.
J: To me, the aesthetic is a MASSIVE part of the theme of these compilations. Our boy Seth does an amazing job at bringing that theme to life, he does most of the artwork for my personal project as well. I give him a concept and he goes above and beyond. A Cypher is a secret code, which made me think of the dark futuristic spy theme. This is a representation of all the new emerging talent slicing through the noise and infiltrating the scene with their sleek and clever cutting edge sound and techniques. Before you know it they are prominent names headlining all the festivals as if they were always there in the first place. Everyone has their own secret code: their sound, their style, their flow, and techniques. It is also explicitly clear in the invite package that the theme is dark, heavy, trippy, forward-thinking bass music that fits the futuristic spy theme of the cover art.
CE: Any true creative knows that a project is about so much more than just the music. The cover artwork helps the album themes come to life, just like a lighting designer helps a DJ’s set become a wholly immersive live experience. How were you able to marry sights and sounds on Cypher Vol. II? What was your creative process from conception to completion? Any particular motivations that guided you along the way?
J: The theme has evolved and grown since Cypher 1 to what it is today as Cypher 2. The artwork and invite package paint a very clear picture of the target range of sound. I want each track to fit the cohesive sound while also standing out and pushing the boundary. A track may be really cool and unique but doesn’t fit the theme, another may really fit the theme but doesn’t stand out and grab me. I’m very careful and selective with the tunes I curate the compilation with. Each song is a unique puzzle piece to weave a picture and story through an interconnected sonic journey. Sometimes I think of each song as a chapter in the story of this sneaky SpyBot. The next chapter in his journey through the universe to battle corruption. As a child I came up with a character named Sather with futuristic armor, a rouge Jedi type that was self-trained, he was like a bounty hunter that did jobs to fight against the empire through infiltrated sabotage. This theme is loosely based on that original idea.
CE: Creative breakthroughs are a key component to inspired art. Any ‘aha’ moments along the way that may have influenced (or even changed) the project’s direction? Or was it mostly logistical stuff that drove you?
J: The concepts, themes and vision has flowed quite nicely as it’s come along. As a visionary, my creative muse is bursting with concepts and ideas that I trust with my gut. If I get stuck overthinking it in my logical brian the chances are I already lost the magic. So I just stick to my creative inuitional self to drive the passion behind the artful theme as the journey continues.
CE: Tell us a little tidbit about LoFreq Records that the average bass music aficionado may not know? What inspired your label’s formation? What’s the company culture like? Walk us through a typical day at the studio.
J: Branding, look, feel sound, and story has always been at the forefront of my focus of LoFreq. I designed the name, logo, and theme to represent the culture of rising talent in dark bass music. The rising waxing moon shines through the dark night sky as it illuminates the chosen path. LoFreq Records was originally my own project as an offshoot of LoFreq Events to give the entire project more of a sound, theme, and culture that really represents the vibe I have a passion for. Cypher 1 was my passion project that I poured all the time money and effort out of pocket for. These things are better and more efficient with a team. I’m immensely grateful to Matt Eckstrom for carrying so much of the load for this second round as the label manager. I let my pride get the best of me in the beginning when the help was always there and sometimes as a visionary this can make it difficult to work with since I’m so particular. I am also disorganized and inconsistent with my life-to-work balance. I’m on a farm in the middle of nowhere and I get overwhelmed by social media. Matt’s done a great job at keeping things floating and putting in the hours to make sure things run smoothly.
CE: What’s the single-most helpful tip you can give an artist who has established their sound and might be interested in forming their own label, but wouldn’t even know where to start?
J: I would say if something has brought you this far and you are inspired to turn that into a community then fucking go for it! Trust your intuition, your muse, your flame, and build a team that supports that vision. Fall in love with the story and get clear on the purpose. Dive into that inspiration in a leap of faith. I also recommend using your network of artists and industry professionals to build your community. Start with your friends and don’t be afraid to share your vision with others and find more connections. You’d be surprised how many people you inspire that will be on board.
CE: Tell us where you see your label/collective this time next year, especially given how shows will very likely be back by 2022? How does your internal team and operation look in the future?
J: I see the community expanding to more festival takeovers, LoFreq tours, and our own showcased events. I also see the community expanding rapidly as one of the household label names in bass music. I also see Matt and I expanding the team and finding the right people with the passion to take things to the next level. Operationally we will find more and more efficient and effective ways to make the impact of our work as potent as possible.
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