There is a long-standing and somewhat one-sided beef between Northern and Southern California. This beef mostly consists of a wish to divide California into two separate states on the part of the Northerners and, to a lesser extent, Southern Californians’ disdain for the use of the word “hella.” Considering this beef, relocating from the Bay Area to L.A. can be a questionable move—after all, why would one leave a forward-thinking, gorgeous city full of authentic people in Priuses for an overgrown desert strip mall populated by plastic reality TV stars? Unless, of course, the bass producer known as Salva is to be believed when he says that there is a contingent of L.A. residents that defines negative stereotypes of Southern Californians.
“Everyone I’ve met down here in L.A. is definitely the antithesis of what you would think of L.A. people,” Salva told CMJ from his home in L.A. After living in San Francisco for six years, Salva relocated to L.A., the focal point of a growing West Coast beats scene. The move allowed Salva closer access to the heart of the low end, his own label Friends Of Friends and his bass-glugging labelmates, who include producers Groundislava, Mexicans With Guns and Shlohmo.
In the years since its inception, Friends Of Friends has started to build a name for itself as one of the most prominent labels in West Coast beats. L.A. is definitely home turf for FoF, Salva explained, who has been playing at the now-famous club night Low End Theory since “before it was kind of a thing.” When he started playing shows at Low End Theory a few years ago, “there were only 20 people in the house,” Flying Lotus hadn’t yet released Cosmogramma, Bush was still in office and FoF founder Leeor Brown was doing PR work for Low End Theory, the affiliated Alpha Pup label and some of its associates.
Now Brown is looking to stake out his own turf in the wide world of electronic music beyond California’s low end. His vision for the label is also its core philosophy: Friends Of Friends is working to establish itself as a trusted reservoir of new electronic music, a Champs Elysees-shaped junction where some of the best talent in producing originates, whether it glugs or womps or untzes. Friends Of Friends, as the name suggests, is sensitive to the ways people discover and trade music.
The label issued its inaugural release in 2009, but in a way it began before that, when Brown was a DJ at his college radio station. “I was almost an outcast at my station playing Mush and Anticon and Ghostly,” Brown says. “It kind of felt like something that was my own.” The label began to form in earnest when Brown, who at the time was working in radio promotion for Terrorbird, began to put together a release with Brainfeeder artist Daedelus. Fans who purchased the album, a split release with Jogger titled FoF Vol. 1, received a t-shirt designed for the release and digital copies of the tracks but no CD or record. “It was kind of a difficult release, but we really wanted to try to change how people thought about the music,” Brown explained.
From its start, Brown has steered FoF to be “a new kind of label,” one that adapts to changes in technology and sociology, to changes in the way people share and discover music. “We’re just trying to look at the digital era and try to work with it and find ways to benefit ourselves and our artists amidst the current situation,” Brown told CMJ. “Things are changing and records aren’t selling enough, so we need to find other ways to do it.” So far, the label has experimented with what could be called “alternative releases,” like the t-shirts—colored vinyl releases, unique digital downloads, giveaways—but at the end of the day, FoF is more concerned about cultivating an interesting and diverse catalog that fans can rely on to point them in a good direction. “I think this was the first year that people got to actually see what Friends Of Friends is about,” Brown says.
In that way, Friends Of Friends still has the mentality of a college DJ host: Hey, check out this new music I’m listening to! The artists on the label are reflective of Brown’s own taste as a music lover and champion of the L.A. beats scene from its first signs of life, and most of them he found through friends—they are all, yes, friends of friends.