Last Thursday, Boston (more accurately, Cambridge)'s Basstown Productions celebrated their eighth anniversary of throwing Boston's longest-standing techno parties by bringing some West Coast vibes to a chilly Massachusetts, with Friends of Friends labelmates Groundislava and Jerome LOL taking over the decks as the headliners. It seems trite to try to put words to the pure jubilation of the evening, but it's safe to say the duo lived up to expectations: both played highly danceable sets infused with that unique Friends of Friends flavor to keep the room highly mobile with a high density of faces grinning ear-to-ear. After a day of tangible anticipation, the crowd left with their minds floating on clouds for days to come, even if they may have been a bit clouded by the hangover of Friday.
Before they turned Middlesex Lounge into the smiliest dancefloor in town, I interviewed Jerome (LOL) and Jasper (Groundislava) in an alleyway-like location outside of the club, chatting about their relationship with Friends of Friends, the differences between production for themselves and for the floor, their respective musical backgrounds, and the Internet.
Jerome LOL: Should we introduce ourselves?
EM: Yeah, do that.
JL: This is Jasper, and I'm Jerome. And together, we're Friends of Friends.
Groundislava: Jerome LOL. Groundislava.
JL: We're on the same record label, Friends of Friends. Shout outs to Leeor and Julian. And now we're in Boston, going to play the Middlesex Lounge tonight. I guess by the time this interview is published, the night will be done.
EM: So what's in store for later?
GIL: House music. Slow house music. Hip hop.
JL: Emotive house music.
GIL: I wanted to say that.
JL: Romantic techno. Some ambient. Might throw in some italo-disco classics. Something to expand your mind and move your body. [laughs]
EM: I feel like both of you, as far as production goes, can be a little more introspective and not as club-oriented, and then obviously on dance floors, I haven't seen either of you live but based on everything I've heard I know you're going to play a crazy danceable set. What's the deal with that?
JL: If you've ever come to one of the Friends of Friends showcases, like we did one at Echoplex and at Decibel recently -- I'm the newest member, they've done a bunch -- I've always noticed, when I saw them before I was on the label, the music is very introspective, but for a show, it's clearly -- you can definitely get away with some of that stuff, but also, it's fun. We all listen to dance music, house music and stuff, so we definitely know that and play that and keep the party fun and entertaining.
GIL: I personally will play a lot of house shit I like, from whenever, and then I'll play some of my tracks kind of unadulterated, but then I'll play a lot of them sped up and mixed with other stuff to make it more party-friendly.
JL: Yeah, I mean if you're playing a theater at 8 pm, obviously you can get away with playing some downtempo, like your own stuff, and be a little more self-indulgent. You know, we're not playing a theater tonight, a lot of our shows are booked at bars and clubs, and maybe people don't know what our music is, so they're coming and just want to be out and hear good music. Going to a bar is an escape from the 9-to-5, if you're going out and getting drunk at a bar and the kid is playing some shoegaze, that kind of sucks.
EM: How did each of you become involved with Friends of Friends?
GIL: I'm really old homies with Shlohmo from high school and middle school, and he signed with Friends of Friends, and at some point, Leeor who runs it hit me up, because I was doing this other project before I was doing Groundislava. He hit me up about that, and we met one day at some radio session Henry was doing, and he was like, "yo, we should do some work together." That was probably 2009, 2010.
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JL: Leeor basically just emailed me and was like, "hey, I'm a fan of your music" -- I was in LOL Boys at the time -- "do you want to meet to have lunch and talk about stuff?" Nothing was set in stone, but he kind of explained. I knew about the label and was a fan of everybody on the label. Leeor's really good at -- the label's called "Friends of Friends," and he cultivates this level of family, this intimate vibe. It's not a random grabbing of people, it's super strong. We're all a crew. So yeah, it was a natural kind of process, that a lot of labels don't do these days.
EM: Yeah, it comes across as really unique to me. Does that influence what you're producing?
GIL: I think so. People are all influenced by each other. We reflect off each other a lot, and no one's really that competitive. We don't feel the need to outdo each other in a certain genre.
JL: We each have a different style, and we'll give each other feedback.
GIL: If we didn't know each other as well, we'd all feel the need --
JL: Yeah, if we all lived in different cities, it'd be like, oh, fuck, Jasper's new album is sick, now I'm gonna do a new album. Instead, it's like -- with the last EP, I went to Jasper's house and he helped me mix some tracks and listen to stuff. There's feedback, and we all make different stuff, we all listen to the same stuff, so it's kind of like... cohabitation? [laughs]
EM: Mental cohabitation? Literal Big Brother-style cohabitation? Can you make a reality show about it?
JL: Probably. There could be a sick Friends of Friends reality show. Leeor just had a son who would definitely be the main character.
EM: As far as LA goes... how is LA? Sorry, that's not a very good question, is it?
GIL: It's weird because LA's so prominent and cracking for music, and it's just going on so heavy over there, but at the same time, it's so big and there's so many artists and crews and labels and collectives and whatever, so you can crush one scene in LA and still be virtually completely unknown. It's crazy in that respect.
JL: Also, in LA, there are a lot of talented producers and artists, but the crowd can be a little bit behind. Finally, I think Friends of Friends is getting well-known enough and we have good shows and stuff but still, some shows bring amazing out-of-town acts and no one's there. But then if you go to Avalon on a Friday night and they're playing tear-out dubstep all night long, there'll be like thousands of people.
GIL: It's a mix, you know? There are a lot of shows in LA where it's totally dead, for no reason, with a great lineup, and then there'll be shows where it's just a bunch of random people and it's just crazy. It's unpredictable. That's kind of what makes it so nice though.
JL: Yeah, it's just a big city. Endless.
EM: Yeah, it's sort of the same way here, even though it's a smaller city. A lot of people can be a bit behind the good stuff that gets booked.
JL: I guess that's kind of everywhere in America. Especially with the kind of music our label's known for putting out, it's different than just some crazy party music that has rave synths and stuff. It's a different audience, even though we do end up doing DJ nights -- but no one's playing our tracks at Avalon.
GIL: Yeah, it's weird. Because there's no one on the label making like, straight trap, or straight party house shit, straight hip hop shit, I guess we don't make the most club friendly music.
JL: Not at all.
GIL: It's nice though, because it makes it all about the live show.
JL: And then if you're playing a set of house music and you do drop your own track, then it's a little change of pace and it's like, finally, he's playing that song. That's why I think Friends of Friends is strong, the people are making music for the sake of making music, not for the sake of making bangers that people are going to play just for the floor. There's a place for that and I respect people that do that -- I run Body High with Samo Sound Boy and we put out club music, we're not pussyfooting around that. Maybe I shouldn't use that word pussyfooting. It's a stupid word. Pussyfeet around it? Anyway, there's definitely a place, but Friends of Friends is more of a -- it's deeper, bro.
GIL: It's not, how you say, a pussyfeet.
EM: Do you think at all about the dancefloor when you're producing?
JL: I definitely used to, especially when LOL Boys first started, and now what I'm doing is just -- I think every producer really starts making music for themselves to listen to, like when they're driving or to fall asleep to, for me.
GIL: It's chill to do that for remixes and shit, and I'll do that for the stuff that I play solely in a DJ set or a live set, or a remix that's just for Soundcloud or something, but my album, that's just my stuff, that I've fucked with for years. Of course it's influenced by all the new shit, but --
JL: That's you being an author. Auteur theory. Classic French film theory. Yeah, I agree with that.
EM: How do you guys decide what you end up remixing?
JL: Whatever pays the most. [laughs]
GIL: For bootlegs, I find that I'll get really into a track, and then I'll do a remix of it and release it.
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JL: I like flipping pop shit a lot.
GIL: Pop shit, it'll have this amazing vocal production and really good elements, but they miss the mark on how they structure it.
JL: Like the melody could be really good but the synths they choose are just god-awful. And then for official remixes it's whatever makes the most sense. Obviously if Leeor's going to hit us up and be like "do you want to remix Jasper? Do you want to remix Tomas Barfod?" we're not gonna be like "hell no." If it makes sense and I like the song and the artist. It depends, it's a case-by-case scenario.
EM: How did you two meet each other?
JL: SXSW. We actually met at a radio show where we didn't know each other, but SXSW was the first time I was integrated into the family.
EM: Was there hazing?
GIL: I think you hazed yourself. I couldn't really do it.
JL: That's the nice thing about Friends of Friends, there're really no egos, it's very friendly. We all have stupid humor together.
GIL: But we don't not take it seriously.
JL: That's the thing. We're like idiots if you talk to us, we have our stupid jokes, but we all take music really seriously. I think it's important to have that balance. If you're just uptight all the time, and make serious music, where's the fun? Or when you're making music and it's serious, and then when you're DJing it's fun. The balance is important.
EM: Jasper, you had your TV Dream EP and Feel Me LP come out this year on Friends of Friends. What was unique about that for you?
GIL: I feel like I have a sound and a style, but I'm constantly changing up what sort of stuff I'm doing. And the EP and the LP for this year were interesting, because the EP was something I did in 2010, and it just kind of sat for a long time and I sent it to Leeor back when I made it and I really liked it, but we didn't really have any sort of outlet for it. And then I did that track "TV Dream" for the LP and the EP shit was kind of in the same style. This 80s, new wave shit. So we were just like, alright, let's make that an EP, and I thought that was a perfect little -- it didn't overdo it, it was a single thought, you know what I mean? And the new LP was kind of just me trying to make the stuff that I was trying to make when I was younger, but maybe not succeeding at, and incorporating that with my newer influences.
JL: And doper mixing.
GIL: Yeah, better production. I guess that was distinct for me, because the EP and LP were so different. That was intentional, too, because I don't want to get stuck being known for one sound. But still have a style that people recognize. So I was super stoked on doing that, having two completely different things.
EM: Yeah, they were both really cool. And Jerome, since you're now working solo -- I'm sure this is the question you're getting all the time at this point -- but yeah, what's different about that and what's exciting about it?
JL: The LOL Boys collaboration was definitely a fun thing but the Changes EP hit the threshold of what the collaboration on an Internet project could be. We never really produced in the studio together, it was very back-and-forth. So now, it's on me. Every decision I make, every song I put out, I can't be like, it's both of us so it's 50%. If I fuck up, it's 100% me. It's definitely affected the way I produce, I'm in a different mindset, but it's also liberating in a way. I think with the LOL Boys project, we were really happy with how it all went. I'm proud of it and it was a great experience, doing that release, being on Friends of Friends, putting out a proper vinyl on a label we really respect, was kind of the goal of the project, as something that was built on the Internet as this kind of experimental thing, and really hard to continue from there doing back-and-forth Internet stuff.
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