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.
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.
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.
EM: And how did each of you first get into producing music?
GIL: I went to two high schools -- one the majority of the time -- and Baths was one of my classmates, and a couple other dudes I saw doing interesting things. There was this electronic music course at the school, and the setting wasn't quite right to make it an actual productive course for learning. But we had all this time to sit at a computer and do whatever we wanted, basically. It was pretty much free time as long as it's music-based. And so I was kind of just forced to teach myself a lot. I wasn't that serious, though, and then I kind of reached this point where I was like, "oh, I actually really like doing this."
JL: I was in bands in high school and we all just wanted a way to record our music so we could have MP3s. So I had a mixer and used Cool Edit Pro to record the bands. Then, for Christmas my parents got me a keyboard, Jasper and I have used it, this Yamaha DJX 2 that has a bunch of techno loops in it. I had been listening to more electronic-tinged rock at that point, like indie rock or whatever. That was when I was 15 or 16, and I would just make techno tracks based on these loops, but they were very rough. Then I went to school and stopped doing music completely until, in my sophomore year, I discovered Ableton, and was like, oh, I don't need any gear, I can just cut up shit, do samples, and it was a hobby, but then I realized people on the Internet liked it, so.
EM: How did you develop that fan base on the Internet?
GIL: I guess from day one, me and Henry [Shlohmo] have always been doing shit and bouncing ideas back and forth, and Wedidit was our long-time project. That was always kind of something we had together, and all the Wedidit cats kind of associated with each other and I think that helped to build our Internet presence, because we were all doing our own thing but we were also all collaborating on building this group presence, so that was definitely a big part of it.
JL: For me, LOL Boys was all on the Internet, and my whole life I feel like has been on the Internet. I was on message boards at a really young age just constantly posting. I feel like people talking about bands these days are just like, Grimes came up through the Internet, all these artists came up through the Internet, well is there a band that came up in the last two years who didn't start on the Internet? I feel like the Internet has killed, in a way, the local scene. I mean, I'm sure there are bands that are big on local scenes, but to get on the national level, the Internet is what breaks you. It's not like you're going to be in Rolling Stone before you're on some blog, you know, like XLR8R. It's democratic in a way, too.
GIL: It's nice though because you don't have to just grind on these local shows just to build some sort of name, playing these shitty shows for years. For me personally, I didn't play my first show until around my first release. I was nervous about that, but it was tight that I could make my music first and then see how a crowd reacted to it. If I'd been playing shows before, I probably would have been more inclined to make dubstep or some shit back in like, 2010.
JL: That's true, that's kind of like, I was a DJ before I was getting more serious about production, so my first production was definitely stuff I wanted to play out, so I'd just do dumb edits of whatever. Just make a mashup or whatever. But now you just make your music and then you play your shows. Let it marinate. The Internet's an insane tool that every musician has, but it's a double-edged sword. It's good and it's bad.
EM: What's the worst thing about the Internet?
JL: The hater. Responding to emails.
GIL: The worst thing about the Internet is--
JL: It's a snake that eats itself.
GIL: I guess this isn't really a legitimate complaint, because there shouldn't really be any standard, but the fact that you're required to compete and push your stuff on the Internet, that's not the problem, but the fact that a lot of people you compete with aren't artists necessarily. So you're kind of on this playing field where a lot of the people are just Internet personalities or random promoters or -- I don't want to like, single out certain people. But it's half your music and half your persona. It's cool because your fans know you so well, but--
JL: A level of mystery can be taken away. And it's important, I think, to keep mystery, but also you can find out a lot of you go into people's interviews and shit, or go back and read tweets from three years ago. And I think that because it's the Internet, it's never going to be taken 100% seriously, there's still this level where you can be a total fuckboy hater to somebody but also hide behind the veil of anonymity.
GIL: And everyone goes through shit so quickly. It's not a slow burn, it's not like it takes a year or two for a genre to develop. A genre will develop popularity literally overnight.
JL: You can't delete a CD from your car, when you have physical items, but you can just throw an MP3 in the trash and find new ones. Or just forget about it. But that's also like, as an artist, you have to be on your grind constantly, you can't decide to take five months on your next release because there're a million other fools out there producing that are going to take your place, who are making stuff just as good as you.
GIL: It's funny, when I started I remember I didn't have an artist page, or like a Twitter or anything, and I was about to put out my first album and Leeor was like, "hey you should make a Twitter and a Facebook."
JL: Now you kind of have to. I have a friend who makes metal and doesn't have a Facebook or a Twitter and he kills it, but that's a completely different scene, and he doesn't play live shows. It's a way for artists like us to tell the fans what the tour's going to be, and also just to interact one-on-one. There was never a way to do that before the Internet, now if a kid asks you a question about a remix or anything, you have the option to hit them back.
EM: I feel like pretty much everyone sort of has a music moment in their early life, the time when they start actually listening to music and actually liking music. What was that for each of you?
JL: Like passively listening versus actively listening?
GIL: For me, when I was in like fourth grade, my brother was always putting me onto stuff, because he's not that much older than me, so we were always tight. He put me onto Weezer and shit when I was younger, and that was really big for me.
JL: That's what I was going to say too.
GIL: The really big music stuff for me was when I was 12 or 13 and he put me onto Boards of Canada and M83, and those blew my mind. I would listen to those like I was stoned or something, but I was just some little kid tripping out.
JL: Yeah I was going to say, probably Weezer's Blue Album for me. Because I was just learning the guitar, and it just tripped me out. My parents were always listening to music too, they were pretty influential and I've noticed now, listening to what they listened to in the 80s, it was really electronic-heavy. Even like, Oingo Boingo, they're a band but they still have a lot of synthesizers, so that probably had some kind of subconscious effect. But for me, when I heard Weezer's Blue Album, that was the first time I went into something a little. I feel like a lot of people fucked with Weezer.
EM: And did you guys have any experiences early on with electronic scenes? What was your first electronic music live experience?
JL: I was into like, The Blood Brothers and The Red Light Sting, so it was like a cross of hardcore with poppy, synth shit, so I remember seeing a show with like, Death From Above, The Red Light Sting, and The Blood Brothers, and it was still dancey, with hi-hats and stuff, I don't know what to call it but there was definitely a scene from around 2003-2005 that was like, dance-influenced hardcore shit.
GIL: I remember not really knowing what was going on with electronic shit when I saw it live though. I remember seeing like, Air live, and DJ Shadow, and some other electronic artists, and just kind of being like "uhh, I don't know what's going on."
JL: I think I really understood DJing with early Hollertronix tapes, like Diplo and Low Budget, I was like, oh, this is what DJing could be. I still don't really understand DJing though. [laughs]
EM: I'll try to wrap up with something more future-oriented. What's coming up for you guys that's exciting?
JL: About to play this show.
GIL: About to play this show. About to play more shows.
JL: Never really touring, just one-offs here and there.
GIL: One-offs consistently, then random groups of dates. Also working on some new shit, just gonna leave it there, you know.
JL: I'm working on some new shit too. There's some shit coming out. I'm working on a film, actually, a documentary about Jasper. Called "Films of Films."