LostinSound sat down with Doug Appling of Emancipator to discuss his independent record label, Loci Records. He started the label in 2012 to release Emancipator’s music independently, but it continued to evolve from there with the addition of other artists who share a similar yet unique sound. The label has released a flurry of new albums recently that caught our ear. We couldn’t help but wonder about the structure behind such a beautiful collection of ethereal, complex, elegant melodies and we sought answers. Doug was kind enough to provide them.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Doug! Let’s start at the beginning. Where does Loci come from?
Loci is the plural of locus, which is a focus point. It’s a collection of points, the same way each artist on the label is a point in the musical universe. Loci is the meeting point, a platform where we can share our art collectively. That’s where it started.
First of all, I’m a music fan even before I’m a musical artist myself, so I’m constantly listening to music and seeking out new sounds. This is a passion project of mine, as well as a platform to release Emancipator albums. I was looking for a platform to release my music on my own terms. It really started with Dusk to Dawn, and Tor’s first album, Drum Therapy.
How would you describe the collective musical vision of Loci and the sound that artists on the label share?
It’s a constantly evolving sound. Each artist we add to the label adds a new dimension to the work. If you look at the discography so far, artists have been able to strike a balance between electronic production and lush organic sounds. Instrumental – that’s one theme that ties it all together, mostly lyric-less. It’s kind of the undercurrent of the unconscious, music that can exist at all times. At the end of the day, it’s all music that I like and want to support. There aren’t any strict, defining rules about what it has to sound like.
Is there a particular message you’re trying to convey with the unified musical vision of Loci? What is the theme that you’re curating here?
That’s a very deep philosophical question. Why do we enjoy listening to certain sounds? Why do certain sounds put us in a good mood or augment
our realities? The word “transport” is apt – the way the music can take you
to a certain place, every song has a vibe that can feel like a physical
atmosphere, like your mind is in a certain location or state while you’re listening. All songs can activate different parts of your brain. My favorite kind of music usually has a really awesome drumbeat, an intricate groove, with melodies and a lot of sounds going on. Spinal and cerebral. That’s one theme I see in the music I listen to.
What makes the sounds of Loci artists different?
Each artist has their signature sound, their fingerprint; when you hear a song by any artist on the label you can pick them out by their production style, the sounds they choose, the way they mix. Each artist is known for certain musical qualities.
For example, Tor’s album has impeccable drum work, and drum production, percussive layering and choice of samples; that’s how I would describe the essence of what makes Tor’s work so good.
Stratus’s album, The Diver, is different than other albums. The way he approaches music is a little bit different, it makes me think about music differently. It’s textural rather than beat oriented. He paints with sound, rather than just make a dope beat. His approach to songwriting has been really inspiring.
Is there any cross-collaboration between the artists on Loci?
Definitely. There’s been a number of remixes. I’m working on a remix of one of Tor’s songs. Tor’s remixed a few of my songs, same with Lapa. Just the other day I sent a track over to Frameworks for collaboration. Personally, I haven’t really collaborated with other producers a lot in the past, I’ve always done my own thing, but lately I’ve been branching out and doing some more production collaborations.
Genre-blending is a major theme for Loci artists’ sounds; what about blending other mediums?
For the past several albums we’ve been accompanying the release with some sort of visual, like a video. Edamame’s album that was just released has amazing computer graphics, a walk through a forest that’s pretty trippy for the song “Tree Shadows.”
There’s another album we’re working on later this summer, a new artist–unannounced yet—that’s going to have a music video.
I personally have been getting into making music videos recently. Kind of the same way I make music really, sampling stuff off Youtube or iPhone content – it’s kind of a new hobby of mine. I posted a few pics on Instagram of new tracks I’m working on with some very basic music videos. It’s been fun.
A mysterious hint about a new artist! What exactly is the process of adding new artists to the label?
So far it’s been a pretty organic process. A lot of times it’s music that’s recommended to me by friends, or I find on SoundCloud. People reach out to me, send me messages to share their music—if I really enjoy it then I might consider them. It’s not an open door policy, there is a curation process.
When I was getting started as a musician I got immense help from the
exposure from record labels that I don’t think I would have gotten otherwise. Loci is not focused as much on established artists, it’s trying to find undiscovered gems and give them more support, give them the ears the music deserves.
People who are passionate about producing music and who are motivated to
spend a lot of time working on art and making art—those are the kinds of
people I want to bring on board. There’s a certain level of production quality that has to be in the work. If there’s a musician who I think has potential – good song writing and composition – I’m happy to give constructive feedback, but there definitely has to be a certain level of production quality to make me want to listen to something.
Do you do any mentoring? Do you view Loci more as a gathering of your peers or do you ever take on protégés?
In some ways. I’ve helped give art feedback and track list feed back, mixing
feed back, in the process of putting together an album. In order to be
considered they have to have an album that’s pretty much done. A lot of times they may come to me with an almost finished album and I’ll just help
give some feedback on how to make it a complete, finished, professional sounding and looking product.
Are there other people involved in the curating process?
There’s a Loci illuminati board. We go to the castle and we listen in darkness. Nah, I’m just joking. It’s really just me, my tastes. My manager, Keith LeWinter, who’s involved in the management side of the label, the day to day business stuff, I always bounce potential artists off of him to see what he thinks. We work on this together, but it’s really up to me. It’s just me basically, me and Keith. Of course we all have friends we like to share our tunes with and what our peers think, and their reactions undoubtedly have an influence.
Edamame is your most recent addition to the label and he just dropped a new album, Ochre. He has been pretty prolific in the past, but this is his first album with Loci. What was it like getting him involved?
Edamame’s album, Ochre, is a very strong album. I feel it’s pretty representative of the current taste of the label. He’s one of the artists I got in contact with over SoundCloud. If I recall, one their songs just came up on my stream—you know how when you pick a song it will play through to the end and then another song will come up next like on autoplay? That’s how I discover a lot of music. I don’t remember exactly, but we started talking and he sent me demos, and I encouraged him to finish up more songs for an album. A few months later we got Ochre.
I think what I enjoy most about Ochre is the balance of really percussive electronic drums that have this kind of pitter-patter, and then the long drawn out atmospheric melodies. It’s the blend of these two sounds that does it for me.
Do you have a favorite track from the album?
“Silver Linings” is probably one of my favorites.
What’s coming out next from Loci? Any new artists you have your eye on?
At the moment there’s only one unannounced artist, probably a September release from this new artist. We’ve had a pretty busy year, a slew of releases, so the next few months into the fall I’ll get my ear back to the ground and see what I can find out there. We’re not really heavily recruiting artists actively at the moment.
This new artist might be a surprising album for the label. Definitely going to expand the dimensions and definitions of the Loci sound. It’s a little bit more abstract, experimental, electronic lo-fi kind of stuff. Fans of Aphex Twin might enjoy it. It’s something a little different.
Is there anything else you personally are working on now? Any new Emancipator music or other projects you’re dreaming up?
I’ve been working a lot on new Emancipator material. I’ve been stockpiling quite a few songs. I’m continuing to work on that, so maybe a new Emancipator album in the works to be released sometime in 2017.
I also want to continue branching out to work with other music video artists and designers. We’re so focused on music it would be good to connect and network with more visual artists to develop content for the label. There’s so much that can be done with just self-generated content and sampling. Cutting edge stuff is out there, the future.
What more do you hope to do with Loci? Any other directions you can see the project expanding?
I’ve got big plans for the future. Nothing too concrete, it’s something that organically evolves as my musical taste evolves. One thing I hope for in the
future it to release more of the Loci Seasons. We had one compilation, Loci Season One, that featured a new Emancipator track, “Diamonds.” Originally that was supposed to be seasonal, four a year. We got sidetracked on that, so
I want to get that going, and hopefully release more mix-tapes, like hour-long mixes of Loci artists or music that influences us. We actually just put up a Spotify playlist of Loci artists. We want to keep doing more stuff like that.
Hopefully some events too. Maybe later this year we’ll have some Loci themed shows with all Loci artists. Location to be determined, but coming to a city near you!