Let’s be completely honest. In the last year and a half or so, there have been very few electronic labels out there as consistent, interesting and influential as Symbols Recordings. Their level of progressive electronic music has definitely helped usher in these more chill, lush and beat driven R&B vibes that are becoming so prevalent in 2014. Label chief and DAD favorite, Kastle, kicked the brand off himself with his Stay Forever EP in the middle of 2012 and they haven’t looked back. We’ve seen some incredible releases come at a steady pace from the likes of Lindsay Lowend, Chromatic, Druid Cloak, Sweater Beats, and a critically-lauded debut album Kastle himself. But as these pieces go, we want to dig deeper and give you more of the overall story of what’s going on behind the scenes. Kastle was kind enough to take some time recently and give us that sneak peak. Let’s get to it.
It appears to most everyone familiar with Symbols that it’s 100% your baby. Is there anyone else behind the scenes that was instrumental in getting things off the ground? When did you actually start to think you wanted to run your own imprint? Is there beginning to be a formal roster?
My art director, Joyce Su, has been there from the beginning and was definitely a big part of the overall vision. I have always handled the A&R, mastering, and most admin duties. My manager, Danny Johnson, has always been a great beacon of support. Our social media manager, Sean Tokuyama, has been our Twitter and Facebook voice for awhile now and does a great job of curating taste that compliments our vibe. Symbols is a non-exclusive label for now, so we don’t necessarily have a formal roster. But we have had return EPs from Druid Cloak & Atlas.
Do you project any potential internal expansion with label staff, roster, etc in the near future? If not, why?
Definitely growing. One step at a time.
There definitely feels like there’s already a “Symbols sound” established. Was that particular vibe planned from the outset? Outside of the excellence of their music, what are some other qualities you’re looking for from the artists you pick up?
Like I always say, the feeling is the genre. The catalog will continue to grow and probably slightly change and diversify, maybe circle around, but its always about a feeling. Everything I sign, I do it because I feel compelled to.
In your short time of cranking out an insane amount of top shelf music, including your own debut artist album, what do you ultimately dedicate your swift success to? If you have some landmark/favorite releases, what are they?
I am just very happy to share great music with the world. It’s been terribly fun building a brand and shaping a universe to ourselves. It was always my goal to create something that people can instantly identify and connect with. They know what to expect. Which can also mean the unexpected. We embrace paradoxes.
How do you feel about the idea of a label “brand” still being important aspects in today’s free for all mindset in the music industry? What are your thoughts about going through traditional digital retail methods to distribute Symbols music as opposed to giving more music away?
I’ll be honest, there are times where the traditional methods can be frustrating and felt to be slow. But this is another reason we are a non-exclusive label. We’ve released a handful of debut EPs: Lindsay Lowend, Sweater Beats, Druid Cloak, Atlas, Lion Gonzalez, and soon to be Vindata. I’ve always encouraged new artists to give out free music and to even explore other labels (Druid Cloak navigated a breakout 2013 with both these methods) because time is of the essence now. All I ask is that there is something special about the Symbols release, and I believe there always is. Sweater Beats’ EP was a prime example, where he brought in vocalists Erin Marshall and Sunni Colon as opposed to his usual vocal sampling.
Tell us a bit about what’s in store for the coming months and throughout 2014. What are some long term goals you see/have in the foreseeable future?
We have a very strong first quarter. Atlas’ second EP, Sophomore Sessions, will drop on January 28th. Followed by Minorstep from Athens, Vindata from Los Angeles, and the Parables Vol. 2 compilation which will be released to coincide with SXSW. We are also doing two Symbols showcases in March. One in Hollywood and one at SXSW. Details will be announced soon!