NO LONGER A mere sub-label of Amanda and Britt Brown’s Not Not Fun Records, 100% Silk has emerged as a premiere dancefloor force all of its own. What started as an early 2011 off-kilter disco experiment has blossomed into an electronic tastemaking imprint able to go against the grain of conventionality, instantly selling out of their 12″ maxi single releases without the help of social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter.
From the foof house stylings of artists like Ital, Magic Touch, Octo Octa and Sir Stephen, to the space cadet disco of Maria Minerva and Innergaze, 100% Silk illuminates the edges of electronic music and puts the periphery in the spotlight.
Centered around dublab, the non-profit, member supported free internet radio station currently in its fundraising Proton Drive, Pharaohs produce an eclectic, organic sound unmatched by any of 100% Silk’s previous releases.
Having been lucky enough to see the group perform live a handful of times, each set different than the last, jazner was able to catch up with the crew over email and discuss what Pharaohs is all about. Here’s what they had to say:
jazner: Who makes up Pharaohs? Is there a difference between members in the group in terms of recordings and live performances, or is the lineup set?
Pharaohs: Pharaohs was formed by Sam Cooper and Ale Cohen, with a rotating number of guest musicians. Yes, there is a difference from our recordings to live. The live sets develop out of a common idea we share with other musicians on how our music should be presented live. In the studio, those same folks, and others that never play live with Pharaohs, come and add their arrangements to the songs, sometime co-writing the songs with us.
j: How did the group come about, what is its history?
P: We met each other at a record store. Started talking about music and realized we had a lot in common. At our first session, it was immediate. We jammed and wrote 3 or 4 songs, some of them eventually came out on a cassette EP on Living Tapes. From there we developed our style and ways of composition, we included guests and started playing some live sets. An important point in the history of the group was when we did a live session at KPFK for dublab. It was all last minute, but it was fantastic. William Lemon III joined us on Saxophone and vocals. It was the first time where we started expanding our sound and the possibilities of what we could do.
j: Where are you guys from?
P: Ale Cohen: Los Angeles via Buenos Aires
Sam Cooper: The Pacific Ocean
j: Talk about your music, it seems so multilayered – there are hints of latin, house, jazz, psychedelia, amongst other threads. What kind of place does your music come from? Where are you trying to take your audience on this sonic journey? What does this world look / feel like? What artists, musicians, individuals, eras push you artistically / musically?
P: Yes, the influences are all there. We listen to this kind of music because it is music of the heart. It’s music of life and living and everything that surrounds us. A lot of our material is from jams that we do in the studio. Channeling. Sonic Archeology. From within us. Sometimes you can’t force anything – you have to let it come to you. You do not choose it, it chooses you. When working on a track we always ask ourselves if everything belongs there. Always looking to lose any extra baggage. We want our audience to lose themselves and be free. To exit their bodies. Have you ever seen anyone in a Voodoo trance? – kind of like that.
In regards to influences, the list is far to great to even name a few. It just wouldn’t do justice. However, we admire the work and the way some artists approach their work. That’s what has left a mark on how we approach things. All eras have amazing music, but if we have to name an era that influences us, it would be this one, the present.
j: On this same note, can you talk a little about 100% Silk? It’s a record label that seems to blur and ditch genre lines while mixing styles all together. Do you agree, and what are you thoughts on genre? What is your relation to Amanda and Britt? Why were you drawn to release the 12″ with them? What do you think 100% Silk’s role is in the LA music scene and beyond, and do you feel a part of that narrative?
P: We love 100% Silk. Amanda and Britt are great. We feel a connection with them, and have a similar approach to things, so the connection was mutual. They have been so supportive. We’ve formed a wonderful relationship with them where things are understood without even saying them. From the moment we met, it all happened naturally, like “of course we are putting out a 12″ on 100% Silk, I can’t imagine not doing so”.
As far as genres are concerned, we’re definitely aren’t thinking about it when we’re writing. Genres can be good and at the same time they can be limiting. We don’t want boundaries in our music, we want our music to be free and invoke freedom. Anytime you blend worlds and ideas others think of as separate, and you find an original way of doing it, the results can be exceptional. I think that is the case with 100% Silk and its roster of artists. Not sure of the role of the label in LA, they do inspire a lot of people in the city and it does provide a center for something that few others, or no one maybe, does in LA, but really 100% SILK is not about connecting with one city, but with the world.
j: One thing that truly excites me about Pharaohs is the fact that you recreate your music live, when the norm for most electronic artists is to just hit play on their laptop and use whatever samples they’ve got. It feels more organic live. Can you talk about the differences between recreating your set live vs. sampling? What difference (if any) does this make, both for you as the artist and conversely the environment for the audience watching your set? Is the live set part of Pharaohs’ identity, and if so how / what does it do to form it?
P: Yes, we are excited about that too. In many ways we play our songs live, instead of using a laptop, because in some ways we can be quite basic in our understanding of technology. It doesn’t mean we don’t get it, but we do have a natural tendency to stick to that immediate feel of playing live, grabbing an instrument and play the sounds yourself, instead of loading, triggering and staring at a screen. We think the reception from the public has been good because of that, you can’t replace a live performance with a download. It would be so boring having a sample of the keyboard lines to then put them in a little box and trigger them pressing a rubber button. Give me a synth of a drum machine or some shakers! Lets jam with that and a saxophone – I wanna move! That sounds to me like more fun.
As for the live set being part of our identity. It’s starting to be. Definitely the structure for our live performances is starting to influence the way we compose new songs.
j: And finally, can you talk about dublab and Suzanne Kraft? Do these projects influence what you do for Pharaohs? What is their place in the LA music scene and beyond?
P: Yes, dublab is an internet radio station based in Los Angeles, for which I [Ale] also work for. Suzy K is our good friend and collaborator Diego Herrera. It’s funny, with Diego all happened so naturally that we don’t even remember a beginning, he was there, and that is it. What Diego does influences us for sure, his style can also be heard on Pharaohs, because he plays some of the lines. As for dublab, yes, of course, how could that not influence me, I’m there all day. I met Britt and Amanda there, so that was cool.
I can’t really say anything about what dublab or SK mean in the music scene of LA and the world without sounding absurd. All I can say is that dublab gets a lot of support from its community of listeners, and that means the world to me. As for SK, I’ll just say that I love his music and many people are into it as well.