We caught up with Fly High co-founder SertOne to talk about exploring sounds with live audiences, creative cross-pollination and gender equality in electronic music.
Smirnoff's 'We're Open' project is about encouraging openness and diversity in music – allowing sounds to cross borders and bring people together. That's what inspired their film with Nadia Tehran, and it's why we're looking at people, groups and collectives bringing an ethos of openness to what they do. With their fast-growing community of fans across the world, the Fly High Society is destroying boundaries between genres and disciplines, expanding our idea of what collectives can do.
"Collective" has become a bit of an empty term, wielded around to connect seemingly disparate artists, both talented and not, into something that is more than just a "group". But Fly High Society has been putting meaning back into the word since 2010 when the collective's co-founders, the producers SertOne and Bolts, started putting on shows in Liverpool alongside fellow DJs Illum Sphere, Letherette and Eclair Fifi. When the pair started getting booked, people would always refer to them as Fly High Society, and the name stuck.
Now, the group comprises a bunch of like-minded electronic producers, DJs, artists, illustrators and designers who are fast gaining traction as a multi-faceted collective who put on a good show and release original rap, juke, jungle, rare groove, beats, bass and bleeps. Fly High Society's success lies in its diversity, passion and ability to pool resources so as to build an international community of listeners and contributors. Borders and genres mean nothing to this DIY label who are set on uncovering the freshest beat talents across the world, putting on incredible collaborative events, producing and pressing sell-out records and tapes, and releasing their hugely popular Fly High Radio podcast on Mixcloud to 12,000 followers. We caught up with Fly High co-founder SertOne, aka Bosco McAlinden, to talk about exploring sounds with live audiences, creative cross-pollination and gender equality in electronic music.
THUMP: The word "collective" gets bandied about a lot and it doesn't seem to mean much concrete anymore. But then that's exactly what Fly High Society is and it seems like the best way of describing what you do, right?
Bosco McAlindon: We are a collective, a label, we do events, radio and whatever else we fancy trying our hand really. The word "collective" does get bandied about a lot but for us it just means a network of artists who are open to shared values and experiences. Like a lot of "collectives" we use the internet to connect, plan and collaborate with one another, but a lot of the people we work with have been friends and making music together for almost 10 years now.
Our tagline is "nothing but us" because we just want to try to showcase music that we think is exciting. We also like partying together so any excuse to get together and play music is welcomed, which also always creates a good energy. Our events are like a friendly competitions to see who's got the dope stuff, and in the process you just get to end up hearing tonnes of great music.
And how important are the events to building a strong community around your music?
For us community is a key element, and although we play and book a lot of different genres and styles, we always seem to attract the same loyal crowds. We want to give crowds something they might not have heard before so if you approach this with the right attitude people can be pretty trusting and will allow you a lot of room to explore sounds.
Yeah it feels like the collaborative events you put on transmit the message that you guys are a melting pot of genres, styles, disciplines—with Alice Pardis VJing or Mumptown doing your artworking alongside a massive roster of producers and DJs.
Most of us got our key musical education around 2005/2006 when labels like the British Hyperdub and the LA-based Brainfeeder had a lot of crossover. Tempos and palette of sounds didn't seem matter anymore as much as making sure the bass and drums were knocking. Since then, the music has gone in loads of different directions in the sonic sense but a lot of us refer still just call it beats. As a group we have no genres or strict beats per minute, which mean there have been no real limitations to what we can book or release. And it's the same with the artwork, Mumptown's illustration work is a million miles from something like Alice Pardis's string work or IGLOOGHOST's graphics, but again the variety and openness is key.
Do you think that the diversity of sounds and beats coming out of Fly High Records is a natural byproduct of working in a collective with people from all over the place?
Most definitely. Our first release was dancefloor-oriented beats stuff, our second was a bass and singer duo who make electronic folk stuff and we've released everything from Brazilian house bangers to pirate rap. I'm always thankful to labels who can broaden my musical landscape, so we try to do the same and the stuff we have lined up for 2017 is everything from rap, juke, house, singer-song writing.
We're lucky to have crew in Germany, Italy, Australia and Ireland because we get to hear artists and sounds that you might not hear otherwise. We released VOIDS EP because are friends in Galway, Ireland put us onto them and I first hung out with Not Your Girlfriend in Ireland but now she's killing it in Berlin and she's one of the best at showcasing bass, rap and electronic music in Europe. Mia Besorio, the Fly High co-manager, in Melbourne also allowed us to connect with other fans and artists their too, my collaboration with the Australian singer Maribelle came about because of her.
It's crazy how we're living in a world where everyone is building up walls between each other. The idea of collaboration appears more important than ever.
Personally I am not a big fan of building walls between people or making other people pay for them. I think our diversity means we can be really welcoming and we aren't going to judge you if you aren't into the exact same things as us. I've posted Fly High records and tapes to Chile, Brazil, a lot of Eastern Europe and Asia. I think our Fly High Radio Mixcloud helps a lot, we have subscribers who tune in from all over the world.
So I was looking at your Mixcloud comments and there were people writing in Italian, Greek and Russian. They're all saying stuff like "tanta roba!!!!!" [really cool].
It's true, people are great at reaching out. Fly High Radio started as a two-hour monthly show and now it has grown into a whole station with six regular shows from Jon1st, Bolts, Contours, Not Your Girlfriend, Dada Cantona and DustyOhms. If there was one thing to describe what brings our listeners together I'd like to say open-mindedness, curiosity and good energy.
To be truly diverse though, you need some more girls in here! Any plans to get more women on board?
Most definitely! And something we have been discussing with the women we work with is how to showcase more music and art from females, especially for events. We have been releasing music and art with artists like VOIDS, Not Your Girlfriend and Alice Pardis from the early days and we are releasing and working with more women in 2017, too. We strongly believe unless all of us are equal, none of are equal.
Great! The Fly High compilations like the Spacebus Vol. 1, for example, sound at once sound so slick but come from a very DIY ethos.
Most of us are bedroom producers or artists so pretty much everything is DIY. Our cassettes are designed, printed, duplicated and assembled by us which gives us the opportunity to try different things with the aesthetics of the tape, instead of just the standard duplications. A few of us are big fans of punk music and a lot of the DIY inspiration for our tapes and merch comes from that.
So aside from punks who are Fly High's musical ancestors?
We love Stones Throw, Brainfeeder, Dublab and BTS Radio. BTS podcasts, in particular, always featured a lot LA beats and early UK dubstep stuff, then early on they started playing UK beat stuff like Letherette, S.Maharba and Young Montana?, which inspired start putting on events. Kutmah, the DJ and former member of influential LA-based collective Dublab, has been a huge influence too from his radio show Sketchbook which is now on NTS Radio.
What does the future look like for Fly High Society? Higher flying?
More releases coming in 2017 from crew members and friends like Monto, Tehbis, Rusangano, Tre'bore and a few more. We we'll be doing more events in London and Brighton too with Tre'bore and They Call Me Raptor. There'll be more radio shows, more tapes, more vinyl, more events, more tours. More.
Thanks for the chat Bosco.