A relative newcomer to the scene, vault. is quickly rising to international prominence for his deep, minimal, and dubby productions. His journey with electronic music can be traced back to the San Francisco underground circa 2017, where he was first exposed to club culture. His obsession mounted within a month of his first party, and he quickly made the transition from club stranger to club regular. He heard minimal at a local afters during this discovery period, and, brimming with inspiration from its distinct sonic palette, started to experiment with production.
In July 2021, vault. moved into a van to travel the US. At the same time, he was accepted as a student of Montreal-based electronic music legend, Pheek. Pheek’s tutelage helped to quickly elevate vault.’s production skills, and releases followed in short order. He released “Malaise” on Mexico-based Microgravity Records in September 2021, and subsequently had a cadre of releases on esteemed minimal and dub techno labels, including ECOUL SND (LV), Fetish Radio Records (US), Defora Records (IT), Verzila (RO), Todd Nerdy (LV), Inunct Music (RO), Welter Records (RO), PhonicHouse1 (RO), and Intelligent Sound (UA). We caught up with the man himself recently, who provided this week’s podcast, as he talked us through his musical journey to date, his many influences and his future plans…
Hi Edmo, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. How’s your year been so far? How’s your summer been?
Wonderful to speak with y’all! First half of the year has been solid, and the summer is off to an excellent start, thanks for asking.
Where are you at with your music right now then? When did you start? And can you tell us a bit about your artist project “vault.”?
I started experimenting with music production a few years ago – early 2019-ish – and really ramped things up last summer, which is when “vault.” came to be. The project aims to elicit contemplative movement on the dancefloor by focusing on driving grooves, catchy melodies, and abstract textures. When I’m digging, I listen to a lot of Romanian and Montreal minimal techno, minimal house, and dub techno; otherwise, it’s mostly American rap and R&B. So, hopefully, the sound pulls a lot of the good stuff from those genres.
What was the motivation behind starting it? And can you talk us through your future plans for it?
Frankly, “vault.” started out of a deep obsession with minimal. I discovered underground electronic music in early 2017 in San Francisco, and it quickly became a massive force in my life. Shortly after, I started travelling around with the intention of exploring electronic music and club culture everywhere I went. My first memory experiencing minimal live was in 2018 at the Electric Pickle when I was in Miami. Arapu was playing, and it was unlike anything I’d ever seen. After a few hours of complete entrancement, I was hooked. I picked up producing shortly thereafter in an attempt to offer my own creative contributions to the minimal scene.
As far as the future goes, I’m aiming to produce a ton of music and ramp up the gigs for my project. I’ll travel to Montreal a fair amount this summer, where I’ll be working on an EP with Luminescu. He and I have a B2B planned with the Minimadelic crew up there in July also. After that, I’m off to travel around Europe for a few months in the late Summer / Fall and will hopefully meet up with some collaborators to make and share music.
You’ve already released on a bunch of brilliant labels such as Fetish Radio Records and Defora Records (where Luminescu remixed your work). Where does your latest work rank in terms of your achievements? Or do you think of things in those sorts of terms?
Haha yes, I’m very lucky to have started off with labels I love dearly – releases on Defora and Fetish are definitely highlights! Latino (Defora label head) and I were in communication for almost a year before my release – I’m very grateful for his partnership, feedback, and patience as I honed my production skills over time until I had a healthy log of release-ready tracks. Colby (Fetish Radio label head) is a close personal friend – he and I had been dreaming up a release for a while, and agreed to make it a reality when I was in SF for a long weekend last September. Pheek introduced me to Louis (aka Luminescu) last Fall when the plan for these releases started to come together, and he was hyped to jump on board with remixes for each EP. His mom even recorded a live saxophone part over his remix of “untitled dub” on FRR01, which is insanely beautiful.
I’m not sure I think in terms of achievements when it comes to music. Like many of us, I tend to get a little obsessive about making the tracks, and then ensuring the promotions are good so that people have the opportunity to hear them. But at the time of the release, I struggle to enjoy the music. I will have listened to each track probably 1000 times by that point, so I tend to hear only the imperfections. All that said, I worked really hard on these releases over a long period of time, and I’m proud of them and the support they’ve received. Hopefully the quality continues to improve moving forward.
And can you fill us in a bit about the inspiration behind Welter Records and the Inunct EPs?
Happy to! They were written more or less in conjunction, from December 2021 to March 2022, and the intent of each work is quite different.
The track titles of the Welter EP are “Eden”, “Non-Attachment”, and “Embrace”. Each occupies a slightly different sonic space – the first track is organic in nature, I like to think of it as appropriate for a party in a forest glen. The second track offers juxtaposition: simple, dreamlike pads resting over a bed of driving lowend and gentle acid that flows in and out. The third track is totally abstract compared to the first two (for me and my style, at least).
Most of this music was written while I came down with COVID during a business trip to New York, and was staying at a friend’s apartment in the West Village. I’d get up every morning, meditate, practice yoga, and carefully listen to tunes for inspiration prior to sitting for long ‘studio sessions’ in his kitchen. I was pretty sick, and fresh off of completing my Yoga Teacher Training in Thailand, so the whole writing experience was one of attempting to feel and channel the full kaleidoscope of my emotions (discomfort, sickness, stillness, inspiration). The work was and is a reminder to do each of the things described in the song titles: embrace the present, non-attach / de-identify with feelings and thoughts, and in doing so, hopefully experience peace (“eden”).
The Inunct EP, “This House”, is exactly as described – two minimal house groovers with lots of texture, and use of instrumental samples over involved percussive grooves. The intent of this EP was to take a step back from all the work I’d been putting in between travel, music, and my job. The tracks, titled “comfort magic” and “lazy boy” serve as a reminder to relax, even in impassioned states of relentless dancing (or working, or whatever you’re doing).
Do you make yourself goals then? Is there anything in particular you’d love to achieve musically?
I’m naturally a goal-oriented person in all that I do, but I try – and often fail miserably – to manage my goals when it comes to music. Here’s what happens: I convince myself that it’s important to focus on incremental improvements over time – honing a specific production skill, for example, without worrying about creating a perfect / release-ready track. Then, I stumble across an insane song or mix. Next thing you know, I’m obsessively trying to channel inspiration by writing a track of my own. Finally, I’m reaching out to the associated label / curator about opportunities for collaboration. I’ve met some really amazing people due to this crazed approach, so no complaints, but it definitely invites chaos into what I had hoped would be an otherwise peaceful creative pursuit.
As far as longer-term goals go, I’m starting to lay blueprints for a label / collective that embodies mindful dance music. I’d love to curate releases where producers are asked to meditate briefly before each production session and share comments on how it influences their creative processes. These reflections would then be shared along with each release. Just a dream at the moment, and probably one that’s pretty far from original, hah… We’ll see.
Ok, let’s go back a bit now. Can you tell us about how you first got involved with music? What were some of your early influences?
I’ve been obsessed with music since I was a kid. My first exposure was to the hardcore and metal scene where I grew up in Burlington, Vermont (US) at around age 14. It’s a small town, but had a strong showing in these genres at the time, so we were treated to some pretty amazing live music. I remember seeing Fear Before the March of Flames, Between the Buried and Me, and Romans early on in highschool and being blown away. I started to skateboard around the same time, and with this my taste expanded to include oldschool and underground hip hop, which are my longest-standing music obsessions. To this day my biggest influences are from the music I discovered around that time: Lauryn Hill, MF Doom, Big L, Wu-Tang, Hieroglyphics, Blu & Exile, and also from newer artists like Smino, Phabo, and Aminé.
So, let’s chat a bit about production. What’s your setup like? And how often do you get to the studio? Or are you an ‘on-the-go’ type producer?
I’m someone who excels in ever-changing environments, so living and producing on-the-go suits me best. I’ve been living as a “digital nomad” for about a year now (no permanent home base, moving every month or so), so usually I’m producing completely in the box. I try to bring along my Ableton Push 2 when I can, but I seldom have access to a full setup or a truly neutral sound environment. I find this approach keeps me engaged and inspired. I try to write a new track every week across 2-3 total writing sessions (6-10 hours in total), but that figure changes depending on how much non-music related work I have.
You keep a very discerning, dare-we-say ‘underground’ ethos online. Is this something you’re conscious of? Do you think too many DJs and producers give away too much these days?
Hah, what a compliment! I suppose this makes sense. I have pretty complicated feelings about social media; I was off Instagram from ~2018 – 2021 because it made me feel awful, and have only returned as a space for sharing my music. I generally find that social media has a pretty negative impact on my mind, and would prefer to do without it. It’s been pretty useful for marketing and networking so far, so I’ll keep it for now, posting only about things related to music.
As for other DJs and producers, I can’t really comment, as I don’t pay super close attention. Those who post often and about all things in their life seem to get a lot of traction, so I understand the rationale for doing so. I just hope we all stay aware of how social media makes us feel, and use it consciously as a force for creative expansion.
Where do you stand on the role of social media in the modern scene? And the idea that DJs pay these big Instagram channels to push their music, as though it was “organic”?
Like I mentioned, I think social media is a necessary evil in our beloved scene. Paying for social media marketing can be challenging, but I’m grateful to the curators in our space serving as reliable sources / digging troves for listeners and DJs to find good music, consistently. For example, I honestly don’t know how I would’ve learned about the scene without the likes of Verzila, Recordeep, nightclubber.ro, and a few others. Practically speaking, the support these platforms have offered my project has given a huge vote of confidence to listeners, labels, and DJs alike.
I’m not sure any of us can live under the illusion that anything is “organic” anymore. Even those who manage to keep a low profile seem to enjoy the benefits of their shows and music being well-documented by fans and curators alike.
Before we go, we also wanted to talk about Pheek, who’s been something of a mentor for you. How did you meet him? And what’s so great about working with him?
Stoked to talk about my dear teacher! I ‘applied’ to be a student of Pheek’s just over a year ago, and my music totally changed after we started working together. From Day 1 he challenged the way that I thought about producing, first encouraging me to anchor to the experience of making the music (rather than focusing on the outcome; which is, as far as I’m concerned, a useful philosophy for everything in life), and proceeded to really pressure test almost all of my creative and technical decisions during our sessions. His doing so helped to accelerate my skills on quite a steep ramp – I wouldn’t say I’d ever really finished a track before working with him, and now I finish almost every track I make. Further, his lessons have guided me to be increasingly intentional about every creative decision I make. I’m in a debt of gratitude to this man; if you’re considering working with a teacher, I couldn’t recommend someone highly enough.
Finally, what’s exciting you on a musical and personal level right now?
Musical: Everything, but especially my recent releases on Intelligent Sound, PhonicHouse1, Inunct and Welter. Also really stoked about playing at Le Salon Daomé (Montreal) B2B with Luminescu in July, and on the music he and I are writing. Further, looking forward to working on an EP for PhonicHouse1, and hopefully collaborating and gigging during my travels to Europe later this year.
Personal: After Europe, I plan to spend a few months travelling around India. I’ve never been there, so I’m really looking forward to working from there, making music from there, and meeting wonderful people along the way. In the meantime, just trying to stay present.
You can also listen the mix recorded by Vault for our podcast on the link below.