The Dutch capital of Amsterdam is without doubt one of the most fertile grounds for quality electronic music right now. Alongside celebrated stores such as Rush Hour and festivals such as Dekmantel, a clutch of killer new labels, artists and parties are also beginning to make their presence felt and earn a reputation outside of their native city. The likes of PIV, VBX, Slapfunk and No Art immediately come to mind, but another such name we can safely add to that list is the fast-emerging Stately collective.
A like-minded group of minimally-inclined souls, the dual label/party is really beginning to increase in prominence recently, and they’ve even had the likes of Anton Kubikov and Luna Ludmila (as well as Tripmastaz and Subtil to come on the 8th October) join them at their much-vaunted parties. We caught up with one of the founders of Stately, Ruben Frederik (aka Frederik, who has also mixed our most recent podcast in quite brilliant fashion), as he gave us the lowdown on the story so far – as well as a glimpse into what we can expect from the Stately crew in the future…
Hi Ruben, can you tell us a bit about how your love affair with electronic music started? What was it about it that you loved so much??
Hey guys! For me it all started in my young teenage years when I noticed I didn’t like any of the basic pop or dance music that most of the people were into, I was already looking for more obscure things. Even though a lot of things were horrible when I look back at it ;). Later when I turned 18 and started going to parties my taste kept evolving until I set foot in a VBX 2 day bender in BRET and things changed for good! A vibe like I had never seen before, DJ’s playing vinyl & playing super stripped down grooves. Was really a match made in heaven!
You’ve been running parties for a while now; what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned? What would you do differently?
Don’t freak out if ticket sales are slow in the beginning! When I was still out partying myself often I would buy a ticket right away when they got released, but I quickly learned most people don’t work that way and decide where to go the week or even the day before. In the beginning I got quite nervous if we sold just a handful of tickets in the first weeks, but luckily you often see numbers going up quickly the week and days before the event!
Can you talk us through some of the highlights – and some of the lowlights – so far? What made them stick out for you?
The low was definitely the effects of COVID we witnessed. With the previous crew I played for (Locked-In) we had an artist being on a flight while everything got cancelled for the next few months. Also making plans for a collaboration with Subtil while being in Berlin when the first cases emerged there put everything at risk. Luckily these years of introspection gave us a lot of patience & knowledge as well.
The highlight was definitely our sold out party with Anton Kubikov & Luna Ludmila in July. We never imagined so many people would turn up for a still developing label night. It was truly amazing to see so many friends and the vibe was absolutely amazing. This made us realise we can absolutely do it and gave us much confidence for the future.
Do you have other parties and labels you look to for inspiration? What makes them great do you think?
For us a big inspiration was (and is!) Subtil Records from Berlin, who we are also collaborating with now! They have such an amazing identity and throughout the years where everybody jumps from hypetrain to hypetrain they stay true to themselves. Always a focus on playing vinyl and such an amazing vibe at their legendary events at Hoppetosse, which we have been lucky enough to visit!
We love the artwork that courses through your releases by your friend, Julia. How important is a visual aesthetic to a modern-day label do you think?
Very important to us! But that doesn’t need to be the case for everybody. For ourself we were looking for something botanical, with a lot of earth-wise colours. We feel that our sound can be quite atmospheric and close to earth so we are really happy that it came out so close to our identity.
On that note, what are your thoughts on social media and electronic music? A good or a bad thing? Or both?
Both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes I would like to throw out all the social media on my phone but for a label and promoter (at least a beginning one) it’s just essential to stay connected to your following and try to reach as many like minded people as possible.
Running a party in NL seems extremely competitive. How do you compete with big brands? And on that front, how important is it to identity for your own identity and stay true to yourself?
We don’t really feel that way to be honest. Yes there are a lot of crews out there doing their thing but everybody has pretty much their own identity, fanbase, artists they book etc. Especially now VBX has grown from being a local promoter, throwing raves in small intimate venues, into a huge international brand, we feel like there is a lot of room for smaller crews to grow and book artists that would otherwise don’t come to the Netherlands so easily. On that note I think the key for us is to book artists that never, or not often play in Amsterdam. For example, a big name like Anton Kubikov told me he didn’t play in Amsterdam for over 20 years! Like this we have a long list of amazing artists we hope to bring to Amsterdam in the near future.
Obviously you guys are quite minimally-inclined sound-wise. What is it about this sound that you love so much?
It’s so incredibly hypnotic. It can lock you in a groove for hours and carry you through the night, without the need of big drops, confetti or co2 cannons. It’s really amazing how you can create so much atmosphere and emotion with so little elements in the music. Most people in the scene are amazing personalities too, no big egoes, super approachable. A bit how I picture society should be as a whole.
In English, ‘Stately is defined as ‘having a dignified, unhurried, and grand manner; majestic in manner and appearance’. How does this apply to the label?
Actually, the name of the label originates from a track by Efdemin from his self titled album from back in 2007. We witnessed the legendary DJ Dustin play it in the as least as legendary club de School in Amsterdam around christmas in 2017 at 7:30 in the morning which will forever be one of those moments you’ll never forget, where everything just comes together. After being on the hunt for track ID for months the name ‘Stately’ just kept coming back in our minds and the story was born. Even though the definition of the word ‘Stately’ doesn’t seem to be a perfect fit with minimalistic music at first, we do feel it applies. Minimalistic music, made with only a few elements, can bring everything together and create truly majestic moments in our lives.
For someone who’s not been, what could we expect from a Stately Records night? And can you tell us a bit about the location at Oosterbar in Amsterdam?
Oosterbar feels like home for us by now. The location is amazing in the middle of a beautiful park in Amsterdam-east. It’s in the basement of a former university, now in use as a cool hostel. There is a limited capacity of 180, which makes it super interesting for young initiatives to grow there. The great Danley sound system is really the cherry on the cake. So many great memories already in that place and a big tip for people from outside NL to check out when you’re around!
Can you tell us a bit about who does what at Stately and their individual roles? I guess you don’t do it all alone!
Correct! I’ve been running it from the start with my best friend Rodney from the Woods. We met in high school and our taste in music has been developing at a similar pace ever since. While I take care of the creative part of the label he makes sure everything is steady behind the scenes. Lately we also don’t do it just the 2 of us anymore. We added the super talented Dubtommy to our crew. I have been playing amazing b2b’s with him recently which slowly grew into a residency. Besides that he has a great network and knowledge. He also works at one of Amsterdam’s finest record stores Killacutz and last but not least he’s a great producer! A great human being and an amazing addition to our team. In the short term he will be focussing on expanding our digital series. There are a lot of great producers with music ready to be released!
What is the ultimate sim with the label? How far do you want to go with it? What are your grand ambitions?
Our big ambitions are mainly to take our events to the next level, throw bigger parties at bigger venues. There are so many names we’d still like to book! Besides that we are already exploring the field to expand our brand with a booking agency and a little record shop. Our Discogs shop is doing well and growing slowly but steadily and this ADE we will be present at a record fair for the first time, really excited about it.
Label wise we really enjoy every step of the way, every physical release is an achievement! Next year we are planning to start a sub label, where the concept will be to release 10” white labels with even deeper music. The tracks we have on the shelf for this project are truly amazing so we cannot wait until the moment is there to start with it!
Is running a label from NL as difficult as it is elsewhere? Or what other challenges are you faced with (from the label side)?
The current situation at the pressing plants is a real challenge for smaller labels. The first goal was to keep everything in the process as local as possible, which counts for the pressing as well. Record Industry in Haarlem is really delivering outstanding quality for a good price. The pressing is amazing and the artwork always looks really really tight. The only problem is that it takes up to a year(!) for your record to be done. This is too crazy to be able to make any planning so we switched to france for the 3rd release. They pressed this one within 2 months which forced us to release the 003 before the 002, which messed up our schedule quite a bit. Of course this isn’t the end of the world but we are still debating which way to go for upcoming releases.
The price point for releases is a challenge as well. We always want to sell our records for a good price, most new records are at least 15/16 euros which is way too much but it seems to be the only way you can get any money out of it at all nowadays. So far we have been avoiding these prices but i’m not sure how long we can keep doing that.
Can you talk us through the party on the 8th October with Subtil and Tripmastaz? How do you decide on who to book?
As mentioned earlier Subtil Records has been on top of our wish list for a long time now for different reasons. As a label they usually book an artist they have been working or releasing together with to play at their events. During covid they did a wonderful downtempo EP with a beautiful cut by Tripmastaz. As a DJ I think he will be the perfect guy to close down the Oosterbar, given that his sets are extremely energetic & eclectic and he plays vinyl most of the time.
You’ve also supplied a mix for us. Can you talk us through the vibe you were going for with this one? And what are your favourite tracks on the mix?
Yes I did and very happy to be on board the series. My sets usually consist of some upcoming Stately Releases, unreleased music from friends and new and old vinyl releases. This mix isn’t an exception, really happy how it turned out. I like to play around with the atmosphere in the mix, sometimes taking a deep dive to come back on top with more uplifting grooves a few tracks later. I also like to do a bit longer mixes, 1,5 hour minimum. I think one hour mixes are super short, both to play as to listen. When you finally get into the vibe it already ends!
With ADE on the horizon, will you guys be throwing any parties there then also?
No official party yet, we focus on that for next year! We are still working on some instore sessions and something else informal during daytime in a bar, but those things are yet to be confirmed. We are to be found at ‘The Vinyl Countdown’ vinyl market on Thursday at Sissi’s. Big tip to score some new vinyl if you’re around!
Can you tell us a bit more about what you’re excited about – both musically and personally – for over the coming months?
ADE is always a big highlight of the year, and now we’re growing into the scene the week is turning more and more into a big networking event, to meet new people and potential future collaborations. We also have a lot of plans to bring more amazing DJ’s to Amsterdam, to make our event series grow and slowly get ready for the next level. With Dubtommy on board in our team we are definitely ready for what the future holds for us!
Listen to Nightclubber 181 by Ruben here