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Location: Soulection HQ

Downtown Los Angeles

Cocktail: Spicy Frescaloma

4 mint leaves

5 jalapeño slices

1 oz. lime juice

½ oz. simple syrup

2 oz. blanco tequila

Fresca

Original Citrus Sparkling Soda

Add mint, jalapeño, lime juice and simple syrup to shaker. Muddle. Add tequila, shake, strain over ice and top with Fresca. Garnish with mint sprig.

Cheers! Back in 2011 you didn’t necessarily set out to create what Soulection has become— this independent music platform, radio show on Apple Music’s Beats 1 Radio with an audience of millions and artist collective bringing together hundreds of thousands of supporters worldwide. Do you think that’s why it’s been a success or did you always know you were building something bigger?

Joe Kay: I think we had the vision, but times have changed so much that we didn’t know what it would be. We just knew that we wanted to bring people together through music. We wanted to travel and we wanted to put artists on who didn’t have a platform. This was before Apple Music and the Spotify era. We were using free services [like MySpace, SoundCloud and Facebook] that were allowing us to get the word out.

At what moment did you realize you were onto something?

Andre Power: When we saw the reaction of the internet when we put out our third or fourth release. There was a snowball starting to grow of artists that we really admired who wanted to work with us. They were reaching out to us. On our first project it was Joe reaching out to them like, “Hey, we have this cool thing we want to do. Are you guys down?” and they’d say, “Oh, that sounds cool. I’m down.” But once we put out that third or fourth release over the course of like six months artists started reaching out to us.

Joe: Back in 2011 we put out this free compilation with all of our favorite producers and we didn’t think it was going to be anything. It was like a zip file and hosted through our homepage and it got like 10,000 downloads. Again, this was pre-everything. There was no Instagram … From that point on it started progressing and people started demanding things and commenting on the radio show that they wanted more. We started to take it more seriously. We had a great diverse following strictly because we were bringing in artists from different parts of the world. They were bringing their audience from Europe, Australia and places like that. We’ve always been really early [spotting] artists, sometimes too early where people don’t get it. But then it always ties back to how Soulection put out their first release. [It has happened with] a lot of artists who are very successful today. 

If you were to boil it down, why do you think you’ve been able to garner the respect in the music industry and such a loyal following?

Andre:  I feel like a lot of people respect the whole DIY culture that we embody because we give a lot of artists hope that it’s possible. If I can do it, you can do it. If you’re an artist or a producer and you’re making music in your bedroom, there’s this whole idea like, “Yo, if I work hard enough and my sound is that good… I can one day be a part of Soulection,” or, “I can grow and one day go on tour, play these shows and follow my dreams.”

You say Soulection is a movement and a culture. How do you define your culture?

Joe: I consider it more of a community. I think the word culture is a bit oversaturated right now. You hear big brands and everyone wanting to be part of the culture. I think the sound that we’ve pushed out has always been true to who we are. Everything that we do is so selective—from the music we put out, the people that we choose to be a part of the roster to the photographers and every photo and video that we post. Everything is so well curated, and people recognize that from the jump. All of those things combined are pushing us to this point of where we are.

Andre: As far as our core and what we’re about… pushing the sound of tomorrow, staying innovative, remaining real and having a strong family base within our roster, within our team. That’s super important for us. You can have amazing music, you can be super popping but if we don’t have that connection personally within our crew, it’s hard for us to work together. You have to be a part of this family … We also see that there are over 100 people around the world with Soulection tattoos.

Joe: More I would say… maybe in the thousands. That’s when you know it’s real. It kind of puts a bit of pressure [on us] but it’s a good pressure because it makes you think, “Damn, if we ever fell off or if we lost the value and the reason why people got into it in the first place…” that can make you depressed or make you think, “Sh-t did we fall off? Did we lose it?” That logo has a lot of meaning, it’s changed people’s lives. It’s inspiring and we’re trying to constantly reinvent ourselves. It’s a very interesting time right now because there’s so much over-saturation with music and art with social media. You post something and it’s swallowed, it’s down the feed in half a second, everything’s so temporary. So you have to do a lot to stand out. 

What have been some growing pains along the way?

Joe: In the beginning we did everything off of handshake deals. I think that’s why we were able to get out so quick early on. Everything was just like, “I love your music. Let’s put it out tomorrow.” It was that quick but over time we learned the business side of it. We realized as we grew we had to set up the business properly with an LLC, get lawyers and pay taxes. If you want to last outside of the internet, you have to set these things up. I went to school, but I wasn’t a business major. Nobody taught us how to run a record label so we had to learn through trial and error. The core values for us are compatibility, staying true, being honest, being transparent and communicating. There’s a lot of issues. You have it from all factors. You have artist envy, which I always speak about. Artists compare themselves to other artists in the crew. There might be a young artist who comes in and just blooms faster than the person who has been doing it for 3-5 years and who’s considered the veteran. You deal with depression and artists get caught up in the whole mental side. On the staff side you have people who have been working behind the scenes and they want to be credited for their work. We can’t help that we are the face of this and there have been situations in the past where there have been people who have been a part of this and felt [like they didn’t get credit.] The face [of the brand usually] gets credit. That’s a gift and a curse because when something goes wrong, who’s the one that gets blamed? So, it’s a balance.

What are the keys to a successful business relationship?

Andre: I think having a relationship outside of business, actually being friends, actually being family, being able to do things. Take time away from work, hang out, go to dinner, go on trips together and have things in common. Take time away from the business to grow with the people around you so when it’s time to get to work you already have this connection and you know you’re on the same wavelength. 

You’re both talented DJs. What happens if you’re having a bad day, your energy is off and you have to get on stage to perform?

Andre:  It happens often. Especially when you’re on tour. You’re tired, already drained and let’s say five minutes before your set you get a phone call that you don’t like and it just kills your whole vibe. You have no choice, you have to go on. So for me, I feel that first song and everything kind of goes away. I kind of black out and my focus for that hour is to have a good time. When I leave the stage I’m still filled with this energy. I’m happy and I’m in a good mood. It takes time to come down from it and get back to reality. But yeah, you just can’t help it. 

Joe: We have to deliver, we have the duty to. People are there to see us. And yeah, it can get a little scary sometimes, of course. I mean there are things that are out of our control like tech issues. The thing is, the crowd feeds off of us. If they see that your face is panicking or they see your body language, it’s a wrap. Once they see you struggling up there and something’s wrong, it’s hard for them to be into it. The last thing you want to do is show that you’re panicking. You gotta suck it up, you have to have thick skin, you gotta make it work … you have to maneuver through it, you got to power through it.

With so much going on, how do you keep your mind right and not get overwhelmed?

Joe: We do get overwhelmed. I just did a floatation tank near Joshua Tree. It was powerful, it was crazy. It was a little weird being in pitch darkness for an hour. You’re floating and they put minerals and salts [in the water.] It’s also used for meditation. When’s the last time you were in a tank floating in pitch black and no sound? That was the first time in my life that I’ve ever been in 60 minutes of silence. I’m talking about no lights, it’s just the darkness and what you can make of it. It helped me reflect on a lot of things that are going on in my life, both personally and business-wise. It gave me a lot of clarity. Working out is a big thing to keep me sane. We all have things on our plate and when I’m stressed out working out has been a way to get out and release my energy. I do Muay Thai boxing. We have a court right here, so we’ll play basketball. I really think being healthy is a big part of longevity in this business.

Andre: I just got a bike. I’ll bike around my neighborhood. I got this crazy travel bug once I started traveling with Soulection. Once I saw a few countries on one tour, I told myself I wanted to see as many countries in this lifetime as possible. Something that really helps me get re-grounded is traveling alone. And taking time to walk around and explore with my camera, listen to chill ambient music. That’s my form of meditation I guess. It could be a foreign country or it could be another city that’s 100 miles away but just taking that time alone to yourself, to disconnect really helps me for sure.

If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?

Joe: Off the top of my head it would be Kobe Bryant. I love Kobe. I have his jersey on and I didn’t even realize it [laughs]. I just love his work ethic … What I always try to say is, “Work harder than your situation.” I would just talk to him about how to deal with pressure, how to deal with adversity and things like that.

Andre: Kanye West. Knowing that when he started, he started off as a rapper and then he started producing his own stuff, or vice versa, but a lot of people told him in the beginning, “Yo, you can’t do these things together. You have to do one or the other.” … I have this insane love for music, but I’m also a painter, a designer and all of these different things. There were times in my life within the past 7-8 years where people told me, “Hey, you can’t do it all. You need to focus on one thing.” Watching him and his success in all these different fields is quite similar to where I want to be and what I’m going to do. I know a lot of people aren’t the biggest fans of him… but just his work ethic and his whole vision, I think he’d be a really cool person to have a conversation with.

Photography by German Vizcarra

Presented by Fresca

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