It starts with a whisper rather than a bang. A psychedelic symphony, the music slowly seeps in, filling the void before the first lines move in. "There are five million stories in the big city - this is one of them," the narrator reads in the opening song, an overture to the impending orchestral journey that lies ahead. For Friend Of Mine, the debut full-length album from DJ Dodger Stadium, there is an undeniable theatricality, a theme, which seems fitting given its Hollywood inspiration. Comprised of producers Jerome Potter and Sam Griesemer, DJ Dodger Stadium is the latest project from the Los Angeles based record label Body High, of which Potter and Griesemer are also founders.
Inspired by their immediate surroundings outside of Griesemer’s apartment, the two came up with the moniker DJ Dodger Stadium while developing their first joint EP in 2011. After they found it difficult to find the ideal platform for this project, Body High was formed, and has since served as a haven for artists who may not necessarily fit into the black and white spectrum many record labels have created. “The thing with Body High is that we want to be able to do our own thing within dance music, because that’s the backbone of it, but I also want to break down a lot of walls and disobey all the rules,” says Griesemer when join him to delve further into the label's latest chapter.
“There are people who are very guarded about what a serious house label is, and what a serious techno label is, and I want to be able to do these serious musical projects but in a way that's bringing people in and welcoming them, rather than alienating anyone.” With Friend Of Mine serving as the label's personal manifesto, Body High has quickly earned it's reputation as a record label that continues to not only push boundaries, but also to re-imagine them.
With their own respective solo projects, Jerome LOL (so named because he is also one half of LOL Boys) and Samo Sound Boy, Potter and Griesemer are both products of their unique environments. A Chicago native, Potter grew up surrounded by the history of house music, whereas Griesemer's East Coast upbringing created a familiarity with hip-hop and rap. "When I found out about OutKast for the first time, that’s what really put me in a whole different direction,” Griesemer remembers fondly. “It was Aquemini, their third album, but the first one that I ever heard. I think that album too is really about place. Listening to it a lot, it’s so much about where they came from in Atlanta. It paints this interesting picture of that area, I was just obsessed with it. For me, it was like reading a book, just going over it over and over."
Both Los Angeles transplants, a fast friendship between the two is what ultimately led to the creation of DJ Dodger Stadium and has served as the foundation for Body High. Developing itself over the years, Body High has evolved from having one-dimensional online roots to become a multi-faceted business with its own definitive sound and presence. “To me, it has it’s own unique sound compared to everything else, but a lot of what went into [Friend Of Mine] was just the thinking behind Body High,” says Griesemer.
While the two have spent the past few years contributing to Body High under their solo projects, they together as DJ Dodger Stadium once more – after launching the label under the moniker - for the label's first full-length release. “Having it as our first real album, and having so many more people hear this than have ever heard anything else, not only has it been such a cool chance to get the DJ Dodger Stadium music out, I think, more than anything, it’s really shown people what Body High is,” relays Griesemer.
This singularity of vision is aided by one of his childhood friends, graphic artist Max Martin, who holds sole creative duties for designing the visual look of Body High. “The aesthetic in the music and in the visuals, that's what we’ve been working on and building for the last three years,” Griesemer reiterates. “I think it’s a real vehicle for the label in a cool way.”
DJ Dodger Stadium inherits more from Los Angeles than just their name. Friend Of Mine stands as an existential journey through Los Angeles, filled with a sense of hopelessness, love lost and despondency. Painting the tale of a city where dreams are laid to waste, many of the narratives found in Friend Of Mine are drawn from John Fante’s novel Ask The Dust, set in a dystopian Los Angeles during the Great Depression.
“I think the thing that I really took away from that book was this idea that hard times and people’s troubles are really cyclical,” says Griesemer. “Things aren’t always going to move up and get better. Things in life go up and down so much, and without revealing too much about how that book ends for those actually trying to read it, it’s not the most uplifting or resolving book. It is really beautiful, and I think it’s about coming to terms and realizing things don’t always get fixed fully - if you can deal with that, rather than letting it crush you, you can live your life and learn that there are good moments within it.”
Once Friend Of Mine builds to its climax, it doesn’t let go, honing in on repetitive samples while breaking away from the formulaic rise and fall of a stereotypical dance album. This unique approach is enhanced by their live performances, which the two are currently in the process of developing, according to Griesemer. "We’ve broken everything down into different parts and [are] remixing them live, but a lot of that is extending it or stretching it way out. That way we have these extended sections, and really just go deeper into it, but it's more of a concert."
With a sold out show at The Echoplex on their home turf in Los Angeles under their belts, the duo plan on making their sets as elaborate as possible. "There will be parts where the music stops," Griesemer continues, "as opposed to a DJ set where it builds and drops. We’ve only done one so there’s so much to do, but we really want to expand the sets and be able to have these deep psychedelic sections, and then also have amazing peaks and really intense climactic parts as well."
Fever dreams of echoing voices and jittering drums and synths, Potter and Griesemer have created a thoughtful album that thrives on its intellect. With its singular and succinct rolling drum line and looping, filtered vocal, debut single "Love Songs" stands as a quintessential element.
While much of the album's source material stems from Fante, however, Griesemer adds that an even greater part comes from their own experiences. "It’s really personal, and I think it’s really personal for Jerome, too,” he tells us proudly. “It’s not an LA fantasy that we’ve invented. It really is, for us, our day to day. I’m really proud of that, I think it’s honest and I think we made an album that’s reflective of ourselves."
Words: Alex John
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