CloZee: family plan
In 2021, the French producer Chloé Herry set her sights on Denver as the new home for her vibrant global bass sound. Now, with the launch of her Odyzey Music imprint, CloZee has nurtured a family of artists who embody the notion that mindful music and positive energy have the power to move mountains
There’s a festival happening outside, but, for the moment anyway, CloZee’s RV is the place to be. Vibes are high and spirits are flowing as DJ Mag joins an enthusiastic squad of artists who hype one another up in the privacy of the French producer’s home-away-from-home.
It’s the final day of Electric Zoo, and many in attendance — folks like Wreckno, NotLö, and Tripp St., for example — have either just played or are gearing up for high-energy performances at the New York City festival, where the Levitron Stage is hosting Odyzey Music’s largest takeover to date. DJ Mag North America's cover star handpicked the line-up herself, and it’s a well-rounded mix of experimental bass acts who release on her aforementioned imprint, as well as others whose inventiveness she admires.
“Do not worry, I only do baby shots,” Chloé Herry proclaims with a laugh while passing around modest pours of Casamigos tequila from her personal stash. Tribal tattoos peek out on her upper arm, accessorising the all-black uniform she’ll don for the day. Despite a tall, stoic presence, Herry exudes an undeniable sense of warmth. She doles out hugs and words of encouragement to the off-beat community around her, and within these crowded walls, everyone is treated like a close friend.
“Cheers!” we oblige, tipping back the liquid courage that keeps us headbanging throughout our musical day-into-night journey — one that’s tracked with swirling drum & bass cuts, brash hip-hop rhymes, wonky leftfield bass, and finally, a headlining set that sees the EU-transplant swerve between the glitch-infused beats and sprawling, cinematic soundscapes that define her signature aesthetic.
With a strong, distinctly feminine touch, CloZee careens between her classics, high-profile collabs and lesser-known tracks. The performance is propelled by massive cuts like ‘Winter Is Coming’, as well as newer tunes like her dubstep-driven banger ‘Color Of Your Soul’, that clocks an assist from fellow queer bass artist and saxophonist, GRiZ. It’s an enthralling 75 minutes that leaves us vibrating at fever pitch.
When Electric Zoo’s gates close at 11pm, we get to do it all again. There’s an after-party at Brooklyn’s Avant Gardner, where CloZee’s rowdy crew continues to rattle the King’s Hall with rare b2bs and off-brand edits, until the speakers cut at 4am. Then it’s straight from the club to the airport for Herry, who still has her own Voyage festival and a first-ever European tour, on the horizon. There’s no rest for the in- demand label boss, but she’s not one to complain. Herry’s attitude is all about gratitude — both for the life she’s built, and for her chosen family, who embody the change she hopes to see in the scene.
“Music was always a part of our routine,” the busy Herry tells DJ Mag on a video call we squeeze in later, amid rehearsals for her forthcoming sold-out Red Rocks show (as it turns out, a hoppin’ RV is an ideal place to party, but not necessarily the best environment to conduct a formal interview). Between bites of toast, she divulges her adolescent memories of taking in tunes from around the world. “My mom was always listening to a lot of very different music: global music, pop, rock, R&B, classical, just everything.”
Herry was born in Paris and later moved to the riverside city of Toulouse after her father accepted a job with Airbus. Though no one in her immediate family played an instrument, they shared a strong appreciation for art. The melodies that permeated her childhood home ignited an interest within Herry, who made a decision to enrol in guitar lessons when she was just 11 years old. “There was literally only this one school in my town. It was in this old building, and I just went for it,” she says with a chuckle. However, her high hopes were soon tempered by a testy instructor.
“At first I hated him,” she explains of the teacher she now reveres as one of her earliest champions. “He had this kind of humour that I just didn’t understand — he was very sarcastic, but in a very dark way, and just super strict.”
After an awkward introductory session, Herry found herself crying, and begging her mother to let her stay home. But her pre-teen pleas proved futile. “I went again and he was like, ‘Hey, I was joking,’ and finally I said, ‘Okay.’ We just didn’t get each other,” she recalls of their rocky start. “After that, I think I was low-key his favourite. He understood what I wanted to play and how I wanted to play it — I didn’t want to use the pick. I loved acoustic guitar, and not only the classical guitar. And he listened to me, which was unique.” She worked with the same teacher until high school, at which point she used her free time to weave original riffs into amateur cuts, all crafted on cracked production software.
When considering a professional career, Herry enrolled at a nearby university, where she took courses in sound engineering. “It was not really artistic, to be honest,” she says of the education that enabled her to sharpen her knack for fine-tuning audio, but left her largely devoid of inspiration. “It was very technical, which was good, but they don’t let you be creative. They just want you to be at the service of whoever is calling, which is usually the big TV or radio station. After working some of those internships, I was like, ‘eh, no.’”
Two advisors took note of her talents, later suggesting she shift directions and apply her skills toward something she felt passionate about. “That’s probably what made me try, because my bosses kept saying, ‘You have something and it’s really good,’” she continues. “I didn’t expect them to do that. They said, ‘Hey, this music is really cool — these are some weird sounds that you’re using, but hey, good luck!’ They were pretty supportive.”
She received her diploma and took their advice to heart, knowing she’d have a back up plan if her production aspirations didn’t pan out. She posted some music online — atmospheric jams largely inspired by the works of Bonobo, Eskmo, and eDIT of The Glitch Mob, whose ‘Crying Over Pros For No Reason’ LP she pegs as a constant north star. "That’s the album I fell in love with directly,” she shares, with a lingering reverence. “Just unique sounds where the effects, atmospheres and glitches make the music — I thought that was so cool and so satisfying, just shivers... and it was still melodic.”
She holds her laptop screen up to the web camera to reveal a glimpse of the long-player’s stark cover art. “That’s eDIT. That’s been my background forever,” she says of the imagery. The 2004 release that brought Herry to glitch-hop, the genre that defined her early releases on Gravitas Recordings — a connection she forged after winning runner-up in a remix contest for her ethereal reimagining of Mr. Bill’s 2013 cut, ‘Cheyah’. “Things didn’t just take off, though obviously that would have been really nice,” Herry remembers of the slow-build that followed that initial break. “It was not that easy, but it did put me on people’s radar.”
The Austin-based imprint served as home for CloZee’s early releases, with EPs like 2013’s ‘The Poetic Assassin’, 2015’s ‘Revolution’, and 2017’s ‘Harmony’ inviting listeners into an immersive world of string-laced, bass beauty. Signing with Gravitas’ booking agency also opened the doors for some of her debut North American festival appearances. “I was touring the US two years after school, so I had my, how do you say it? ‘Abroad study’, I guess?” she says smirking, cognisant that she’s fumbled the phrase. “It was much better. I loved to speak English, even though I didn’t know how to, so that was the best school year.”
Despite being based in Toulouse, through those visits Herry gradually garnered listenership across the ocean, where music like hers was having a moment, thousands of miles away from France, where ravers craved accessible flavours like house and disco.
“Bass music in general, with the exception of drum & bass, does not get a lot of attention or bookings [in France],” Herry shares of the predicament she faced in forging an alternate path. “Promoters don’t want it, because they don’t know how it’s going to go. It’s easier to throw a techno show, or, you know, hardcore.”
Our chat occurs at an interesting time — CloZee will soon set off on her first official European tour with stops in Budapest, Berlin, and a homecoming in Toulouse up next. “I’m excited to go back to really intimate venues and I don’t even know how it’s gonna go, to be honest,” she shares candidly. “I know that a lot of artists in Europe right now are really struggling, selling tickets and setting up tours, so I don’t expect anything. I’m just going to go and do my thing, and hopefully people like it and want to show up.”
When we inquire as to whether she’ll switch things up to appease homeland preferences, she affirms a mission to stay true to herself. “I’m going to adjust and select some songs that aren’t all just sleepy, weird bass music, because they’ve probably never heard that before in their life, but I’m definitely gonna go for my style. I’m not going to try to play house stuff just because it’s Europe.” She takes a pause, and reiterates her stance. “That’s not what I do here, so it’s not what I’m gonna do there.”
A post-tour follow-up reveals that CloZee is quite well-received — perhaps the bass tides in Europe have turned? But this widespread acceptance didn’t exist during her breakout period, and much of CloZee’s ascension occurred far, far away. From the mid-2010s onward, Herry grew accustomed to traveling great distances to play major events like Coachella, Lightning in a Bottle, British Columbia’s Shambhala and the one-off Oregon Eclipse, all known for their diverse and mindful offerings, and where the yogi-approved grooves of her discography are fully embraced.
In 2018, CloZee dropped her escapist-themed ‘Evasion’ LP and set off on a headlining cross-country tour, wherein she played guitar and triggered live loops using APC40 and Maschine controllers. The live show gave American attendees a firsthand look into how CloZee’s transportational productions take shape. It also set her apart as a DJ who effortlessly incorporates live instrumentation into rumbling, drop-fueled sets (though deep cuts from her Toulouse-based ensemble CloZinger, alongside Scarfinger, focus heavily on electro hip-hop orchestration and tribal bass, and also feature CloZee on guitar).
After years of criss-crossing the Atlantic, Herry found herself seeking a stateside homebase, closer to those who celebrated her ecstatic, chant-stamped productions and heavy vibrations. In May of 2020, Herry officially relocated to the United States, and a few months later, ‘Neon Jungle’ arrived — a long-player inspired by her worldly travels to spots like the French Pyrenees and Costa Rica (she’s more or less Envision Festival’s resident headliner), and the picturesque landscapes she encountered there. The album also marked another exciting chapter in the CloZee story, as it heralded the launch of Odyzey Music and became her self- curated label’s first release.
In March of 2021, she and her partner moved from Atlanta to Denver, a destination Herry long-admired for its thunderous music scene, and where many of her friends and team members were already stationed. But despite the critical success of ‘Neon Jungle’ and a new zip code in the “Mile High” dream city, CloZee wrestled with an intense bout of writer’s block — a familiar story for anyone who felt mentally tapped during the darkest days of the pandemic.
“I definitely lost all inspiration basically, because there was no feedback, no human connection, which is why I do music, you know?” she shared with DJ Mag last autumn, when we spoke about the ‘Nouvelle Era’ EP, a victorious work of melodic sound design that finally saw her break free of the worrisome thoughts that led to creative depletion. “I don’t care about comments or views, or whatever. I want to actually see an exchange.” That desire led her toward other burgeoning stars.
During turbulent times, she championed the work of others, including Tripp St., a producer she discovered during quarantine via his now well-known ‘Welcome To Tripp St.’ mix. “I mean, I fell in love with his music right away. When I first heard it, I was like, ‘whose side project is this?’ His sound was so established and so great, basically,” she explains. “I knew I wanted to support him.” His debut album (which shares the mix’s name) became the first release from an outside artist on Odyzey, and the masked artist has since emerged a regular on her tours and stage takeovers.
He also performed at the inaugural edition of Voyage in 2021 — CloZee’s limited-capacity, multi-day festival. This September, she brought the second edition — coined “Voyage to the Caverns” — down south to Pelham, TN. There, a crowd of 1,200 thrillseekers descended into a subterranean amphitheatre, where CloZee delivered three 90-minute headlining sets, including a dreamy downtempo Sunday finale to round out an action-packed weekend.
“We try to prioritize Odyzey artists, but it’s also just people who are inspiring me,” Herry shares when describing the considerations that go into booking the annual event. “And who knows, maybe one day they will release music on one of our compilations. Either way, there’s still a family vibe.”
Videos from the gathering are stunning. Fully immersive lights dance across cave walls, each stalactite casting an otherworldly glow upon CloZee and co. as they fill the hollow with warbling, organic basslines. Label fiends will recognise names on the line-up poster, like 9 Theory, the downtempo-meets-deep house wizard who released his ‘Comfort In The Orange Glow’ LP on Odyzey earlier this year. It includes a collaboration with CloZee titled ‘The Courage To Fall In Love Again’, and it’s a remarkable landscape of fluttering synths, emotional strings, and hypnotic vocal loops.
Other familiar artists get their spotlight at Voyage 2022, too, including Super Future (his ‘Moon Stone’ EP hit this summer) as well as Jason Leech and Saturna, who both boast cuts on Odyzey’s ‘Muzique Vol. 2.’ The compilation, which arrived in August 2022, leaves no genre unturned, and reveals why CloZee’s imprint is one of the industry’s most talked-about breakthrough platforms.
“I don’t want to stick just to one kind of sound or vibration or style,” Herry explains of the diverse artistry she hopes to cultivate through the channel. “I don’t want to release global bass music just because that’s what I’ve been doing. I love all kinds of music, and people need to expect that it could be anything.”
She recounts a conversation about the R&B-tinged cut ‘Control’ — produced by genderfluid rapper Wreckno and their brother 7UDO — that is a standout on ‘Vol. 2’. “At first, even [my manager] was like, ‘I don’t know if that’s right for Odyzey. It’s good, but I don’t know,’” CloZee says, detailing the exchange. “I said, ‘You know, I think it is. I fucking love it. I listened to it 10 times, and I still love it. So, let’s just put it out.’”
Her choice to spotlight ‘Control’ (and creators like Wreckno in general) is reflective of CloZee’s desire to position Odyzey as a home for innovation, diversity, and positivity. In a period of time where big names in the bass scene have been met with accusations of sexual assault and abuse of power, the imprint’s message of inclusivity and kindness feels significant, especially as calls for safe spaces and accountability grow louder. When we ask Herry whether she feels a personal responsibility to be a positive role-model and inspiration for young women, given this context, she considers it carefully.
“I was going to say, for some reason, there’s so much more pressure than before the pandemic, and I actually never put these things together or knew why exactly,” she responds, unpacking the baggage leftover in an emotional era for her genre. “I know that I play bigger stages. I know that people have higher expectations. But maybe inspiring people is way more important now. To try to be a role model, especially for women, it’s like, ‘Let’s just fucking go!’ And yeah, you actually made me realise that it might be part of why I feel so much more pressure now.”
From the looks of CloZee’s recent endeavours, she’s already subconsciously taken up the torch by showcasing queer artists, women producers, and others from marginalised communities who are largely overshadowed in a cis-white-male-dominated space.
“There’s a perspective of growth and progression in seeing women coming up in line-ups and all that stuff like that,” Herry explains of the transformation she’s helping to spearhead in her scene, whether she realises it or not. “Basically, they have a career now. That used to be a big question. Every time they saw a woman, people would ask, ‘Are you DJing people’s tunes or are you playing your music?’ That was always somewhere in the back of people’s minds. Are you making your music, or is there a man behind your project?”
Her tone remains calm and gentle, even though one of general frustration is more than merited. “I think people understand now that, no, it’s just us, and us alone. We’re doing it, and it’s inspiring other women to do it.”
A person can only arrive at this juncture after experiencing discrimination first-hand. For Herry, those micro-aggressions live on in the comment sections of YouTube and streaming platforms, where cynics shrouded in anonymity refuse to accept the fact that CloZee is precisely who she presents herself to be. “I always remember one, because it was funny — it was one comment asking: ‘are you ghost produced by your boyfriend?’” she laughs at the memory, before recanting her clever clap-back. “And then I was like, ‘No. I love women. I’ve only been with a woman. So I had to learn by myself’. They think women can’t be geeks. No, we can,” Herry adds, before letting out a satisfied sigh that proves it takes more than a snarky jab to shake a rock-solid sense of confidence.
To quell any lingering doubts that may exist in her audience that women lack the technical skills of their male counterparts, Herry invites L.Atipik — France's DMC Chapionship’s first female winner and the first woman to compete in the World DMC Championship’s “Battle for World Supremacy” — onstage at her sold-out Red Rocks show on October 8th. During the big reveal, the Nantes-bred turntablist turns out a live rendition of La Fine Equipe’s ‘Don’t Panik', while CloZee shreds guitar by her side. (There’s a lengthy video on L.Atipik’s Instagram feed available for anyone who wants to relive the madness).
There’s plenty of girl power to be found in Odyzey’s recent drops, too. NotLö’s new ‘Trailing Winds’ EP is a marvelous take on dreamscape music, and ‘Book Of Vizhanti’ (another selection of ‘Muzique Vol. 2’) from Austeria and Zingara is a free-form romp of primordial ebbs and echoes.
As such, there’s plenty to indulge upon in the near-term, even though it may be a bit before Herry unveils her next big project. With tours and festival season in a lull, she’ll take necessary time to hone fresh sounds. She reveals that an EP with psy-bass producer LSDream is in the works. The two linked up at CloZee’s Colorado studio in April to lay the groundwork for four new songs, and last month they secluded themselves at a rental in Joshua Tree to nurture the creative process and “just get away from everything,” as Herry puts it. But that getaway was just a temporary interlude, and despite the breakneck schedule and immense pressure she’s experienced as of late, Herry has no doubt that she’s exactly where she’s meant to be.
“I’m happy to be in Denver,” she chimes in without hesitation. “It’s an inspiring place — I can’t imagine where my head would be if I was sitting in France right now. So now, I’m very happy and I made the right choice, for sure. Even though it’s tough sometimes, and I wish I could see my family just like that.” She snaps her fingers in a bittersweet act of acceptance.
Her biological family may be a long-haul flight away, but CloZee is hardly alone. The pioneer finds solace in a new home with a new family — one that’s ever-expanding, and positively thriving on the belief that bass music can move mountains when the right woman calls the shots.