Living in a world full of chargers and dead phones, of mad political decisions and repeated mistakes… there is always light through the overarching sprawl of music. For this weeks podcast we decided to shine a light on a new record label from Paris named VERTV (pronounced Virtue), operated by a solid group of gents with varied tastes and differing influences, but who all have a deep involvement and love for the music scene; Neue Grafik, Hybu and Ev4ns.
The label’s first two releases by Mad Rey and Monomite are the apotheosis of vibrant and abstract house, tracks such as ‘Dis Poem’ and ‘Gimme Tha Lighta Plez’ have stood out harder than the Doritos glow of Trump’s grin: it’s some crazy ass shit all over the place, but it’s sure as hell proxy to bringing some funky shit to the party. Armed with a punchy track selection for their mix, we threw them some questions to understand the beginnings of VERTV and where it’s going.
Interview by Jonathan McMahon
"It's hard to point out one specific thing that's had an influence on us, I guess everything counts."
So let’s get into it, with the first couple of releases out in the big ol’ world and doing well. How did VERTV come to be? What was the flame emoji that started it all off?
VERTV is a long time project originally by two of us: Neue Grafik and Hybu, we’ve been friends a long time, and we wanted a label to showcase the young talent around us, and to express what we consider are our real artistic aspirations. We had been talking about it for a couple of years, but it was when Ev4ns sent us some tracks that we loved, then we decided to go for it. This record wasn’t actually released, but Ev4ns joined the team officially.
Another hammer of the nail was a few months before, when we all had an epic time playing together in some kind of improvised B2B2B at a party at the Batofar in Paris, where we felt connected, simply happy together and that we had to start something. A few months later, Mad Rey shot us some beats, we all fell in love with the songs and decided it was time to go.
Creativity is obviously a key element for the label, and for all of you, how important is your environment in all of this? And what’s driving it… the people? The “scene”? The Nightlife? Some really good brownies?
It’s hard to point out one specific thing that’s had an influence on us, I guess everything counts. Of course there’s a big influence due to the artists, labels, collectives and such, all of those that are friends and who define our direct environment (Beat x Changer, Monomite, Mad Rey etc). But we cannot deny that on a bigger scale, the French scene is doing pretty well right now, and it’s helped us going forward.
It secured the idea of “we can do our thing now“. The electronic music environment is much more healthy, interesting, professional and mature than it was a few years ago too. It would have been much harder to find places where we could propose what we do as DJs a few years ago for instance.
On the other hand, if we decided to set up a label it’s also because we were thinking that our own way of hearing and seeing the music, didn’t seem represented by some people, and that we could add something fresh and singular. What is the point of doing what everyone else is doing?
"What is the point of doing what everyone else is doing?"
With three different personalities all involved in the label, do you all spur each other on?
Sometimes we do, we’re not always agreeing on everything, but one thing that’s important is the fact that we have a lot in common and that we have a lot of differences. Not only in terms of music (Neue coming more from the jazz & hip-hop influences, Hybu being involved in the avant garde rock scene, and Ev4ns being more of an ambient and experimental nerd), but also in terms of where we’re from, our culture etc… So we agree on a lot of points, but we also introduce each other to a lot of different things too.
Being three also feeds us a lot and gives us energy. If one of us is down or temporarily out because of many things (music related or not), we all have enough trust in each other to pass the baton when needed: It gives a positive emulation, it makes us push the boundaries and become better in what we are doing.
Alright, tell us a secret, what was the inspiration behind the fucking cool ass sleeve artwork you’ve got going on?
Ev4ns talking here! Having a little graphic side to me, I’ve mainly been in charge of the design and aesthetic feel of the label. At first, apart from the musical direction, Hybu and Neue had one main idea: the label’s name. For my part, the idea of developing a design based on pre-renaissance aesthetics had been hanging in the back of my head for a little while, but I never had the right project to bring it to life.
When they first told me about the project I was pretty enthusiastic and started to work on it right away. Hybu sent references, Neue brought ideas, and looking back at it, it’s pretty incredible how it all went flawlessly from that point. It’s as if we all had the same vision from the beginning, that was just waiting to be thrown out into the mix. A few later, and everything was there.
"The idea of developing a design based on pre-renaissance aesthetics had been hanging in the back of my head for a little while, but I never had the right project to bring it to life."
What were the thoughts and ideas behind this back-to-back mix?
As already mentioned, apart from the demos of Ev4ns, one event right at the start was a back-to-back we did at a party. At that point, all three of us were friends and involved in the music scene, but never had the chance to play together. It was a party organized by Raoul, a common friend of ours, and we just thought “why not shoot some records together”?
At the end of the night we were all agreeing that the synergy that occurred during the session was something special. Since then it’s become a tradition to do back-to-backs every time we have the occasion. Even at our residence at La Rotonde in Paris, there was a super special moment again! Brassfoot, who we had invited for an edition (who’s great, check him out), told us that “you could feel there’s a thing between you guys”. So when you asked us for a mix, the choice was done quickly!
How does it feel to be playing out your own label’s music to the crowds and people shaking their booties?
Since we all produce, the feeling is pretty much synonymous with playing our own music, and seeing the people smile is an absolute winner. We consider those tracks as if they were our babies, so it’s particularly exhilarating.
For me (Hybu), there are two moments I especially like. The first is at the beginning of the song’s life, when it’s just (or not yet) released, when you know you have a banger, then you play it with a smile on your face, because you know the people will love it, and it works as expected.
The second moment is when the song had its life, people know it, you drop it and you can feel the crowd genuinely going for it because they were waiting for it. I’m not the kind of DJ that only plays new stuff or totally unknown tracks, but I love to prepare sets carefully when I drop anthems, so I could enjoy the zero gravity moment, this huge release of energy and joy, when people will even sing-along. If this song is yours or released on your label, wow that’s something!
And for me (Neue Grafik) it’s a real moment of truth, I take a lot of time and energy away from my own music, spending it on artistic direction with Hybu and Ev4ns. To think about a banger that works on the crowd, which can fit in a set remains an awesome challenge, mostly because of our collective vision and what we want to do together. Personally I see the club as an experience on human behaviour, and I love when people feel that something deep in their body and need to dance. It’s weird, but almost like a transcendental feeling, and that’s what I’m looking for when I play our music.
"At the end of the night we were all agreeing that the synergy that occurred during the session was something special. Since then it's become a tradition to do back-to-backs every time we have the occasion."
The releases from Mad Rey and Monomite are pretty damn sweet, a little abstract too, or different from the norm you might say, is the direction for the future going to be steering in the same path?
Our goal is to release real personal records, we’re trying to highlight or show artistic vision, and release music that deeply touched us. Our objective is reached when people that listen to our records are able to perceive who the human being behind the song is, and what’s in their mind without any make-up on.
If we must admit that house is the central link, we’d like to explore all around and we don’t set any boundaries, the possibilities are infinite and it depends what the producer we love will send us. This is why you’ll hear hip-hop skits on Monomite’s EP, or more techno influenced stuff on Mad Rey’s record, or whatever will be on the next ones…
And that’s it from the VERTV gents, but if that wasn’t enough, you can catch them on Rinse, at a local show, or, alternately, they might have something special dropping real soon.
Discover more about Vertv Records on Inverted Audio.Ev4nsHybuNeue GrafikVERTV RecordsHouseJazzSoul