With traditional ways of working on the wane, Getintothis’ Phil Morris pinpoints a collaborative approach and teamwork as key to the success of Liverpool underground electronic collective Fly High Society.
Although the distinctions between label and collective are often blurred, artist collectives are steadily emerging as the preferred modus operandi for flourishing electronic producers. Today, traditional record label models are proving unpalatable and unviable for many of those trailblazing the underground.
The construct of financial gain driven practices appears redundant and somewhat inflexible, when compared with the more modern, DIY approach of a group of artists working together and pooling resources towards shared aims.
The collaborative and promotional benefits that were once core to the lure of a record label, can now be matched by a collective structure of mutual cooperation: the era of individualism and ego is over. Artists within a collective will often work with each other now, sharing in one anothers’ success and notoriety.
Similarly, partnerships like these can also boost the exposure of the entire network. Smaller artists can piggyback on the affiliation of more established members. As well, producers within a nexus are more likely to share each others content, increasing visibility to individuals and connecting their comrades to previously untapped audiences.
The idea could be viewed as egalitarian because all participants hold an equal stake within the collective. An informal hierarchy may exist, but it’s not codified within a pyramid of pay cheques. This fresh and synergetic approach to releasing music aspires to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Unified collectives that dominate dance music may have come to the forefront in recent years, but the idea of a crew-mentality has been prevalent in hip hop for a lot longer. NWA and Wu-Tang Clan started the trend that inspired the A$AP MOB and Bruiser Brigade of today. In hip hop, collectives provide strength in numbers as well as mentoring and protection to younger affiliates.
Functioning as a successful example of the artist collective, it is no surprise that Liverpool based Fly High Society occupy a curious space between hip hop and electronic music. The alliance of aspiring electronic producers, coherently assembled over the last five years, have made a crater-like impression on underground hip hop since their formation.
UK hip hop was once maligned as an inauthentic strand of America’s genuine archetype, but Britain has since found its niche in the art form by focusing on electronic production. Slow trance pioneers like Ellesmere Port’s Evian Christ have finally started to appear on the radar of hip hop royalty.
Fly High Society are another name on Merseyside who are challenging tastes abroad. The group’s symbiotic roster includes Irish born beat makers Iglooghost and Monto, Liverpool residents SertOne and Bolts, alongside beatsmiths Tehbis and Tre’bore. Although its composite parts have their own individual sounds and inflections, the collective operate from the yoke of electronic music.
Fly High Society started as a monthly event in Liverpool’s Django’s Riff. The aim was to showcase live beats from its founders SertOne and Bolts. When the night took off and started to get booked in other cities, the duo began collating talent from across the UK and Ireland.
Under a cohesive aesthetic umbrella the collective have since released EPs from Monto, Voids and numerous other compilations and collaborations. They have also created an effective and infectious brand, regularly selling out bespoke merchandise created by members Alice Pardis, Mumptown and Iglooghost.
The mastermind behind Fly High Society, and one of the two founders anchoring the project to our city, is Irish-born producer SertOne. Bespectacled and lean, he is perhaps an unlikely candidate for the mantle of soul-chromed southern bounce.
His footwork and juke-informed style is effectively hip hop leaning electro, laden with authentic boom bap samples and synth-heavy instrumental beats. As an artist, SertOne has performed alongside some of the leading names (Kutmah, Ras G and Lapalux) born from the Jay-Dilla school of production. He has also amassed an impressive resumé of remixes and bootlegs and currently runs the monthly Fly High Society Radio show.
Following on the heels of weed-friendly homage Fly Thai Green released in April, is Fly High Society’s esoteric new EP Spacebus Vol 1. The four track release opens with label stalwart Bolts and his playfully sampled Messages (One 4 Mercury). Italian producer HLMNSRA keeps the vintage hip hop, with sizzling, drunken kick head banger My Venus.
The lynchpin of the release comes from Kutmah top boy Tehbis. The addictive Jupiter is reminiscent of Brainfeeder style production nous. Final track Saturn Rice is a dizzying blend of saxophone, pitched and screwed vocals and jittering tailed reverbs that create an impressively mature palette of sounds. We would expect nothing less from the teen genius Iglooghost, who is arguably the collective’s most vital discovery to date.
Spacebus Vol 1 is set to drop on June 29 and will be available from the Fly High Society store.