"When you think of the word 'success', it can evoke climbing the corporate ladder and striving for material things," reflects Auckland DJ, musician and Ceremony Café co-owner Connor Nestor. "Our thinking was that success lies wherever you personally find it. It might just be a daily activity you do that makes you happy. Success can be whatever you want it to be."
Near the end of 2015, Connor was bouncing ideas with his good friend and sometimes musical collaborator Jordan Arts (better known as HIGH HØØPS). Jordan had unreleased tunes seriously stacking up on his hard drive. They realised this was a situation musicians often found themselves in. "We are in quite a privileged situation I guess," Connor says. "We are friends with a lot of really great producers, songwriters and musicians in New Zealand who let us hear what they are working on. We wanted to do something to help grow the scene and put New Zealand on the map." Having both spent time overseas through music related work, they understood it was crucial to, in Connor's words, "…do it from an underground level, but with a global vision."
With these thoughts as inspiration, they established a boutique record label called A Label Called Success (ALCS). To kick things off, they dug into a folder of music they'd made together and began dropping some smooth and sparkly disco/house inspired digital singles as A Band Called Success. These were followed by singles from HIGH HØØPS and Ride Minders, picking up nods from HillyDilly, Sniffers and The 405 along the way. "[It's probably more helpful to think of it as] a collective hub of energy and quality," Jordan explains. "We are the enthusiastic friend to the shy talented friend." With this enthusiasm comes an emphasis on feeling ahead of thought. "If what you're doing feels right to you in that moment, then maybe it's the best extension of yourself at that moment," Jordan continues. "Be happy and comfortable with it, otherwise the thinking part might block you from expressing the feeling part."
To aesthetically support the lushly sun-kissed dance jams they were releasing, Connor and Jordan decided to collaborate with London-based New Zealand photographer Perry Graham. He came through with some richly evocative and relaxed coastal imagery. "Perry travels extensively and takes a lot of photos," Connor explains. "They have a sense of a never-ending vacation that fits well with the environment we are starting to create," Jordan continues. Having established a unified look/sound, they expect it to naturally shift with time. "At the moment there is this electronic based disco/house sound at the core of what we are doing," Connor says. "We are trying to work out how to make things more eclectic without being too drastic. It's nice for fans to be able to digest and understand the label's direction and tone."
As part of ALCS' regular activities, Connor and Jordan also run discovery showcases in collaboration with Red Bull Sound Select. They're also in the planning stages of a plush daytime party named A Day Called Success. For both of them, the live experience is crucial. "People we know are making good music, and we want to bring them all up together," Connor says. "You can listen to amazing music at home, but listening to it when you are out with your friends is part of the enjoyment of music. I think that is what it's really about. Seeing artists play live and sharing the experience with other people is a magical feeling." A feeling called success perhaps? "Yeah dog," Connor enthuses. "That's what it's all about."
RSVP to Red Bull Sound Select curated by A Label Called Success for $3 here.