Andrew Rayel recounts hosting inHARMONY’s inaugural stage at EDC Las Vegas, growing the label [Q&A]
With each year comes new opportunities for artistic development, as Andrew Rayel well knows. 2019 has been no exception for the inHARMONY label chief, who charted yet another milestone in the continuously developing course of his musical career at Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) Las Vegas‘ recently concluded iteration. Together in partnership with DreamState and Insomniac, Rayel had the opportunity to host his first-ever stage takeover under the “Find Your Harmony” umbrella. The stage signified a momentous step forward for Rayel and for inHARMONY, while simultaneously recalling an earlier point in Rayel’s career: Rayel’s first studio album, released in 2014, which shared the same name as his EDC stage. Find Your Harmony saw performances from Cosmic Gate, Mark Sixma, Space Corps, David Gravell, Leil, MaRLo, Ruben De Ronde, Andrew Bayer, and Rayel himself.
The curative endeavor is a benchmark for Rayel’s inHARMONY label, which Rayel established in September 2017 in conjunction with Armada Music. Since its 2017 inception, inHARMONY has worked with a number of adept electronic entities, like ALPHA 9, Arston, Alexander Popov, and ARTY, among others. Andrew Rayel sat down with Dancing Astronaut at Armada Music’s newly minted New York office, to talk the production of his Find Your Harmony stage, and his fluidly evolving vision for inHARMONY.
So you just curated the “Find Your Harmony” stage at EDC Las Vegas for the very first time in partnership with Insomniac and Dreamstate, what was that like?
All of them [the artists who played] are really close friends of mine, so it was really like a family stage. There were great vibes, the stage was packed from the start of the festival all the way to the end. At 5:30 in the morning when they close the festival, there were still thousands of people at that stage so I was very happy. It was a big success. I’m really looking forward to doing that more in the future.
How did this partnership with Insomniac and Dreamstate come to be?
They always want to do something unique and special at EDC, because you know, it’s EDC; every year there needs to be something cool, something new. And we [inHARMONY] have never hosted any stage at any festival, so it was our world premiere. Right after EDC last year, we already started talking about curating a stage [with festival organizers]. We had multiple meetings to talk about it, how we could put everything together, who we wanted to play the stage. It seemed like it was just oh, here’s a stage, but our partnership started almost a year ago.
Andrew Bayer, MaRLo, Cosmic Gate, and Mark Sixma were just some of the artists to deliver sets from the Find Your Harmony stage. What was your curative process like, how did you come to select the specific artists that you did, and why did you choose those that you did?
We had a big list of DJs who we wanted to be on the stage, some of them were booked [elsewhere], some of them were booked at other EDC stages. We ended up with DJs who were very close friends of ours, and a lot of them were from the same booking agency, like Mark Sixma, David Gravell, and MaRLo. Mark and David have released music on my label. We wanted to experiment more and show that we’re open. We invited Andrew Bayer from Anjunabeats, and he was happy to do it as well. We wanted to be very diverse and have different types of music and different types of artists from all over the place.
So talk to me a little bit about your label, inHARMONY Music, distributed by Armada Music. You launched the label in September of 2017. Can you say a little bit about the experience of growing the label in the time that’s followed inHARMONY’s 2017 inception?
I always wanted to have a label, and since I’ve worked with Armada for almost ten years, it absolutely made sense to collaborate with them and open a label under Armada Music. I wanted to open the label to sign music that I liked, artists that I liked, and to create a team of artists with the same musical vision. [I wanted] to grow them, take them with me on tour, just basically to make a lot of a friends that like the same music and can tour together in the future, and I’m happy that I found artists that consistently deliver great music.
At this point, we have so much quality music that it’s already hard to find time to release it. At the beginning I thought it was going to be really hard to find [this] quality music. I help [the artists] with the music, to mix and master the tracks properly to have quality results and releases. [Having a label] is one of my dreams. It was a logical step for me to evolve, and we’re taking it step by step. Hosting the stage at EDC was another step, and there’s much more to come.
Can you say a bit more about what some of these next steps might entail?
At this point, we’re focusing on growing all of the brands that we have. Our main focus is on Andrew Rayel and the shows and the music that I’m working on in the studio, and of course inHARMONY as well, and the Find Your Harmony radio show, which I’m hosting every week now. We passed 150 episodes this year and together with the radio show comes the Find Your Harmony live shows, festivals, and solo shows. We’re planning a big tour for next year when we have episode 200. We’ll continue to do solo shows and [perhaps] host more stages at more festivals.
As the label chief and head of A&R you’re really at the helm of the decision making process at inHARMONY, so you get to really sculpt your own vision of what you would like inHARMONY to be. What was your vision for inHARMONY when you first founded the label, and has that vision changed at all in the years that have followed the label’s foundation?
It did change because of the artists [that I brought on], because I don’t want them to follow exactly the way I think and the vision I had before, just because every artist needs to be free to make whatever they think is good for their music. And together with them I also adjusted and changed and realized many things. But my initial vision was quality music that brings people together, very melodic, very energetic, [music] that I see myself playing in my sets as well.
Finding and sustaining a label is an arduous endeavor. Have there been any challenges, foreseen or unforeseen, along the way?
We have challenges almost every single day, starting with creating schedules: how are we going to release the music, how are we going to promote the music, what’s the right time to plan everything, and there’s no right answer for anything. We’re also always trying new things and whenever you think everything’s perfect and everything’s scheduled musically so nothing that’s similar is next to each other [in release order], and so there’s always space in between releases, [you find] it never works like that. Instead it always develops in a natural way since there’s always new things coming along.
We’re working with artists who know their music and know exactly how the music needs to be presented, and we realize we need to listen to the artists and we need to [recognize their vision] and do it the way they want it. We work with so many artists, so it can be hard to combine everything, that’s one of the biggest challenges.
When it comes to signing new artists and bringing them on board inHARMONY, what is it that you specifically look for in aspiring artists. What catches your eye and causes you to think ‘hey, this could be a great fit?’
For me, the music talks. I’ve been in this industry long enough to understand the technical part, the mixing, the mastering skill that needs to be mastered for many years. There’s a lot of beautiful tracks with great melodies, where the technical part of those tracks is far from ideal. I can’t take [these productions] for the label. [The songs that catch my attention] are the tracks that I see that are almost there, where I can give them the last ten percent, the last 20 percent, and teach, show, and tell the artists the exact things they need to adjust to get to 100 percent.
I think every artist needs to go through every step in producing the music and promoting themselves, because if you jump over a couple of steps, you’re going to fall. [Artists] need to establish themselves and take the steps, and when the artists are almost there, I’m ready to give them a hand and help take them to the next level.
Shifting gears a bit, you teased a Game of Thrones remix prior to EDC. Can you tell me a little bit about your creative process in making this remix, how this remix came about?
We knew the dates for EDC in advance, and knew which day we would be hosting the Find Your Harmony stage, and then when they announced the schedule for Game of Thrones’ final season, we saw the finale was going to be the same date that we were hosting the stage, May 19. I was like ‘oh, that’s great, wouldn’t it be cool for me to do a remix and play it on the same night of the last episode, because the people that are going to be at EDC obviously won’t be able to watch the last episode, they’ll have to wait for the next day. I’m not going to be able to give them the last episode, but at least I can give them something cool and a little bit of that vibe of Game of Thrones.’ And I played it. I don’t think we can release it officially, so far we were not able to clear it, but you never know, we’ll see.
I heard you’re a big Game of Thrones fan, so I have to ask, did you watch the finale?
So we stayed at EDC until 5:30 AM, when the last DJ finished his set. We were at our hotel at around 7 AM, and everyone from my team was tired and went to bed. For me, I was tired from my set but couldn’t sleep, so I was watching [the finale] at 7 AM. I knew if I [didn’t watch], then there’s a chance that someone’s going to spoil for me and it won’t be as pleasant. It actually happened the other way around: nobody spoiled it for me, I spoiled it for a bunch of people. So I made a right choice, I watched it straight away. It was great too that none of the Wifi was working at EDC, because there were about 130,000 people, so you couldn’t get anything and that worked out very well because otherwise I would have seen spoilers.
Photo credit: Taylor Conran