Happy birthday: Space Yacht celebrates six years [Q&A]
Los Angeles-based event and music promotion company Space Yacht recently celebrated its six-year anniversary with its first-ever Tech My House label compilation and a 15-hour livestream event that foregrounded a slew of ascendant house artists. Space Yacht was founded in 2015 by Henry Lu and Rami Perlman, who have since forged Space Yacht’s quest of “showcasing the next generation of dance music” into more than 150 shows, including event showcases at festivals such as Electric Daisy Carnival, Beyond Wonderland, Miami Music Week, SXSW, Coachella, and more. What started as a secret party occurring each Tuesday in Hollywood’s tiny Golden Box venue, Space Yacht has organically grown into a platform for the talents that Lu and Perlman believe in.
In commemoration of Space Yacht’s six-year anniversary came the label’s very first compilation, Tech My House Vol. 1, which spanned 17 tracks from Mikey Barraeneche, Casmalia, Luke Andy, Qlank, Ocean Roulette, Ranger Trucco, SkiiTour, and many more. Space Yacht and Desert Hearts also collaborated on TECH MY HOUSE, a 15-hour livestream event that broadcast 18 DJ sets.
Dancing Astronaut caught up with Lu and Perlman to gain insight on their Space Yacht journey, what they look for when signing tracks, and their future post-pandemic. Tech My House Vol. 1 and the interview can be found below.
How did you first become involved in dance music and how did this prompt your transition into curating your own events?
Perlman: “Dance music has always been a part of my life both as a fan and artist. I first started DJing back in college, in the early 2000’s, where I got heavily into house and drum ‘n’ bass. It wasn’t until years later that I got into events.
Henry and I met while working at a social media company, and we often worked late. I’d play him some demos of a new project I was producing, which eventually turned into LondonBridge, and we quickly realized that we were into similar styles of music. It was me wanting a place where I could perform, which then became the place for everyone to perform. The community vibe and opportunities within it became apparent quickly, and we nurtured it into where we are today. But all of this revolves first and foremost around our love for dance music and dance music culture.”
Lu: “In the beginning, I got involved as a student at UC San Diego volunteering at concerts and eventually became one of the coordinators for the big annual bash Sun God Festival (it was a huge school, so we planned our concert for 20,000 people every year). It was such a thrilling experience that I stuck around wanting to do more. Oddly enough, UC San Diego has some of the industry’s biggest power players as its alumni.
Fast foward, I’m interning at Z-Trip’s management and Windish Agency (now Paradigm), all through connections I made at UCSD. Throughout all of these unpaid internships, I started multiple businesses of my own to sustain my lifestyle, and this is where I found my life calling—starting things from nothing and causing a ruckus.
Throwing events was just my manifestation of wanting to create something from nothing. It’s my way of thrill-seeking. It’s the most liberating feeling to work on my own terms at all times. In another life, Space Yacht totally could have been an app or tech platform. It feels strange to say this, but it’s not necessarily music or even events that I am primarily obsessed with. I’m obsessed with creating. I just happen to love the music that I love, and when I met Rami, it was house music.”
Can you share some takeaways from your experience heading Space Yacht for the past six years?
Lu: “I’m absolutely blown away that an off-the-cuff idea we came up with became globally known and impactful across the industry. We never planned for this. We’ve learned an immense amount in the past six years, and the takeaway I’d like to share to the world is to just go for it. Obviously, come up with a plan and a fallback, but ultimately you will need to take action and follow through.”
Perlman: “My main takeaway is that consistency and quality are king. Just like a great restaurant, growing a brand is about providing the consumer with the best product possible, and being consistent with it—same goes for everything we do at Space Yacht. Another takeaway is how strong and loyal our community is. The fact that we are still able to engage and even grow our brand in these crazy times is a testament to the love that people have for the brand and the culture. It’s truly humbling, and we don’t take it for granted.”
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when going about throwing events throughout the years and how were you able to overcome them?
Perlman: “One of the main challenges was always about answering the question ‘how do we keep it fresh?’ When we started, there were only a few parties going on, but over the past three years there has been an explosion of dance music events, both large and small. Since so many of the DJs live in LA, it was always a challenge to make sure our lineups were unique and featured both new artists and fan favorites. It always kept us on our toes. To this day, we have a high bar for who we book and why. Like our label, it always starts with the music.”
Lu: “Being able to focus in a sea of distraction has been a growing pain both for myself and Space Yacht as a whole. We’re pulled different directions at all times, and the thing that has helped us find peace has always been to think back to why it is that we’re here. Knowing what you want and what your mission is the key!”
Moving forward, how do you plan to overcome the live event-related obstacles introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Lu: “I’m not sweating. The events will come back. Until then, we’re going to get good at all the things we’ve wanted to get good at. Instead of trying to expend our energy fighting the obstacle, we completely leaned into it.”
Perlman: “To me, we are just scratching the surface of what Space Yacht could become. Before COVID, the entire identity of the brand revolved around events. Our curatorial voice was only represented in the lineups we put together. Now, we get to play in a bunch of different sandboxes, from signing records we love to creating clothing lines to livestreaming on Twitch to producing NFT collections All of these new disciplines are new ways for the brand of Space Yacht to be creatively expressed. A lot of our new business initiatives just started over the past 12 months. It’s exciting!”
At what moment or period of time did it become apparent that your brand was going to grow a lot more bigger than expected, and do you see another point in the future where that might happen again?
Lu: “At some point, folks started lining up around the block, and I had to turn town celebrity types at the door simply because I literally could not fit another person in the venue. My thought was ‘well, where do we go from here?'”
Perlman: “I think when we moved the party to Sound Nightclub in Hollywood is when it really started to explode. Sound is known as on of the best clubs in LA for underground dance music, and the team that runs the club is best in class (they run and book the Yuma tent at Coachella).
The combination of the club, our brand, and our fans was a perfect marriage. Word started to spread like wildfire after that. I think we are in our second or third phase of growth right now since we’ve had to move everything online. The funny thing is that we are streaming to way more people than could fit in the 600-capacity club, so in a sense, we are still growing even without live events.”
Will you aim to keep these events more intimate upon the return of in-person programming?
Lu: “Absolutely, yes. In fact, now that we don’t have the pressure of packing out clubs, our music programming lanes have opened up significantly. We now have time to listen to music that we wouldn’t have as DJ bookers and it’s already showing in our label signings. Our attitude towards music is that we are here as scholars—there’s so much we don’t know, and it’s on us to see for ourselves. We simply share with the world all the things that excite us.”
Perlman: “Our brand is predicated on the idea of not sticking to one particular genre. House and bass genres are the most popular in our world, but we’ve been releasing drum ‘n’ bass records on the label and are planning a ton of niche compilations this year. I think we just follow the music that is interesting to us, and there are no rules when it comes to that. We can’t wait to get back to live events, but only when it’s safe to do so.”
What do you consistently look for when you’re listening to demos, looking for music to sign?
Perlman: “It’s always music first. It’s cool if someone has social media presence or things going on in their career, but we never prioritize that, even though we probably should. It’s always about the quality of the material.
One thing we do look for is a hook, whether it be a vocal or synthline. It has to be catchy and memorable. We think the TECH MY HOUSE compilation set the bar really high, so we are becoming more and more particular about what we sign. There is so much good music out there!”
Lu: “The main signing criteria is that we light up and share the collective feeling that know exactly what to do with the piece of music to nurture it within our ecosystem. If we are struggling to find a vision for it, at least in terms of what we can do to help, it’s usually a no.”
What’s something you want new fans to keep in mind when they discover the artists who first got their start on your platform?
Perlman: “Remember to support these artists! It can be through a simple follow or sharing their track on social media, or donating when they play livestreams. Most of these people have day jobs and are trying to find their way. Any support you can give them is valuable.”
Lu: “Come curious! There’s just so much more we can do with a fan or attendee who’s genuinely open-minded.”
Now that you’re six years in, what are some of your goals for Space Yacht moving forward?
Perlman: “The growth of the label and apparel business are both really exciting. We’ve already signed the next six months of releases and are planning some massive compilations for the third and fourth quarters.
We are also super excited about the crypto-art NFT movement that we’ve been lucky to be a part of. Our first two collections sold out in three minutes and people have been asking us to make more. A lot of people are just starting to find out about the space and huge artists like deadmau5 and 3LAU have already jumped into it. We see this as something that can intersect with the label as well as being its own thing. Our next crypto art drop is on Nifty Gateway on March 8, so look out for that!”
Lu: “We just started our Twitch and YouTube pages, and I can’t wait to hit our first few milestones. It’s going to help us reach a much more global audience once we get it together.”
Featured image: Martin Cabrera Lopez