Born and bred in Los Angeles, California, 23 year old Henry Laufer, more commonly known as Shlohmo, has been steadily climbing his way to the top of the L.A. beat-scene ever since releasing his first EP, Shlo-Fi back in 2009. Since then he has released over a half dozen EPs as well as the full-length studio album Bad Vibes in 2011.
Laufer is one of many home-grown producers to have grown up listing to the music of L.A. DJs such as The Gaslamp Killer and Daddy Kev, the latter of whom founded the now legendary weekly club night Low End Theory. Based in Lincoln Heights, Low End Theory was founded in 2006 and has since served as a Mecca for a new generation of clubbers who have shifted their focus away from dance-centric genres such as house and techno, instead towards down-tempo, instrumental hip-hop based beats. As well as hosting resident DJs, the club provided an opportunity for young producers to air their latest tracks, fresh from their bedroom studios to the hungry ears of eager club goers.
With such a vibrant musical backdrop it’s not surprising that the L.A. beat scene has produced some of the world’s most exciting new electronic producers, with the likes of Flying Lotus, TOKiMONSTA, Samiyam and Daedelus having graduated from the Low End Theory roster. Shlohmo is one of the youngest to have achieved widespread acclaim, attracting the attention of people like R&B artist Jeremih after releasing an unofficial remix of his track Fuck U All the Time back in 2012.
Not that Shlohmo’s success was achieved solely on the back of the thriving beat-scene in L.A. In high-school he and a few friends began a music blog and collective called WeDidIt and since then the blog has metamorphosed into a fully functional record label, releasing hit records by artists as far-reaching as Canada’s Ryan Helmsworth.
Never one to sit still, Laufer is currently working on a number of releases, including a collaborative EP with Jeremih due out soon on WeDidIt and Def Jam Records as well as a sophomore LP which is in the pipeline for later this year. Over the years his compositions have evolved from hissy lo-fi productions created with layers of warbling synths and dreamy arps, to the more delicately crafted, minimalist productions set out on last year’s Laid Out EP, which also showcased his aptitude for collaborative work with tracks like Don’t Say No that featured How to Dress Well on vocals.
Ahead of his performance at the Twisted Pepper this month, Totally Dublin caught up with the young producer to find out about his time growing up in L.A., his production methods and his passion for a good smoke.
What was it like growing up in L.A.? It must have been really inspiring with such a vibrant music scene, the likes of Low End Theory and the whole beat scene.
LA’s an easy place to grow up with music. You can pretty much find whatever you want here. And around that time too, like end of high-school for me, there was so much new electronic shit coming out. It was definitely exciting/inspiring. You could definitely feel something new and interesting happening and Low End definitely felt like the epicenter.
Who were the artists that inspired you most from that period/scene?
[Flying] Lotus, Ras G, Samiyam, Teebs – all them Brainfeeder guys.
You briefly lived in New York? Do you find the change in surroundings brought out different themes in your work?
I just lived there for a year. Most of my music though gets made at night by myself, so I guess no matter where I’m at it stays pretty much the same feel, just depends what mood I’m in I guess.
You were one of the founding members of the WeDidIt collective. Could you tell us how this came about and plans for the collective in the future?
We’re all just friends who grew up together. We just wanted a place where we could all post our music/art and share it with each other and somehow that blog we made 6 years ago still exists because other people liked to look at it and now it’s a real record label. We’re working on a bunch of releases for 2014, including a bunch from the official camp members as well as some cats you haven’t heard yet.
Your music has a really organic sound with plenty of guitar in there. Do you tend to record a lot of live instruments?
All the instrumentation you hear on my songs is played by me: guitar, keys, bass, whatever. I’m really not that good at playing, like I can’t read music or nothing, but I can fuck around ’til I’m making what I want to hear.
And your song writing process in general? What sets the wheels in motion?
It’s different every time. Usually though I’ll get inspired by a sound or texture that happened by accident and build around that.
I think dedication to the craft is very important for a producer. Are good at setting aside time for working in the studio?
I only make music because I like to, so it never feels like I have to make time for it. The only thing I don’t like is when a track becomes tedious and you have to keep going back in and fixing shit. I’m really bad at finishing things if it doesn’t feel natural. I just procrastinate or make other new things instead.
Software vs hardware. Do you use both? What are your favourite DAWs and plugins and what hardware do you use in the studio and on tour?
The only DAW [digital audio workstation] I use is Ableton. I record everything in there. Most of the melodic elements come from hardware – synths, guitars, whatever’s around. Mainly I’ve been using an old [Roland] Jupiter 6 and a space echo/chorus with a buzzy cable. I use soft synths sparingly because I don’t like things sounding too clean. On the road I like to keep it as portable, reliable, and non-breakable as possible, i.e. me and my laptop and a few MIDI controllers.
I noticed you’re only playing a small number of gigs in Europe. Do you find there’s less demand over here or do you just like to stay close to home?
There’s definitely the same demand. I actually found that the kids in Europe picked up on my music way before a lot of folks did here in the states. But yeah, I don’t like to spread myself too thin and over saturate. And I guess I’m just a homebody. I like to keep it close to the couch.
You’ve collaborated with Jeremih in the past but I see there are plans for a forthcoming release? Could you tell us a little bit about what to expect?
Ya, we’re finishing the EP this month. It’s been dope working with him and definitely an interesting process for me. I normally just work alone in my room at night so working on a whole collaborative project was really new. Our sounds really just clicked too. It really does sound like 50% me and 50% Jeremih. I don’t know. You’ll see.
Any other releases in the pipeline for the coming year?
Working on finishing my second LP. Hopefully it will be out by late spring. I won’t say nothin’…
Lastly, could you take us through an average day in the life of Shlohmo?
Wake up. Coffee, smoke, e-mails, smoke, lunch, smoke, music, smoke, etc.
Shlohmo plays the Twisted Pepper on Wednesday 5th March.
Words: Dave Desmond