Over the past 20 years, the electronic music scene has exploded and evolved. It has left the sweaty warehouses and basement clubs and leaped into the spotlight via megastar producers and events such as Ultra Music Festival. One man who has witnessed the peaks and valleys of it all is Jared Simms, one-third of the Canadian trio My Favorite Robot (MFR). Alongside fellow DJ James Teej and vocalist Voytek Korab, he crafts elegant, moody, and synth-driven downtempo melodies.
In addition to publishing its own music, MFR is responsible for a stable of rising musicians under the label My Favorite Robot Records. Its mission statement reads, "The label's vision is simple. Ignore the norm and broaden the definition of electronic music in order to deliver it to as many music lovers as possible. We look forward to sharing our vision with you." And MFR is delivering on its promise, releasing (on its own label and on No. 19 Music) a flurry of singles, remixes, and EPs over the past few years, as well as the excellent 2013 full-length effort Atomic Age.
This Thursday, Simms, along with veteran house and techno producer Nitin, will play a DJ set at Treehouse Miami as part of the No. 19 Music record label showcase. Ahead of his solo show, Simms spoke with New Times about his label, the growth of EDM, and how playing in Miami is like coming home.
New Times: My Favorite Robot is both a group and a record label. How'd that come about?
Jared Simms: It started out as a group, sort of a DJ thing which morphed into more of a production outfit and band. It started out with two members, Voytek [Korab] and I, and about five or six years ago, James Teej joined, and we decided to start a label.
Why release records on No. 19 Music instead of your own label?
The first album we released was on our label, and a lot of the material we've released has been on our own label over the years. No. 19 are friends of ours, people who built their own projects at the same time as we were building our own. They were very familiar with our music, with our process, and when they heard some of the music we were coming up with, it seemed like an interesting move to merge with them on this one project and have them release it with us.
How do you manage running the label and being an artist yourself?
It's just sort of two separate things that run parallel to one another. That's one of the things that's nice about having three guys in the band. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Three heads are better than one when it comes to running a bunch of different things. It's quite easy to deal with three people to delegate tasks.
Going forward, are there any artists that you'd like to collaborate with?
That's one thing that we're really fortunate with and something that's brought to the table by our label. We're able to sign music and be in touch with a lot of artists because we're constantly A&R-ing music that's being sent to us and we can approach people that we like now or that we've liked over the years and try to sign their music to the label. Over the past couple of years we've worked with a lot of those artists As a record label, we're releasing an album from Jori Hulkkonen, one of our favorites from Finland. He's been doing this for 25 plus years and finally he has an amazing full length album that we're putting out. People like Chloe and Tim Paris, these are guys that are lifers and that we've respected for a long time. They make amazing music. The fact that they're a phone call away and that we're putting out their music and we're collaborating with them — you can't really ask for anything more.
What do you think of the electronic scene in Miami?
I think it's cool. I think you have, obviously, a big mix of the more commercial stuff and the more underground stuff. I think there are enough people who come through town, both locals and tourists, that no one is trying to be anything they're not and no one is really stepping on anyone's toes. There are a lot of really good people trying to do the right thing. We've been doing Miami for five-plus years, and it's really been cool to see how the underground scene has transformed.
When you started out, did you think EDM would become as mainstream as it is nowadays?
I'm not sure. I mean, I wanted it to. It's weird — it's a double-edged sword. For something to be underground, you want it to be cool and exclusive and hip, and you want to get that music out to people. And then, when you get there, when it's almost too many people, you want it to recede a little bit and go back to a smaller group. I think it's fantastic overall. You see the big EDM stuff, and maybe it's not the music that I dig or the people who listen to our label dig, but there are lots of young kids being introduced to this music and influenced, and the hope is always going to be that 5, or 10, or 20 percent are going to hear that and want to dig a little deeper and go after some stuff that has more — let's call it musical integrity — and I think it continues to feed into the underground. Things are looking really cool right now.
What's been your experience with Miami crowds?
I love it. Miami crowds have always been up for the party. I've really always felt quite at home with the people who have booked us. The guys we're playing for this week, the Cultivate guys, we've played for them four or five times. Before that, the guys at Link, [they are all] just really, really nice guys, fighting the good fight and are in it for the right reasons. They take really good care of us. They're people we've actually become really good friends with. We really love coming to Miami.