A delightful insight into the rising newcomer label Surge Recordings and how it all started for the two as friends and promotors in Liverpool, UK. Anecdotes, tips and tricks and a whole lot of laughter, as we dive deep into one of our favorite labels and brands across the pond.
First up, very basic, we like to know where you are from and who you are? What’s your story?
Alright! So, my name is Connor Canty. My artist name is Canty and I’ve been into music all my life and sort of picked up on production and DJing around age 20. I am 28 now and live in Liverpool. With my production I didn’t really start learning anything until about six years in, but now it’s really flourishing and the DJing goes hand in hand with that. This has been a lifelong dream of mine and I feel like things are falling into place for me at Surge. I met Jay through Facebook, because I was putting stories of things I was working on and the events and stuff like that. We immediately bonded over our shared vision of music and I invited Jay to my house, so we could practice some production and some DJing. Since then, we just went on our journey from there.
Hi, I am Jay Evans and founder of Surge. I started going to festivals at quite a young age already. I believe I was 16 when I first experienced a festival and saw DJs play. From that moment on I wanted to become a DJ and started practicing. I studied graphic design first and wanted to establish a solid brand to launch events and DJ there. Of course, I also want to start producing my own music somewhere further along the line and I am slowly picking it up now. Me and Canty know each other now for 2 years, but we have some amazing connection. We have the same ambitions, same drive to show you all the wonderful plans ahead. We are really going to step it up a notch this year release wise.
You recently published a B2B mix for our podcast series and we were wondering if there are any plans to start as a duo under a unified name?
I actually thought about this recently but haven’t mentioned it to Jay yet. Although we have been talking about joining a management agency where they want to book us into some gigs together anyways and I think further along the line, when we both are putting out some stand-out music on a regular basis, then I think it could be a great idea. There are some nice potential bookings coming in Bulgaria too where we will play together, so I think it will naturally progress to that at some point.
Circling back to the origins of Surge, when did it all start with the label and was it events first?
2019, was the year I really focused on my DJing, so I was running events with a small team but it was mostly focusing on Tech-House and the events were doing well, but my heart started leaning more towards the minimal, deeper underground beats and influences. I was never fully happy with the brand and ended the brand in 2019. Shortly after I started Surge. To be honest with you, back in 2015, at the time I was working on a University project to design a Music Festival and I came up with the brand name Surge. It triggered me into starting something that represented what I truly believe in and what I thought already works well visually. The intention was to start events and a podcast series and eventually grow into a label, but with the pandemic hitting, everything got accelerated and we had our first release in May 2020.
Why did you choose the word Surge for the brand?
Back in 2015, I was young and just looking for some cool words like tidal wave, sound wave, electrical surge etc. So, when looking up the definition, surge means a sudden powerful movement. I find that very fitting of how we work and how we both are very driven to make this a success and yeah in 2019 I was feeling really energized by choosing a creative path that resonated 100% with who I am. All in all, Surge gave us both the opportunity to fulfill our creative vision with quality music being our motor.
From May 2020 until now, how has it been for you guys to deal with all the growth?
It’s been mad really, had some great artists already on board such as Nate S.U., Artmann, Nolga and it’s just been growing and growing. Now, I’d love to reveal what we’ve got coming this year, but I’ll send that on a private message. Honestly, it’s going to be ridiculous. It’s a very big year for us coming up.
Connor, when did you come into the picture?
Just a few months ago actually, but I’ve been a supporter of the platform and events since day 1 pretty much. I did their first free download track and guestmix as well. Next to sharing podcasts and always engaging with the output, I always felt connected and drawn to the label.
What sparked your keen interest in Surge in the beginning Connor?
I think when I met Jay, I saw from the get-go that he has bags and bags of ambition. He is really good with design and from what I saw visually, everything was very professional looking and sounding great. I wanted to support Jay also as a mate as he had booked me for my first peak-time slot and I felt I needed to share my expertise with Surge. To see someone go from having no label to having a label of this magnitude, in such a short period of time, is mind-blowing.
How do you deal with the rapid growth in terms of quality control? Do you focus on release frequency? Or is it quality over quantity?
Our sudden powerful movement doesn’t necessarily come from releasing big volumes of music, but more the popularity of each release that we put out. We try to create a good fit for both the label and the producer involved to facilitate the best possible reach to the right kind of audience. We have a great fanbase already, which helps a lot and we plan our releases ahead up until 12 months. We are essentially full for this year, but I do occasionally accept some new demo’s for next year. This way Connor and I can strategize and plan ahead way better.
Speaking from our experience here at UNMUTE, some artists prefer to have their tracks released quickly and not wait for it to come out 1 year later. How do you deal with such requests?
To be honest with you, if you have ever meet me in person or the artist involved, I don’t really take no for an answer. I just try to deliver on my promises every single time, to build trust and faith in the brand. We’ve had some moments where for example I had this track stocked away from April last year, before we were even a label officially. It’s still not out yet, but I wanted to guarantee a quality EP with some remixers as support, which I have now. The EP is ready and will unfold its maximum potential like that. All parties involved will be happy that I didn’t release it straight away in April 2020. For quality, it sometimes takes time and needs to be communicated to all parties involved. If Surge truly was the producers first choice to release with, then going with another label to release the track sooner will just be damaging really, so most artists stick with us as we transparently communicate the possible timeframe to them.
How do you guys work together? Is there a clear role for everyone?
Yeah, it’s basically me that really does most of the day-to-day things, I don’t really sleep and from morning till night its SURGE for me. I do occasionally give Connor some tasks and contacts, but originally it was me alone talking to all the people on social media, so these contacts remain with me. I send Connor some stuff over for quality control and a bit more guided feedback as he is savvier on the producing side. I value his opinion greatly and helps us work more efficient in finalizing a release. A second set of ears for opinion and quality control helps the label greatly.
Do you believe there should be an exchange of feedback between label and artists every time?
Yes definitely, it just helps shape our vision and it has created some interesting learning moments. Like we got a track submission from a huge artist and we didn’t like it. We were so scared to say no to his music and fearing to scare away any future opportunities too, but we had to guard our vision of quality so we said no and the artist appreciated it and sent us something that was 100 times more superior and fitting to our vision. A healthy balance of mutual trust and faith is important, because you don’t want to upset the artist, so you need to make sure that the artist is open for feedback and willing to listen.
Looking back from May 2020 until now, what were some of your highlights and achievements?
I think the followers with 6k on Instagram and verified on SoundCloud with 4k followers is absolutely mind-boggling to say the least. Secondly, I would say comes the design aspect of the label. I am really proud of my creative process and have come to a point as an artist that it’s streamlined very nicely and opens up space for myself to create freely. In terms of highlights, I am really proud of a lot of things that are not even out yet, so it’s hard to reveal anything just yet. Next to our upcoming projects, we just recently launched our clothing brand as well. We are just incredibly happy of how things are going and haven’t had a down period so far as we are moving forward and upward continuously.
What is your vision for the next years to come?
Obviously, when looking at our list of artists we are involving, we see a high rise in quality and this we would like to showcase also outside of the UK with doing a tour. We are greatly appreciating the output from the South American countries like Argentina, and our brand is getting popular there now too, so hopefully we can do a tour there soon. Also, Amsterdam is definitely a destination we are looking to do some events real soon. Perhaps an UNMUTE x Surge collaboration could be really cool to do.
We would be delighted to do an event together for sure, perhaps we can come over to UK as well for a little exchange! Coming back to the South American sound, is that something that inspired the Surge sound?
In the beginning I think it definitely did have a big impact on my selections as a DJ, but also sitting down with Jay and showing him some production things, we always referenced tracks from South American producers. It was the first kind of music and vibe we both bonded over.
It seems that your friendship has grown into a successful label and you have a great synergy going. Do you believe that having such a great co-working relationship helps with growing a label?
From the get go, both of us were pretty much the stand-up guys in our own previous event brands, always driven, always working hard. I try to still do all the work, but now I know Connor will be there too, trying to do all the work. Essentially, we both are here now working our asses off and it has accelerated our label immensely. With Surge, I really don’t care about the money because I get to experience something that I love doing that’s enough for me. At the end of the day, we do it to support our artists and create something special every time again.
It’s amazing to see you guys do some outstanding work and we feel the love that you are putting into this label. Closing off the interview, we wanted to ask about your recent mix on our podcast series. How did this mix come about? Was it planned?
The B2B was on our plate for a while just to do it for fun really. The mix is pretty free flow and we hadn’t prepared anything. A few beers later, and a solid intro track by De La Swing, and the journey kick started something very fresh and energetic. I hope you guys like it and hope to see you in person when we come to Amsterdam!
Listen to the mix on our soundcloud:
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