“There’s been a musical changing of the guard in Vienna these last few years...” goes the official line from Luv Shack Records, a small label formed five years ago by a group of friends tired of the homogenous sound coming out of the city. Five years and over twenty releases later, Luv Shack have carved out a unique, deep disco sound to contrast the downtempo that Vienna had become used to. We went to chat to label torchbearers Simon (Simonlebon) and Stefan (Lee Stevens) to find out how it all began.
Simon tells me he’d known Stefan for quite a few years having worked in clubs and doing parties together. From this they met the other three of the label’s core producers - Georg (Jakobin), Dominik (Domino) and Samuel (LeSale). Each of the five were making music but hadn’t yet released anything. Stefan tells me that in Vienna it was hard at the time to find any contacts for people who were doing stuff in the same direction, so joining forces seemed like the most logical option. “We knew we could do it, we didn’t need to ask anyone, we just needed to spend some money for the first releases. But we knew it was going to happen…” Simon tells me, almost nonchalantly.
If it was hard to find people moving in the same direction, what was Vienna like before Luv Shack? Simon tells me that it was very productive at the end of the 90s and beginning of the 00s. There was a prevalence of a “Vienna downtempo” sound of the likes of Kruder and Dorfmeister but this had gone down in quality over the past ten years. Simon tells me, almost with an air of disappointment, that there just weren’t many clubs left. He quickly changes this to how there were quite a few clubs, but they were all just somehow doing the same sort of thing. In that case, it was better in that productive late 90s/early 00s period?
Simon tells me it would be normal to go to a club and hear every kind of electronic music in one night - there was a much greater musical diversity within the city and that nowadays the scene seems more downtempo both in variety and sound. Venues catering to other parts of the electronic music spectrum are smaller and sparser. He says that whilst there are a lot of people producing new music and people starting labels, a lot of the clubs and promoters in Vienna aren’t representing this, instead focusing on big international acts. Despite this Luv Shack gained attention in its early days and formed a fan base both at home and abroad, hosting parties around Vienna, playing 3-4 times a year at Salon zur Wilden Renate in Berlin and appearing on Austria’s Radio FM4, a national broadcaster focusing on the underground. And so it grew.
Simon tells me that, music-wise, the label’s influences range from disco to old funk and soul. They’re all big 80s fans. However I’m told there’s a bit of everything within their musical periphery, even if it doesn’t play into the sound coming out of the label – Simon tells me over the years he’s listened to a lot of black meatal, death metal, hardcore and punk. A lot of the label’s sound comes from the old disco edits of the late 80s and early 90s. Stefan tells me that with these sort of edits the production quality and methodology was so poor that nowadays such cuts are unplayable. This is why one of the labels initial goals was to take this sound and go a step further – to do it well whilst combining more and different elements onto each track. On more recent releases there’s been more house and a bit more electro.
I ask about their videos. Luv Shack characteristically splice bits of obscure 60s and 70s films to create their music videos and the effect is pretty visually stunning. Stefan, again, steps up to the plate.
“I’ve always been a fan [of old movies] and I got a load of old videocassettes from my aunt – she collected everything from the 60s/70s. When I grew up I came to a shop in Vienna called demoniac video store and they had the best stuff, like extremely expensive but they copied it for me. When the whole torrents thing came about it was possible for me to get everything digitally so I have nearly everything that's strange... It's a mix of old disco things with weird movies from the 60s and 70s.”
With this I ask what’s in the pipeline. The next imminent thing is the label's first album project, having previously only released EPs and a compilation, Shack Your Body. This comes from Hard Ton who has released on the label before. There’s also another EP, this time from Younger Than Me, a duo from Milan. More significantly, I’m told there’s the first murmurs of a sub-label that’ll take it all back to the beginning – it’ll focus on club/dj friendly tracks whilst the more electric stuff will be put out on Luv Shack. Aside from that it’s all ticking over. Next year is their 5th anniversary which could mean a “best of” compilation, and there’s always the regular Vienna and Berlin nights. Simon, however, reminds me of how much of a journey it’s been to get to this point.
“I would be happier generally if promoters and clubs in Vienna and Austria started focusing again on the local scene because there are a lot of good and interesting people and there are also quite a lot of people getting good support from outside of Austria. Somehow there’s this thinking that if someone’s not famous, let’s say, then nobody will come to the party. At the moment it’s going in a good and better direction because more and more people are doing parties, starting labels or producing. Maybe in a few years it’ll be more what we want it to be. But it’s all also a question of money and market - it’s business.”
Check out Luv Shack Records here.