The small, east midlands city of Leicester may not be on many people's radar for underground house music but when I lived there a few years back I found it to be the home to a small but vibrant scene. A key part of this scene is City Fly records. From their roots doing small parties and a show on local university radio this collective of producers, DJs, artists and music lovers has spawned a record label championing the best in house music and they've been going from strength to strength ever since. I've written about their records on many occasion in the Audio Love column and I thought it was high time I spoke to the guys to find out a bit more about their ethos behind the label and their plans for the future.
Oh and they've also done us a very tasty mix for your listening pleasure made up of a choice selection of their releases to date.
Let's get that on, before we get down…
Lay-Far – Pensamento Novo [S3A Wurm Remix] / Red Rack'em – Zoned / Bartellow – Raw Materia [Fred P Reshape] / Flori – Sing it out / YSE – Save It For Later / Steven Wobblejay – Groove My World [Medlar Remix] / Creative Swing Alliance – Get Down / Lay-Far – Perfect World / Kez YM – Late Night Blue Sound
First off there's a few of you who run City Fly – introduce yourselves to the lovely readers of The Ransom Note. Do you each have special powers?
Haha, The collective is 5 us and our special powers in brackets;
J’Shez (Mr. OCD) – Label Director and DJ Extraordinaire. Likes playing the sleazier deeper dubbier kinda vibes.
Jonna (Mr. Soft) – Label Partner in crime with J, Promoter, Networker, man about town, an all-round hero with tricky fingers on the wheels of steel. Eclectic purveyor playing across the spectrum.
Arthur Jnr (The Turk) – One of the founding fathers and all round funny man, will always be at the after party wearing a funny outfit. Djing rolling house beats all night long from our boy.
Tonks (Jesus) – City Fly’s design & fashion guru and Jesus impersonator. Can usually be found on the dancefloor, will chip in from time to time with a wizard disco set.
Darran Pownall(In bed by 2) – One of the newer members of the crew. Curator of the Fly’s artwork. Likes it low-fi.
A bit of banter there, we are a big family who are there for each other and we have built City Fly together over the years with the same ethos, most of the artists on our label have played for us and have become friends of ours.
Tell me how City Fly came together. I remember hearing about City Fly as a show on the DeMontfort Uni radio when I was studying there. Did it all stem from that?
Jonna, Arthur Jnr & Dale all grew up together as kids and brought City Fly to life in Leicester nearly 10 years ago now. Putting on naughty little underground house parties to the unknown in the City. Things kicked on in terms of a brand and the radio when Jonna was running a radio show on DMU radio on a Saturday evening, following his show was mine (J’Shez) and we found a strong bond as mates and musically. We ended up both playing together in both radio shows that eventually we joined forces to do the one show.
You guys are still pretty involved in radio – with your show on My House Your House. It seems like a medium quite close to your heart.
Radio was what brought us all together and mixing and recording is still something very strong to our hearts. We have been involved withMyHouseYourHouse.net for a long time now and we are very close to the guys that run the station. Although we are being asked to do podcasts from time to time we so love the live element and would love to play more on other peoples radio shows.
When you were first getting the label off the ground were there any artists or labels that were particularly inspiring or influential?
There are so many influences to us, we are house lovers but we also have different strings to our bows which is great. We are influenced by some of the bigger players like Theo Parrish, Kerri Chandler & Mark Farina but also the up and coming artists are really exciting to us like Lay-Far, Flori, Pablo Valentino to name a few. I could write a very long list so I will stop there.
You're almost on your 10th release and in what seems like a short space of time you guys have managed to build up quite a reputation. Have you had a game plan for the label or has it grown organically?
We had talked about getting a label together for years especially as Vinyl was making a revival. I remember saying to Jonna after one of our sets wouldn’t it be cool if we were playing our own records and pushing our own sounds. This was one of our big frustrations, quality house music was limited to maybe a dozen labels (in our opinion) so we thought it was the right time to put our stamp on the musical world. The game plan was simple to put out only quality music which we all loved, the label has grown organically and we wanted to push the up and coming producers who we were really digging at the time. The first release was called “Visions”, this was the start of a series of Eps. The aim was to show the different style of music that we were into but also express a side ourselves within the music. We had a track each from Basic Soul Unit, YSE, and James Johnston & Tone Control. After our 5th release we decided to take the label to the next level and decided to approach some of our heroes to be involved with the label. Dez Andres has been a huge influence for us not only on the house side of things but also with his involvement as part of hip-hop collective “Slum Village”. After his huge release “New For U” on La Vida, we were very excited to have Dez remix on Kez YM’s – Late Night Blue Sound EP (CFR006). Since then we have had the pleasure of working with a massive hero of mine, Fred Peterkin aka Fred P and the DJ Nature (Nature Boy).
How does a house music label stand out from the crowd these days?
The scene is constantly changing, as we get older there are a new breed of talent emerging. We have always stayed true to the music we loved and the artists old and new that we get our influences from. I think the key is not to follow a trend or a phase but to be original and take risks with the music, with “City Fly” the direction was always to have music that will get people moving on the dancefloor.
Leicester isn't necessarily on many people's radar as a hub for underground house music but in the 4 years I lived there I was pretty impressed by the small but vibrant scene. How do you see the scene in Leicester?
It is a small scene compared to the big house music scenes in London, Manchester & Leeds. When we first started our parties there wasn’t really anyone playing deep underground house and we were putting on little raves to a few hundred people. Our earlier guests included DJ Heather, Phil Weeks, Paul Woolford, Littlemen and many more. These days, as you know “Deep House” has taken off in all sorts of forms and there are many parties in the city now. There are a lot of good up and coming dj’s and producers coming through the Leicester scene.
A lot of people move to the bright lights of bigger cities to tap into the scenes there but you've stuck with your home town.
Although our home is Leicester we have put on parties in Ibiza, Barcelona, London, Leeds, Manchester & Birmingham. We are planning some more parties abroad very soon.
You're starting up a new offshoot City Fly LTD – what's the plan for that and what made you go for this new venture?
We have been very lucky to have been sent a lot of good music over the years which hasn’t always been “House”. Music ranging from downtempo, funk, soul, boogie, disco and hip hop. Music which we all love so we wanted to put together a vinyl only label to showcase some of the work of some very talented artists. Look out for the first one by UglyInk (Ugly Drums & Inkswel) out on July 28th.
We also have plans for another offshoot label to focus on some of the deeper house, dub and techno music. Keep an eye out as we have a lot of exciting music being released over the next year.
What do you have lined up release wise on City Fly?
Our latest release which came out last week is by Lay-Far – It’s On EP featuring one of our favourite remixes to date by S3A (Sampling As An Art). We have has some great feedback and support on this release from the likes of Osunlade, Recloose, DJ Spinna and many more.
Our tenth release (CFR010) will be a very special release for us and we are picking 4 of our favourite City Fly tracks to be remixed from our previous releases. We have some incredibly talented and well known producers picking one track each to remix
Where would you like City Fly to be in 5 years’ time? Do you think that far ahead or just take it as it comes?
We don’t look that far ahead to be honest music changes all the time so we tend not to plan too far ahead. We are networking all the time, listening to new music from all over the world and if we love the music we will want to put our stamp on it.
Over the next few years we are aiming to take the label away from our home and creating some parties with the artists at a number of festivals and clubs across the UK and abroad.
Finally – can you sum up City Fly in 5 words.
Family, House, Fly, Visons, Vibe
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