Q&A: Shlohmo On Growing Up In Los Angeles, Collecting Sounds, And The Danger Of Being Stuck In One’s Room


Henry Laufer, aka Shlohmo, is an electronic musician now living in New York after coming up in Los Angeles’s beat scene, popularized by artists like Flying Lotus and Baths. Shlohmo’s downtempo beatmaking can hit hard or be delivered with an eloquent soulful spin. I got a chance to talk to Henry before his show tonight at Cameo Gallery.

How do you think growing up in Los Angeles affected you and your craft?

It pretty much had everything to do with it. It’s a really open place—there’s a lot of space. You can drive home at night and not see another person for miles and miles and miles, but it’s still this weird, big city where we get lots of cultural input and output. So living there, you’re exposed to everything a big city might expose you to but there’s still this sense of openness and space that lets you zone out and think a lot.

Definitely. And how large a role did the LA music scene play in your work before your time spent studying in San Fransisco?

I think the music scene in LA had way more going on. There’s still an electronic scene in SF but it’s way more dancefloor-oriented, which is still cool, but in LA there was a lot of everything happening at parties like Low End Theory where you could go see things that weren’t just made for the dancefloor—things that were made for more of a live music setting, which is hard to find within electronic music because its either a completely underground ambient show or a packed dancefloor. It’s cool to find a crossover.

When did you move to New York and how do you think you’re music functions in this city?

I moved out here last September or October. I have a lot of friends out here so it was kind of an easy decision. I didn’t move specifically for business or music or anything, I just figured it’s always been something I wanted to do so I figured, why not now. Since I’ve been out here, I’ve been making more electronic electronic music.

Do you mean in more of a minimal, dancefloor aesthetic as opposed to the tripped out, hip-hop influence of LA?

Yeah, definitely. I’ve been moving into dance territory a little bit more. I can’t tell if it’s because of the city or if my tastes that are changing.

I can hear that on your latest release, Vacation. One of the most exciting things you have going on is your sound selection. Your sound palette is very well thought out and I’m wondering what you look for when you collect sounds. What kinds of sounds are you drawn to?

Recently the whole drum machine sound is something I’ve been getting back into, but I really like the idea of making electronic music something organic—trying to make a song into an object, or combining all the different elements of the track to create a full environment and a whole spectrum.

How about your live process? How does your production style translate?

I think the live process is way different. When I’m at home making tracks it’s an alone process and I’m not necessarily thinking about other people. It’s more of a solo thing and that’s how it meant to be listened to. I think with the live shows I like to keep the energy up and I like that crowd interaction. That’s something you can’t get in your room. You get stuck in your room sometimes and you go out to the show and it’s a completely different creative process. I feel like I’m a DJ at heart so I want to make the room move.

Shlohmo, “Just Us”

So for your show on Friday can we expect more of your harder, dubstep-influenced material, more like the work on Shlomoshun Deluxe as opposed to Bad Vibes?

I wouldn’t say it’s like Shlohmoshun Deluxe, it’s more in a different direction. It’s more inspired by rap music and party music. It goes both ways, if the crowd wants to chill out and hang their heads then I’ll vibe with them on that. I just like to control the room.

That’s definitely your task. You mentioned the rap and party influence, and you just put out a remix of Drake featuring the Weeknd. Have you considered taking on producer projects and collaborating with more vocalists in the future?

Yes, that is definitely something that I want to do.

Cool, something in the works now?

Yea, there’s a lot of stuff in the works actually—not much I can divulge but this year’s going to be pretty rad.

I imagine the driving forces will be We Did It Collective, which you co-founded and Friends of Friends, the label you’re on. Both of those outlets have a homegrown, community-driven model that I think is missing in much of the music industry.

Well, We Did It has been around since my last year of high school.

And who is “We”?

“We” is me and a few of my friends from LA. As of yet, who knows if we’re going to expand. It was basically very stupid thing at first, just something to call a team, but we’re all creative and making shit all the time and it became a platform for us to share stuff and the work we made got better and better.

How does that funnel into Friends of Friends?

Friends of Friends is my friend Leeor’s label, and he signed me back in ’09. I release all the albums through them but I think I’m going to start doing some more actual releases through We Did It now that we have the means.

I’m looking forward to show your show at Cameo Gallery. Who else will be with you on that bill?

It’s actually one of my friends from We Did It named Groundislava, and he’s actually on Friends of Friends as well.

Haha, no coincidences?

Probably all coincidences.

Shlohmo plays the late show tonight at Cameo Gallery with Groundislava and Moon Bounce.