The Los Angeles-based music collective Soulection has become one of the most prominent tastemakers in the contemporary alternative and countercultural music scene.
Soulection, which functions primarily as an indie record label and radio station, is finding new ways to push the culture forward by focusing on the larger community as a whole, giving a platform to budding artists plying their trade off the beaten path, touring to the far reaches of the globe, and fostering a DIY scene around their own community.
The Soulection team is small but prolific. Founded by Joe Kay and Andre Power back in 2011, Soulection has grown into more than just a platform for alternative artists, but has come to define the genre of alternative dance music itself.
As Soulection has grown, one of the key tenants of the radio station/record label has been their live shows. Soulection brings their expansive roster of DJs, artists, and creatives around the world, taking their movement global.
The man in charge of organizing and ideating these tours and events is Julio Galvez, who also DJs under The Whooligan moniker.
We recently jumped on a call with The Whooligan to talk Soulection, alternative dance music, touring around the world, and this generation’s connection to music without labels.
Galvez got his start on the indie dance music scene in San Francisco, working to book shows at a local venue. He identified specific artists and DJs that were playing interesting music,
“A lot of the dope DJs at the time liked playing alternative soul music, alternative music in general, just progressive soul and house and dance and hip-hop and stuff so I had a really unique opportunity at that point to really push a new sound in San Francisco.”
From there, Galvez started producing events for Puma, working with bigger budgets but still maintaining that general philosophy of promoting artists that were playing cross-genre music.
Then in 2013, Galvez linked up with Joe Kay and Soulection artist Esta. Galvez described an instant connection with the Soulection founder,
“I was already a huge fan of Soulection, I came in a couple years in, we started 2011 and I joined the team in 2013 and we hit it off really naturally off top. The first ever real conversation we had was in my living room in San Francisco, I had records all over the place and art and photography, we just started chopping it up about music, culture, and art and we really connected. Joe was already familiar with me as a DJ so that helped as well, he was familiar with my style and the type of music I played. Long story short, I felt really connected to Joe and his vision and knew I could help further it while still staying true to my goals and objectives.”
Galvez started working on the booking side of things for Soulection, but with his already established network and knack for scoping interesting and diverse talent, he told us things sort of took off from there, “Six continents and 150 countries later it just snowballed into what it is now.”
Soulection has grown massively in the last couple years. The label is truly at the forefront of alternative dance music, even largely shaping the sounds and aesthetic of the genre itself. This comes from a myopic focus on putting on artists that are doing cool shit, establishing a tight-knit community, and always prioritizing the art first.
When we asked about the business model behind Soulection, Galvez was quick to say the music and community comes first, and everything else comes out of that,
“On the business tip, first and foremost, the business was not our first priority, it was always putting out great music and supporting our friends and artists and doing events to bring people together, for us to meet our people in real life and to really celebrate a diverse, underground, and countercultural sort of music community. That was our first priority. As we’ve started growing and as we’ve started traveling and shows got bigger and the radio show got bigger, we started to see it expand.”
In this way, Soulection worked “backwards” in that they established their place in the music world and then worried about really working on the business,
“It’s a passion of ours to build the community first and then really, now as a result of it growing quickly, now how do we work backwards and establish the business?”
This authenticity is what makes Soulection so compelling and successful. Listeners and music lovers recognize the organic nature of the label and instantly want to be a part of the larger community around it.
But for Galvez, Kay, and the rest of the Soulection brain trust, that model of going out and forging a community and then working backwards on the business means that every day is a learning experience.
Galvez said that’s why they call it Soulection U,
“Every day we’re learning something new, sometimes we joke with each other and call ourselves ‘Soulection University’ you know, like ‘we’re going to school today.’ Literally we learn something new every day from one another, from our business managers to our supporters, partners and people we create with. We learn something every day. So every day in and of itself is a challenge, it’s growth.”
This Soulection University idea works from the top down. When the guys in charge of the business, the ‘label heads’ are working every day to learn something new, that philosophy naturally translates all the way throughout the Soulection team, to each and every artist and staff member.
Galvez said Soulection puts their artists in positions to succeed as soon as they say they’re ready,
“Some of our DJs and our artists have expressed to us ‘I wanna tour the world’ it’s like ok word, ‘in 3 months, we’re going to Europe, we’re gonna spend two weeks touring Europe. You’re ready? Let’s go.’ It’s these artists’ first time performing and they’re already in Europe, already touring the world, they are quick learners.”
At Soulection University you learn by trial by fire,
“I think that’s the best way to learn how to DJ and perform in general, it’s even the best way to learn how to do business and build relationships. You go with people that support you, people you’re comfortable with and feel safe and free with and you get thrown into the fire and you just… you freak it.”
Ultimately, Soulection works because of these principles, because there’s a natural community built around the label, because people like Galvez and Joe Kay are music lovers first. Their movement connects to people across the globe and in a time when music artists, and especially music labels, can seem inaccessible and disconnected from the culture, Soulection actively tries to establish an attachment to its community.
Galvez told us that connection is the most fulfilling part of the job,
“The ‘why,’ for me, off top is connecting with people. Really paying attention to everyone’s stories. Traveling the world and being able to do what we do and then getting messages and emails from people that share their stories, telling us about family deaths, contemplating suicide, fighting through cancer, and how what we do has touched their lives and helped them get through these painful moments – I’m just lost for words, this is the most powerful feeling in life.”
For Galvez, and the entire Soulection team, the community is the most gratifying aspect of what they have created at Soulection.
And part of that is being able to talk to people, being receptive to their community of listeners and art lovers, and just being a productive member of that very community,
“When you go out there and play that show, it’s after fact that’s what’s most important — the show’s important — but what’s more important is before the show, after the show, how you carry yourself as an individual, how do you move through society? Being mindful, being a respectable human being, someone who is present for their community. All these things I learned extensively through Soulection, all of these things I learned through my travels and connecting with people and it’s incredible the type of energy and love that people give back worldwide.”
Soulection is proof that you don’t need big money or huge names to be a mover and shaker in the music industry, music listeners just care about the music.
Tune into any Soulection mix and any Soulection show or event and you know you’re going to hear some good ass music.
Soulection has become the industry standard for DIY record labels, and they’ve laid the groundwork for creatives that want to follow in their footsteps.