Denver, dubbed the bass capital of the world, boasts a new DJ night and record label: FringeWorthy. This project of Veronica Lamaak and Corey Blecha is championing the electronic underground and artists blurring the lines between techno, drum-and-bass, dubstep and other EDM sub-genres.
"Veronica and I had been wanting to do something like this for a while," explains co-founder Corey Blecha about FringeWorthy's beginnings. "We had a common ground with the music that we wanted to bring, and that was how it first started. We wanted to push the envelope with experimental bass music."
The two also noticed that in Denver, despite a glut of good electronic music, scenes were often divided. Because of this, they decided FringeWorthy should be dedicated to promoting music that bridges genres and subcultures.
"I took Corey to a more ambient, experimental show, and we were looking around, and all the people there were in their late thirties and early forties, not really used to being around a bunch of younger kids that are coming out of dubstep, and those kids aren't used to hanging out with older people," Lamaak explains. "I want to bring those people together and show that it's not about who we are socially. And I have to get myself involved in those fragmented areas and understand the best way to do that. A label helps you do that because it's a non-invasive way to let someone check out those sounds and be involved in the music — not any sort of social construct."
To launch the collective, the two decided to book an avant-garde DJ paired with a local opener to see how the night would be received. They decided on Rabit, a DJ known for playing experimental techno with unusual beats-per-minute counts processed through an array of effects pedals. While the first night of FringeWorthy had a small turnout, the event proved to the founders that Denver needed this sort of night.
"We know it's more underground than even the underground scene that we have in Denver," Lamaak says. "We knew that we were taking a risk and wanted to expose people to something different and new. We wanted to pull in the people that were already fans, and the people that were new to the music. We had a pretty good turnout, but maybe didn't bring out quite as many people as we would have liked. We are happy but not satisfied, which is a good thing, because now it pushes me to work with Corey to make something even cooler happen for the next one that we do. It keeps that drive going."
Blecha and Lamaak were then tasked with sitting down and figuring out how to move forward. Clearly, just focusing on the live-performance aspect of FringeWorthy wasn't going to be financially possible, and they didn't want to get burned out. They decided that focusing on a label as well would expand their fan base outside of the local realm and tap into a national network of people who support the music.
"I think after that show, Veronica and I decided we can't do that multiple times a year and keep that sustainable," Blecha admits. "No doubt there are some challenges getting people to come out, and we talked about doing some local shows that wouldn't cost as much, but we wanted to bring new talent; we wanted to take it to another level, so we eventually decided that putting out releases between shows was a great way to support our mission. We wanted things that don't fit into a category, music with different BPMs, stuff that is on the edge."
The first artist they signed to their label wasUlmo
, a local producer debuting his brand-new sound. This was fitting, since he was the opening artist for their first DJ night with Rabit as the headliner. His first EP,Pieces of Loathe
is a product of his drive to create music and to collaborate with FringeWorthy on the final vision.
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"Me and Corey have known each other through music for almost ten years now, and he has literally watched me grow and start messing around with sounds, so it's pretty cool to be the first one on the label," says Ulmo, whose real name is Paul Candelaria. He also goes by the alias Ether when making more straightforward, accessible dubstep. "He reached out right away and said he was planning to use my music for their first release. I was really tight with that alias and that music and wouldn't have given it to a lot of people, but it was ideal for everyone. The project I gave them had been years in the making, and it was pretty special to be a part of the first release. I didn't have the biggest expectations as much as I was down to start something and be the beginning of it. I know they want to carry out the artist's legacy and make the music their top priority."
FringeWorthy plans to release even more music, but always with the goal in mind of collaborating with the artist to create something visionary.
"We want to put the focus on the artist, the music; that's the content, and with FringeWorthy, each EP may be a little different," Blecha explains. "We won't pigeonhole ourselves into one genre, one style; [with Pieces of Loathe], we picked the tunes and order of them very consciously, and did it to make it an all-encompassing kind of experience. Hopefully people buy the whole thing, listen from start to end."
By the very nature of its name, FringeWorthy may never be accessible to all, and the founders like it that way — not because they are snobs, but because they realize that those who do understand the music will really, really love it.
"In this kind of experimental corner of music, there are smaller crowds of people who follow this music and really love it, and you will find that connection," Blecha adds. "There are people all over the world in crews that do this kind of thing; a guy in London heard about us and reached out about setting up a show when he comes out here. People who are into it will reach out and go the extra mile. Hopefully, one by one, we will build this into something that's sustainable and can last."