Instrumental music label Inner Ocean Records has been bringing the finest assortment of lofi beat tapes, compilations, and vinyl all year long. Starting back in 2012 and based in Calgary, the international label has assisted with releases by Borealism, Oatmello, bsd.u, Eevee, Idealism, and plenty more. That's this year alone.
Having covered a great deal of their content throughout 2017 and fresh off of the release of a 2.5 hour compilation (featured below), I reached out to Cory, who runs the label, and asked him a bit about his process, his future, and mixing business with pleasure.
Hey, how's it going? Can you introduce yourself/your label a bit?
I’m doing good mate, thanks for the interview, always a fan of your writing. I’m Cory, I run Inner Ocean Records, a boutique label that I started in 2012. The focus of the label is to feature talented independent musicians, producers and visual artists, all wrapped up in a cozy little package. At the end of the day we make sure to never lose sight of the core principle; we do this for the love of music and community, forever keep it chill.
You just released 2.5 hours of music. Did you plan on it being that lengthy or did you just have that many submissions?
The FUTURES series, and most recently the BLESS series, have always been a huge success in terms of people really jiving with the concept and music, so yes we did intend to make it long. The longer the album the more different artists we can feature and hopefully everyone can get stoked on working together on such a big project. We can only release so many full albums in a year so these massive compilations are our way of trying to be as inclusive in the community as possible.
In regards to your compilations, is the curating process mainly gathered from submissions? Or do you seek out certain artists for exclusive songs?
For these series of compilations yes we rely on submissions, I think it’s the fairest way to get people on the project. I listen to each submission on a level playing field and choose tracks to fit a certain overall mood and try to create some dynamics. I think FUTURES 4 achieved this, I really tried to get a lot of different sounds and influences together; always trying to push the boundaries of “lo fi” or what people think our sound is. We are however working on compilations that will be based on music that we seek out and put together for something different from these other compilation series.
You've released so many great tapes this year. Borealism, Oatmello, Idealism, Eevee all come to mind. Is it tough to multitask so many releases?
Thank you! To answer your question simply, yes it is! Working so many projects is definitely a challenge, especially now that we are releasing vinyl LP’s. With the tape releases we do everything in our studio, so from the time that we are given the final tracks and artwork to when we can release the album is only a couple weeks, this is one of the amazing things about tape cassettes. With vinyl we obviously have a much longer wait time to get the copies delivered and the expense is much much greater so my workflow is altered a bit for this. Moving forward you’ll probably see releases coming out less frequently and we will be taking our time a bit more since we are going to focus on trying to make every new release be on Vinyl, Tape and Digital.
Outside of instrumental hip-hop/lofi beats, what kind of music have you been listening to recently?
I’ve been really developing my inner vinyl junkie and we have several really great record stores here in Calgary that have amazing used records if you have the time to dig. One spot in particular, Recordland, has over 1 million records and I’ve been taking home all kinds of music, Jazz, Soul/Funk, R&B and Hip Hop. At the moment I’m on a real 80’s & 90’s tip, especially if they are Japanese or African artists. I treat digging records like music university [laughs], I pick out albums that catch my eye and I will often YouTube it on my phone. To be honest if the cover is really dope I know it will have something rad on it. I’m right at least 75% of the time but what I think is rad most people might think is cheese [laughs].
Is it hard to listen to music for pleasure when you're so focused on the releases of the label?
It seems counter intuitive, but yes sometimes it is hard to listen for pleasure. I think that’s what I love about digging records, it’s a total unknown for me and when I bring home good stuff I get really excited about the music. There is a small crew of friends here in town, we DJ parties and events semi frequently, this has really helped me get back into really searching for new sounds. When your friends play dope tracks that you have never heard before from an artist you’ve never heard of gets me stoked.
I get a lot of people sending me their tracks on a daily basis, 90% of the time with just a link and “listen to my track, it fits with your label”. No introduction or anything about themselves, and then the same message will be blasted across all our social channels and email [laughs]. Moral of the story is it isn’t very inspiring to go through and listen to all these tracks, definitely a challenge to stay motivated sometimes.
I was just talking to a friend about cassettes and vinyl still being very popular. As the world grows more digitized, do you think there will also be a place for physical copies of music?
I’m down with digital music, it's necessary and gets your music out to a much larger audience. I personally think physical copies give music a greater value than if it exists purely in a digital realm. I’m not saying that I think everyone should collect physical formats, but we love them and will continue to make them for all the other people who love them as well. I imagine that people will be collecting physical music for quite some time still.
What's the rest of the year (and early 2018) looking like for Inner Ocean?
Before the years end we will have a couple new LP releases. The latest from Bilo 503, “Bayybe”, which is much anticipated, been working on this for about a year and this will be his last release as Bilo 503. It’s a really gorgeous way to end that project. We also have a new album by Dominic Pierce, “Hoop Loop$”, he’s one of my close friends and probably one of the most talented/productive producers I know. This new album is on a 90’s R&B tip with tracks that really hook you in; the right amount of pop sensibility and enough lofi that you can’t not like these tracks [laughs].
Of course there are like 20 more projects in our vault that we are really excited about, but will keep secret ;) Oh yeah, watch soon for a vinyl LP of bsd.u - lighter, which we put out over 3 years ago. This one is a lofi classic must-have.
Do you have any advice for independent labels trying to gain more attention/success?
I have a lot of people approach me asking about how to do their own label. My advice to everyone is do it exactly how you want to do it and be patient. I’m personally not very good at following rules and while I did have inspiration labels that I followed when I started, I followed no set path or “this is how it should be”. Inner Ocean ended up being nothing like I would have imagined and I don’t think we operate like a traditional label. Role models are important for some guidance but if people just do things their own way then we end up with a much more vibrant and interesting music community in my eyes. My last point is the importance of collaboration and not thinking of it as a competition between labels and artists. When everyone works together for a common cause, the community as a whole is more healthy and everyone can be supported.
Do you have any final thoughts / words of wisdom?
I’ve learned a lot about myself answering these questions haha, so thanks:) I have no more wisdom, only gratitude for everyone that has supported what we and many others do. We feel very blessed.