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Label Insight: Crossings

A boutique electronic music label and platform for artists and local heroes from around the globe and their respective communities to interact and grow, Crossings has been steadily growing while staying true to its underground ethos. Pushing a handful of selected releases each year, Crossings has catapulted the careers of names such as Joep Mencke, Parallells, or Bondarev, while also exhibiting the works of Swann Decamme, Yoram, Badin Brothers, and more.

Today, EG caught up with the Crossings team to learn more about their vision, past and future releases, running a label throughout the pandemic, their selection process, and more.

Electronic Groove: Hello Crossings team! It’s an absolute pleasure to have you here with us. How have you been? What have you been up to?

Crossings: Hey EG! Thank you for having us. Our Founder and Label Manager Aymen alongside our Co-Owner and Artist & Repertoire Leith are representing Crossings today. We are honored to be your guests. We feel great and excited. Life is finally back to normal and so is our ability to gather again for festive occasions, with friends and good music, after 2 challenging years. The summer season is here, and we have many releases in the pipeline.

Electronic Groove: That’s great to hear. Can you guys tell us how’s the label at the moment? Was it hard to kick Crossings through these ‘pandemic’ years?

Crossings (Aymen): It was quite a challenge to keep doing what we do during the last 2 years. Crossings always had people and festiveness in its DNA, and it wasn’t obvious to deliver upbeat and dancefloor-friendly music under the circumstances. We decided to delay our releases and do less. It was one of those moments when we knew it was about preparing for the future and just maintaining the direction of travel at a “low altitude”. That said, we released a couple of good EPs, including a remix from Michel Cleis, whom we also invited for a video stream and DJ set to celebrate our 5th anniversary on Ibiza Sonica.

On a more positive note, in some ways the pandemic has been a moment of rebirth for the electronic music scene, shifting back the focus on local curators and no longer exclusively shining the spotlight on global celebrity-level DJs and producers. In return, this has allowed a new generation of talents to reveal themselves.

From the London scene, we’re particularly delighted to see our good friends and Crossings family members Sacha Yonan and LICA find their sound and evolve into mature and sophisticated curators. They’ve impressed crowds and promoters alike and are on a solid upwards global trajectory.

Crossings came out of the pandemic with confidence and conviction in its ethos, as a boutique label and platform, discovering, revealing, and empowering talents of tomorrow. Our approach will continue to be organic and underground. While we are very serious about what we do, we are not business-oriented and look to continue the pursuit of our ethos in the short, medium, and long term.

Electronic Groove: So, how did Crossings come together? What is the original ethos and mission behind the label?

Crossings (Aymen): After deciding to stop my Artist Management project, I co-founded the label in November 2015 with my former partner and good friend Ampish. Back then, the idea was to support artists and help them grow, while focusing as much as possible on quality music we love. The following year, I moved to London and Ampish decided to step down from the label to pursue other personal projects.

I was managing the label on my own for a short period, and although it was going well (I signed the first ever releases of new talents like Joep Mencke and Parallells during that time), I was 100% convinced that I needed a partner – a DJ or an Artist who would be more credible as A&R and who would solely focus on the artistic direction and solidifying the label’s ethos, while I would do the rest. Then, I met Leith in London. And it was clear to me that he was born to run a music label. His passion for music was unparalleled and he has spent years living it as DJ, producer, radio host, and event organizer. He has sent shockwaves in the North African music scene by organizing events like ‘HYPE’, ‘Art Fair’, and ‘Naboo’, where, along with Aziz Kallel, he booked Âme (Live + DJ), Gerd Johnson, Tale of Us, David August, and Anja Schneider to name a few. As a DJ, he has a unique signature and decades-long knowledge of music and depth of catalog. More importantly – the guy had a vision! In addition, he shared my belief in having a non-business-oriented imprint centered around underground values. He was the partner I needed. Now I had to convince him to join!

The label ethos was the reason Leith and I were bound for the long term. The purpose was to search for, discover, and provide a platform to support local heroes and talents of tomorrow. Leith accepted to join as partner and A&R. Within a month, he signed a new artist from St Petersburg, Bondarev, who released his first ever EP, ‘Full Of Love’ on Crossings. Bondarev, like many artists who started on Crossings, went on to have a prolific career and is now an established touring artist we are very proud of. Within a few weeks, the Crossings platform was on. We both knew that we found each other.

Electronic Groove: Right now, the label is running into its 43rd release. with the drop of ‘Swann Decamme & Oktave – Resilience’. How would you define the sound of the label by now?

Crossings (Leith): The range of sounds is varied, generally depending on the time of the year the release is made. However, all the releases have the following three common features: melody, space, and sonic balance.

“The label ethos was the reason Leith and I were bound for the long term. The purpose was to search for, discover, and provide a platform to support local heroes and talents of tomorrow”

Electronic Groove: What about new music? How do you guys go about selecting which new submissions to sign? What do you generally look for? We know that most times, it also has to do with the artist behind the music. What do you look for there? Do you take ‘names’ into account

Crossings (Leith): A core component of our process is the search for unknown new talents, with potential and a certain spark. We receive demos by email directly, through recommendations from Crossings artists, promoters, and friends. I also do some proactive searching by going to varied events and digging through Proton’s demo reel. I then spend time at the studio listening to the music and looking into the artists that I’m excited about. Once I have a shortlist, I’ll run it past Aymen and test it on the dance floor.

We don’t look for names but for artists which could fit within our ethos, core artists, and global community – cool, collaborative, open-minded people, with underground values and a no-ego, truthful personality.

As we only do five releases a year, there are plenty of good demos we are unable to sign, and adding this human element to our selection process helps make sure that, alongside the music, we strengthen our core platform for local heroes, artists, and their respective community to interact and grow.

Electronic Groove: There’s been a clear visual revamp, which seems to differ from what Crossings had us accustomed to. How and why did you settle on that particular style? What are you looking to transmit through them? Do you see the artwork as a piece that can enhance or reinforce the message behind the music?

Crossings (Leith): I have always been fascinated by the dynamic dichotomy between music and visual arts. With plenty of time on my hands during the repeated lockdowns, I spent a fair bit of time honing my skills on the latter. Aymen really liked my work and we both decided it would be appropriate when we kick-start the new post-pandemic cycle.

The visuals for the releases kept many of our previous hallmarks – merged sceneries, multiple layers of perspective, and that one man looking at the horizon – I added a touch of abstract, frames and calligraphy merged within the visual – with the background canvas being an original photograph I took myself (photography being another one of my passions).

For our ‘Crossings’ monthly radio show on Proton, we wanted to underline the global and diverse nature of our artists and extended community. While we are a London-based imprint, our artists come from 21 different cities spanning five continents and multiple cultural backgrounds. Pluralism and diversity are key components of Crossings’ DNA, which we wanted to also express through a visual medium.

Electronic Groove: Which release would you recommend to someone looking to get into the sound of Crossings? Any personal favorites?

Crossings (Aymen): ‘Resilience’ would be a perfect start. A release from two immensely talented artists, Swann Decamme and Oktave – and which includes a remix from Joep Mencke, a friend and defining artist for Crossings. His first ever release in 2016, ‘Shelter In The Sky’, was the inception of many bonds we built in Amsterdam. It has become a second home for Crossings, a special place where we discovered superb new talents, had great fun, and made lifelong friendships.

As part of Swann and Oktave’s Crossings debut, we suggested a remix from a Crossings artist on the EP. Leith and I were delighted they chose Joep and thought he would be a perfect fit. Joep listened to Resilience, loved it, and agreed to remix it.

Bringing together like-minded artists, which we believe would be a good match, is one aspect of the job Leith and I are most excited about. We’ve seen those connections grow into successful business collaborations, lifelong friendships, and sometimes even a mix of both.

We love all the tracks we sign without exception, but to give you some examples of personal favorites (or let’s say tracks which have a personal meaning) I would say:

  • Joep Mencke – Azul (Original Mix)
  • Hotel Rubio – Smoke Signals (Original Mix)
  • Chappano – Deadline (Savvas Remix)
  • &Less – Reverie (Original Mix) – this forms part of the first ever EP &Less has released
  • Yoram – Limerence (Original Mix)
  • Parea (formerly Anima) – Astra (Original Mix)

Crossings (Leith): I second that. ‘Resilience’ is very much a personal favorite, alongside Bondarev’s ‘Full Of Love’. I also highly recommend:

  • Sander & Salerno ft. Oneroi – Relève Toi (Michel Cleis Remix)
  • Badin Brothers – Monkey Flute (Original Mix)
  • Sander & Salerno ft. Oneroi – Relève Toi (Original Mix)
  • Savvas – Flying Heart (Vander & Joe Finch Remix)
  • Sander – Floraison (Original Mix) [Reflections Vol. 1]
  • VANDER – Blue Eyes (Original Mix) [Reflections Vol. 1] – which is part of the first EP that VANDER has ever released.

“We don’t look for names but for artists which could fit within our ethos, core artists, and global community – cool, collaborative, open-minded people, with underground values and a no-ego, truthful personality”

Electronic Groove: How hard is it to grow while balancing the financial aspects of running a label and also trying to stay true to that initial artistic motivation that led to its foundation?

Crossings (Leith): Very hard, especially if the label is your main business and only source of revenue. With time and grounding challenges, Aymen and I have very much accepted that music was what makes us happy, and look forward to – and that it would be very difficult to truly make a living entirely through the label, without compromising the label’s ethos and organic growth. Thankfully we both make a decent living from our other professional activities (I’m a lawyer and Aymen works in real estate investment).

Crossings (Aymen): It is counterintuitive, but not having any “business” targets has allowed us to perform well, as we focused on content and let the music make its effect. It is fascinating to think that ‘Joep Mencke – Azul (Original Mix)’ has been thousands of Shazams and nearly 100k plays on SoundCloud although we have never partnered with any media to cross-promote it.

Electronic Groove: What else can we expect from Crossings in the future? What plans are in store for the brand?

Crossings (Aymen and Leith): Some very good releases in the pipeline, including one from Badin Brothers that we’re very excited about. We are also working on two label showcases in the fall, in London and Amsterdam, and very much look forward to returning to ADE for the first time since the pandemic.

Finally, we’ve been working on our long-term foundation project whose mission and first actions will be announced very soon!

Swann Decamme & Oktave’s ‘Resilience’ is out now via Crossings. Purchase your copy here.

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