We’re often told good things come to those who wait – that if we politely knock on the door, eventually we’ll get an answer. Sometimes though, when we’re not heard, it’s better to kick down the door. That’s exactly the approach Swedish duo Mr. Top Hat (Rudolf Nordström) and Art Aflie (Oscar Wedren) took when early demos they sent out to labels went unnoticed. The pair, who craft a sublime blend of Disco-infused party House and Techno, decided to take matters into their own hands by establishing their imprint Karlovak in 2013 as a way of releasing the multitude of late night party bangers they were sitting on. Fill yourself in with the beginnings of Mr. Top Hat and Art Alfie by reading our interview with them in London last year.
In the past two years their work rate has been nothing short of exceptional – having released nine of their own records on Karlovak as well as on labels such as No Fit State and Bass Culture, the pair might just be some of the hardest working producers at the moment. They’ve also set up a sub-label, Karlovak Chrome, as an outlet for some of their darker work. Conventionally, such a large number of releases in a short space of time would be seen as overkill but the pair have managed to keep a consistent quality throughout their music, swiftly ascending in popularity with DJ support from the likes of Marcel Dettmann, Ricardo Villalobos, Jamie Jones, Sven Väth, Loco Dice, Nina Kraviz and Adam Beyer.
It’s an unusual feat to self-release so many records in two years, and one that begged the question when the rising Stockholm Disco fanatics would take on other artists. The answer is a new branch of the label, dubbed the KRLVK series – it gives the guys a chance to unveil a slew of exclusive cuts from acclaimed artists such as UK dance floor slayer Radio Slave and Chicago House legend DJ Jes.
First up in the series is seminal British Techno don Ben Sims, a notably large-scale artist to sign to a label that started with such modest intentions. He’ll be releasing his new EP ‘Criss Disco Biscuits Vol 1’ under his alter-ego Ron Bacardi on May 23 via the KRLVK series. The four rolling Disco-infused House and Techno numbers demonstrate Sims’s versatility as a designer of prime time sounds and sets the bar high for the rest of the series. Take in the frantic House stylings of ‘Make Some Love’ that we have to stream exclusively below from the upcoming EP.
We also spoke with the Karlovak bosses Mr.Top Hat and Art Alfie over email to discuss their take on the Swedish House scene, the logistics of running a label and what they have planned for the future – see below…
Scandinavia has been cited as a hotbed of Disco in recent years thanks to the likes of Todd Terje, Prins Thomas and yourselves. Do you guys feel part of a wider geographical movement of artists?
Not really. If something we’re part of a Swedish movement. A Swedish movement crossed with the German and US scene. We felt a certain kind of sound was missing in the current House and Techno scene, that no one was really into so we came up with the idea of Karlovak.
Can you tell us more about the Karlovak Chrome series? You’ve previously stated that you’re not really promoting it – do you plan to release anything else on it in the future?
We needed an output where rules didn’t apply – where it could be 100% emotion. When we DJ we can end up a little here and there, and we both love when the dance-floor gets really demented. Chrome is vinyl only to keep the tracks special – in our opinion you can’t do digital promos and call it vinyl only. The output is definitely darker and more experimental than Karlovak.
We have stuff coming up on Chrome, one EP is finished and should drop in the near future and we’ve been playing it a lot the last year or so. There’s also a lot of work in progress.
As a pair you’ve had nine successful releases on your own label Karlovak – now with the KRLVK series is there any reason why it has taken this long to release music from other artists – just waiting for the right artist/release?
We’ve always wanted to release other artists on Karlovak but at the same time we wanted the output to be highly stringent and conceptual. So we thought we’d start a new series where we received music we thought sounded like it would fit the label. We’ve received a lot of demos – some were quite good, but nothing felt 100% right until now.
The first release in your new KRLVK series is from Ben Sims as his alter ego Ron Bacardi – can you talk about how you came to work with him?
Ben has been very supportive from day one. He’s done a lot of similar stuff to us in the past so it was quite natural to ask him if he wanted to release on KRLVK. He accepted and sent us this bomb of an EP that we’re very grateful for!
You also have releases lined up from Radio Slave as well as Chicago House legend DJ Jes – would you say he’s had an influence on your sound at all?
Both the mentioned producers are personal heroes to us. They both bring a certain housy swag that we love. They’ve definitely influenced our sound and we’re thrilled to work with them!
When we spoke to you last year you mentioned you only make music together when you are side by side in the same space and that it’s generally very productive – with the more administrative responsibilities of running a label do you find this impacts making music?
A label assistant is definitely on the bucket list! Neither of us are really into the administrative side of running a label, unfortunately it does take a lot of time away from making music.
Criss Disco Biscuits Vol 1 is out May 23 on Karlovak. You can pre-order a copy a here.