Label Mates: Sabo / Sol Selectas

Sol Selectas is an American label run by Sabo and it has become a leading imprint that covers a wide selection of styles ranging from afro house to electronica. The label has been responsible for some massive records and has played a vital role in the careers of Mark Alow, Gab Rhome, Armen Miran, Unders and Be Svendsen.

Tribal drums and mystic melodies that tug on the heartstrings are at the core of the labels sound. This year sees another annual compilation called Summer Sol, that for the last two years has charted No.1 on Beatport. With Summer Sol IV due to drop on June 21st we caught up with Sabo to chat about the label.

Sol Selectas first launched in 2006, tell us about the hustle of putting out your first releases?

Back in 2006, I was pressing only white label vinyl’s doing 300 copies of each release, and I hand stamped each copy with the Sol Selectas logo.  I lived in NYC at the time and had to save up for several months just to press the first one. I personally went around Manhattan and Brooklyn selling them to record stores on consignment. It was quite a bit of hustle and very time consuming, but it’s an amazing feeling to hold your own vinyl record.

And what is your typical day to day regarding the label, do you manage it yourself or is there a team behind the curtain?

The label is run entirely by myself and my fiancé Helia who does all the creative direction and artwork for the label, while I manage the music curation, and do the back end administrative work. There is not really a typical day, we just work on things as they come, and try to enjoy the process.

We receive lots of demos now, which is exciting to go through in the hopes of discovering some new talents. Every day we work several hours, and when release deadlines are approaching it can sometimes be more of a time investment. But it’s all worth it when we hear our music being played by other DJs, and at venues all around the World.

What is the hardest role in managing a label that people might not know about?

The back end administrative stuff can be difficult at first. It’s not rocket science, but its very time consuming, as even a small mistake can have a big knock-on effect to things like the release date.

The labels annual Summer Sol compilation has charted No.1 on Beatport the past two years. Can you talk us through the concept and the story that inspired it?

Summer Sol was an idea that came about to tell the story of summer and good vibrations. We wanted to showcase music that makes people feel good, featuring more organic live instrumentation, and some tracks you can sing along to.

We also wanted to help new up and coming artists get more exposure by pairing them on a comp with more well-known producers. The release gathers producers from all over the World, and presents them together as part of one project, as this shows how different scenes and cultures can join to create something unique with a positive message.

How do you usually find the music for the Summer Sol compilation, and what do you look for in the tracks that feature on the release, as each one seems to have a big tracklist?

For the first year I literally “cold-called” my favourite producers and asked them to submit a track. I told them about the idea, and many were kind enough to trust our vision enough to submit music.

Since then the popularity has grown quite a bit, and now I get tons of demos from producers looking to be a part of the compilation, many of which I end up signing. It’s really exciting to discover new talents and to know how excited some of them are to release with our label.

I’m always looking for tracks that have a unique, organic sound, and ones that don’t just try to copy what we have already released. I like music that doesn’t follow rules, blends different genres and cultures. I love tribal drums and emotive melodies, so that’s something I listen for too.

You mentioned putting out some physical releases, how have you found the transition to digital?

Vinyl is a great medium and a nice way to solidify the art in physical form, but it’s very costly and difficult to sell, especially here in the US. The transfer to digital was very smooth, mostly because we teamed up with our distributor Proton. With digital releases there is less waiting time to get your product ready for sale, and less overhead costs to worry about, which allows us to continue putting out new music on a regular basis.

We live in a time when there are thousands of new tracks coming out every day, what has been the key to keeping Sol Selectas above water in a sea of mediocre music?

The artwork that Helia creates for each release I think really plays a huge role in our success. The visual images are not only beautiful, but they really paint a picture of the music itself, which creates a full audio and visual experience.

We’re also very selective in what we sign, as it must be very well mixed, and sonically of high quality. We look for songs that are not trying to copy what’s already hot, and that don’t use obvious samples from overused packs. My main motto has always been, “Would I play this song in a DJ set myself?” If the answer is YES, then we sign it.

What record on your label are you most proud to have put out?

The first single we did for the ‘relaunch’ of Sol Selectas comes to mind right away. It includes the song Vibe Quest that features my mum playing the vibraphone, and it’s also got the first bit of artwork that Helia created for Sol Selectas.

The song Singing Game also on the EP was a track that Helia already knew and loved before we met, so it signifies the beginning of our love as well. It features a remix from Acid Pauli who is a dear friend, and a huge inspiration for me musically, so it was an honour to have him on Sol Selectas.

I’m extremely proud of every release and we work very hard to make them happen. Having seen so many relatively unknown producers release on Sol Selectas then go on to have blossoming careers afterwards is one of the best rewards for our efforts, and something we take great pride in.

And who can we expect music from on Sol Selectas in the near future?

Summer Sol IV will be up next then we have new EP’s coming from Raidho, Mark Alow, Dandara, Ali Kuru, Amentia, Zakir, Goldcap and myself. Within those releases, there are also some incredible remixes from Satori, Timboletti, Kincaid, Kermesse, Noema, and more. I’m also working on a new compilation project idea, but that is still a secret for now.

Lastly, where do you see the label in a few years time?

I hope to continue releasing timeless music that’s organic, feels good, and draws upon many cultures from around the world. I also hope to release more artist albums which focus on music for listening to outside of a club environment.

We also are looking to curate more event experiences in exotic locations that tap into pleasing all five of the senses. We want our fans to taste delicious food, smell exotic scents, be mesmerised by the location, feel the culture, and of course to dance until the sun comes up.

Sol Selectas IV is out June 21st. Grab it here.