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Interview by Katie Gregory

Nate Nelson, Jamie Strong and Hanni El Khatib formed Innovative Leisure to release a very specific kind of music: whatever kind they like.

First off, can everyone introduce themselves and tell us what you do for the company?

NATE: We all wear different hats, but basically there are three partners that oversee specific duties alongside sharing A&R duties: Nate Nelson (me)-operations, licensing, digital; Jamie Strong-marketing, sales; and Hanni El Khatib-art, branding.

Who started the label and what made you decide to do so?

NATE: I started it in 2010 when I was at Stones Throw Records as a creative outlet to release vinyl singles of bands/groups I was interested in at the time and who weren’t on Stones Throw. It evolved when I brought on Jamie, who I was working with at the time at Stones Throw, and Hanni as partners in 2011 to put out recordings that all three members were into (including Hanni's recordings).

What’s your vision for the future of the brand?

JAMIE: To put out music that we enjoy and work with bands/artists/groups that we think have strong aesthetic attributes.

What’s a typical day like for you guys?

NATE: I can speak for myself that I wake up at six or seven a.m. and start answering emails through most of my day.

JAMIE: No two days are alike with the exception of emails morning, noon and night. When dealing with artists, it’s anything but ‘typical’ which is also the beauty of what we do.

HANNI: It’s always different for me. It really just depends if I'm on the road touring or if I'm home for a break in L.A. Some days are filled with music and art, while other days I'm buried in emails and phone calls. You never know what you're gonna get with this industry.

One of the bands on your label is Rhye. When you signed them, did you expect them to blow up the way they did? Their album got a ton of hype!

NATE: We were really into the first demo we heard and both of the members’ previous projects. There’s always a financial and time risk when you sign and invest money into an act. We were fortunate that the two members took what we gave them and made an incredible album. And that we had smart marketing and art people supporting the group to make the project react like it did.

JAMIE: Being big fans of Milosh’s solo work and Robin’s work on various projects, we knew we had something incredibly special, but to what extent we had no idea. It was the perfect storm from the onset: incredible music paired with a great visual aesthetic.


What’s the music scene like out in L.A.?

NATE: Amazing and ever expanding.

Have you found that the role of the internet has helped or hindered your growing business? Do you think it’d be easier to start up a record label in, say, 1970, or would it be even harder?

NATE: The sales market isn’t what it once was. I think that’s a force of the internet. But there are different promo and marketing tools that the web provides and different revenue streams that it opens up. It’s not easier or harder opening a label in the 20Teens, just different.

What music are you all currently listening to?

NATE: Gene Clark “Two Sides To Every Story” has been on my turntable for the last few weeks. I can’t stop listening to it, it’s so good.

JAMIE: El Ten Eleven “S/T”. Casual Math Rock Vibes from 2005.  Weirdly becoming my soundtrack for the summer.

HANNI: I've got this 45 of a song called "For Goodness Sake" by Tommy Vann & The Professionals that has been on constant repeat since I got it.

Do you guys think cassettes are coming back? It seems like cassettes are kind of coming back.

NATE: Ha. I think the kids are already over cassettes now and CDs are making a comeback.

HANNI: I want laser discs to come back.

If you’re in the car and your radio is stuck on a top 40 pop station, what song do you hope comes on? We all have our guilty pleasures.

NATE: I told my wife that I actually like that new Miley Cyrus song that’s blowing up right now.  Shit-I liked her other song too; it’s always a "Party in The U.S.A." with Miley.

JAMIE: That Lumineers track. I’m waiting for someone to sample that and flip it into a dope trap beat or something with Busta Rhymes rapping on it.

HANNI: Drake "Started From the Bottom." This song just makes me want to toss money in the sky.