“I was definitely getting to the stage where I was taking things way too seriously,” laughs Kiwi popster Jordan Arts, aka HIGH HØØPS.
He is referring to the tongue-in-cheek name chosen for A Label Called Success, the record company he has set up with friend and collaborator Connor Nestor, but it applies equally to his just-released debut album Seasons On Planet Earth, which appropriately enough, is the label’s first full-length album.
While he remains deadly serious about both his art and his business, these days Arts — who enjoyed his first taste of NZ pop stardom in the late 2000s as one half of Kids Of 88 — he is concentrating on doing things that really interest him.
“In my early 20s, I would be thinking about who would enjoy my music or where it would sit in the music scene,” he says. “But now it’s just about me enjoying it — and it’s a liberating, peaceful place to be.”
The launch of A Label Called Success — which is distributed by Sony Music — represents an intriguing new chapter in Arts’ music career. As well as being a member of Kiwi pop “supergroup” Leisure — whose self-titled 2016 debut reached No. 2 on the NZ album chart — he has collaborated with artists such as Kiwi hip hop artists SWIDT and High Beams, Netherlands-based producer Moods and Australian electronic act Roland Tings, and also made music videos for the likes of Broods and Matthew Young.
The idea for starting their own label came about two years ago. “We started out putting out a bunch of music that Jordan and I had made,” says Nestor. “And then friends started sending us stuff and we put out a few more things, and it started to snowball.”
As well as HIGH HØØPS, the label’s roster include neo-soul artist Bailey Wiley, who has collaborated with the likes of Raiza Biza, PNC and Sola Rosa, electronic duo Imugi, who will be performing at next year’s NZ leg of Laneway, and Lilly Carron, who Nestor describes as an “amazing” new singer.
At this stage, the label’s plans for the latter three artists are still to be finalised, with the pair saying that it will come down to what sort of release strategy each artist wishes to follow. However, Nestor and Arts are also keen to launch a “singles club” next year, which will see a different release each month covering a wide range of new artists, with a compilation to follow at the end of 2019.
While the focus for now has been on New Zealand, A Label Called Success is also keen to make inroads into Australia. Arts recently signed with Australian booking agent Niche Productions and both are keen to start taking their artists across the Tasman.
“I think our music fits there and people are enjoying it,” Nestor says. “The number of people in Australia means that sub-cultures can thrive there. I think they are a bit more receptive to new music.”
Meanwhile, Arts is enjoying seeing the music industry from a new perspective. “It’s been interesting for me being on both sides of the coin,” he says. “You’ve got one hat, which is the creative side, the other side is a bit more briefcase-y. But we are trying make it as non briefcase-y as possible.”