Nathan McLay: “We had dipped our toe in but were curious to go deeper”.

Nathan McLay: “We had dipped our toe in but were curious to go deeper”.

You have probably heard of Future Classic. If not, you have definitely heard their artists music. Nathan McLay is the Co-Founder and CEO of the grammy award winning independent record label, artist management team, touring agency and music publisher. Representing artists like Flume, Flight Facilities, Chat Faker, SOPHIE, G Flip and Jagwar Ma to name a few, Future Classic is one of the most respected companies in the music industry today. In 2015, Nathan moved from Sydney to Los Angeles to establish a US base. Four years in, we spoke with Nathan about creative life in LA and some inside tips for the city.

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ON WHERE YOU’RE FROM

Sydney, Australia.

ON SETTING UP IN THE USA 

I moved to the US to setup our music business – Future Classic – in Los Angeles.

ON YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH LA 

I’m growing fonder of it the longer I live here. There’s lots to like about it but also plenty that’s fucked up.

ON WINDOW SEAT OR AISLE 

Window seats. I’ve never stopped enjoying the perspective from the air and checking out what we’re flying over – especially mountains.

Top: Downtown Los Angeles from Griffith Park. Bottom: Chad Gillard, Jay Ryves and Nathan McLay in LA. Image courtesy Nathan McLay. 

ON YOUR TRANSITION INTO LA 

Coming from Sydney there’s lots of similarities so it was relatively easy, but there’s also some differences that are jarring and take some adjusting to. The disparity of wealth is more pronounced here and the undercurrent of violence is disturbing. That we start to get desensitized to this over time is troubling. Both Australia and the USA have their problems but seeing a larger system dysfunctional reinforces how important it is for us as a society to work at improving life and infrastructure for more of the population.

Those short stints gave us all a taste of LA as a transit zone for artists and others in creatively adjacent fields. We had dipped our toe in but were curious to go deeper, so Harley, Jay, Chad and I all moved to LA”.

ON CONNECTING WITH LOCAL CULTURE 

On a personal level our kids go to a great local public elementary school that has fostered a sense of local community which we are very appreciative of. There’s lots of parents doing interesting work and creative things but also putting time into family and being on a level with the kids.

Professionally we’ve been reasonably pro-active in connecting with the local creative community with various events in our studios, office and carpark at Future Classic that have ranged from a panel on building and designing artists live shows, a screening and Q&A with some of our favourite music video directors, a vinyl record fair and various other things. We have a partnership with Dropbox who have helped facilitate a number of interesting creative community building initiatives we’ve been interested in.

Top: Flume live in concert. Photo by Casey Flanigan. Bottom: Nathan McLay, Flume and the Future Classic team at The Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Image courtesy Future Classic.

ON HOW FUTURE CLASSIC WAS BORN    

My wife Jay Ryves and I started Future Classic in 2004 as an outlet for our creative projects. Jay came from a visual arts background, I was into music and the idea of building a creative company around artists. We were soon joined by Chad Gillard who became our first employee and is now one of a handful of employee-owners.

ON FUTURE CLASSIC LANDING LA

In 2015 Harley Streten (Flume) was interested in relocating to LA to work on his second album so we moved over temporarily with him for six months to help setup sessions and collaborations and support him in the process. The following year he was touring that album [Skin] in North America for three months on a bus so we based ourselves in LA to be close to the touring party and join him for a bunch of the shows.

Those short stints gave us all a taste of LA as a transit zone for artists and others in creatively adjacent fields. We had dipped our toe in but were curious to go deeper, so Harley, Jay, Chad and I all moved to LA and we’ve been here since. We’ve since opened our FC space in Frogtown and brought a few other people across from the Sydney office while maintaining a team there also. 

Coming from Sydney there’s lots of similarities.. Both Australia and the USA have their problems but seeing a larger system dysfunctional reinforces how important it is for us as a society to work at improving life and infrastructure for more of the population.

ON WHAT IS UNIQUE TO LA’S MUSIC CULTURE 

It seems to exists on a few different levels. There’s a small organic local scene like you find in many cities that is not easily visible at first – warehouse parties in DTLA, small venues that have a community of locals around them. Then there’s those artist’s who are passing through, doing lots of collaborative sessions, working on projects and bouncing from city to city, never settling. On a bigger scale there’s the immense concerts at amazing venues like the Hollywood Bowl, The Greek, Rose Bowl and the big arena shows at The Forum and Staples that are incredible experiences for seeing the big artists play at scale.

Top: The LACMA. Bottom: Surfing and hiking. Images courtesy Nathan McLay.

ON WHERE YOU FIND CREATIVE INSPIRATION IN LA 

I love the large scale art galleries here – MOCA, The Broad, LACMA, The Getty are a few of the must see’s if you are into visual art (and great architecture). For outdoors we go for hikes in Griffith Park and surrounds and I try to get to the coast for a surf when possible on the weekends – it’s no comparison to the Aussie beaches but there’s still something magical about the classic Malibu / Ventura early mornings when the mist is low and the sun is burning through with the hills in the background. Last winter we got some good cold weather and got into the backcountry of the Angeles Forest where there’s a couple of family run ski-fields – Mount Baldy & Mount Waterman – both of which are within an hour and a half from DTLA and just remind you how much is just outside the city. The same goes with Big Sur and Yosemite – we’ve found getting out of the city helps us appreciate living in LA.

ON A FEW FAVORITE FOOD SPOTS 

Botanica in Silverlake for fresh salad-y lunches and dinners.

Guisados or late night Taco Zone (food truck) for classic Mexican, or Salazar for the fancier hipster version.

Little Dom’s in Los Feliz for classic (American) Italian fare and great booths.

Top: Flume live in concert. Bottom: Nathan McLay and the Future Classic team. Images courtesy Nathan McLay.

ON GOOD LA MUSIC VENUES 

The Lodge Room in Highland Park and Zebulon in Frogtown are a couple of the nicest smaller rooms but we’re pretty spoiled for choice with lots of great venues. The Moroccan lounge is one of the last independent spots and often has good programming. 1720, Teragram, The Wiltern, Echoplex. 

ON SUGGESTIONS FOR A FRIEND PASSING THROUGH THE CITY

How about a dinner party with some locals followed by a backyard concert in the backstreets of Echo Park?

ON LA IN ONE WORD 

Paradoxical.

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Nuggets in this interview

events

Moroccan Lounge, LA

"The Moroccan lounge is one of the last independent spots and often has good programming".

–Nathan McLay

events

Zebulon, LA

"The Lodge Room in Highland Park and Zebulon in Frogtown are a couple of the nicest smaller rooms but we’re pretty spoiled for choice with lots of great venues".

–Nathan McLay

events

Lodge Room, LA

"The Lodge Room in Highland Park and Zebulon in Frogtown are a couple of the nicest smaller rooms".

–Nathan McLay

food and drink

Little Dom’s, LA

"Little Dom’s in Los Feliz for classic (American) Italian fare and great booths".

–Nathan McLay

food and drink

Botanica, LA

"Botanica in Silverlake for fresh salad-y lunches and dinners".

–Nathan McLay

food and drink

Guisados, LA

"Guisados or late night Taco Zone (food truck) for classic Mexican".

–Nathan McLay

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