Spanish producer Coyu runs the only label we know of that's also a cat protection charity…
Suara is one of the best-established techno labels around in 2020, as you undoubtedly know. What you might not know, however, is that Suara don't just release music – they also rescue cats, using profits from the label itself and their Barcelona merchandise store to fund a shelter for abandoned and mistreated felines in their native city of Barcelona.
That in itself would be as good a reason as any to award them Label Of The Month status – he types, under the watchful eye of a 10-year-old tabby called Dude, who by the way is pretty sure it must be tea-time soon. But it's not like Suara wouldn't warrant the accolade even without their altruism to our furry, four-legged chums.
Now over 400 releases deep, the label's releases regularly sit in the upper echelons of the download charts – and not just the techno charts, either, because over the course of their 12-year history there have been numerous excursions into house, tech-house and more leftfield territory, too. In fact, Suara's biggest-selling release to date has been Tube & Berger's Imprint Of Pleasure, a 2013 cut with decided Balearic inclinations, while label owner Coyu cites the release of an EP's worth of Moby remixes in 2017 as a personal highlight among the extensive back catalogue. That said, it's definitely techno for which the label is best known, with the likes of Alan Fitzpatrick, Dosem, Edu Imbernon and Marko Nastic all having chalked up Suara releases.
These days, Suara employs a team of eight people – pretty impressive when you consider that originally, Suara was merely an offshoot of Coyu's first label, Atypical Farm. That former parent ceased operations in 2012, leaving Suara to take over the flagship role – and since then, in the words of Lennon & McCartney, things have been getting better all the time.
With a brand new EP out today, Coyu tells us more…
How do you describe Suara's music policy?
"We like to stay open-minded when it comes to music from multiple genres, but Suara is mainly a techno-focused label these days. I just need to fall in love with a track to make it a release."
You launched the label in 2008. That was about the time the dance music industry was starting to recover and rebuild after the great label, club and distributor die-off of the mid-00s…how important was timing to your success, do you think?
"The success of Suara came after six years' hard work, and we didn't really become a notable and established label until 2014. So I don't think timing was really relevant to the success of the label, but most definitely consistency was!
"I think we would actually be much bigger if I had started my career a few years before, as the 90s and early 00s were the best moments in the industry, I think, when a lot of the long-established and successful labels started out. It was a different time then, for both artists and labels."
Looking through the artists roster on your website, there's a mix of established and more up-and-coming names. Supporting underground artists is clearly important to you… but is that an artistic or a commercial decision, or a bit of both?
"This is something I am very passionate about, and it's most definitely an artistic decision. I have always enjoyed supporting young and up-and-coming artists, and to be able to get them on a larger platform and their name alongside some really established and recognised names worldwide is the best way to do this.
"I am here because I love music, and it’s not about the money. I think anyone who looks for riches when starting a label will soon realise that's the wrong approach!"
As well as the label you also put on Suara nights across the world… how important is the club side of things to the Suara brand as a whole?
"When the label gets to a certain size and has a lot of solid releases under its belt, this means we have access to a greater selection of artists. Some of those artists are regulars and are known as part of the Suara family, so then it makes sense to think about starting your own events.
"This was a natural progression for us, and the parties and line-ups are a good way to show the kind of brand you are, as well as the music you represent. It’s not easy doing events: there is a lot to be thought about, and a lot can go wrong. It takes time, but they are worth it when you build the brand successfully."
Those nights include an Ibiza residency… are you still hoping to be there this summer, in light of CV-19? If not, how big a blow is that going to be for yourselves and other labels?
"I really don't want to be negative or seem pessimistic here, but I don't think we’ll be partying again until the end of the year. Even then, the big clubs and festivals will not be able to operate events of that scale, and it’s going to be capped. Ibiza for me, was a huge step for the label, so of course we are disappointed, but there is nothing we can do. I wish it was different, but we are in the middle of a pandemic and it's down to the Government.
"At the end of the day, safety comes first. So yes, it's a blow, but we are all in this together, and we’ll get back as soon as we can."
I'm pretty sure you're the only label we've ever spoken to that also runs a cat sanctuary! So tell us about that…
"Ha ha ha, no doubt that's true! The Suara Foundation was established in 2011, and it was designed to give back to all the cats for the love they give humans. All of our artist is different, that's a lot of cats we have had to do now that we are over 400 releases. We fast became THE cat label for many fans.
"My girlfriend started the foundation with me and she is a vet, so it's something we have close to our hearts. We now even have a cat house, in Barcelona's El Born neighbourhood, where we keep rescued cats until they find a new home. Fans and tourists can visit, play with the cats and donate, and the locals can also adopt them."
You're based in Barcelona, one of the worst-affected regions in the coronavirus outbreak. Once this is all over, what role might electronic music and club culture have to play in helping the world get back on its feet?
"After so many people being locked in their homes for what looks to be at least a couple of months, I think everyone will want to get out, see their friends and celebrate freedom. Music and club culture is and always will be an essential part of helping people ‘let go’ and to be themselves in a safe environment. I think the clubs will be eager to get back to business, line-ups will be stacked, and everyone will be heading out as soon as they can."
Finally, what else is going on in Suara's world right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
"We are trying to save the Suara Foundation. It's a small project, but it depends and runs on the money and donations that we receive, as well as the money which I earn from touring to keep it running. We do of course have sales from music and merchandise, which I put towards the Foundation, but sometimes it’s not enough on its own. We are looking to keep funding going, to help stray cats and those which may have been ill-treated and rescued. Any donation helps – but we do understand that this is a hard time for everyone financially.
"And my own next release is the first in a series of EPs called Technostalgia – its ethos is all about getting back to producing and releasing a sound which first inspired me to make music."
Words: Russell Deeks