Interview with Inner Ocean's Founder Cory Giordano on Latest Compilation, the Journey so Far, and Future Plans
I've been aware of Inner Ocean's work since I started Stereofox. At first I was mostly impressed with the cool sound they always had put out as a label, but once we launched Stereofox Records in 2019 I often used them as an example and guidiling light of what (i think) a label should be doing - from both attention to artists and their craft, to sound and visual consistency. The Canadian label is one of the best in the beat scene (in my opinion), so supporting them has always been a priority for me. I met Cory - Inner Ocean's founder online (like i mostly do) a few years ago, but never had a chance to peak truly into the world of the label, so I am glad we had a chance to do this interview and tell you more about the cool stuff these guys have been up to.
Before anything - Inner Ocean's new compilation FUTURES Vol. 7 drops on June 23rd and you can pre-order it now. It features great producers and friends like Metic, Es-K, sftspkn, David Chief, Kontekst, steezy prime, Devon Rea, and Just Big Hills.
Bursting from the collective genius of some of the most promising new artists on our radar—and together with many treasured friends of the label — FUTURES Vol. 7 is a dutiful assemblage of soulful lo-fi, chill-out, and jazz-infused beats.
Hi Cory, tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a second-generation Italian-Canadian, born and raised in Calgary, Alberta. I’m a self-taught musician, been playing guitar since I was 14 years old. I played in lots of different bands when I was young and then discovered electronic music and festivals in my early 20’s which started me on the path to where I am today. I’ve always been digging into music of all genres, playing music, doing DJ sets; music is just a way of life.
What's the most random fact most people around you probably don't know?
My favourite TV show to watch is Ru Paul’s Drag Race! Die hard fan. Love the fashion, love the attitudes and all that shade ;)
Inner Ocean is about to turn 10 years. Nothing, but respect for you and your team. How would you describe the journey so far?
Thanks so much! Hard to believe it’s been almost 10 years! That time goes by really fast. The journey has been a slow and steady progression, a very natural evolution of growth. Nothing has been an overnight success, we have always just worked really hard and tried to be consistent while taking risks on the things we believe in.
Why did you start Inner Ocean in the first place?
I had released music on a few small indie labels in the past and I would always think about how it would have been nice if things were done a little differently. I kept thinking I should just start my own label for myself and my friends, approach it with transparency and build trust. I planned everything out at the beginning of 2012 and launched later that September. It started as a side passion project that I did in my spare time and then turned into my full time job since 2015.
Who besides yourself is behind Inner Ocean?
I’ve had various people work with me over the years and had a few interns. Right now the team is Stephanie the label manager, Dominic directing creative, and myself doing everything in between. I love having a small team with a diverse range of skill sets, we have a lot of fun!
Without lows, there are no highs, but people rarely speak about that. What's the moment you felt closest to just calling it quits (if you had such a moment?)
At least once a year I have moments of thinking about calling it quits. Self-doubt always seems to creep in and I find it’s just one of those things that you have to continually overcome. I think it would be the same story no matter what I was doing. As a creative person you always continually analyze everything you put out there and see all the mistakes and how it could have been better.
Whats the proudest moment you ever had so far?
The proudest moments are really when people drop us positive comments. People email or DM us to say a release was their favourite songs of the summer or they loved their new Tshirt and wore it so much that it got worn out so they had to grab another one to replace it. Those little affirmations to us really are the major highlights.
You guys love the physical embodiment of music - vinyls, and tapes - something not everyone does nowadays. If you have to give advice to a label like ours that is still yet to move into this space what would that be?
We do physicals because we grew up listening to physicals, to me that’s just an inherent part about listening to and collecting music. The physical copies hold a special place in our hearts and really helps solidify the projects as important artifacts of music history. Printing physicals obviously adds a lot of cost to the budgets and takes a lot more time to put together and get printed. I support any label looking to press physical copies! Very satisfying holding in your hands a fresh LP that you worked on for months and months, just takes a bit more patience:)
You're launching your FUTURES Vol. 7 compilation on June 23rd! What was the selection process like and the theme behind it? I love the visuals and the singles you've put out so far.
The FUTURES series is our longest running compilation that we started back in 2014. Each album we always try to change up the sound a little bit, explore new territory and use it as an opportunity to discover and showcase new artists that we haven’t worked with before. We typically open up submissions to the public, we listen to everything and select the tracks based on what we think will create a nice dynamic flow to the album. This year's theme that we worked off of for the music selection and artwork is “the continual and magical realization of artistic potential.
Nowadays artists often pull away from working with labels - lots of grim stories in the industry (unfortunately) - if an independent artist is thinking to work with a label, what would you advice them to look for or be careful about when negotiating?
Yes, not all labels operate the same and I hate to see the horror stories. The music industry tools and opportunities available to artists now certainly make it very possible that artists don’t need labels at all! I know lots of artists out there killing it on their own and I love to see that since it wasn’t so much that way when we started in 2012. I really think each artist should approach it knowing what their strengths and weaknesses are, they might find that they can do everything themselves and that works for them. Or they might want to seek out a label that would offer a complementary skill set to what they are already doing to help them further their goals and career plans.
What's the hardest thing you had to sacrifice in the name of running Inner Ocean?
My personal time. I’ve obsessively worked on Inner Ocean for so many years and haven’t taken that much time off. In recent years I have definitely developed a better work/life balance but it’s always easy to work too much.
What's your dream for the label?
My dream, which is still the original dream, is for artists we work with and represent to feel like we cared about them and did our best for them that we could. We want the people who discover us and those who follow us to gain something positive from their interactions with us; discover a new favourite artist or album, help build a cool music collection, discover a new visual artist they love.
2021 seems to be busy year for you, what's next?
We always have a lot on the go and are always looking towards what to do next, to keep it fresh for our artists, fans and ourselves. Aside from lots of great new music by new and resident artists, we are also working on creator tools such as some fun sample packs for people to discover and play around with. We are also developing our first plugin for producers and creators to make music with! I’ll keep secret for now what the plugin is but we are very excited about it, we think a lot of music makers will get a lot out of it. Ask me this question again in a month and I’ll have another long list of new ideas:)