We've all been there, or most of us at least. You spend your teens defining yourself through a certain musical genre, often to the point where it becomes your identity. And then you have a musical epiphany that resets everything. For Jerome Potter, a Los Angeles native who goes by the artist name Jerome LOL, that moment came after he left home for college in Minnesota. A punk kid until then, he had an ear for dance music but not much more. That all changed upon his return. “When I came back to Los Angeles in 2009 I was DJing. I fell in love with dance music at college.”
Potter first appeared in the late 2000s alongside Markus Garcia as the duo LOL Boys, a project very much of its time. It was born of an internet friendship - the pair met on a message board - and continued as a long distance music-making relationship with Potter in L.A. and Garcia in Montreal. Over a period of a few years they remixed high profile dance music names such as Gold Panda and Para One and received support from Diplo and Brodinski, the sort of moves that inevitably lead to bursts of attention. In 2012 they released their first, and only, official material, a four-track EP called Changes on the L.A. indie label Friends of Friends. A smooth blend of pop and electronic sensibilities, Changes marked the end of the LOL Boys “experiment” as the pair parted ways indefinitely.
While the LOL Boys project was very much an internet experiment, Potter was also busy building a ‘real life’ collaboration at the same time. In 2011 he co-founded the Body High label with another Angelino, Sam Griesemer aka Samo Sound Boy. Focused on house and techno, Body High was birthed with a five-track EP from DJ Dodger Stadium, the pairing of Potter and Griesemer, followed by a string of releases from dance music stalwart Todd Edwards and newcomers such as DJ Sliink and Jim-E Stack.
In 2014 Potter brought both sides of his musical persona to fruition with a debut solo EP as Jerome LOL and the DJ Dodger Stadium debut album. Potter describes the work on the Deleted / Fool EP, again released via Friends of Friends, as special. This is thanks in large part to his involvement in various aspects of it, from artwork to video and collaborations. Then came Friend of Mine, the DJ Dodger Stadium album and the third physical release for the young label. “To make an album together for the label felt also very special. It was music we wanted to make and hear. And we used a very DIY approach, doing most of the work around it ourselves.”
Looking back Potter admits that they also tried to manage their expectations. “The hypnotic, lonely sound we were going for is our representation of L.A. As an artist you don't want to be thinking too much about how your work will be received but it soon became clear people got it.” A string of dates followed the release, including two shows in L.A. and New York and Australian and European tours. The U.S. shows were arranged by the pair, giving them full control of what he calls the “aesthetics of the room,” a description that further highlights his desire and need to be involved in more than just the music he makes.
What difference, if any, does Potter see between his two projects? “My solo work is becoming less dance based,” he explains. You can already hear that on parts of Deleted / Fool, which balances downtempo and dance vibes in a similar aesthetic to the one Potter carved with Garcia as LOL Boys. “The new stuff I'm working on right now is more experimental. I can do more of what is unexpected. I'm less worried about things like ‘who could play this?’” DJ Dodger Stadium in turn fills the dance music void, so to speak. “I feel very happy and lucky to be able to explore, that's what everyone wants to do. Make music you enjoy first and foremost.”
This duality is set to be further explored in 2015 with both a debut solo album as Jerome LOL and a follow up for DJ Dodger Stadium. Potter touches on the creative dynamics of his situation. “Working with Sam is good, we work quickly and have a system down. But when I work alone I could spend five hours on a loop and not get anything done. I’m second guessing myself. Working with someone else gives you more confidence, lets you know something works.” What of his previous collaboration with Garcia? “Being internet-based it was different. When you work online it can take longer to get somewhere you’re happy with.” Ultimately though Potter sees the difference between solo and collaborative work as something natural, neither being better or worse.
The city's warehouse scene was an inspiration for the early DJ Dodger Stadium material. “It's been fun to learn about the history of the city's dance music, its traditions. And it’s still here, the warehouse parties are still active. I think they’re what helps the city refresh itself and its sound in a way. They’re the perfect counterpoint to the bottle service joints.”
An often noted aspect of L.A. is its sprawling vastness, in stark contrast to the more claustrophobic streets of New York, Tokyo or London. The space the city affords, with the ocean on one side and mountains and desert on the other, bleeds into much of the art it produces. L.A. music is open. “I used to call it a collage city, and recently I heard someone refer to it as a mural. I like that a lot, there are so many little places that make up the whole. And in some ways all cities could be described as that but Los Angeles really has separate little areas that make up this grander place.”
A city built for cars, it's common to hear L.A.-based artists make analogies to its driving culture, and Potter is no different. “You can really have your own space to navigate whatever lane you want to take. You're a function of how the city works. You drive, get stuck in traffic. There's a vibe. Blue skies, palm trees. We have our studio in MacArthur Park with Sam and the area influences us.” Case in point is the video for album track ‘Love Songs,’ a drone-led tour of the area to accompany the slowly-building, pulsing rhythms and repeated vocal hook. “Driving to the studio, walking around MacArthur park, seeing people, certain characters, those are the things that end up making their way into the records.”
Dance music isn't the first thing one might associate with L.A. night life. Yet, beyond the glitz of Hollywood the city has a long history of raving from early warehouse parties to drum & bass and dubstep. In recent years artists like DJ Dodger Stadium have helped to correct this misconception. “There are good underground events happening regularly these days, but for the most part the club scene here is not a fun thing. It's a lot of bottle service type places.” For Potter the community of music makers and affiliates is strong but perhaps not strong enough to shift the tide yet. “L.A. is so big, there's space for everything - industrial, kraut rock, house - which is the beauty. You just need to look for those things, you won't necessarily find them by just going to a club right away, unlike cities like Berlin say.”
While he continues to build Body High and DJ Dodger Stadium alongside Griesemer, Potter is also strengthening his ties with Friends of Friends, who will release his debut solo album. This leads him to point to another aspect of the city he loves. “It doesn't feel like there's any competition per se here. I've heard from friends in NYC that the city can have a competitive energy among DJs, producers and musicians. I don’t feel any of that in L.A. I don’t think art or music should ever be competitive and I think this city really breeds a break from that.”