Let’s Play House is a record label and party run by DJ/producer Jacques Renault and writer Nik Mercer. Their night, which has been going strong since 2009, has a list of past guests that reads like a who’s who of Disco and House over the past few years. Fast forward to 2013 and the duo have a new release on their label, the origins of which are explained below, and a host of exciting plans for the future. halcyon dropped into LPH HQ on a chilly January afternoon and was privy to some of the exciting new directions they’re heading in, peppered with a few amusing anecdotes.
halcyon: How’s it going?
Nik Mercer: It’s going great! You just caught us in the middle of our weekly get-together. Jacques was just away for a while so it’s nice to sit down and listen to demos instead of arguing on the phone or email. It’s nice to be good friends again and hang out in person after a few weeks of that [laughs.]
Jacques Renault: We have a lot of great new demos, the Goodnight Moon thing is happening (which we’ll discuss later,) and we are lining up a bunch of parties taking us right through Spring.
NM: We’re booking right up through to May at this point, which is great! Perhaps it’s potentially related to being involved with some new large club that’s recently opened in the area…maybe finally even having a place to regularly call home for our events in NYC…dropping that hint…
h: Right. Exciting stuff! Let us know what the good word is on that when it all happens then. So how long has each of you been living in New York City, and what circumstances brought you over?
JR: 2002 for me. I came from an art and music school background and initially came over to work on a bit of both of those things. Music was always a huge part of my life, but I initially got into dance music when I moved to Chicago for college and caught the end of the rave scene in the mid-late 1990s. I was a buyer at Gramaphone Records, but things really took off when I moved to NYC and started regularly DJing at small places and gaining momentum and a following.
NM: I’ve been here for four years. I grew up in Cleveland, but was living in Los Angeles in the years prior to coming here. My taste in music was similar to Jacques’ growing up, but it wasn’t until I was in LA that I got actively involved in the scene. It was through a very odd happenstance actually. I became good friends with one of the guys behind the A Club Called Rhonda parties over there and crashed his car the first night we met! It was pretty bad, but we somehow became friends and I engaged in the scene through him. I moved here a few years later, became friends with Jacques, and we eventually figured out that we needed to start our own thing since we wanted a certain kind of clubbing experience that no one was doing at the time.
h: So LPH was originally conceived as a party before it was a label?
JR: It was definitely an event series first that originated at the table we’re sitting at right now. Nik and I were going to other people’s parties a lot and realized, “Wait a moment, we could do this too. Why don’t we stop pointing out what we don’t like about the scene and contribute to it instead!?” So we started throwing smaller nights at places like Tribeca Grand and subMercer, but we outgrew those quickly and started doing stuff at [the 300ish capacity Williamsburg venue] 285 Kent. That really set our sights on expanding and going for our dream line-ups, and is how LPH has come to be what it is today.
NM: It was spontaneous in how it came together as well. I had just moved here, wanted a friend, and Jacques and I hit it off. We were going to tons of parties and following up the next night at a bar or someone’s place talking about what we liked or didn’t like about the previous evening. We got to a point where throwing our own party seemed like the best idea. The name came about in a similarly haphazard way, combining drawing an arrow and the play on words one late night when we were up having drinks and kidding around. It stuck.
h: How did Let’s Play House evolve into the label?
NM: James Friedman is a good friend of ours, and also happens to be someone in NYC who has a car. In an effort to save a bit of money picking our guests up from the airport, and to get an opportunity to hang out with James, we’d often get in his car and drive over together. One day the two of us had a nightmare amount of traffic while picking up the Horse Meat Disco guys, and after a few hours in the car I was talking about other things that I wanted to do to promote Let’s Play House. We came around to an idea where we would release a bit of music by people who have played our parties before. Then Jacques got wind of all of this…
JR: I was very excited about the whole thing, but I was also really busy running On The Prowl with Marcos Cabral, DJing and producing, and already spending a lot of time on the events with Nik. I tentatively said that we could try releasing something, and it went really well with Nik and James pouring over the demos while I helped to spread the word when I was off on tour. Now the record label has become its own thing, not just an offshoot of the party, and it’s been great to see it grow.
NM: James was a huge part of this from the beginning, especially due to his relationship at the time with Kompakt since they took care of his Throne Of Blood label. We were an imprint of an imprint in the beginning through him. It helped to have the infrastructure already in place, and it meant that I didn’t have to learn how to set up a new label completely from scratch.
h: Cars appear to play a large role in life-changing events throughout this interview! What future plans do you have for the label?
NM: We don’t want to just be a label that picks up a ton of new artists, releases one single by each of them, and moves onto another set of short cycles. We want to focus on building a proper roster this year where we work with artists over a few releases. We’ve already had multiple EPs from Dead Rose Music Company and The M.E.B. We’re also working with this group called Tippy Toes, which is more of a band, and we’re approaching this from a traditional A&R standpoint where we want to develop them over time. In general we are just planning a lot further into the future this year, which is great.
h: The latest Let’s Play House release is a solo release from Jacques Renault, can you please tell me a bit about it?
JR: It’s my first solo release in a couple of years, and we’d been talking about doing something a bit different which eventually turned into this really fun project. The remix by Paradis, who I’ve known for years, is great. I was recently back in Paris and met up with them and gave them the files to take a stab at. They turned in a beautiful piece of music really quickly, so we decided to leave the release as a single with only their remix on it to make it special. We’ll put out some more remixes of it by members of the LPH family later in the year.
NM: We’re just experimenting with format at the moment. We’ve never strayed from the EP format and released a single until now, we’ve never done a remix EP before, and then we have the stuff with Tippy Toes coming up that will be a bit longer playing. We wanted to change things up.
h: You also have a second label about to drop…
JR: Goodnight Moon. It’s an offshoot of Let’s Play House that’s a little harder-driven. It’s for the demos that don’t fit on our label, or On The Prowl, and will be vinyl only. It’ll be capped at eight releases, because there are eight phases of the moon, and there will be a bit of mystery around the artists. It’s our answer to all of these hand-stamped, limited-release labels coming out now.
NM: We discussed doing a hand-stamped label, but settled on something slightly different that’s still limited. The name comes from the logo, the children’s book, and also sounds a bit nihilistic. The first vinyl will be a crescent and the final one will be a full moon, which will be a cool visual element that no one else is really doing right now.
h: Sounds lovely. Thank you so much for the interview, and we look forward to watching your events and labels develop and grow this year.
NM: Thank you! I really thinking we’re finally getting better at honing our craft now. There’s less guesswork in everything, things are more streamlined, and we’re able to plan in the future. It feels much more holistic this way.