*written by A’Damaged Pro for Electronica Life
Imagine for a moment that you are the recipient of the EDM community’s magical embrace and that you would like to give something back as a show of appreciation. You’ve been thinking long and hard and your solution for this task involves getting artist cooperation and establishing a readily-identifiable brand to coordinate multiple cross-promotional platforms. With the respective cooperation from participating artists, additional avenues are able to be explored and a more diverse and thorough impact can be made, not only within the EDM community but the world as well. You have now stepped into the shoes of the founder of Electric Family, Andrew Nilon. I had the opportunity to catch up with Andrew to discuss how he harnessed the positive energy of his own “electric family” to create one of the EDM industry’s most recognizable clothing brands.
A’Damaged Pro – Where did you grow up?
Andrew Nilon – Northern California. Bay Area.
A’Damaged Pro – What were your earliest musical influences and do you have a fondest musical memory growing up?
Andrew Nilon – I’ve always appreciated a lot of different music growing up. I was a huge fan of rap as well as different styles of rock. The biggest thing now is definitely electronic. I went to EDC when it used to be in Los Angeles.
A’Damaged Pro – At the Coliseum?
Andrew Nilon – Yes, and to this day it’s still the best event I’ve ever been to. I don’t know if it’s because it was my first taste of the scene, but it really got me very interested in EDM and the dance music scene.
A’Damaged Pro – Were there any specifics about the atmosphere that stood out for you? The production value has gone up tremendously since the EDC LA days so I’d bet the exposure to the music and the people had to be illuminating.
Andrew Nilon – I think it sticks out because the energy in that stadium was just amazing. I haven’t been able to match it anywhere. You’re kind of in an enclosed area and the huge boom of the current scene hadn’t really happened yet so it just kind of opened my eyes to this whole community where people are extremely accepting. You’re standing next to people that you might not normally have spoken to or growing up you might have even looked at them with judgement. The atmosphere was like a clean slate. Very refreshing. That was the first time I had experienced that on that big of a scale, and that was very special to me. I’m sure people would say similar things about their first experience at a, whatever you want to call it, “rave” or “production experience.”
A’Damaged Pro – That’s something I wanted to ask about. The difference between a “rave,” “festival,” or “massive”…who makes the definitions? Who’s the ultimate authority on the subject. When I think festival I think multi-day event. With “massive,” is there a population cut-off? If you have a small venue, packed with a thousand people it seems ridiculous but you can have three hundred thousand people in the LV Speedway…
Andrew Nilon – I like the term “festival.” It’s not because I personally have judgements on the word “rave” or the scene, but because of the outside perception. If you go to some old person and say you were at a rave last night, there is instant judgement. Their mind immediately goes to certain things regardless if they know what it means. I try not to use the word “rave” because it’s been made into this taboo thing where all this bad stuff happens. It’s so important to Electric Family and what we’re trying to accomplish to sever that stigma and show the positive elements this community is really about.
A’Damaged Pro – Do you think there is a way to orchestrate a paradigm shift, of sorts, about how people view these terms and it turn undercut the attached stigmas and re-open the horizon of possibilities? Words will quit becoming taboo as people become more educated on the subject.
Andrew Nilon – It goes deeper than just the words. You can get every major news source in the world to put a revised definition of “rave,” on their Twitter, and that’s not going to change anything. Our ultimate goal is to shift those underlying messages and how people feel about these things. Educating in creative ways. How can we show people? Telling people something isn’t really effective. You have to show people through action. An example would be what we did at our “Do Good” event. Adventure Club asked some of their fans to come out to a food bank in Los Angeles. We got about two hundred people to come out and volunteer their time. They got to meet AC. We shot a video, and that was to inspire people that this community is more that just a group of partiers and that these kids can make an impact. They care about their community. That is what’s going to shift social perception. By showing that this community is not all about drugs and partying, that’s going to be what makes the difference.
A’Damaged Pro – What’s the mission statement of Electric Family? How did you make the progression into the music/entertainment/apparel aspect of the industry?
Andrew Nilon – We have a few missions. One of them is to inspire positive action. We’re trying to create a platform and a company that provides a cool product that promotes a positive message. Imagine a company being supported because of the impact they are making in communities.
A’Damaged Pro – You mentioned the term “platform.” Do you think that artists have an inherent responsibility because of the reach they command to lock onto a cause and try to positively motivate their fans?
Andrew Nilon – I do. Personally, I believe that every person on this planet has an equal responsibility to look out for and protect every other person on this planet. Those that are in a position of reach and have the capacity to make an impact should be doing just that. If you wanted to take a business approach to this, because that makes more sense to some people. Some artists make a lot of money and in order to continue to do so they need to promote causes that will ensure the longevity of the scene. The only way the scene will continue to be profitable and to sustain itself will be if it no longer has this “other side.” If we keep have these deaths and other bad things, it’s kind of a ticking time bomb. We need to have these artists speak up. You don’t need to get messed up every time, or any time for that matter, that you go to one of these events. The message needs to come from a source that people respect, so, yes, they have the ultimate responsibility. That’s also why we are providing that medium through our artists’ bracelets.
A’Damaged Pro – Is there a particular method that you’ve honed in order to bring new artists into the EF fold? Do you seek them out or do they reach out to EF?
Andrew Nilon – It’s a little bit of both, actually. We reach out and it’s not easy, by any means. These artists are so busy. Their touring schedules are unbelievable. There’s no other type of music that has seen artists touring like they do now. For instance, Steve Aoki did, like, two hundred and seventy shows a few years back. I was just blown away when I heard that stat. That’s a show almost every single night, five nights a week. That’s unheard of. Reaching out to them and getting a hold of them is extremely difficult. To be honest with you, there isn’t a cookie-cutter way to make it happen. We just try to get in contact an align our values with theirs and just go from there.
A’Damaged Pro – What is your position and responsibilities with Electric Family?
Andrew Nilon – I am the CEO. My job is to communicate our message, internally and externally, making sure that our mission and our goals are known to the public and the media, and making sure that we are on track. Devise a plan, put it in place, and make sure that everything is in order so that we can execute and follow through on all of our goals. That’s a very shortened version
A’Damaged Pro – What is the most rewarding part of your job? Most challenging part?
Andrew Nilon – It might be kind of an easy response but it’s definitely the truth…the most rewarding part is definitely our fans and our customers. They are so unbelievable. We have THE BEST fans. It’s crazy. There’s so much support and positivity. There are thousands upon thousands of messages, emails, and comments on social media. “Love what you guys are doing.” “Thank you SO much!!” I think it’s something really important to recognize in life that if you’re doing what you love and what you believe in, other people will support that because there are other people that feel the same way. I think it’s a testament to always knowing what you’re doing is right in your heart. Everything about managing a start-up company is challenging. You know, nothing is guaranteed. You have to make sacrifices.
A’Damaged Pro – What’s the creative story behind taking these ideals and making a company with them?
Andrew Nilon – We were a group of friends that went to shows and it might be kind of corny but we were the “Electric Family.” That’s just what we called ourselves. We really just wanted to make a company out of it. We grew up loving fashion and electronic music, so we combined those passions and we decided to start a company. There wasn’t a real “aha” moment, but just us following what we loved to do.
A’Damaged Pro – What is your take on the potential therapeutic and healing properties of music, given what you’ve seen and more experienced?
Andrew Nilon – I know everyone’s experience is very different. Music is very therapeutic. That’s why we’ve loved it for thousands of years. There is something tangible there. I think it allows people to really be in the moment and lose all of their thoughts, “I’ve got bills to pay” or “I’m having relationship issues.” Endless endless issues that people face daily in life. I think that music helps them clear their heads of that and that IS therapeutic. That is something that should be cherished and valued in society. We spend all day thinking so being able to clear our heads is very therapeutic.
A’Damaged Pro – In the spirit of safety, some events and festivals are including a rough code of conduct into their presentation. Do you think there is a way to speed up the “activation” of attendees, making them more empathetic as well as acting out of concern for their fellow citizen?
Andrew Nilon – There’s a lot of different factors that contribute to safety and that’s why it’s such a complex issue right now in dance music. On one hand, there’s a major factor that some people don’t realize and that’s business. Insurance companies are telling these big festivals that they can provide assistance to people because they’re not going to get this kind of coverage if they provide this type of service. This is just an abstract example but let’s say if you treat someone inside of the festival and it falls under “such and such” guidelines, you’re not going to be covered for that. You have to take them out in a third-party ambulance and they have to get treatment at a local hospital because that’s where the insurance is at. So, there’s a huge issue starting right there. For some reason, these factors, that center around money, are considered more valuable than human life. That’s one issue. From there, what we can do is educate people on a wider scale. I can’t talk too much about it or give to much away but we are working on some pretty big projects with some big companies to get the message out there in a cool way. What we are trying to accomplish with Electric Family is to create a “cool” company that kids will look up to and listen to. In our society, the youth look up to and listen to whatever is in and they will mimic that. We’re trying to create a platform and inject the positive messages. So, we’re trying to align ourselves with the big players in the scene, who have the attention of the global audience, and partner the Electric Family brand and what we stand for with their ability to target a large global audience. We feel that this can help address some of these real-world issues. It’s not going to outright solve them, but it’s a step in the right direction.
A’Damaged Pro – Are there any specifics charities that you hold in high regard? You just illustrated the business prospects and the reach potential of the EF brand, but are there any particular charities that you would like to align yourself with in the future?
Andrew Nilon – Really as many as possible. We allow our artists to choose the charity they want to work with, so whatever specific issues they are passionate about will get the necessary attention. Our goal is to work with as many different organizations as possible. We want to raise awareness for many different issues. The more that we can work with, that are targeting various issues, the better for us and everybody concerned. We want to be able to touch and help as many people as possible.
A’Damaged Pro – What are three global issues that you believe require immediate attention and what are your potential solutions for addressing them, regardless of how far-out your solutions may be?
Andrew Nilon – The number one need, I wouldn’t say it’s an issue per se, I would like to see addressed is a comprehensive raising of social consciousness. There is such a lack of care and empathy. We have created such a society that is broken down into “us” versus “them,” and it’s just terrible to see that. The way I view it is that everybody on this planet is ONE. Everybody is connected as one living being and I think that we have forgotten that. So, the way to help some of these social issues, health issues, wars, and all of this other terrible stuff that goes on is to raise the level of social consciousness of each person on the planet. Each person will, in turn, care more about each other and will act accordingly. Just targeting one specific thing can, to some degree, almost create another issue. If every person took it upon themselves to gear every thought and action, in every moment, towards being the best for every one involved, we would instantly solve a countless number of issues. The world would be such a better place.
A’Damaged Pro – Given what you just mentioned about the need to raise social consciousness, what changes have you noticed in the scene from when you first got involved? There are more lasers. I’ll give you that one
Andrew Nilon – It’s kind of sad to say, but I think it’s kind of gone in the opposite direction that it needed to go, with the commercialization of EDM. In some areas, we’ve kind of abolished some of the core values, like P.L.U.R. It’s kind of mocked now in this culture. In reality, what it stands for is a fantastic message. On a positive note, a lot of people in the industry are more conscious about improving these issues. This conversation we’re having right now. Making sure that the proper values are being communicated to the fans. I think people within the industry are trying to make steps to combat the negative aspects.
A’Damaged Pro – What goals have you set for yourself and Electric Family over the next year? 5 Years?
Andrew Nilon – We want to be recognized as THE premiere clothing brand within the industry. We think there is tremendous opportunity. We want to continue to spread the message to every continent. We want to continue to grow and partner with bigger and bigger companies. We would like to take our “Do-Good” events to the next level. We would like to exemplify what we feel this music stands for and have these values recognized and extend that beyond the dance floor.
A’Damaged Pro’s final words…
I must stress that this exchange was not orchestrated to spark a discourse on semantics, as the guiding principles of the scene, that inspired Andrew, transcend definition. He saw something that lies within all of us…the ability to care about something greater than yourself and the power to make a difference. While in attendance, I know I’ve personally given out countless hugs, high-fives, chest bumps, ear plugs, bottles of water, and pieces of gum because I thought it would help the person or persons around me safely enjoy the experience more. These simple tokens of connectivity and compassion might seem minuscule, and in the grand scheme of things, are probably essentially just drops in the bucket. They are; however, representative of steps in the right direction. With every new consciously-aware supporter the Electric Family will continue to grow, as will our collective capacity to positively influence the way we think and conduct ourselves. Once inspired to take action, there is no limit to what we can accomplish. “Electric Family” is more than a name. It’s more than a brand. It’s what we are.