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Photo by Jeanne Rice"DJs are the new rock stars," says Seasons Recordings' Randy Mello, from the back seat of a BMW driven by DJ/label guy Jamie Thinnes. It's a point that's been made before—in fact it's been made to me countless times this week—and every time, it's said just like that, like a mantra, like a slogan, like an advertising campaign.
Of course they're right. "You know," Mello continues, "last year, turntables outsold guitars."
Thinnes' car stereo is pumping out a steady stream of groovy, jazzy house beats. Nothing jarring, nothing angular. It's set at the perfect volume, too, loud enough to insinuate itself into your thoughts but quiet enough for conversation.
Seasons Recordings, formerly Earthtones, puts out organic-sounding deep house albums, many of them produced or mixed by the Dallas-born Thinnes. Nature's Composition Vol. 1 (mixed and produced by Thinnes) features JT Donaldson, Tim Schumacher and DJ Heather, among others. It's mood music—music that makes everything seem more Important and Interesting when it's playing in the background, as if someone had turned a camera on you. Its beats are relentless—verging on hypnotic—and it's so expertly mixed that to the uninitiated, the entire disc might seem like one long song. Of course, this is essentially the goal; the listener isn't supposed to notice where one song ends and another begins. The art of house is the art of seamlessness.
"So is this the kind of music you listen to mostly?" I ask as we're driving.
"Pretty much," says Thinnes.
"Does it move you? Like, does it make you feel something?" I ask.
He says it does.
I begin to think about the way music can create an atmosphere and how something as mundane as a short car ride can feel a million times different by changing a few small elements. Riding in this BMW with this music feels a thousand times better than riding in my messy Honda listening to punk CDs. This feels mature and sleek and meaningful. This is how I should be! I deserve to be like this! Have I been polluting my atmosphere with hostile-sounding juvenile music? Have I poisoned my Fahrvergnügen?
And yet there's something in me that's rejecting this prefabricated bliss. Maybe it's my English degree telling me that this feeling is not only false but also dangerous, that there's no here here, that this is the shallow end of the pool masquerading as the deep end—a seductive illusion, and seductive illusions are always bad. But maybe my English degree lied to me. Maybe you can buy happiness because I sure as hell feel like shopping when I'm in this car. I feel like going out and buying beautiful things that are sleek and well-crafted. And hip.
Conveniently, Seasons is coming out with a clothing line, nice high-end stuff, stuff you'd feel good about owning, stuff that would look good when you threw open your closet door and saw it all neatly lined up in there. Stuff inspired by nature. Inspired by nature is a big part of Seasons' self-marketing. Even their promotional pens are made to look like tree branches.
Seasons wants to sell you a lifestyle, though they never use these words. But nevertheless, this is what they're doing with their three-pronged approach: outfitting you, in all senses, to be the hip, jaunty, cool, artistic, inspired by nature person you've always wanted to be.
Seasons also wants to revamp your nightlife. They've been working with restaurateur David Wilhelm to organize events like the one they host every Thursday, Chimayo Chillout, at Wilhelm's Chimayo at the Beach, where people dine and hang out while listening to Thinnes or one of the other resident DJs spin. And once a month, they throw Sushi Boutique, where Thinnes spins at a sushi restaurant. "Because food tastes better with music,'" says Mello. "That's what our posters say."
He holds one up. Even the posters are high-quality, featuring minimal stylized graphics inspired by nature (in this case, a split-open pear) and printed on thick, expensive paper.
Seasons Recordings sits in an airy office space in industrial Costa Mesa. It's clean and tranquil, with an Asian-inspired decorating scheme. When Mello answers the phone, he says, "It's a beautiful day at Seasons." He says it each and every time he answers the phone, and you get the feeling that even if it were overcast and raining, he'd probably still say it.Chimayo Chillout happens at Chimayo at the beach, 315 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, (714) 374-7273. Every Thurs., 8:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Free. 21+.
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