34.0522° N, 118.2437° W
‘We had dipped our toe in but were curious to go deeper.’
Gems in this
Nathan McLay is the Co-Founder and CEO of the Grammy Award-winning
independent record label, artist-management team, touring agency and music publisher Future Classic. And even if you’ve not heard of the endeavor before, you’ll definitely have heard their artists’ music.
Representing musicians like Flume, Flight Facilities, Chet Faker, G Flip and Jagwar Ma to name a few, future classic has become one of the most respected companies in the music industry today…and it has its roots in Nathan’s 2015 move from Sydney to Los Angeles to establish a US base. Four years in, we spoke with Nathan about creative life in LA and some inside tips for the city.
On where you’re from
On setting up in the USA
I moved to the US to set up our music business – Future Classic – in Los Angeles.
On your relationship with LA
I’m growing fonder of it the longer I live here. There’s lots to like about it but also plenty that’s fucked-up.
On your transition into LA
Coming from Sydney, there’s lots of similarities so it was relatively easy, but there’s also some differences that are jarring and take some adjusting to. The disparity of wealth is more pronounced here, and the undercurrent of violence is disturbing. That we start to get desensitized to this over time is troubling. Both Australia and the USA have their problems, but seeing a larger system dysfunctional reinforces how important it is for us as a society to work at improving life and infrastructure for more of the population.
On connecting with local culture
On a personal level, our kids go to a great local public elementary school that has fostered a sense of local community, which we are very appreciative of. There’s lots of parents doing interesting work and creative things but also putting time into family and being on a level with the kids.
Professionally, we’ve been reasonably proactive in connecting with the local creative community, with various events in our studios, office and carpark at Future Classic. They’ve ranged from a panel on building and designing artists’ live shows, to a screening and Q&A with some of our favorite music video directors, a vinyl record fair and various other things. We have a partnership with Dropbox, who have helped facilitate a number of interesting creative community-building initiatives we’ve been interested in.
‘Those short stints gave us all a taste of LA as a transit zone for artists and others in creatively adjacent fields. We had dipped our toe in but were curious to go deeper, so Harley, Jay, Chad and I all moved to LA.’
On how Future Classic was born
My wife, Jay Ryves, and I started Future Classic in 2004 as an outlet for our creative projects. Jay came from a visual-arts background, I was into music and the idea of building a creative company around artists. We were soon joined by Chad Gillard, who became our first employee and is now one of a handful of employee-owners.
On Future Classic landing in LA
In 2015, Harley Streten (Flume) was interested in relocating to LA to work on his second album, so we moved over temporarily with him for six months to help set up sessions and collaborations and support him in the process. The following year, he was touring that album — Skin — in North America for three months on a bus, so we based ourselves in LA to be close to the touring party and join him for a bunch of the shows.
Those short stints gave us all a taste of LA as a transit zone for artists and others in creatively adjacent fields. We had dipped our toe in but were curious to go deeper, so Harley, Jay, Chad and I all moved to LA, and we’ve been here since. We’ve since opened our Future Classic space in Frogtown and brought a few other people across from the Sydney office while maintaining a team there also.
On what is unique to LA’s music culture
It seems to exist on a few different levels. There’s a small organic local scene like you find in many cities that is not easily visible at first — warehouse parties in downtown Los Angeles, small venues that have a community of locals around them. Then there’s those artists who are passing through, doing lots of collaborative sessions, working on projects and bouncing from city to city, never settling. On a bigger scale, there’s the immense concerts at amazing venues like the Hollywood Bowl, The Greek Theatre, Rose Bowl, and the big arena shows at The Forum and the Staples Center, which are incredible experiences for seeing the big artists play at scale.
‘Coming from Sydney, there’s lots of similarities... both Australia and the USA have their problems but seeing a larger system dysfunctional reinforces how important it is for us as a society to work at improving life and infrastructure for more of the population.’
On where you find creative inspiration in LA
I love the large-scale art galleries here — MOCA, The Broad, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and The Getty are a few of the must-sees if you are into visual art and great architecture.
For outdoors, we go for hikes in Griffith Park and surrounds, and I try to get to the coast for a surf when possible on the weekends — it’s no comparison to the Aussie beaches but there’s still something magical about the classic Malibu/Ventura early mornings, when the mist is low and the sun is burning through with the hills in the background. Last winter, we got some good cold weather and got into the backcountry of the Angeles Forest, where there’s a couple of family run ski-fields — Mount Baldy and Mount Waterman — both of which are within an hour and a half from downtown LA, and just remind you how much is just outside the city. The same goes with Big Sur and Yosemite — we’ve found getting out of the city helps us appreciate living in LA.
On a few favorite food spots
Botanica in Silverlake for fresh salad-y lunches and dinners. Guisados, or late night Taco Zone food trucks for classic Mexican, or Salazar for the fancier hipster version. Little Dom’s in Los Feliz for classic American-Italian fare and great booths.
On good LA music venues
The Lodge Room in Highland Park and Zebulon Café in Frogtown are a couple of the nicest smaller rooms, but we’re pretty spoiled for choice with lots of great venues. The Moroccan Lounge is one of the last independent spots and often has good programming. Also 1720, Teragram Ballroom, The Wiltern, and Echoplex.
On suggestions for a friend passing through the city
How about a dinner party with some locals followed by a backyard concert in the backstreets of Echo Park?
On window seat or aisle
Window seats. I’ve never stopped enjoying the perspective from the air and checking out what we’re flying over — especially mountains.
On LA in one word