Grammy Nominations 2017

Laura Jones Launches New Label Sensoramic Records: Exclusive

Courtesy Photo
Laura Jones photographed in 2016.

Last fall, DJ/producer Laura Jones was working with her boyfriend, Gavin Herlihy, in the studio they share, and Herlihy put the finishing touches on an arresting track. “I had this healthy jealousy of the fact that I hadn’t made it myself,” Jones remembers. “I said, ‘oh my God. I think I’m gonna have to put that out.’ I didn’t really give him a choice in the matter.”

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Jones has wanted to have a label of her own for roughly a decade. “You get to the point with your own music productions where it’s nice to have the creative reins,” she tells Billboard. This year, the wish comes to fruition, as she launches Sensoramic Records. Herlihy adopted the alias Karousel, and his track “Arrakis” will appear on the label’s very first release, the Planetary Rebirth EP. (Herlihy will also help Jones as label manager.)

While Jones hoped to run her own ship “ever since getting into the music back in the mid-2000s,” the scope of her ambition morphed over time. “Originally it was just going to be a creative outlet for my own music,” she explains. But she kept encountering music from outside sources that she could envision releasing, so she eventually changed tack to incorporate the tunes of others into Sensoramic’s mandate. After Karousel’s Planetary Rebirth, Jones will release her own EP on the label, and then a project from the New York producer Kamran Sadeghi.

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Sensoramic’s focus is “very much for quality over quantity.” “I’m not looking to put out 365 releases a year,” Jones asserts. But she wants to retain that sense of overpowering spontaneity that led her to put out Karousel: “When I hear good music that I want to put out, I’m going to put it out.” And this imperative transcends sound and style. “If something catches my ear irrespective of genre then I’ll find a place for it. Often I feel sub-genres in the dance world get to a point where they’re meaningless.” 

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The DJ appears undaunted by the prospect of finding more music that moves her like “Arrakis.” “As soon as you say you’re starting a label, you get inundated with messages,” Jones notes. “I’ve been sent quite a lot of music.” She also reached out to producers she admires, like S.A.M., whose remix of “Arrakis” appears on Planetary Rebirth and is premiering exclusively on Billboard today. “I’ve bought a lot of his records over the last year or two,” she says. “I just emailed him and asked him if he was keen to be a part of the project, thankfully he said yes.”

“I’m really chuffed with his remix,” she continues. “I feel like he’s really excelled himself on this one." Though she originally planned to fit two shorter remixes on the second side of the record, in the end she decided just to release S.A.M.’s ten minute version, which is full of long, sloping progressions and pleasing rhythmic details: ticks, hiccups, percussive flutters.

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Jones is a firm believer in the value of vinyl, and Sensoramic will be almost entirely a vinyl-only label. “When you hear vinyl records, you know the quality is generally a few notches higher than what you hear digitally,” she says. “Obviously you can’t generalize, you can find some great digital music as well. But if people are prepared to invest the money in putting something out on vinyl, there is generally a reason for that.” “The proof is in the pudding a lot of the time,” she adds.

To give her records a unique appearance, Jones teamed up with Sarah Sense, a member of the Choctaw tribe whose images will grace Sensoramic releases. “There’s a lot of hand-stamped vinyl going around,” Jones suggests. “I feel that vinyl has lost its identity a little bit.” She thinks Sense has the talent to imbue records with the distinct properties that initially attracted Jones to the format – she describes her record-buying habit as one that pushed her close to bankruptcy in the ‘00s.

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The imagery of Sense will be just one of several aspects of Sensoramic that help set it apart in a world crowded with labels vying for listeners’ attention. “I’m keen to bring the other senses into the project,” Jones says. “I can’t say a huge amount about it just yet. But it’s not gonna be just about the ears. Obviously the eyes come in through the artwork; we’ve got three other senses left as well.”

As Sensoramic gets off the ground, Jones is already thinking ahead. She jokes that this might just be the beginning: “I’m sure in five years I’ll have three other labels.”