Antonio Carbonaro and Nicola Benedetti weren't really interested in livestreaming.
"We thought there was no need of showing up in the front of a screen for the fear of people forgetting about us, to be honest," Benedetti says. "We’d rather just have a good, strong project to build for when it was the right time."
So, when the pandemic shut down all iterations of their party CircoLoco -- which originated at Ibiza's famed club DC10 in 1999 and has since become one of the cooler names on the global electronic circuit -- the event's two founders focused their attention on what would, eventually, become that good, strong project: CircoLoco Records.
Launching in early June with "Lumartes," an eight-and-a-half minute track by CircoLoco resident Seth Troxler, Circoloco Records kicked off in earnest a few days back with the release of its debut compilation album, Monday Dreamin', which features a who's who of house, techno and tech house, indie dance and more -- with contributions from artists including Dixon, DJ Tennis, Sama' Abdualhdi, Jamie Jones, Beduoin, Kerri Chandler Moodymann, Red Axes, Tale Of Us and Damian Lazarus.
The project is a collaboration with Rockstar Games, the makers of games including the venerable Grand Theft Auto, and a company that has long given love to underground dance music by installing artists like The Blessed Madonna, Moodymann, Keinemusik, Solomun and others directly inside various versions of GTA. Close with the members of the Rockstar team gave Benedetti and Carbonaro a major advantage when proposing the collaboration, with their friends inside the company having not only connections, but also, Carbonaro says, "the same ears as us."
But the pair -- speaking to Billboard from Ibiza via Zoom -- acknowledge that working with a massive global company requires time. As fate would have it, at a certain point they had nothing but.
The guys started discussions about the label with Rockstar at a meeting in Miami in October of 2019. Six months later, the world stopped, cancelling CircoLoco events in Ibiza, Colombia, New York, Istanbul, London and beyond as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the live music industry and caused the shuttering of clubs around the world. The silver lining in being forced to indefinitely turn the lights off on their business was that it gave Benedetti and Carbonaro the necessary time to focus on their passion project.
"It was hard work, and honestly without the pandemic I’m not sure we would have been able to do it," says Carbonaro. "It’s two brands coming together and convincing everyone that it can be a cool project. For that, you need time to plan."
With Rockstar eventually signing on, the focus became getting artists involved. Making calls, sending emails and joining Zoom sessions from Ibiza -- where the guys, both Italian, decamped to during the pandemic -- they got in touch with many of the producers that make up the CircoLoco family of artists. Given that many of these artists already have their own labels, and also have other brands vying for their new music, getting artists involved was, they report, competitive. "You have to prove that you’re doing good work," Carbonaro says.
But with the CircoLoco and Rockstar names giving the project credibility, tracks submissions began trickling in, with the guys eventually settling on the 20 songs that making up Monday Dreamin'. The idea was for the compilation to represent what attendees would hear at any given CircoLoco event, and particularly at those at DC10, which has three rooms putting on three different styles of dance music. Thus, sounds on the compilation oscillate between the sinewy disco-inflected house of Kerri Chandler's "You" the children's choir-inflected deep house of Rampa's "The Church."
With the compilation now out (with more to come, the guys say) Carbonaro and Benedetti can return their focus to live events -- kind of. Regulations around clubbing in Ibiza remain murky, and while the duo say they have lineups for CircoLoco at DC10 scheduled through October, it's not yet clear when they'll be able to open their doors for either indoor or outdoor shows.
But doors are reopening elsewhere, with CircoLoco parties currently on the calendar for locations including Tel Aviv and the U.S. "It was rescheduling every day!" Benedetti says of putting together these shows amidst swiftly changing safety protocols in myriad countries. This October and December, the party will touch down in the States for a trio of shows -- presented in partnership with NYC-based brand Teksupport -- in New York (with a lineup including Black Coffee, Virgil Abloh, The Martinez Brothers, DJ Tennis, Damian Lazarus), Miami (at Art Basel, with Tale of Us, Lazarus and Seth Troxler) and Los Angeles (featuring Abloh, Troxler, Tale of Us and Perel.)
While the pandemic is still making it unclear when CircoLoco will return to its previous schedule, which typically included 40 parties around the world annually -- when the time comes, the team will be ready. "We’re like runners on the line waiting to run 100 meters," Benedetti says, "just waiting for the gunshot."
In the meantime, the guys have accomplished a project that may not have happened if the pandemic hadn't. Benedetti acknowledges that they "miss the buzz, the energy you get in the club with the lights and the people, the smiles, the dancing, the sweating, the DJs," with CircoLoco Records, they've created something with more staying power than that glorious, yet ephemeral, buzz.
"It was very satisfying, because it was a new project that we were embracing during one of the hardest times humanity has had recently," says Benedetti. "We managed to get positivity out of the negativity. That was very exciting."