After over a decade of devising progressive electronic music events across the country, the RVDIOVCTIVE party brand launched their record label with RVDIOVCTIVE Vol. 1, a 15-track house and techno compilation from a wide array of skilled artists who push innovative boundaries. As one of the founders of the RVDIOVCTIVE party brand, Devon James is a multifaceted DJ and producer with several projects to celebrate this year including the release of his first album, the launch of a new record label, and various curated events surrounding the 10-year anniversary of his project brand.
RVDIOVCTIVE first started out as a support system amongst a group of friends who were living and working together in NYC. They were a varied group of artists that included musicians, painters, filmmakers, and designers who were eager to put their creative minds together and throw DIY events that combined visual and graphic art projects with a party atmosphere. Their intent was to strengthen the music scenes and communities they worked with so that artists could grow and thrive together through community and collaboration. One pivotal moment that reflected their philosophy is when they threw their first party at Tutu’s and created a cool promo video with a storyline where they were all kidnapped and thrown into a van. Not only did they use the video to promote the party, but also held a screening where at the end of the video, they burst through the doors and threw themselves into the party, which became a perfect moment where they “combined all of their different skills and interests to create an experience that was truly unique.” With this in mind, they hoped to change the audience experience from that of an observer to more of an active participant through fresh and intriguing ways.
There was never any intention for the RVDIOVCTIVE to become a label, but given that this year is its 10th anniversary and due to the pandemic, it seemed logical for the party brand to start a new chapter and establish its own label. “We’ve worked with a lot of amazingly talented people over the years and I think a lot of them took time over the pandemic to really hone in on their skills in the studio. We tapped into our direct network and I’m thrilled to say that almost everyone on the first comp is someone who has played our parties over the years that we’ve built a friendship with. We also want to give those friends a safe space to foster their creativity and experiment and not feel like they need to follow a formula for a certain sound or trend.” The label will release 3 more compilations this year with plans to also release singles and EPs in 2023.
Since graduating from college in 2011, Devon had a multitude of careers as a teacher, tour manager, product specialist, artist manager, booking agent, stage manager, studio engineer, label manager, and a talent buyer all while also trying to be an artist himself. He relayed how hard it was to separate all those distinct roles and decided to step away from most of the behind-the-scenes work by really investing his full effort into trying to make it as a compelling artist. “Of course, I’m still fighting an uphill battle but I put everything I have into what I am doing both physically, emotionally, and financially so failure just isn’t an option.” The passionate character just finished his first album that he had been working on for the last 2 years and added a club track for the compilation that’s “quite simple but highly effective on a dance floor.”
Apart from working on his album, he’s thankful that being in isolation allowed him to step back and focus on himself in ways he had been neglecting, for the pandemic enabled him to slow down and reevaluate how he has been coping with things. He made lifestyle changes and improved his mental, emotional, and physical health by immersing himself in nature, quitting alcohol, exercising more, getting a dog, and seeing a therapist. “I think one of the most important things I’ve learned about myself is the need for balance in many different ways. Before the pandemic, I was playing 50+ gigs a year while also working for other artists in different aspects, throwing events with RVDIOVCTIVE, managing labels, etc. I had the pedal to the metal and I probably would have burnt out pretty quickly.” As shows started coming back, Devon found it much easier to deal with some of his social anxiety and other issues he’s faced in the past, for he feels so much more confident and in control of his own destiny than ever before.
In this competitive electronic music scene, Boston-bred musician hopes to be known for his authenticity given that there’s too much emphasis nowadays on branding, where one can come off as “insincere and tacky.” He studied theatre most of his life and understands that some artists create this sort of character they are presenting to the world while being a completely different person behind closed doors. “I don’t have anything against anyone who chooses to go this route, but I think that as a person and as an artist, I have a one-of-a-kind story that is mine and only mine to tell.” In fact, one of his favorite quotes that’s resonated with him is one that people attribute to the acclaimed Irish poet, Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” Another quote he enjoys is one he used in his high school yearbook: “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.“ In essence, he just wants to be known for being his extraordinary self and for creating a path that encourages and empowers others to do the same.
Some issues that he hopes will change in the coming years include the unhealthy competition amongst performers and promoters as well as the lack of diversity. “Healthy competition is a good thing but there seems to be this desire for domination that is making our scenes a lot weaker,” he explains. “For instance, some big festivals or clubs have crazy radius clauses that restrict artists from playing within a wide area for an extended amount of time. Competing promoters often get into bidding wars and drive up artist fees that making it impossible for some up-and-coming promoters a chance to grow. Or you have some smaller markets where promoters are throwing competing events on the same night, splitting their crowds so that neither room is quite full. Crews and promoters, especially in smaller, more emerging markets need to work together more and communicate plans so they can work together in a way that everyone wins and supports one another.” While returning from Miami Music Week, he noticed there were far too many lineups composed of all-white males. “I think people just need to be more aware and deliberate while booking lineups. One of the beautiful things about dance music culture historically has been its ability to bring people of all different creeds, colors, and backgrounds together. People need to expand their musical palate and take risks. Find new artists that represent different cultures and identities and tap into different audiences. Start local. Find opportunities to bring different crews and circles together and mix things up a bit. But remember that you are responsible for the atmosphere you create and you need to protect your space so that people feel safe and protected and comfortable to be themselves.”
For those aspiring to join the electronic music scene, he encourages them to “remember to have fun and try not to always take everything so seriously. Get weird often and try new things. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone and try to linger there a bit.” Aside from playing at numerous upcoming NYC summer parties, he will be performing this Thursday 4/28 at Pew Pew Miami. Be sure to support the diligent DJ and producer on Beatport and Instagram.