There’s a change in the water on the UK’s music scene. After years of commercialised heavyweights dominating the industry, the pandemic-enforced hiatus has carved out a new vanguard of DJ collectives, club nights, and record labels – all creating commotion about the issues they care about as UK clubs reopen their doors.
Hooversound is the record label defying industry limits. The acclaimed club music label founded by DJs and radio presenters SHERELLE and NAINA symbolises a new horizon for the UK’s high-tempo music spectrum. Boasting a repertoire of variously gifted artists from across the globe, the power duo has facilitated their year-long experience at radio stations and expertise in anything 140-170 BPM to debut a cradle of burgeoning talent.
Their individual paths, though unrelated, originated from the unfaltering love for music and devotion to radio presenting which manifested itself early on in their respective careers. Hailing from South London, NAINA studied music journalism at the Southampton Solent University before venturing into the capital’s radio scene at the suggestion of her mates. At Reprezent Radio, Brixton’s hottest FM channel, NAINA’s career as a live-show presenter set in motion and steered her towards hosting at Apple Music 1. Similarly, SHERELLE’s musical voyage began with a daytime show at Reprezent Radio and eventually progressed into a BBC Radio 1 Residency.
An organic friendship built on mutual trust ensued between the two and their unwavering musical bond inspired the idea for Hooversound. Having launched the label in early 2020, the pair had to endure, as did the entire music scene, a postponed commencement of live shows and parties due to lockdown restrictions. Coming out of our shared year-long confinement stronger than ever, Hooversound had already produced several projects, including the collaborative EP BS6 by Hyroglifics and Sinistarr. A harmonising hybrid of jungle, footwork and techno – the acclaimed EP blends the quintessential 160 BPM club sounds of UK-based DJ and producer Hyroglifics with the acidic techno hues native to producer Sinistarr’s Detroit home.
While Hooversound foregrounds the musical and personal best of both SHERELLE and NAINA, they have pursued individual projects too. SHERELLE has proudly launched her own label BEAUTIFUL which celebrates the most exciting Black Electronic artists of today and cultivates scenes within both the Black and LGBTQ+ music community. Akin to her co-partner, NAINA supports causes dear to her heart and co-runs No ID, a collective saluting South Asian talent that has recently co-organised Dialled In, a London-based day festival presenting the South Asian underground.
With an astonishing zest for more, SHERELLE and NAINA keep indispensable values at the core of their work: collaboration and integrity. As successful as they have become, there is no arrogance or entitlement present. “We do it for the love of music”, NAINA reveals.
Having observed the multi-faceted duo recalling their early radio presenting days and beginnings of their collaborative cruise, their appreciation for each other’s hard work and talent both in and outside of Hooversound crystallises. An immense respect and sense of pride emit from their storytelling and their passion for electronic music defines their shared identity.
BRICKS speaks to SHERELLE and NAINA about the collaborative effort of running Hooversound, the revival of rave culture, and the ever-lasting power of radio.
Nothing makes us happier than to see a revival of rave culture because that shit was allowing people to come together, so many different cultures mixing and just raving with each other.
How did your individual journeys into the music industry begin?
NAINA: Ever since I was a young kid I was obsessed with music and always had a real connection to sounds around me, whether that was what my mum and dad were playing in the car, or my sister used to make me mixed CDs. When I was at university studying how to write about music and how to edit videos, I started DJing for fun because people told me ‘You should be a DJ’, so I was just with my little controller in my room at parties mixing and having fun. It’s something I loved doing as a form of escapism really, never in my mind did I think it was a career, it was just always just something I loved to do.
SHERELLE: I’ve got a similar story with music in that it’s always been around my family home. I started to develop my own music taste when I was able to switch the TV over to MTV dance and then see the likes of Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, Basement Jaxx and I was obsessed with all of them. I think we’re quite fortunate as a generation that we’re not bound by certain genres. I’ve always wanted to be on radio and the people that I used to listen to were Mary Anne Hobbs, Annie Mac, Zane Lowe and Mistajam, and by doing the training course at Reprezent I was able to do that and succeed.
How did you come together to create Hooversound?
S: I guess my and NAINA’s story come together because our station manager always told us ‘If you want your show to be like anyone’s show it has to be like NAINA’s show’ because of the way that NAINA did her show and the guests that she would get – me and other DJs that have been on Reprezent before would look to NAINA to be like “Ok cool”. NAINA believed in my vision and then it just allowed us to kind of grow closer as friends because it was nice to see that someone had my back at the radio station. We did an amazing back-to-back at Brixton Academy supporting The Prodigy, and it was our first big gig playing to many thousands of people and to see the place go from zero to completely full capacity was a mind-blowing thing for us. It’s everything you want to do; it gave us the idea for Hooversound because we could see that we were so musically linked.
N: It’s nice working with someone who obviously is your best mate but also, we agree on a lot, we have a very similar music palette. So, whenever we send each other stuff like ‘should we sign this’ we agree and things we don’t agree on – we don’t agree on together.
What goals do you hope to achieve with Hooversound?
N: The main thing we want to do is provide a platform for upcoming underground artists. We both worked in radio for so long that we knew a lot of different artists and we wanted to pair up a lot of these amazing underground artists with bigger artists, we’d be the gatekeeper. We put out the type of music where we found that a lot of people from our audience will buy it regardless of even listening to it, they know what to expect in terms of it’s going to be really left, it might be a hybrid and we love that about the Hooversound audience. We are not a Drum n Bass label, we’re not a jungle label, we’re not a footwork label – we’re just an electronic music label, so the fact that our audience is just committed regardless of the sound – it’s incredible.
S: We really want to change how music is within the scene, we don’t want to keep or at least add to some parts which are quite stagnant, we want to give people new perspectives and ideas of production-wise how it could sound and that infiltrates into the mainstream.
What message do you want Hooversound to convey?
S: I don’t think any of us immediately thought about the fact that there wasn’t much representation for the both of us, myself as a Black queer woman and NAINA being of South Asian descent. We now know how important that representation is to younger people already in the industry.
N: Imposter syndrome is very real and when you look around you don’t really see that many people that you can relate to, and the music industry is generally quite a scary place when you’re young and new. People ask me so much ‘who is your role model?’ and I love M.I.A because I was seeing her on my TV and going ‘Oh, that’s another Brown girl in music’ and I was so surprised by that when I shouldn’t be surprised. We want to become role models to the younger people coming through and show them that this is the norm: two women of colour running a label, both on the radio, both DJing, busy ladies in dance music because sometimes you get pigeonholed as well, so we’re keen to make this the standard.
We want to become role models to the younger people coming through and show them that this is the norm: two women of colour running a label, both on the radio, both DJing, busy ladies in dance music.
Looking at your carefully selected repertoire, how do you choose which music to release at Hooversound?
N: We had an idea of who we would want to work with, but we did call out for demos. I think that’s a really blessed position to be in that people are sending us stuff, as well as us reaching out to some of our favourite artists. A lot of them make a release specifically for Hooversound because they know they can experiment. Someone like Deft, he had been sitting on this music that was much higher tempo than his other stuff that he makes, we’ve been fans of him for years and he was like ‘I’ve got this thing that would fit with Hooversound’ and we signed it straight away. There’s a certain element to the label where we respect and pay homage to rave culture and how jungle and footwork have influenced the new generation of producers who are making hybrid music that lives on Hooversound but it’s always about the future and moving forward.
Based on your own experiences in the industry, how are you cultivating a supportive environment at Hooversound and what values do you want to impose on industry newcomers?
N: If we don’t know them, we want to be their friends, we want to be part of their network. It shouldn’t just be about the music, and I think one thing that we want all our artists to know is that just because we’ve released one EP by you that’s not it, thanks, onto the next. We want you to play our events, we want to bring you in in any opportunities we can.
S: We’re so into everything, we do the design element, we do the social media element, we personally pay the artist, there are so many different facets to the label that we just do ourselves, there are literally only two people behind Hooversound. We’re always here and we want to make sure that everyone is OK, especially mental health-wisebecause not everyone is nice. Some people are cunts. While we’re on the topic of cunts – it’s not hard to be a genuine person at all but there are some people who are so consumed by numbers or popularity. NAINA and I have worked our asses off, we’ve not come from money in that sense. We’ve worked hard and we haven’t cut any corners and I would implore people to do the same: work hard and take your time with it.
N: The issue with the industry is that there’s a lot of entitlement, there’s a lot of nepotism, and I’d like to think that the organic ways of doing it for the right reason will always shine through. It’s based on talent as well; it’s not a popularity contest and I hope that that’s what people see when they see Hooversound. I think the industry is messy and there are so many people not doing it for the right reasons, but snakes will be snakes.
The issue with the industry is that there’s a lot of entitlement, there’s a lot of nepotism, but I’d like to think that the organic ways of doing it for the right reason will always shine through.
Who do you think is killing it right now in the music scene?
N: Everyone on Hooversound. We have to shout out every single artist including the artists who remix the artists. I think it’s just all these beautiful Brown faces doing amazing things. The entire line-up of the Dialled In Festival[which took place on 12th September] is South Asian DJs and artists from Manuka Honey to Yung Singh to Ahadadream to Nabihah Iqbal to Nayana Iz – there’s just so much talent.
S: Anyone we support. All artists represented on BEAUTIFUL, all those artists have got their own various stories but the whole completion comes together. It’s a privilege working with Karen Nyame KG, Scratcha DVA, WALTHAMSTOW DOGS, Grove or Nia Archives.
What is a misconception about electronic music that you would like to change?
S: There is a lot of elitism especially regarding Drum n Bass and I think if people took the time to stop looking down on such genres and realise that potentially a lot of their judgement is racial then they would have a lot more fun. Nothing makes us happier to see a revival of rave culture because that shit was allowing people to come together, so many different cultures mixing and just raving with each other. There are genres that were birthed on the basis that it was a collective effort and group structure; jungle’s one of them, Drum n Bass is one of them, footwork is one of them. I think a perfect example of how music is so intertwined is the Daytimers at Boiler Room; all those guys have been able to use their own origins to add different elements to the sound.
N: Everything goes around in circles, everything’s fashionable, trendy, what’s cool, what’s getting likes on Instagram and I feel we’re on a mission to just fucking abolish that. There’s this new wave of the new Asian underground and it’s like ‘no, no, no’ – we have always been here, Daytimers have always been doing their thing, Yung Singh has always been doing their thing, me and Ahadadream have been doing our thing and we shouldn’t be recognised now, it should just be an ongoing thing. I think the main challenge moving forward is to make sure that this isn’t just like the flavour of the month.
In what parts of the music industry would you like to see more changes?
N: At the top, so where are my South Asian club owners, where are my South Asian label owners, where are the South Asian promoters who are booking these lineups? There are loads of us down here, the talent, but it’s not just about that because I know loads of DJs who are Brown, but I don’t know that many club owners, so I think it’s breaking down those barriers to get to the top because the change needs to happen up there to affect everyone.
S: All these people do exist, there’s just – with regards to resources and connection – sometimes none of us on a Black or South Asian prospect.
As music streaming platforms have been dominating the industry for the past years – why do you think radio is still powerful?
S: I think radio has the power of catapulting music because it’s a collective thing, so when someone’s show is on many different people around the world can be listening to this one show. It has the power to, no pun intended, transmit to so many different playing fields. I think also what you have to remember is that when big radio heads like Mary Anne Hobbs or Tom Ravenscroft do pick up on what we do, it’s a huge win because we are able to reach out to those guys and get the music across and it brings a whole new audience.
N: I think music streaming is always going to be super important and it will continue to grow but I think radio is never going to die. You’ve got to remember, as a radio presenter it is your job to be a tastemaker, a gatekeeper, a selector. People want to know what Zane Lowe is listening to, people want to know what NAINA and SHERELLE from Hooversound are listening to – we’re going to put you on the next thing and it’s our job to be that tastemaker and open people’s ears and eyes to the different sounds.
S: When you hear Mary Anne talk to us about a song so lovingly…
N: The excitement in a radio presenter’s voice when you haven’t even heard the track yet and you’re like ‘I can’t wait to hear this – gas me up’.
S: You put the radio on in the background and it feels like a friend showing you music.
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