Elvin Estela, better known as DJ Nobody, is one of the founding fathers of the LA weekly Low End Theory (LET). A fellow avid bloody mary lover, he met up with us at Home in Los Feliz (jalapeno cucumber, yes please) to talk to us about the first upcoming LET Festival, booking the biggest names in hip-hop / electronic music, his fascination with Riff Raff, and preserving the LET culture despite its overnight success.
In 2007 Daddy Kev, Gaslamp Killer, D-Styles, MC Nocando and DJ Nobody started a club because they hated other clubs. That club became a weekly Wednesday night residency known as Low End Theory, and is now one of the best places to see up and coming electronic and hip-hop acts in LA. In the past few years, the demand for their music, events and performing artists has skyrocketed - a demand that’s now exceeding their venue’s capacity. This has triggered their decision to launch the first 2-day LET festival taking place on June 14-15 at the Echo and Echoplex venues in Echo Park.
Daddy Kev discovered LET's venue The Airliner while attending a neighbor’s quinceañera. Lol.-> When the rest of the crew saw it, they were blown away that an unused venue like that still existed in Los Angeles. It was a gem. They started promoting their weekly residency through physical fliers and on Myspace. People like Flying Lotus and Free the Robots started hanging out there because they wanted a place to hear their favorite music delivered in an innovative way. Word began to spread organically. A year later they no longer had to worry about it not being packed every week.
Nowadays, lines around the block are basically guaranteed, but moving to a larger club isn’t and was never the right solution. The Low End culture and vibe at the Airliner doesn’t translate anywhere else. So much of a performance is about the energy and the atmosphere of the space. LET is a complete experience; a combination of all factors that can’t be recreated. It’s the CBGB of the scene.
“In one of his books David Byrne talks about CBGB and says, ‘Punk music, I’ve heard it all over the world, but it sounds THE BEST in that room.’ When I went there in college I was appalled at how shitty of a club it was, like, ‘This is CBGB? This is the legendary club?’ But then you understand why it’s CBGB’s - because it is just a bare bones underground music club.”
Not only do they have a prime sound system at the Airliner, but the musical acts consistently kill it. Guaranteed to blow UP. We’ve seen Cashmere Cat (meow), James Blake, Riff Raff (JODY HiGHROLLER), Earl Sweatshirt, and Erykah Badu there, just to mention a few. #Casual.
“Even Tyler, The Creator played in October 2010 when no one knew who he was. The appeal of Low End is that we just don’t give a fuck sometimes. I don’t care if no one wants to see Riff Raff - I want to see Riff Raff on my stage. I want to see that shit!”
Musically, this past decade has been dominated by the New York scene. LA was missing its sound. Through LET’s careful curation of artists that draw in the right crowds at the right time, they have built their own niche by creating a sound that is so unique to LA.
“We’ve had a trap scene, we’ve had rock, and punk, but never electronic, or something that just sounds like it’s from LA - and it just somehow happened in the last few years. We’re stoked.”
The demand is bigger than the club, so instead of trying to recreate that somewhere else, “Let the people who really want to see it, have to fight to go see it.” So that’s why they’re starting the festival.
They realize that the club can’t last forever, but with the festival, the scene can live on. The high LET demand doesn’t just come from the kids, it comes from the artists that want the honor of playing on their stages as well. The lineup this summer includes acts like Invisibl Skratch Piklz, Nosaj Thing, The Internet, and many more, along with panel discussions for aspiring producers and musicians. Advance tickets are already sold out.
"Booking was surprisingly easy. We tell them, ‘Oh, it’s the first Low End festival,” and everyone’s like, ‘I want to be a part of it!” We get lucky, you know?”
There was so much initial interest that they had to start turning acts away, with the promise of consideration next for next year. Any surprises this year?
“Flying Lotus isn’t on the lineup… but he’ll probably end up playing it.”
We asked him what it felt like to inspire and influence a new generation of music and collaboration, especially when kids ask how they can start making beats from their bedrooms.
“My only advice is to make something that’s more unique to you. Something that expresses who you are as a person, instead of just trying to make a hot beat, or a beat that’ll sound good in the club. It’s one thing to have a sound influence your music, and it’s another to make exactly what’s happening. I could be influenced by trap, or I could make trap. There’s a difference.”
Limited tickets may be sold at the door to the festival. May the odds be ever in your favor.
Favorite brunch spot?
It might have to be The Alcove, because of the ambience and the food is so good. There’s also a place by my house called Camilo’s - that place is super good too. Eagle Rock has cool shit.
Current individual projects?
I’m going to start my next Nobody record soon. I just finished helping with the Nocando record. I’m working with this girl Nova Rockafeller, and I just gave some beats to my friend Anderson Paak - he also goes by Breezy Lovejoy. He’s super dope. And me and Omar from Mars Volta started working on some stuff with Teri Gender Bender.
Drake. It’s gotta happen. It’s gotta happen! Sometimes when you’re an artist and you read interviews of other artists, you’re either like, I’m nothing like this guy, or you’re like ‘OMG me and this guy would be besties if we met.’ We like all the same kind of shit, same taste in girls, we’re both sensitive...Everytime I read about him it’s like, ‘Dude we would so be besties.” <3<3<3
Elvin: Before I started dressing like this I was into 60’s and 70’s style - but I got sick of buying bellbottoms in the women’s section so I started switching it up. I like a certain Polo aesthetic, then once you get into that culture of the Polo shit, you start to look for the rarer pieces… there’s a culture behind everything! I get a lot of my Louis stuff in Japan because it’s everywhere.
LYKA: You’ve been rocking the bucket hats since we met you!
Elvin: I’ve rocked the bucket hat a lonnnng time.
What is the future for Low End Theory?
The festival for sure. We eventually wanna wrap up the weekly nights - that’s our long term goal. We’ll take the weekly night as far as it can go, and then use the festival to bring acts together once a year. We’ll probably still end up doing one-off shows and stuff.
Dream performer at Low End Theory?
I would love to get a proper James Blake set because we had him before but he just DJ’d - it would be cool to have him actually sing and shit. I would love that. Mr. Oizo is definitely on my list. And maybe Kendrick.
What’s your favorite drink?
Ahhh beer. I like any IPA, and I like greyhounds: that’s grapefruit and vodka. And I also like ginger ale and Jameson.
What kind of music do you listen to on your own time?
When I’m at home I like really mellow stuff, like Teebs, Sonnymoon and James Blake. Like The Acid, still bassy and trippy but mellow. And then I listen to a lot of rap stuff, like Drake, to get ready.[<3] And my record collection is a lot of old stuff so I’m listening to a lot of 80’s R&B. The stuff I play at LET is not home music - I don’t want to get my head beat in when I’m trying to cook dinner.