Seven Years of Bass Coast: An Interview with co-founder Andrea Graham AKA The Librarian
As an avid electronic music enthusiast residing in the Pacific Northwest, Bass Coast has always been on my radar as an eventual summer excursion. Over the past 6 years that I’ve been living in the area, I’ve heard more and more about the wonders of the festival; the epicly eclectic lineup, the beautiful festival grounds, the phenomenal art installations, and the true passion of the festival organizers for creating a magical experience. Festival season has always been very busy for me (as it is for anyone who loves electronic music in a live setting), and year after year, I got distracted by other festivals.
It wasn’t until I saw The Librarian play a DJ set for the first time several years ago that I started to truly understand the vibe and aesthetic of Bass Coast. Her minimalist approach to DJing and bass music appealed to me straight off the bat; how could she do so much with so little? Her mixing style makes the listener appreciate every minute detail of every track. Each kick, each snare, each synth, becomes a powerful tool instead of an insignificant part of a wall of sound. Instead of relying on massive drops to keep the dance floor moving, she employs the use of subtlety and flow. After seeing her play a few times, and learning more about the festival, I realized that she took a similar approach when crafting the concept of Bass Coast. Instead of valuing extravagance and overstimulation in the vein of… let’s say Electric Daisy Carnival (AKA “the massive drops approach”), Bass Coast values attention to detail and INTELLIGENT stimulation intended to nurture a vibe of creativity and harmony. The music lineup is forward-thinking, extremely diverse, and, frankly, one of the best in the world. The art installations are inventive, thought-provoking, and minimalist. The organizers’ passion bleeds through in every facet of the festival, and that passion is what sets Bass Coast apart from the faceless, homogenous Coachellas and Paradisos.
Before we go any further, let’s just get a little background information out of the way: Bass Coast is in its seventh year as a festival in 2015. It will be held in Merritt, BC this year for the first time. It was founded by two amazing women, Andrea Graham (AKA The Librarian) and Liz Thompson, who continue to organize and run the festival, along with help from countless other crucial individuals. The festival includes a world-class music lineup, art installations, workshops, yoga, food, and an unparalleled sense of community.
Not convinced yet? Maybe some words from one of the co-founders, Andrea, will help. Recently, we sat down with The Librarian (and by “sat down with”, I mean “exchanged emails with”) to talk about everything from the logistics of Bass Coast, to its goals and principles as a festival, to the diversity of its lineup, to balancing life as a festival organizer and a touring musician.
BnC: This year, Bass Coast’s theme is Tentacularrr. Tell us a little bit about the origins of that concept and what it means to you as a festival organizer.
Andrea: We always take our time deciding on the theme. It’s a process that can’t be forced. When we looked into the root of the word tentacle we immediately identified with the concept. Here is our release:
“Tentacularrr: Reach out and explore the world through feeling. To be tentacular is to extend beyond oneself. May our thoughts, words, and movements be tentacular, always striving for the richness of interconnectivity.
This is Bass Coast 7: Tentacularrr”
BnC: Bass Coast changed locations this year. Describe that process. Do you think Merritt will be a more permanent home for Bass Coast?
Andrea: It was very difficult to find a new location for the festival, but it was a necessity. Our previous location was incredible but we ran into sound issues with the surrounding community which resulted in a curfew being implemented. We’ve always programmed music through to sunrise, which is our favorite part of the festival. At that time of day music becomes more gentle and people become very open. It took us months to find a new site but when we first stepped foot on the land, we knew it was our new home. We have been welcomed by the local community of Merritt and we plan on staying here as long as we can.
BnC: Bass Coast obviously upholds a deep commitment to forward-thinking and intelligent electronic music, with a focus on bass music. This year, we saw a much larger representation of house and techno on the lineup. Whatever the genre, Bass Coast consistently has one of the best curated lineups of any North American festival. Tell us a little bit about the curation process for Bass Coast, and the dynamic of popularity vs. quality when choosing artists for the lineup.
Andrea: This year Max Ulis, Lorne Burlington and I co-curated the line up with the specific goal of creating our most diverse line up yet. We took great care to select artists that are genuine creators and entertainers and who are pushing new boundaries with their sound. We realize not everyone is familiar with each artist but people have begun to come for the entire festival experience knowing they will learn about some new artists and also see some of their existing faves. This gives us freedom to curate the festival much like a DJ set, with the focus being on the story told on the stage throughout the entire night.
BnC: Bass Coast focuses heavily on its music lineup, but there are many other facets to the festival. Tell us a little bit about the art curation, yoga, and other workshops the festival provides.
Andrea: Liz curates the art installations, yoga, and workshops. We began offering an art grant program 3 years ago which allows anyone to apply with their idea, budget, and plan, and we will offer them funding to help with the creation of their piece. This means a portion of every ticket sale goes directly into the art installations. Our Yoga & Workshop programs are always packed and we love seeing people participating in all types of subjects that are offered.
BnC: Bass Coast set its capacity at 3000 this year. How did you come up with that number? Is it based on the amount of land, or in an attempt to create the appropriate vibe?
Andrea: We’ve always felt that being an intimate festival with world class production sets Bass Coast apart from other festivals. As much as Bass Coast is about what is offered, it is also about the People. Whether attendees are coming for their first time or their seventh, they are welcomed by everyone and having a small capacity allows people to meet over the course of the weekend. There is plenty of space for more people, however we want to continue to manage the capacity so that the ‘vibe’ feels good.
BnC: In addition to organizing Bass Coast, you’re a very well-known DJ/Producer who plays all up and down the West Coast regularly. How do you balance organizing the festival with DJing, producing, traveling, and everything else you have going on?
Andrea: It’s a busy life, but I absolutely love both careers. Working on Bass Coast keeps my business brain stimulated and also stimulates my creative side in a different way than producing and playing music. DJing satisfies my travel bug and I love the connection that happens between the music and the dance floor and myself. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to do what I do and I love working hard for it.
BnC: Is there anything else we should know about Bass Coast?
Andrea: There are many people who work hard behind the scenes in order to make Bass Coast a reality. I want to give special mention to my mom Helen Graham who has been there helping us since day one and now works year round to keep operations running well. Thanks Mom!
BnC: As bass music’s resident “Librarian”, what are your current top three book recommendations?
Andrea: Well, the last book I purchased was “Art Forms in Nature”. The book that inspires me to go on adventures is “Shantaram”. And, finally… “Ishmael”.
BnC: I’d just like to end with a moment of appreciation for including Sam Binga on this year’s lineup. Thanks for that one!
Andrea: Oh yes… That’s a personal highlight for me as well!
Come find the BnC crew at Bass Coast in Merritt, BC July 10-13, where we will undoubtedly be having the time of our lives!