Raf Riley Talks His New Label 'Loup' And The Future Of Music
Hailing from North London, Rafael Griefer a.ka Raf Riley is a record producer and artist whose aptitude and knowledge for creating popular music is undeniably exhibited in a never-ending chain of impressive collaborations. Riley has worked with the likes of Diplo, Labrinth, Professor Green, Naughty Boy, Skepta and Plan B to name just a few and is now venturing into nurturing a new era of talent by setting up a label of his own. The popular producer is perhaps best knows for his work with UK R&B singer Etta Bond whom he met thanks to their mutual singing to OddChild Music. Label founder Marc Williams had the idea to place the counterparts together and the two haven't stopped collaborating ever since.
Together Riley and Bond form a collaborative known as ExR, already boasting two successful EPs (Emergency Room and Meds) and millions of streams online. The pairs most recent release 'Not Ur GF’ is a contagious r&b-pop track which is flawlessly paired with vividly animated and fun visuals. ‘Not Ur GF’ marks the maiden release on Raf’s newly-formed label 'Loup Ent' which describes its vision as wanting to inject some excitement into the music scene with cutting edge, risk-taking artists and sounds. This mission statement comes as no surprise as Riley's extensive education and perception of music meander through everything he gets his hands on. We spoke to Raf on the inspiration behind creating Loup as-well-as what inspires his own creative process.
Hey Raf, how’s it going? So firstly I wanted to ask you about Loup Ent. You stated your goal with the label was to release music of a more underground, experimental nature, free from the restraints placed on artists by major labels. What inspired you to go ahead and create Loup?
I feel like I have a habit of meeting these super quirky interesting creative individuals all the time - I thought it could be pretty cool to have them all tie back in to one place.
Would you say your goal is to aim for mainstream success with a roster of underground or artists or simply just to give a voice to a more underground set of artists?
As I’m getting older I’m naturally getting more of a taste for commercial sounding music. The music’s always gonna come first, if we happen to stumble across some hits along the way then that’s a welcome bonus.
There are a lot of mixed opinions on the state of the industry at the moment, particularly in pop. What are your thoughts and feelings about the current condition of the music industry and do you feel there is enough variety of representation in mainstream music?
I think if anything streaming has reduced the pressure to try and be mainstream. Everything evolves so quickly these days that once you even begin chasing the last trend, there’s a good chance it’ll pass you by. I think there’s more incentive to just be yourself.
Have you got your eye on anyone you would like to sign to Loup? If not who in the industry at the moment are you loving that leans more towards the underground, indie side of things?
Yes there are but I’ll keep that one to myself for the time being (multiple eyes emojis)
You and Etta have been working together for a good amount of time now, how would you describe your musical relationship and the journey you have gone on together? Has she had any particular influence on the way you view things creatively?
Etta is a gift from the heavens that meant I was able to be as weird and unfiltered as I wanted from a young age and she would just tie it up in a lovely ribbon that turned it into a stomachable song. If anything working outside of Etta has made me realise not every session is such a smooth ride...
You’ve had a very successful career as far as your collaborators go, what’s your biggest personal highlight so far?
It’s like choosing between your children, I couldn’t possibly...
When did you start doing music and who would you claim as your biggest inspirations?
Been pretty much obsessed since before I can remember. My first proper influence was a Busta Rhymes album from 1999 which is still one of my favourites to this day.
Out of your extensive portfolio which song of yours are you most means the most to you or has the best story associated with it?
Too many to mention, but the song ‘Summer’ I made with Etta, Avelino and Dun D stands out. It was my first time meeting Dun D and initially he wasn’t going to be in the session. I invited him onto the song even though I’d never heard his music and he smashed it. We uploaded the song that same evening on to soundcloud and to this day it’s one of my most streamed songs.
Creative processes are known to change and vary depending on who you work with and the studio environment, what’s your tried and true workflow?
As soon as I realise I’m in a routine or over prepare for a session it never seems to work. Staying in the moment is the only way I get results I get excited by.
Who would you most like to collaborate with that you haven’t already?
I think about this all time and the honest answer is I most like the surprise of hearing new unsigned talent for the first time. I like to know there’s some room for me to get creative.
Finally, with everyone already excited to see what will come from Loup what else can you let
Next up is an EP with an artist named Caitlyn Scarlett. It’s like a mini trip through time and around the world.