A Colorful History of Justin Jay’s Fantastic Voyage Label
California’s music scene exudes a charm of its own – expelling a wave of artists that create in a unique vein of free expression. Emerging from the West Coast shores of America, Justin Jay and his Fantastic Voyage label have continued to provide uplifting tunes and a freewheeling platform that has been widely embraced amongst its artists and the electronic community as a whole.
On the eve of the label’s five year anniversary, MP3 MAG took a deep dive into Fantastic Voyage’s history, and spoke with Jay and his troupe of creatives about the label’s anniversary and future.
For the last five years, Justin Jay’s Fantastic Voyage has served as a platform for creativity. It has dazzled not with loyalty to a genre, but rather a feeling of wonder, genuine expression and freeform artistry.
To celebrate this milestone anniversary, the label is rolling out ‘Fantastic Voyage: 5 Year Compilation’ – an eclectic and diverse three-disc, 100+ track journey through sound. Once again, listeners expending a specific genre experience will be pleasantly surprised. The project finds a wide-ranging offering from a group of longtime labelmates, as well as first time contributors, to commemorate the spirit of the imprint’s openness to aspiring artists.
“When my friends and I sit down to make music, we don’t predetermine what style or genre our music will be,” Justin Jay told MP3 MAG. “The best moments in the studio happen when you’re just having fun expressing yourself without any judgement. The one catch is sometimes you end up making things that don’t fit the regular boxes. Most other labels look for music that fits “their box.” We had no choice but to start our own label because my friends and I were sitting on all this awesome stuff that no one would sign.”
Long before his cascading curls and label success, Justin Jay was an aspiring DJ living in Southern California. Kickstarting his career while just a student, Jay became the youngest member of the L.A.-based Dirtybird label in 2011 via his EP, How Goes the Dynamite?
This early nod from America’s top tech house imprint and its figurehead, Claude VonStroke, would serve as foreshadowing towards his future potential and success, but his true journey as innovator, and leader, came a few years later.
In 2013, the producer began attending the University of Southern California, where he would go on to meet Josh Taylor and Benny Bridges. Bridges and Taylor were playing in a local indie band, around the same time Jay’s profile as a Dirtybird DJ was taking off. Even still, the three found a synergy within their love for music and simply having fun.
The trio began practicing and recording together, developing a fusion of instrumental house, techno and indie records riddled with live instruments and emotive songwriting.
“I definitely didn’t envision Fantastic Voyage becoming what it has… I didn’t even really understand what a label did at the time,” Benny Bridges told MP3 MAG. “It has been this very free form, organic entity that has never really been defined by one thing. It has grown and changed with us and is still continuing to do so.”
As Justin Jay began DJing more regularly across town, the trio started bringing their setup to life on stage and performing together live. In California especially, the group saw a warm response to this different style of music that offers singer-songwriter sensibilities backboned by electronic production. Eventually, the group would go on to tour and play as Justin Jay’s Fantastic Voyage.
The band expanded as their group of DJs and artist friends grew. At full force, the band offers a tech-house producer, ukulele player, a drummer, guitarist, and on occasion, a trumpeter, saxophonist, and bassist. In 2016, they made their official debut and announced the birth of the label with their first project, Fantastic Voyage Pt. 1.
While Justin Jay and others in the group have released with more mainstream imprints, Fantastic Voyage arose to offer a platform for up-and-coming producers and underground electronic verticals from around the world. This has grown to encompass not just House and West Coast indie, but bubbling styles of Techno and House from across America and Europe.
“I think what makes FV stand out to me is the ethos of being a platform for individuals to experience musical freedom,” Bridges added. “The machine of the music industry can oftentimes color the creative process, and FV started with the intent to have freedom be at the forefront.”
In total, the group has written, produced and released three Fantastic Voyage albums together – amassing millions of plays on Spotify and helping grow the label’s reach to afford bi-monthly releases. Their group has toured in Asia, Australia, and America, and have taken the stage at festivals like Bonnaroo, Electric Forest, Holy Ship, and the Do Lab at Coachella.
Its release slate has been headlined by promising acts like Ardalan and Kill Frenzy, while aiding the rise of artists like Henry Was, PVLMS, and Choopsie. The label frequently drops sample packs and bootlegs, part of their full catalogue offered on FV’s Bandcamp.
“I’ve really loved working with Fantastic Voyage,” said up-and-comer, Choopsie. “They really care about all of the music they release and have created such a great community of artists. Everyone at Fantastic Voyage is so kind and supportive. I am very grateful to have gotten to work with them.”
In 2021, the imprint has largely eclipsed any milestones they had imagined as college kids, and is somehow celebrating its five year anniversary as a label and family. This kicked off last month with Disc 1 of a three-disk, ‘Fantastic Voyage: 5 Year Compilation’– broken up into 100-tracks of pop, hipster European, indie electronica, and West Coast house and techno.
The project was led by the single, “Colors,” which features pop/R&B vocalist and FV-alumni, Oli-J. The track highlights the anniversary’s core theme and message of “showing your true” self. The single encapsulates the label’s peak creativity – combing through their various styles to create a combined sense of sound.
“Fantastic Voyage has had the effect of allowing me to be in the presence of amazing artists,” said Oli-J. “The label has also opened my eyes to house music in more depth and love for it. Knowing every artist for this complication got inspired to create a beautiful piece of their own music, really means a lot to my artistry.”
“I think ‘Colors’ was chosen as the lead single because it gave every artist the encouragement to truly let themselves shine in their music. I just want people to hear this song and know that they are the best version of who they are.”
Disc 2 is packed with the wide-reaching styles of House, UK garage and Disco – key pillars in the Fantastic Voyage universe. As found throughout the compilation, listeners can explore tracks from long-time label favorites and new-comers alike. Half of the songs on the compilation are derived from students who worked with Jay throughout quarantine via his virtual production workshops.
Justin Jay’s courses became a key asset to a cast of rising producers in 2020, with the producer pouring his knowledge in over three terms that spanned one weekend, five weeks, and six months. At its core, the classes projected hope for young producers to stop being critical of their work, and let the creativity flow.
I really look up to Justin, and I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for Justin’s Zoom class a year ago.Choopsie
On the final compilation disc, due out December 3, Justin Jay previews his growing interest in left-of-center club music and rave revival anthems, self-dubbed as ‘Nu Rave’. These fast-paced productions combine modern styles with old-school rave nostalgia, a melting pot of influences that span footwork, breaks, happy hardcore and more. The disc features notable names such as Nikki Nair, AK Sports, Anna Morgan, DJ Earl, Black Loops and Stones Taro.
“The theme of the comp is “showing your true colors,’” said Justin Jay. “We wanted everyone to have a chance to share their art, no matter the style or genre. That’s what the label stands for, giving artists a chance to be themselves.”
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