A Space for New Sounds in Stockholm
Words by Esra Canoğulları, Images by Felicia Granath
Drawing inspiration from their creative friendships across design and music, STUDIO94 was born out of a need to support and highlight under-represented musicians in the Stockholm music scene. Not bound by any genre or specific sound, STUDIO94 strives to be a trusted name in their community, moving away from a niche sound in electronic music and carving out a multi-genre path of their own.
Charles Elf co-founded STUDIO94 with Nahom Zerai in 2021, both excited by the idea of starting a record label. Nahom took to the design side of the label, designing logo and graphics, Alex Alazar supported on merch and putting together their first compilation; STUDIO94 Vol.1. Grace Chang and Sara Vahdani joined the team shortly after to support the business side of the label and contribute their perspectives.
When listening to STUDIO94’s catalog it’s clear they are committed to creating an expansive idea of what electronic music can sound like within their scene. Their first release as a label, STUDIO94 Vol. 1 is a 14-track compilation released via their Bandcamp, featuring 12 artists, all exploring their own approaches to house music. A standout is Clafrica’s track Aquarian SZN, with a bubbling bassline that sonically embodies that cold chill of Aquarius season. Pushing through the cold air while still feeling immersed in the depths. Giving electro undertones Aquarian SZN references back to Drexyia’s deep sea universe.
Following STUDIO94 Vol. 1 is their second compilation, 'A Better Place', to be released at the end of August. This collection of 29 tracks takes on a more ambient approach, including tracks from 29 different producers, including Kareem Lofty, Laraaji, J.Albert, and more. A distinct shift from the upbeat and house-oriented sounds of the first compilation, this release moves into a more immersive listening experience. An exploration of experimental, downtempo, 80s, ambient, and new wave sounds and elements merged into one full-length project.
Contributing to the vast landscape of electronic music in Europe, STUDIO94 embraces fluidity within electronic genres of the past, present and future while highlighting artists whose work is in line with this ethos. “No genre or sound, we strive to showcase the future and the unheard”.
Tell us a bit about the music scene you are a part of in Stockholm:
Given that Sweden is a huge exporter of music, the music scene in Stockholm isn’t that big internationally. There are a few labels in the electronic scene that are releasing great music. Our experience is that the music scene, culturally, is blooming but there are gaps in certain genres, and it's a good thing. It allows for a lot of creative freedom and fair competition for music-interested people to actually do their own things. Another thing about the music scene in Stockholm is that there are two main club venues that focus on music. These clubs allow different labels, artists, collectives etc to host and curate club nights, us included.
Tell us a bit about the music scene you are a part of in Stockholm:
Given that Sweden is a huge exporter of music, the music scene in Stockholm isn’t that big internationally. There are a few labels in the electronic scene that are releasing great music. Our experience is that the music scene, culturally, is blooming but there are gaps in certain genres, and it's a good thing. It allows for a lot of creative freedom and fair competition for music interested people to actually do their own things. Another thing about the music scene in Stockholm is that there are two main club venues that focus on music. These clubs allow different labels, artists, collective etc to host and curate club nights, us included.
What kind of a platform/space are you hoping to create?
STUDIO94 originated from the need for a creative outlet to explore and develop our own generative potential. Having felt excluded from such pre-existing spaces, we decided to create our own platform where we would be able to make all our ideas come to life. Today, we strive to extend that same platform to others through music and build a community around creatives who've once felt the same. Highlighting underrepresented musicians, producers and artists that we think deserve the spotlight is one of the ways we do this.
What we hope to create with STUDIO94 is to become a trusted name that inspires and brings people together through music. This notion is regardless of what genre you usually listen to. We want everybody to feel welcomed to our community and be introduced to music you normally wouldn't go for through us.
The first compilation STUDIO94 Vol. 1 focused on a range of approaches to house music, this upcoming compilation is ambient. Why is it important to you all to highlight a wide range of genres within electronic music?
No specific reason; we are a record label bound by no genre or sound. We just want to put out good music that we like. This notion is important and goes back to the intention of wanting to create a space where everybody feels welcome and come together for the love of music.
How was STUDIO94 founded?
It came about quite organically and evolved from being a fun project with friends that turned into an actual business. Charles, who is an artist himself (Prof. Stranger), always wanted to cross “starting a record label” off his bucket list. Nahom started working with the logo and graphics and Alex showed up a day or two later with some ideas for the merch/compilation. Grace and Sara joined the family not long after to help out with the business side of things. So here we are.
What are some of the collectives and labels that have inspired you to start a label?
Locally, we are also very lucky to have been surrounded by a lot of talented and creative friends. Port Au Mansa, which is a perfume oil brand and Geza, a newly founded clothing brand are two examples. Having that creative spirit around us has really inspired us to build something of our own. Music-wise, we’ve been inspired by Tukio which is a Stockholm-based independent radio station. Also, the setting and ambiance of Hosoi, the first listening bar in Stockholm.
What's on the horizon for STUDIO94? Any artists you are excited about or projects you’d like to highlight?
Our biggest upcoming project is our second compilation album, A Better Place, which features 29 artists from all around the world. We’re really excited about this project because it’s something we’ve been working on for a long time! It’s set to be released at the end of August this year. We’re also launching a website around the same time where you will be able to order double-cassettes of A Better Place. Also, we have plans on dropping digital releases from some amazing artists and producers in the near future, so a lot of exciting things to come.
Keep up with future projects from STUDIO94.