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Interview: Off The Record Is Helping New York's Underground Thrive

We speak with Off The Record ahead of their one-year anniversary celebration on August 12th.
On The Record

New York City is home to one of the most vibrant music communities in the world. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. The underground is where some of the best and most interesting music takes root, before it finds its way to the mainstream. The New York City underground event community takes pride in breaking acts and having some of the most exciting concepts in the city. Off The Record is a new event company that is keeping the underground tradition alive and we had the chance to chat with Off The Records ahead of their one-year anniversary celebration tomorrow night, August 12th.

Founded by Maria Otero, Off The Record has grown over the past year from putting on events in the back room of bars to taking over clubs like Good Room and booking international DJs such as Noha, Cinthie and John Dimas. However the focus has always been on local talent.

Tomorrow, they will celebrate one year with a special party at Ceremony in Brooklyn at Ceremony224 with Berlin techno DJ Noha and their residents CGC Soundsystem, and Marite & Mayssam. Get details here.

Read on to find out just how they got into this ruthless business, get some tips if you want to start some parties of your own and how the scene is making it safer for attendees.

How did you get into producing events?

We met through the Music Business masters program at NYU. After working together on an assignment to organize a concert, we realized we were a great team and knowing we had the same taste in electronic music, it was only natural for us to start producing events. So we founded Off The Record, to create intimate parties that showcase underground talent with a focus on deep house and minimal techno.

What is your vision for Off The Record? What do you want people to take away from your parties?

Off The Record is foremost about delivering quality music. We focus on a deep, minimal and stripped down sound. We’ve always booked talent that we believe in, we trust the DJs selections and their sincerity with the music. Maria and I are passionate about our sound but we also love to party, to bring people together for a good time. It’s about keeping the quality high, especially for those who are familiar with the scene but also about introducing newcomers to the genre and to the underground party ethos. We want to keep supporting the talent and sound that we believe in and allow more people to enjoy it through our events.

What is something you wish you knew a year ago, that you know now?

Starting off we didn’t fully understand the unpredictability of the underground scene. It’s pretty tough to find your space within a pool of promoters in a concentrated scene like New York. It’s only natural for people to choose a well-known party over a brand new one. It takes time for the word to get around so our job is to stick around long enough for everybody to find out.

What is the biggest lesson you learned over the past year?

The biggest lesson we’ve taken away is that you have to keep believing in yourself, in your sound and in your party. Not every event can be as amazing as you wish but it’s about getting back up. We’ve gone through up and downs but we’ve learned to keep going, learn from our mistakes and make every party better than the previous.

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On The Record

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

The biggest challenge was starting the party from ground zero. Established venues don’t want to work with promoters until you show them a history of successful parties with good numbers and bookings. So finding our first space was definitely a struggle. We ended up starting at a dive bar in the Lower East Side called Jerome’s (previously St. Jerome’s where Eli Escobar threw parties back in the day). The bar had a second room in the back where we hosted our parties, up front was rock and heavy metal. 

Our second residency was at a similar spot called Under. A basement on Houston street which you accessed by going through a classic Manhattan club, down the stairs, down the corridor and finally through a door that looked like a RedBull machine. Through these unusual, intimate and memorable spots we’ve found our ground and are now working with bigger venues and bigger talent.

What is being done in the New York underground community so that we don’t have a Ghost Ship here?

It’s a matter of creating a safe space, with proper exits and surroundings. Most of the warehouse parties I go to in NYC feel safe in terms of exits but I think it’s a big problem when the space has flammable materials. Promoters are definitely getting more and more mindful since Ghost Ship.

What was the most memorable moment of the past year?

I have two :) I can’t forget our party at Good Room with our first international booking, John Dimas. The party was very intimate, familiar faces all around, amazing crowd with the true heads coming out on a Sunday night to listen to John’s selection. We went until 4:30 on a Sunday and the crowd was still down to party up until the venue had to make us stop. We’ll be back there soon for another Sunday session, stay tuned!

Another memorable moment was our party with Cinthie at The Paper Box. We partnered up with Goonroom and had an amazing Sunday day party with our friends. Cinthie dropped an edit of ‘I Can’t Go For That” by Twism and the crowd was going wild (we’re still trying to figure out who produced the track!).

What does the future hold for On The Record?

Keeping the parties going and growing the OTR community! We have really exciting line ups coming up in the next few months, including local and international talent. We’re continuing our podcast channel on SoundCloud in which we showcase underground DJs with good selections. Also in the works is a record label that will focus around the same genre and sound. Very excited for the upcoming year :)

Find out more info on their Facebook and Instagram.

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