With an ear on the pulse of the ample and amorphous body which today constitutes the friendly byword we now refer to as indie rock, it is without question fascinating, albeit slightly overwhelming the multitude with which contemporary artists are creating and reshaping our aural world. Bridle this with the unprecedented rate at which technology is shifting and is hence changing the ways in which we listen to music in the United States and record labels increasingly find the old adages to which they have had to adhere more and more expendable. While many throughout the music industry are searching for ways to navigate the swells and currents of such uncharted waters one young lady has proven herself as a rather steady beacon in terms of taste, foresight and marketing.
At just under thirty years old, native to India though raised in Singapore, Priya Dewan has brought to our attention some of the most groundbreaking musical creativity in recent years. Having moved to New York City in 2005 immediately landing a job as office manager at the US branch of UK based WARP records, Priya soon took position as label manager. Although WARP has signed recording artists from around the world and now markets them devoid of genre rather seamlessly, it was under Priya’s auspices that the label began working with more indie artists here in the US.
Founded in 1989 in Sheffield, England by Steve Mitchell and the late Rob Gordon, WARP became a well established house for experimental and avant-garde electronic artists, notably Aphex Twin, Autechre, Boards of Canada and Nightmares on Wax. Historically, electronic music has proven to hold a stronger popular appeal in Europe rather than in America, and the young Priya was mindful enough not to run the US branch as if it were strictly an import hub for European electronic music. Rather, Dewan sought out talent here in the US which at the time did not exactly coincide with the creativity signed to the UK roster, leaning towards acts affiliated with an indie rock sound. “For Warp specifically I have noticed a real growth in North America over the last few years,” states Dewan, “with some of our biggest artists and newer signings coming from here.” Artists such as Grizzly Bear, !!! and Battles which have released some of the strongest records to date.”
Regardless of genre specifics, Priya admits that WARP has always searched for artists that are groundbreaking, fresh and intelligent. “Warp has a history of discovering and promoting groundbreaking music, initially of the electronic vein, but expanded to a multitude of genres as early as Broadcast 10 years ago. The more rock side of genres has definitely helped us grow as a brand in North America as that style of music is much easier to relate to and promote to this market.” Dewan admits that even the acts that fall away from the electronic end of the spectrum recently signed by WARP don’t fall easily into a rock genre. “From Jamie Lidell blending electronic music with soulful vocals on Multiply, Flying Lotus fusing jazz with beats on Cosmogramma, Bibio seamlessly floating through a multitude of styles in Ambivalence Avenue and many more. It’s been truly fascinating to hear these various styles being blended in so many ways.”
Upon recently returning from Japan for a post-tsunami fundraising event, Priya admits that growing up in South East Asia and being outside the US has offered her a unique perspective, “giving me a fresh excitement and naïveté with how I approach and discover music and keeping me always inspired and delighted in my career.”