sam gellaitry on scottish clubbing, conspiracy theories, keeping it diy, and fresh escapism
While most aspiring electronic musicians were dreaming of hits in their teenage bedrooms, Sam Gellaitry was in front of his family computer making them reality. As he releases his latest EP with XL Recordings, 'Escapism III,' we take a drive with the...
It's a Sunday night in Los Angeles when DJ and producer Sam Gellaitry — a ruddy-cheeked mom-friendly lad from Scotland — takes to the stage to perform a set supporting Glass Animals. His unpretentious demeanor brightens up the decks, despite the sleepy crowd hardly moving their feet to the ebullient dance beats (so typical for an L.A. crowd). But Sam doesn't seem to take offense. As the stage vibrates to the beat, he flashes an occasional smile as he gazes out over the audience. The morning after the night before, we pick Sam up and take him to some of his shops before enjoying the sunset at a lavish Mulholland Drive home.
Son of a renowned bagpipe maker, Sam displays a confident quietness teamed with an arena-ready appeal that already has industry tongues wagging. He plays occasional club shows and loves it, but his heart is far away from sweaty dance floors and social media. The place where things feel most real is in his hometown of Stirling, in the Scottish countryside. Sam is inquisitive and aware despite having spent his entire childhood in a small town. In fact, growing up surrounded by exquisite nature and a tight-knit community has always nurtured Sam's creativity. Making hangouts with friends in abandoned houses, far away from clubs and drugs, is his preferred way of life. "You can get crazy experiences from just being outdoors," explains Sam. "The Scotland culture is all about partying. Often, going out on the weekend involves at least one pill. It's not for me. But there isn't much going on apart from that. I'm not part of the scene. So the only thing I'm inspired by in Scotland is the surroundings."
His third EP with XL Recordings, Escapism III, should feed a widespread demand for new material by his fans (who aren't short in supply). Crediting artists like Daft Punk, Sade, Siriusmo, and Lenny White among his sources of inspiration, Sam demands more from himself than merely a good beat. It's clear now that while most aspiring electronic musicians were dreaming of hits in their teenage bedrooms, Sam was in front of his family computer making them reality.
After discovering his composition skills at the age of ten, Sam became a full-time music obsessive when he found his brother's sample software on the family computer. Sam credits Freeloops and disco samples on YouTube for giving him the space to indulge in his own world. "I would go on YouTube and find really weird samples of disco songs, put a kick in the places where they needed to be," says Sam. Using the software to explore his own knowledge of beat making, he soon found himself signing with Los Angeles label Soulection and later XL Recordings, scoring gigs all over Europe and the United States.
As we drive around L.A., Sam happily chats away, words spilling from his mouth like a cranked-open jelly bean machine. He seems to always be testing out new configurations of ideas, prefacing grand political statements with "9/11 was a setup" and "Brexit is all about money." Talking to him isn't stressful, but you can certainly feel his highly attuned political-consciousness. As we drive around for hours, these stories take on abstract forms, just like Sam's modern music itself, drawing from easily recognizable and esoteric styles to create a blurring of musical boundaries.
"I never talk about politics on Twitter. I don't want to get involved in that. It distracts from the music. By not engaging with social media I'm being true to myself." In our social media-driven world, success is based on clicks, likes, and trending topics. With fairly widespread Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook coverage, Sam cannot be accused of jumping on the success of the 2016 bandwagon. His online presence is merely a cunningly executed marketing ploy, capitalizing on people's short-lived attention to steer them to his music. He is skeptical of responding to political debates online to engage with his audience. "Stuff online tries to distract you from things that really matter: interactions and nature. And it's a sign we're going in the wrong direction in this world in my opinion. You have to detach yourself from it. All the things that are being force-fed. And the amounts of followers you have are not a representation of who you are," he explains. "People think of success in money and numbers but that's not it for me. I feel successful now just from this stuff I've done. The fact that people know who I am in the most obscure places is success to me."
Bound to a DIY ethos that sparked the success of his debut EP released only a year ago, followed by 2016 EPs Escapism I and II, Sam is determined to set his own pace. "I'm discovering more and more that money is just a right of views, and you don't really own anything and it shouldn't make you a person. I just want to have a positive impact on people."
'Escapism III' is out now via XL Recordings
Text and photography Lin Agnholt