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Relief in Abstract celebrates three years of rapid success

The reputable electronic record label seeks to expand its roster to include new genres




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RELIEF IN ABSTRACT 3 YEAR ANNIVERSARY PARTY with XXYYXX, Fortune Howl, Out Go the Lights, Spies on Bikes, Marble

9 p.m. Friday, June 27 | The Social, 54 N. Orange Ave. | 407-246-1419 | thesocial.org | $12-$14 | 18 and up

In three years, Relief in Abstract Records – the crew that launched phenom XXYYXX, whose music has garnered tens of millions of YouTube views – has become Orlando’s most wave-making electronic music label. And its founders still can’t legally drink.

The idea began between buddies Jered Dowden and Lex Johnson (who met at Oviedo Mall when Dowden was 16 and Johnson 15). Relief in Abstract actually sprung up from a generic suburban landscape that Johnson says was full of “really bad hardcore, really bad metal music.” At the time, he was active in a band with XXYYXX’s Marcel Everett. Dowden was the band’s manager. While painting Dowden’s room, the two pondered ways they could promote good area music. By the time Johnson got home, Dowden had already created a Facebook page for their venture and dubbed it Relief in Abstract.

RIA was a creative umbrella that started with music projects by their immediate friends (XXYYXX and Fortune Howl), then expanded to their friends’ sonically like-minded friends (electronic acts Grant and Marble) until the name gained enough traction to bring on outside submissions (Spies on Bikes).

Despite their prevailing rock surroundings, there was a new, altogether different drift among RIA’s foundational artists, like XXYYXX and Fortune Howl.

“They started experimenting with electronic music,” Dowden says. “They started listening to artists like Flying Lotus and James Blake. And they started getting more and more inspired and deeper into that L.A. beat scene that was going on, as well as London garage music. It was just interesting to us that they were making pro-sounding music so young, and we wanted to get our foot in the door with music as well.”

The forces of their circumstance – both intentional and serendipitous – took rapid shape. “We were a bunch of teenagers,” says Johnson. “[XXYYXX’s] Marcel was 15 when [his debut] Still Sound came out, I was 16, [Dowden] was 17 … and I think that was something that gave us a little bit of attention. And I think [the creative direction of] people like Guillermo [Casanova] and Alana [Questell], that kind of helped us get the image, and that helped us feel less like a group of kids trying to do something and feel like something more legitimate and more like a business.”

The alignment of their stars would prove a powerful thing, altering their realities suddenly. “When people were asking me [about interning at the label] at first, I was working at Del Taco,” Johnson laughs. “I was like, I make tacos, man, and you want an internship?”

The whirlwind since has whisked them around the country and even to Europe and Mexico on tours. Still, the two are awestruck whenever they reflect on their artists arriving in major music cities to celebrity reception (as when XXYYXX and Fortune Howl sold out the Music Hall of Williamsburg last summer).

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