WAY LESS EFFORT, a not-so-typical student-run record label, began as Chuck Allen’s high school music blog. But when he discovered that one of his posts had been blatantly plagiarized by a bigger website, Chuck began to feel like music blogs were irrelevant.
Finding a way to share music online remained at the back of Chuck’s mind until his junior year at Stanford, when he met fellow music enthusiasts Kareem Alston and Tucker Bryant. Tucker contributed his booming charisma and Kareem had the logistical smarts to hold it all together. The serendipitous meeting of these three minds made for a perfect team. Today, they describe Way Less Effort as “a record label without actually being a record label” that strives to “bridge the gap between DIY art and corporate driven art”.
While Kareem was unfortunately absent during this interview, PULSE is grateful to have had the opportunity to meet with both Tucker and Chuck.
PULSE: IN A FEW WORDS, WHAT IS WAY LESS EFFORT’S CENTRAL AESTHETIC?
Chuck: Authenticity. I go to a lot of concerts, where people aren’t really there for the music, they’re looking around like, “what are other people doing? How do I be like these other people?” We want people to come to our events and just be themselves.
Other than that, we really love that golden era, 90’s hip-hop vibe. It comes through in our clothing, in our old logo — based off of the VHS logo. Now our logo is literally just the Guess logo, it came from when I saw a picture of a dude in a Guess t-shirt and I was like, “that’s fresh as fuck!”
Tucker: And it rhymes with “Less”!
C: Yeah. Not that original. We’re working on it.
P: WHAT TYPE OF MUSIC ARE YOU INTERESTED IN?
T: We’re obviously into old-school hiphop and R&B, but there are also amazing things happening in the electronic music scene in the Bay Area and the Grime scene in London and that’s bringing in its own flavor. We’re interested in many realms, so we’re building our own aesthetic.
There’s no intention to prescribe a certain thing we want everyone to hear, which I think is what a lot of blogs do really well, like Majestic Casual…we don’t want to limit ourselves to having a certain audio aesthetic that we expect ourselves to be putting out there.
C: I’m into so many different types of music. After going to Berlin, I’m really into deep house and techno music, as well as hip hop, the LA Beat scene, and weird genres like Footwork [or] Baltimore Club. But when you’re DJing, you can create a vibe out of all of it.
P: HOW IS WAY LESS EFFORT DIFFERENT?
T: We don’t want people to just come and be given an experience they don’t interact with. We want people to know that the party is created by the vibe you bring to it. So bring your entire self, and don’t just rely on the space you’re at.
C: We wanna be throwing dope events where people know the vibes are gonna be real, where they know they may hear something they’ve never heard before, almost like a boiler room.
T: Today, people are able to find infinitely more music and art than before. The downside is they don’t have to engage the way they did when you had to be finding it in person. You want to be giving people a reason to be there in person.
C: And that’s way more important than anything we do online. That should just help direct people towards experiencing it in person.
T: The destination is always the face.
P: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE ONE ANOTHER?
T: [Chuck] has the passion and drive to say, “fuck what everyone else is doing, I know what I’m doing is dope and I think other people have faith in that, so let’s take it where it can go.” He acts as a liaison to artists, he performs, and he brings the energy that Way Less Effort tries to embody: something authentic and inspiring. He’s the spearhead behind the movement.
C: The thing that I don’t do well is taking that passion and making people believe in it. That’s one thing Tucker does super well: having the charisma and personality to get people behind Way Less Effort. When Tucker meets people — really important people, or really anyone on the street — they’re going to remember who he is. That’s not something I think I have.
P: HOW DID YOU GUYS BECOME A THING?
T: Kareem got the three of us together. He was a sort of vide-lens visionary who didn’t know what he wanted to do, but knew he wanted to change something. Now, Kareem is the logistic glue. It’s sick to have people who are hella excited about shit, but Kareem makes sure there’s a chronology in what happens next. He’s a level headed guy.
C: We’ll be talking about all these ideas, and Kareem is gonna butt in like, “so how are we gonna make money off of that?”
T: He’s also the liaison with a lot of big organizations. Kareem had a big part in finding a lot of funding we’ve applied for, that we’re going to be hearing back from in the next couple of weeks. Kareem makes sure that wherever our minds fly off to, his hands are somewhere to make sure we don’t float into the sky.
God, that makes him sound like a granddad or something.
C: He kinda is.
T: But he’s the freshest granddad on the block!
P: WHO ARE YOUR ROLE-MODELS?
T: Phillip T Annand, the founder of the Madbury Club. He’s interested in how to take urban features and put them in the forest. He merges two completely different worlds and aesthetics into something interesting. He is in every sense of the word a creator, and it’s so easy for us as artists to put ourselves into boxes where we call ourselves a poet or a rapper or a dancer or a DJ without realizing that none of that stuff is off limits to any of us.
C: What I look up to most is people who are really disciplined in creating all the time and having it come from a unique place and not giving a fuck whether it aligns with the industry or anyone else’s shit. The one person I saw doing that throughout high school and college is Tyler the Creator. He’s so dedicated — I respect his work ethic so much… I really admire that.
P: WHAT ARE YOUR ASPIRATIONS FOR THE FUTURE?
C: I hope Way Less Effort’s model becomes a blueprint for how the music industry works and how art gets noticed. Instead of being about major labels, it should be more about cultural movements.
T: If what we’re doing can inspire other artists or even corporations to be priding authenticity and excitement, then that’ll change the way people experience art, even if they’ve never heard of us. We genuinely believe people can benefit from the way we do things.
P: WHERE ARE YOUR EVENTS HELD AND HOW CAN WE FIND OUT MORE?
T: Ultimately, we’re going to have a warehouse. We’ll have a creation studio there and we’ll be able to throw events and whatnot. But the city is the limit: we’re not trying to restrict ourselves to doing a certain kind of thing a certain kind of way. If it means having bike parties where we’re blasting music and stopping at certain venues then get back on and go somewhere new…
C: We’re trying to do these shows where you get the location the day of, and it’s in some crazyass place, like Marin Headlands. There’s this big concrete bunker at the top of a cliff overlooking the Bay Area. Nobody goes there at night. We’re trying to throw parties in places like that, like caves and the Sutro Baths. A word of mouth type thing.
T: It’s more spontaneous and engaged. You have no question that you’re part of a community when you’re there.
P: SO BASICALLY, YOU HAVE TO BE PART OF THE SCENE TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR EVENTS?
T: No, not in the sense that we want to be exclusive. It’s not that kind of thing.
C: But the underground is dope!
T: Yeah, you’ll get more out of an experience if you’re willing to put yourself out there to find out about it. It’s not going to be off-limits to anybody.
C: Yeah, and we’re not tryna get a bunch of lames to show up and kill the vibe. That’s real.
CHECK OUT SOME IMAGES FROM WLE'S LAST EVENT
For the first "No Requests" WLE gave their artists the chance to perform side-by-side with Soulection || Click on through..
Editor's Note: Since the interview, WLE has heard back about funding and they have received a grant to work on WLE over the summer. They will be hosting events featuring people people who are making music, brewing beer, designing clothes and other cool shit.