For anyone interested in emerging artists and musicians working outside the mainstream, the internet is a goldmine. While the underground music scenes of past generations required word-of-mouth knowledge, today we can all, in theory, find exactly what we want to listen to—anytime, anywhere. But it still takes serious dedication and passion to find those great, relatively unknown talents hiding deep within the web. Luckily, there are people with the skills (and ears) for filtering through to discover the artists of tomorrow and the artists of right now.
One of them is George Awwad, staff writer at music community Portals. When he started his Odd Castles site, its first incarnation was as an MP3 blog that lasted a little over two years. Today though, the Odd Castles site consists of excellent SoundCloud mixes selected by Awwad, featuring everything from lo-fi electronica to Korean hip-hop. Earlier this year, Awwad took the mixtape aesthetic one step further by creating actual cassette tapes of his mix “those who were once friends are now fam,” featuring artists including R.L. Kelly, Yohuna, Dead Boy and Foxes in Fiction. We caught up with him to talk about the ethos behind the blog and find out what Awwad’s favorite tracks are right now.
What’s the idea behind Odd Castles?
I've just always wanted to be able to own so much music on physical media myself, but I've also always wanted to find a special way to share some of my favorite tunes. Curating mixtapes made a lot of sense when bringing Odd Castles back and curating actual cassette compilations is basically a dream.
There are so many incredible artists and producers on your mixtapes. How do you find them and their music?
All the musicians and producers I find real late at night honestly give me life. There's just so much wonder scattered around the web and a lot of the times, the talented individuals I come across are simply sharing their tunes for fun, but don't necessarily realize how great their songs are. There's really nothing special about the way I look for new tunes.
…if you start somewhere where sincerity is present, you'll likely end up finding some music that you can truly connect with.
It all starts on Soundcloud and once I find a song I really like, I start digging into that musician's faves or I start listening to the stuff from the collective they've identified with. Sometimes I just go through faves to the point where I've ended up so far from Point A and the music could be completely different, but equally incredible. Doing this, you end up listening to so many different songs you could never imagine listening to anywhere else and of course not all of it is amazing, but if you start somewhere where sincerity is present, you'll likely end up finding some music that you can truly connect with.
Some of the artists whose music you share aren't signed and are releasing their own stuff—do you want OC to eventually turn into its own label?
I'd love to become a more focused label. That's easily the dream, but I know it's a process and all the talented artists I've shared on mixtapes are definitely being kept in mind going forward. I have a lot of tentative plans for releases in the future, but right now I'm only focusing on a few while I have the time that I do.
Why did you decide to send out the friends/fam mixtape as an actual cassette, and do you think you'll do that again?
Cassettes are cool. I started collecting them four years ago and almost all of them are tapes that were released in this decade, which is an incredible thought because tapes were never about being the superior format for music. They're really not very convenient, but I think they exist as a heartwarming way to show support towards so many DIY musicians out there and some of those same artists don't ever get the opportunity to have their songs on vinyl, so tapes are a cool middle-ground and their unique packaging makes them a lot of fun to own. I knew it would be cool to try and get creative by doing a tape release with the fam mixtape. I'm definitely going to do that again, but I'll also still be posting digital mixes.
Can you give us three of your favorite new tracks at the moment?
Let's see. One of them is definitely Tomggg's "LovelySummer" remix and I've been listening to the Drake remix of “Tuesday” a lot. The last song might have to be the new Secret Songs release, “Keep U Warm” by Lucas. Three is a tough number to narrow everything down to; that’s why I like to make mixes!
Images courtesy of George Awwad