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Yeti Out is the definitive cult-underground nightlife label in Asia, bringing local music and talent to the rest of the world. Without trying to be an out-and-out international platform, the label has a global presence due to its diverse network. By now, Yeti Out hardly needs any introduction. If you’ve spent some time enjoying nightlife in Hong Kong or Shanghai, Yeti Out might ring a bell, but those who aren’t yet familiar with the label ought to know about two of its founders: Arthur Bray, based in Hong Kong; and Tom, his twin brother, based in Shanghai. Together the duo has been steadily building a network of artists and personalities in Asia for music, fashion and branding. It’s difficult to describe Yeti Out as an entity because of its incredibly diverse portfolio. The best we can do is to think of it as a label that does a lot of cool things. Yeti Out's growth and recognition have been snowballing these days, collaborating with the likes of Nike, Under Armour and Yardbird, to mention a few.
“Yeti Out is a multimedia platform created by creatives who are interested in music, art and fashion with a community standpoint.”
We caught up with Arthur Bray to see how things have been since his departure as HYPEBEAST’s Global Managing Editor, going full-speed ahead with Yeti Out and how the label has been paving the way for its communities in Asia.
How did your experience in your younger years lead you to what you're doing now?
I grew up in Hong Kong and a bit in London. In Hong Kong, you can actually go out at a very young age. You don't actually have to be 18 to go out. There are photos of me out when I was like 13 [laughs]. I was a promoter handing out flyers for hip-hop nights. I remember just thinking that it was the best job in the world, getting like $10 HKD per head on the guestlist. That's how I kind of started out.
What was it like being exposed to that kind of world so early on?
I think kids that have access to that kind of environment early on definitely grow up quickly. You didn't have permission to be out either. We were sort of out and about surrounded by grown up stuff. We paid a lot of attention to the things going around, not just music but fashion and things like that. I think as much as we are in the business of music and art, you really get to see all these different characters and personalities.
“People are more willing to take risks and do what they love, whether it's being a musician or an artist, I think it's a beautiful thing.”
Did it start with music exclusively or did you always see these different creative fields (music, fashion, nightlife, etc.) as one connected thing?
I always liked music, so it kind of started there. I remember just downloading and pirating stuff on Limewire. But just as easily as looking something up on Google. You get so much information on these different fields. I think the internet has definitely shaped the way I think about Yeti Out as a brand but I'm also fortunate to have gotten into all this before Instagram. We can share as much information as we want, but we don't have to make it so much about us, so much about the fact that we're just fans of music, you know?
How would you describe Yeti Out to someone who doesn’t know about it?
Yeti Out is a multimedia platform created by creatives who are interested in music, art and fashion with a community standpoint. We like working with interesting characters and personalities. It's harder to pinpoint one thing that isn't about sharing ideas in different formats. Exactly what we do because the job description changes. If I'm talking to an artist agent, I'm an artist manager. If I'm talking to an editorial platform, I could be a creative director. It's just essentially about sharing ideas in different formats.
“The more stuff we can create, the more we live in a better place.”
How do you see the community in Asia transforming right now?
I think we're really living in an exciting time. I feel like a lot of times, we're from subcultures where there are a lot of references pointed to '80s hip-hop, '90s rave culture in the U.K., house music or whatever it might be — the origins come from the West. But I think we live in a time where all of those things we're referencing are creating ripples. We still understand the origins, but we're seeing different versions of it in Asia. You'll see different versions of it in Asia. I think people are more open now than ever. Going against traditional values of only pursuing safe careers. That's all out the window now and people are more willing to take risks and do what they love, whether it's being a musician or an artist, I think it's a beautiful thing.
You don't have to be from a huge corporation to be recognized and have influence.
I think that's the cool thing. I mean, having a certain standard is important, but we shouldn't just be like "okay, that guy has worked with this brand or that guy has done that collaboration so we're working with that guy." Collaboration is about getting new inspirations and energies through the diversity of talent. So we should definitely open ourselves up to collaboration. I think the more we do, the more we create ripples and inspire others. The more stuff we can create, the more we live in a better place.
How has Yeti Out grown in recent years?
Yeti Out is ever-evolving in different forms. It comes from nightlife, subculture, underground music, etc. Essentially what we learned through working with bars and promoters, we took that and learned how to broker deals with brands like Nike and Coach. The ideas of bargaining and knowing value. Most of it comes from knowing how to work in nightlife, you know? With what we do, whether that's like designing shoes, T-shirts or runway collections, it all comes from the same place. For us, creating our own radio in Landmark, it's actually pretty crazy spelling it out like that. We're just figuring it out as we go along. I think we're just getting started. You know, you're never just limited to one form. As an artist or a music producer, you don't always want to do the same beat. We don't want to do the same things we were doing 5 to 10 years ago, I think it's not just where it's going, it's changed, too. We're just grateful that it's still around.
“We're not really following a rule book but figuring it out as we go along.”
Does Yeti Out have a solid/rigid business plan or are you guys driving growth more by intuition?
Yo, that's such a good question, man. I think we're always focused on making things that stand out. I think the hard part is also the magic of what Yeti Out is. Yeti Out was a brand that was a crew for two years before we lived in different countries. We've never been stationed just in one place. So I think by default, it always became international. It's not like we're entrepreneurs who've opened offices in Shanghai or London or whatever. It's operated just by people, you know. My brother's in Shanghai, Eri's in London. We started parties in London. We did parties for two years and we cut our teeth there and then pretty much came out to Hong Kong. So the bandwidth and the scope is way bigger than a localized team, but with our identities in mind and where we're positioned. We do a lot of local stuff too.
We're not really following a rule book but figuring it out as we go along. A lot of it is working with friends of the brand or few brands might have their own agenda and they ask if we want to get involved. We either say no or we try to sway the project to what we want it to look like. A lot of it is intuition and I feel like when you run a brand, the conversation does go on to how far we sway on one side vs the other. Are we being too intuitive or are we being too corporate? We do want to stay afloat, but we try not to use the same formulas you see in other companies. Having said that, I think we can still work on having a roadmap. Even if you look at our different crews. We have DJ crews we play with, and then we have day-to-day people. I might have like one assistant. Tom might have two. We have Jina, who's stuck in Edmonton. I mean the whole world is getting used to working from home and across different time zones that's not really new to us. We've been doing it for like 8 years already, across time zones, multiple group chats. I mean, we obviously have been affected by COVID-19 in different ways, but it's sort of interesting that we managed to sort of function in certain ways given the limitations.
Being on the road for so long and having so many nights out, you must've encountered a multitude of different personalities. Are there any interesting stories or highlights in your experience that stick out to you?
There are so many that it probably wouldn't be fair to point to just one. But yeah, I think just being in the nightlife industry. If you know anyone who wants to work until 6AM, that person isn’t normal. There's so many characters. My good friend Nevin, who runs Cakeshop dressed up as James Brown in Manila Black Market trying to convince the bouncer that he was James Brown to get in. Like trying to get DJs onto flights but they're so messed up that they don't even know their own names. Those are just the sort of stuff that happen as you would expect in nightlife. The more interesting ones are things you never really expect. For example, our radio station FM BELOWGROUND at the Landmark, having Taitais walk pass and seeing them vibing out to techno. Those moments are less collaborative because they don't know what's going on, but you're sort of enjoying that more. But yeah, there are so many personalities and artists that have their own energy. I think it's usually like 4AM stuff, you know, connecting with street food hawkers after the club in say Taipei, and cracking joke with them. It's hard to just pinpoint one I think. Yeah. Tour diaries.
“I think part of me just doesn’t want to celebrate because, you know, the moment you sort of celebrate, it might come across as you’re sort of resting on your laurels.”
Is tour diaries something that you guys would want to put out?
Yeah I would love to. Just being out on the road, like Singapore, Tokyo, Thailand, there've been a lot of nights out so it will be kind of cool to just look through it a bit. I mean, I don't know about going back fully into that right away. COVID-19's taught us a lot, but just seeing how parties and things have changed. I think the energy is still there. There's definitely a lot of learning that needs to be done. What Yeti Out was in 2010 is different from what it was in 2017 or 2020, so it might not be what it was before, and it's important to understand growth but also not to get too nostalgic of those times. We do want to evolve.
Speaking of your recent interview with Futura. Is that a relationship that you've had from before?
I spoke to him in 2016, when he came here for the Converse thing. Again, a lot of these things came from HYPEBEAST and working in different areas. Similar to what's happening right now, having an excuse to talk to people, for me anyway, learning from their experience and that inadvertently turns into learning from some of the f**king sickest guys and because of the editorial platform, I was fortunate enough to speak with some of those guys. I wanted to interview him for FM BELOWGROUND, so it worked out that we could do that while he was in Hong Kong.
What’s been the biggest turning point for you in your career?
I think it’s always been changing. I think it’s definitely been some moments, but I think part of me just doesn’t want to celebrate because, you know, the moment you sort of celebrate, it might come across as you’re sort of resting on your laurels. It’s not so much turning points but more about moments, like Djing at Coachella or playing with the Principe Records guys at an abandoned 1960s high society resort in Lisbon Portugal.
What’s that? A high-society resort?
Yeah, it’s just like this resort that was up in the hills somewhere in Lisbon overlooking the whole city. It was like this warehouse and down at the bottom it was all abandoned and dirty. We got a chance to work with some of the local heroes of the city, playing this localized underground bass music. But we were playing music that we brought over from Shanghai and Hong Kong. I mean we all play music from everywhere, but I especially wanted to start a label that celebrated our music and some of the artists in our network, you know.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to younger creatives trying to find success?
Understand yourself and have confidence. Realize that everything you currently have are passes you can use to navigate through any ideas you think you want to do.
“I think we’re so blessed just to have two arms and two legs, you know.”
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(Cover image credits: Vancouver Sun)