Photos by Zon Lee for Island City
When James Reid first revealed that he’d be starting up a record label back in 2017, naysayers were quick to judge. Who was this artista to say that he could elevate the Filipino music industry without knowing what goes on all around the Philippines?
Now, two years into the game, Careless Music is proving those naysayers wrong. Having recently dropped the “Manila” in their name, the label is focused on dispelling the notion that good music only comes from the Metro.
The greatest proof of their commitment to the cause is the recently launched Island City — a general entertainment platform “for artists, by artists” that aims to help Filipino artists promote their work. While Careless is a record label with artists signed under it, Island City is more of a conscious effort to showcase talents from all over the Philippines and outside of Manila who aren’t necessarily signed under their label.
Talking to the people behind Island City and Careless about their vision, you get a sense that they genuinely want to do good, and not from an almighty savior perspective. They’ve got the resources and attention, so why not use that to help talented artists who might not have the same opportunities?
With their new platform Island City, James Reid and Careless Music put the spotlight on Filipino musicians outside Metro Manila.
“We’ve got artists from Cebu, from Dumaguete, from Davao. We wanna feature what’s going on out there because there’s so much other music that we don’t exactly hear about,” says James, who is the chairman of both Island City and Careless Music. “Honestly we’re just doing what we think is right.”
Stepping into Island City HQ feels like stepping into a secret hideout. Lit with black lights and decorated with neon graffiti, it’s also unexpectedly cozy.
Since their launch last August, Careless Music’s in-house production team has been hard at work making Welcome to Island City: Live. The team personally selects the artists that they feature in the videos, and James says that the process is as chill as someone from the team saying “Yo, check this person out, they’re hella dope.”
“We’ve been inviting big artists, new artists, underground artists alike just to all come here and make content,” he says of the dope performance videos they’ve been releasing weekly. “We just all talk together and we pick artists that are making a lot of noise or are really interesting.”
The result is clean, quality work — think BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge, but instead of a snazzy broadcasting studio, they’re prerecorded in the attic of Casa Reid. They launched with Fern., and even had Syd Hartha and underground rapper Kiyo do their own videos.
Last October, they had femcee and Baryo Berde member Desiree Joy Banaag, a.k.a. DB Tha Girl, over to perform her song Live Evil. We talked to the Cavite-based rapper over email for the first of a series of interviews with Island City featured artists, and she tells us about how she got her start in music, and clues us in on what she’s been listening to.