#63: Sam Valenti IV (Ghostly)
Ghostly's Sam Valenti IV on Vichy Catalan Water, Jeff Hirsch Books, Eno's Ambient 1, and more.
Cool people like cool things, which is why we asked cool person Sam Valenti IV to come on Perfectly Imperfect & spread the hot rec wealth.
Sam Valenti IV is the Founder and Creative Director of independent record label Ghostly International and since 1999 he’s expanded Ghostly from not only an influential label signing artists like Mary Lattimore, Galcher Lustwerk, and electronic acts such as Tycho, but also a separate platform that works with independent designers on apparel (like the Garrett Morin tee he's wearing, out next week) and like-minded brands on collaborations such as this Floyd Bookshelf. He also invites guests such as Carl Craig and Lovefingers to make relaxed playlists for his Herb Sundays series (more on this below). Sam has great taste and lucky for us, he’s here to tell us what he’s been into.
Without further ado
Proud to be the oldest person ever in this series. Sharing some stuff I actually use or enjoy often and can stand behind.
I have a thing about having a lot of liquids nearby, it's sort of a vice, but it's comforting and supposedly healthy. Besides a crucial Nalgene, I like to have a fizzy boy at arms length and, if I can find this Spanish brand it makes me feel like finding Jolt Cola at a pizza place in the 90s. Love Topo Chico but craving something saltier? Vichy is your fix. Matthew Dear introduced it to me when I joined him on tour in Ibiza a decade ago so it probably is also a nostalgia thing for me. One sip takes you away to a little fish joint on the beach, water splashing against on the rocks.
I love record stores and the discovery that happens when old stock mixes with new. More recently I've been getting deeper into art books and love buying books for people as gifts. NYC has a great community of shops like Karma and Mast, and there’s a gaggle of independent vendors that work the fairs like the Printed Matter MoMA PS1 Art Book Fair. I started going to the fairs a few years ago. They are like record fairs but even crustier in some ways, full of curmudgeons and characters. Check The Booksellers documentary for a nice slice of this world. I have met a few dealers and developed some rapport, one of which is Jeff Hirsch Books in Illinois, which has an incredible inventory and their sales emails are one of my favorites of all types. Even if you don’t buy, you learn something.
I started a playlist series called Herb Sundays, which came out of posting sort of uncool (“herb-y”) records that I was listening to online and thinking about how the perfect Sunday records get played when other people aren’t looking. I don't feel bad plugging this series because it’s free and the mixes are by other people than myself. I don’t think I could host a podcast so this scratches the itch of inviting interesting people to contribute to something beyond my regular job, and its also purely for fun. Music discovery is one of life’s great gifts. A good new song can make your week, and a good mix can make your day. This series is also a love letter to the Mixtape. I still think a hand-cranked mix is one of the greatest DIY projects as far low-effort satisfaction on both ends of the chain. I’m not anti-algo on the whole, it has a place, but you can feel it when someone puts time into making a great mix.
I like my Patagonia Baggies™ like anyone, but they can only go so far. These shorts feel like a more complete and universal item. I know I know, you don’t believe in shorts, that’s great for you. I do, and these are why. Also, in certain situations, shorts with an Oxford can look more put together than with pants if done right. These are great because they are proper shorts and also double as swim trunks so you can travel with less stuff or be a “fun, spontaneous person” if the mood strikes. Outlier are fabric freaks so I trust them pretty explicitly and their photos and experiments are fun to keep up with.
At a certain age, a good percentage of your self-worth comes from finishing stuff. I know we’re supposed to stop being hard on ourselves, but that’s sort of unrealistic, so might as well be efficient. Using iPhone Notes is ok for drafting stuff, but not as a to-do list. For paper lists I use the Action Method notebooks that Ghostly distributes. I have very very bad handwriting though so I've probably used 10 different apps over the years. I’ve found that I don’t really need features and folders. So this is dumb simple, and something about the action and sounds it makes it fun to add to. BUT, buyer beware, this app seems to be phased out by the developer, so play at your own risk.
Stripping back the cult of ENO and just looking at the music, Music For Airports has got it all. Forget the Isaac Newton-y backstory (TLDR: Eno is bedridden while recuperating after being hit by a car, friend visits and puts on record, volume too low to “hear” properly, turntable too far to reach, the idea of music as room “tint” ensues), and the brilliance of the technical execution, the tunes are what matter here. I actually met ENO once, yes, in an airport. I associate this music along with a lot of the ENO cannon as the search for a romantic life. That there is more going on than meets the eye, but only if you look for it. Also the idea of Eno as the consummate “non-musician” is very appealing/comforting to me. Eno apparently said he sought to create music “as ignorable as it is interesting” which is great, and is coincidentally the basis of my personality.
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