Festival co-founder on Pemberton: "It's the most beautiful festival site in the entire world." (Interview)

The Pemberton Music Festival is less than a month away and entering its 2nd year back with another eclectic lineup. This year they're bringing Bassnectar, Tiesto, Jack U (Skrillex & Diplo) and the entire Full Flex Express, RL Grime, and much more. Combine the music with the beauty of the festival site and you've got a winning combination. 

EDM Canada managed to talk with the A.J Niland, the co-founder of Huka Entertainment, the company that produces and promotes Pemberton. A.J was joined by Sascha Guttfreund, the main EDM talent buyer of Pemberton. We talked about last year's success, what can fans expect next month, the lineup, and much more. 

How was the return of the Pemberton Music Festival in 2014?

A.J Niland - It was great. We took on all of the challenges and hurdles. The fan response was tremendous. We're well on our way to doubling our attendance this year. We've already surpassed last year's sales.

What do you have in store for the 2015 edition of Pemberton?

A.J. - We're always constantly working on improvements and there's more work to do on traffic, keeping the site clean, etc. We're always looking for new art decor and amenities. Last year we had a full on water slide and this year there will be a ton of new experiences like that. We're tweaking the site in a lot of ways. One of the biggest issues last year was camping loading over a difficult path – that's all been improved. The production will be a lot bigger this year. That's how we like to do things as Pemberton keeps on getting bigger and better.

The lineup looks sweet – what was your philosophy in creating the 2015 lineup?

A.J. - Diversity is always key. We're really looking to set the tastes in the market and in a lot of cool and unique acts.

Sascha – I think we brought together a lineup that we believe as curators is tasteful. We are working with artists that we believe in, a lot of whom we've grown with. A.J. and I spent a lot of time walking the grounds last year asking fans who they wished to see at Pemberton. Some people get too wrapped up in profit/losses and analytics that sometimes people forget what the fan wants. So we spent a lot of time wondering who the Pemberton fan really is. We built this lineup on what we felt was true to us and what the fans wants. Judging by the pre-sales, I think we are doing a good job at balancing those two things.

What were the top artist requests from the fans this year?

Sascha – The requests for Frank Ocean last year was huge. We knew he would be big but it was clear that was what kids wanted to see. It was also interesting how huge the turn out for Kendrick Lamar was and knowing that he had an album coming out we had to get him back. Everyone is very excited to see him back.

How big was it for Pemberton to secure the Full Flex Express Tour?

A.J. - It's really exciting. Pemberton has train tracks right on the site and we're still working on the logistics of it all. Skrillex and Diplo are crowd pleasers. It's the final stop on their tour and we can't wait to have them over.

If you could name one artist that fans must see at this year's Pemberton – which one would it be and why?

A.J. - Missy Elliott because of the rarity of the show. Aside from the Super Bowl appearance, there hasn't been a live Missy show in quite a long time. She has a great body of work and she's a genius. Excited to see it.

Sascha – I'm not going to do one because it's not fair.

A.J. - What about Tobias Jesso Jr.?

Sascha – Tobias is a really cool story because he's a friend of the festival and he actually attended last year as a fan before his album. So it's pretty cool to see a kid from Vancouver attending the festival to being on every late night show and to be playing at Pemberton. I'm very excited for Chet Faker, Kali Uchis, J. Cole. DJ wise I'm really stoked that RL Grime is coming back with his new record to play a late night set.

How do you view the current festival scene today? Is it a little crowded? Do you think there will be a downturn?

A.J. - There's definitely a tremendous amount of festivals that are popping up and it seems whenever something is in vogue, everyone jumps into that game. I feel that the festivals on the fray or the ones that exist only to make money are going to fall by the wayside. I don't necessarily see a downturn with mainstay festivals and that's something that we strive towards. Every festival we do has a great story and a good lineup behind it. We also have the experience to drive it. In a crowded marketplace, it is the premium product that seems to be the most stable. That's the model we're working on with Pemberton.

Festival attendance is up across the board and a newer generation wants to experience the same thing their older siblings got to enjoy. Dealing with unique experiences like what Pemberton is a really safe play.

Sascha – I believe the Huka team are true visionaries as they are looking to develop cultural experiences. Whenever culture is at the epicentre of what you're trying to do, that success is inevitable. To see us succeed the way we are without the conventional headliners is really cool. It is a crowded market but I think it is crowded with people with the same mentality. When you take your own path like Pemberton has done, you can create your own unique and proprietary path.

A.J. - Those festivals that are working really hard at creating something unique will survive.

Make your best pitch – why should fans attend this year's Pemberton Music Festival?

A.J. - Because it's the most beautiful festival site in the entire world. I didn't just make that up, it was voted on and it truly is beautiful. The experience you're going to get here you won't find anywhere else.

Sascha - I think you should come to Pemberton is to see the headliners of tomorrow, today. Know that the acts at the bottom of our lineup last year are now at the top of some of the festivals this year. At Pemberton you can have these sort of intimate experiences with artists that will one day become big. It's a gorgeous site with amazing weather.  

My thanks to A.J Niland and Sascha Guttfreund for the interview. 

The Pemberton Music Festival will take place at Pemberton, B.C. from July 16th - 19th. Tickets are still available, click here for more information