Today we’d like to introduce you to Val Fleury.
Val, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I was a born the only daughter and a middle child to a large, loud, and very Liberian family. Understanding the importance of my creativity and communication has allowed me to survive and thrive. Music-wise, I was always in bands and had radio shows when I was younger. After earning degrees in Music & Technology and Business, I worked at record labels and music companies. I moved to LA for a Label Relations position and started meeting DJs while going out. I decided to learn how to play, mainly for self-expression, but it quickly took over my life — for the good.
I later left my label job to DJ full-time, as well as consult on music and design projects. I learned to spin mainly by going out to bars to study DJs in action and watching YouTube videos. I would take those observations and go to practice(!!!) for free at Guitar Center in Hollywood because I didn’t have enough money for equipment. Bless their hearts! They never kicked me out, although I’d be in there every day for hours and hours, haha. They eventually sold me a set of used DJ decks. My first DJ gig was about six months later, at a tiny dive bar in Koreatown. I couldn’t imagine then that I would get to play events, festivals, and for people around the world. I’m super grateful!
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Being a professional DJ is not all creativity. You really have to build your business acumen, and there are many factors: dealing with clients, attitudes, expectations, competition, accounting/bookkeeping, people not paying what, when, how they agreed to pay you, etc. Clients who don’t want to pay you, in exchange for “exposure,” are the worst, and rarely is it worth it for the DJ. Many female DJs deal with bookers offering us lesser rates than guys. Some even undercut us and pocket the difference, not thinking or caring that we’d find out.
When I started, there were a bunch of DJ cliques and “boys clubs” in LA as well. I think it’s a good thing that much of that is fading away, it feels like a more open and encouraging scene than ever before. However, I understand the need for community or having even one other person to bounce ideas off. Being a DJ/producer is similar to being a solo-preneur. Sometimes, you can feel alone or a little crazy or unsure of yourself. Some people struggle as well with balancing partying and relationships and their health. It’s definitely not always a smooth road. But 8 times out of 10, the job is super rewarding.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I enjoy creating products and experiences that look good, work well, and sound great. For design and dev, you can find me at sannibydeisgn.com and at iamvalfleury.com for all things music. My sets are pretty high-energy and a lot of fun. I’m confident playing most genres, but my sweet spot is at the intersection of house, techno, and ancestral. You can attend my recently launched party series, called Deep Inside. It aims to reclaim these genres for and connect people of color, women, LGBTQ+, immigrants and allies through music. There is certainly some void in the LA scene for this, so much love to Emily Ibarra at Gold Diggers and Sean Gaynor at Mixed Feelings for believing in what I am trying to create. The next Deep Inside is January 24th at Gold Diggers. The following dates are March 14, May 19, July 11, September 12, and November 14.
This year has been a lot of fun and one of major growth. I just landed the new Google Pixel 4 spot, a Guitar Center x Pioneer promo, and I’m hoping for more commercial / brand collabs. It’s been amazing! I’m looking forward to more travels around the globe to DJ (and design). I have a great interest in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Releases wise, I recently debuted a track with Felix called Echo Off The Wall and will be working on more music for 2020. In the meantime, enjoy my new mix. It features my new track with Felix, other LA artists like Kim Anh, Mor Elian and Channel Tres, and more favorites of mine.
The white wall ones: Sarah Taylor; the performance ones: Naz Massaro