Keepin’ It Groovy with Ubiquity Records
Ubiquity Records, originally a San Francisco-based label, has been local to Costa Mesa since 2000. Ten years prior, Michael McFadin [Founder of Ubiquity] started a record store with his then wife, Jody, called Groove Merchant. The shop was located off Haight Street in San Francisco and primarily carried old soul, acid jazz, and varieties of funk. They developed a reputation around the Bay Area for having rare vinyl and exclusive tracks to sample. Artists like A Tribe Called Quest and the Beastie Boys were among the supporters.
McFadin saw the potential of his business and decided to fulfill his dream of starting a label. In 1993, Ubiquity Records started through, what is now one of their subdivisions, Luv N’ Haight. They gathered singles from unknown artists and compiled them as full albums. Their first release was a reissue of an unknown DJ Greyboy album, which went on to be a huge success.
Once Michael and Jody had kids, they found themselves wanting to raise them closer to family in Orange County. Therefore, the label had to move with them. Ubiquity landed in Westside Costa Mesa in 2000, and has remained in their current building off West 17th since 2003. Groove Merchant, however, stayed behind in San Francisco and was sold to Chris Veltri aka “Cool Chris”.
We had the opportunity to speak with Enrique Estrella [General Manager of Ubiquity Records] and learn about his journey with the label. He originally heard about Ubiquity while studying Social Science at UCI.
“I was influenced in college, by a California Soul compilation done by Luv N’ Haight,” Enrique shared. “I had a friend with a radio show in college who, at the time, was interning at Ubiquity. He told me about a graphic design position opening up at the label. I wasn’t hired on my first attempt, but I applied for a different position a few months later and was brought on full time.”
Enrique started as the Production Manager—overseeing orders for the apparel line and album jackets. His first project was the 5th album release in the Rewind! Series. Ubiquity has two other series in addition to Luv N’ Haight—Rewind! and CuBop. CuBop covers the Latin Jazz genre, whereas Rewind! consists of modern artists covering old classics. For example, Alice Russell has a famous cover of the White Stripes’ song “7 Nation Army” which was licensed and pressed by Ubiquity Records through their Rewind! Series. Within Enrique’s first year with the label, he was promoted to his current position as General Manager.
Aside from Estrella and McFadin, there’s one other employee at Ubiquity—DJ Johnny Basil, who was recently crowned OC Weekly’s “Best Local Celebrity of 2016.” Basil manages the label’s customer service and warehouse operations by day, and expands his cult following by night through his groundbreaking musical ventures. Two of his current projects [Baast and Basil & Rogers] are pressed and digitally handled through the Ubiquity label. In addition to his already impressive resume, Sol [one of Basil’s earliest projects], was actually one of Luv N’ Haight’s first EP releases. Basil’s vast and unique involvement with the label contribute immensely to the Costa Mesa culture they bring to the turntable.
Ubiquity has nearly 500 releases as a whole. They licensed the sample for one of Beyonce’s classics, “Suga Mama,” Darondo’s hit single “Didn’t I” featured in Breaking Bad, and currently have a handful of signed artists on the label. From DJ’ing around town, to signing local bands, to simply residing in the community, Ubiquity is crawling with local presence. Estrella said it best, “Costa Mesa is its own niche pocket of cool–a perfect home for Ubiquity.” ♥
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