LUCY: Sound design with smarts.
Photos by Mamie Heldman for MOXI MAG
“Hi, I’m Paris Hilton and I’m here to tell you why the early 2000s were the hottest years in fashion history,” the heiress says flatly to the camera as she makes her way down her home’s lavish staircase in the Hollywood Hills. The W Magazine video short, which upon its release earlier this year immediately went viral and now has over 17 millions views on Facebook and Youtube, clearly struck a nostalgic chord for those who grew up with her Juicy Couture tracksuits and rhinestone tiaras. But it’s not so much the frivolous points Hilton makes, but the way in which they’re delivered that adds to the video’s overall sarcastic success. The explanations behind her favorite trends from the turn of the millennium are contrasted with the sounds of smooth jazz, akin to elevator music, while every listed number she reads is enhanced with a comedic high-pitched bell.
“They [the video directors] were basically like ‘We really want to do some ‘90’s or 2000’s sounding music, ‘cause she is from that era,’ but when you saw the clip you could see that [the music] should really be some infomercial ‘60’s-type thing,’” Charlie Klarsfeld, the mastermind music mixer behind the video’s soundtrack explains. It may seem like it was a no-brainer, but don’t be fooled, he’s just being modest.
The New York based, 28-year-old DJ-turned-entrepreneur is currently changing the way we consume music, fashion, and art by bridging the gap between making art and making money.
“The two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive,” he says. Under the umbrella of his creative agency and sound consultancy, LUCY, which he launched just last year, Klarsfeld aims to connect emerging and relevant artists with advertisers and brands to form creative partnerships that make sense and feel organic. LUCY provides sound design for clients looking to incorporate music in ad campaigns, runway show or video shorts. The Paris Hilton clip is one such example among their expanding portfolio of clients ranging from Chloé to Crocs. It’s similar to brand partnerships, but “a cooler, small version of that,” he explains.
Klarsfeld is well versed on the ins and outs of an ever transforming industry as music and the arts have been ingrained in his blood since birth. His mother, the Vanity Fair and Vogue credited fashion photographer Pamela Hanson, remains one of his biggest influences. Occasionally, the mother-son duo collaborate, as seen in the ad campaign video Hanson shot and directed for the Elizabeth and James’ Nirvana Fragrance where Klarsfeld contributes the sound curation, and makes an onscreen appearance. Despite a “budding side modeling career” (Charlie jokes) his primary interest has always been music. He learned how to play the guitar as a child, and once he reached his teen years, began DJing high school parties from his iPod, followed by playing New York City nightclubs once he “figured out how to do it properly.”
After graduating from Bard College in 2012, he compiled an impressive reel, working with brands like Converse, DKNY and Tom Ford. He had his eyes set on landing a job at a top music house. “I had this sick reel and I was like ‘Oh my god, these people are going to hire me in like five seconds,’” Klarsfeld recalls. “But they just didn’t really care. They were like ‘Yeah you can work here, but you’re not going to make as much money as you’re making right now.’” Klarsfeld heeded the feedback and set out to do things his own way.
He began to grow his existing network of brands and musicians alike by expanding his creative reach. Klarsfeld DJs weekly at NYC hotspots such as Public Hotel and Le Bain at the Standard; serves as a contributing editor at large for The Academy -- an elusive, creative collective with a massive Instagram network and a sort of city wide omnipresence -- AND works as a traditional producer and sound engineer, collaborating with the likes of Skrillex, Branchez, and X Ambassadors.
With more than enough to keep him busy (and buzzing), Klarsfeld started LUCY to give him financial freedom to pursue these other creative projects and passions.
“I started doing [LUCY] as a side hustle, so I could be freed up to make music and just do what I wanted to do,” he describes as his prior approach to the company. But over time, more artists started to express interest in becoming a part of LUCY. Meanwhile, clients were expressing interests in gaining more access to musicians. Klarsfeld quickly realized LUCY didn’t have to have an exclusive goal, but rather could serve as a way for musicians to make money in a lucrative and efficient way while still maintaining creative intentionality. “It’s already a creative process but we’re trying to zoom out and ask questions like, what can the campaign be like when we pair you with an artist who makes sense and music that makes sense,” Klarsfeld says.
One of the most successful and creative relationships they’ve brokered to date is with the cult beauty brand, Glossier. As part of Glossier’s lip balm collaboration with Momofuku Milk Bar, Klarsfeld designed the video’s soundscape and created a Spotify mixtape full of upbeat and bubbly tracks to accompany the campaign. This month, LUCY developed the full sound design for a pop-up shop celebrating the launch of the brand’s first perfume. Glossier is a prime example of LUCY’s aim to use music to add identity to a cultural brand.
Since inception, Klarsfeld brought several employees on board to help with day-to-day operations, and developing strategic brand partnerships. Klarsfeld would like to see more projects turn into ongoing partnerships, an idea Charlie wished he had thought of sooner after working with the clothing brand Coach on two separate occasions without connecting the dots. The goal is to create continuity between both parties earlier on.
With ample opportunity to go into television, sports and experiential events, there’s massive room for growth. “There’s just so many ways that music can be naturally integrated,” says Nika Blake, who was one of the first employees to come on board. “It’s like, look how can we fit ourselves in that conversation and say ‘We’re the curators of music, let us help you do everything musically, everything with sound.’”
LUCY’s latest endeavor is to launch a roster of artists who Klarsfeld’s team aims to connect with advertisers and brands to form creative partnerships that make sense creatively and feel organic. The current roster ranges in scope from electronic artist Branchez, to multi-instrumentalist Tom Furse (The Horrors), and drummer Connor Hanwick (The Drums), among others.
With LUCY, Klarsfeld has his finger on the pulse of where the creative industry is headed as it shifts away from insulated corporate environments towards a collective fueled by like minded independent personalities in collaboration with one another.
“There’s no contracts, there’s no exclusivity. They want to be there, and the client wants to use us -- that’s all it’s about,” Klarsfeld says. At the end of the day, each individual’s point of view is what Klarsfeld finds the most valuable, and as a curator, his job is to help them gain both the recognition and the money their work deserves. “The term of either being cool or being a sellout, we’re so past that now,” says Klarsfeld.