Andrew Field-Pickering lives in the same house he grew up in. It’s in Silver Spring, Maryland, a mostly quiet suburb outside of Washington, DC. His dad moved out, but his brother still lives there with him. His shelves are bursting at the seams with records. In the back of the house there’s an office/studio where Field-Pickering and his friend Mike Petillo operate their record label Future Times. There are some posters of gigs they’ve played on the wall, a couple keyboards, a computer and not much else. Future Times is obsessed with the complicated, unreliable history and minutiae of dance music, so it initially seems odd that the room in which they spend so much time thinking about music is so uncluttered. But then, Future Times is about making sense of dance music’s historical clutter—pulling brilliant ideas from bootleg recordings of undocumented warehouse parties and white label 12-inches smashed into dusty bargain bins.
The label mostly releases music from their friends, but it is also home to Field-Pickering’s wonky solo project Maxmillion Dunbar and to Beautiful Swimmers, a group he formed with longtime friend, Ari Goldman. It also includes Mike Petillo’s band Protect-U, as well as whatever else they feel like releasing. All Future Times records are embedded with a deep, deep love of not just disco and house, but all electronic music. “There’s an intent,” Field-Pickering says of the label, “but I couldn’t tell you what that intent is, necessarily. There’s a sound that’s Future Times, but I don’t know how to tell you what that is off the top.” He and Petillo are knowledgeable about the material they’re influenced by, but not to a fault. Instead, everything they do is tinged by scrappy, homemade excitement. “We listen to house music at home,” Field-Pickering says. “It’s where you hear it. At 9AM, you wake up and you put on the most ferocious techno. That’s so tight. You can imagine yourself dancing to it in a club, but mostly you’re just finding out about it.” It’s like they already memorized the rulebook and are now on an endless quest to perfect their personal vision. “I think we’re the kind of people that are wired for music,” Petillo says. “That’s just what we’ve always needed to do as people to be happy. If you look at the people involved in this label, it’s people who have been—for most of their adult and adolescent lives—doing whatever music they can get their hands on.”
The idea behind Future Times is pretty simple: make and produce records for thosewho want to buy them. “You don’t need to feel like you’re latching onto the new coolest record that’s going to be the biggest hit,” Field-Pickering says. “What happens is, instead, you put out your own records that you love, and they become hits to certain people.” Petillo and Field-Pickering don’t have any kind of manifesto about changing dance music forever, but in their own way, they’re pushing it forward from within their self-contained crew. “Everything we’ve done, every second of every record has been something we’re totally into,” Petillo says. “We’re not in the business of putting stuff out just to have.” Each Future Times release has a surface-level accessibility. It’s not a completely alien sound, but it’s not exactly familiar either.
In addition to Future Times, Field-Pickering and Petillo, along with Goldman, host a monthly party, The Whale, at U Hall, a cavernous DC dance club. September’s edition is on a Wednesday night and the rain feels endless. The DJ booth runs the length of the entire back of the club, and it looms over the dance floor. Because it’s a weeknight, and because it’s dumping rain outside, half the people in the room could easily fit up there with them. Goldman and Petillo begin their set with whale noises that slowly get blended and modulated until they’re acting as vocals for the next song they play. It’s incredibly strange, but they make it fun to dance to. While they’re DJing, dudes amble through the gate to the booth, pulling records from crates and examining them like they fortuitously stumbled upon the most amazing garage sale, before going back to the floor to dance. And that’s the key. No one in the room is watching them DJ, really. Instead, they’re all dancing. When Petillo’s set is over, he’s on the dance floor, too.
Visiting Petillo’s Mt. Pleasant apartment the next day is like stepping into a mini version of Field-Pickering’s house, except it might have even more records. The pair hunch over a laptop, watching a video of two aging British dance nerds freaking out about a Roland TR-909 Drum Machine. It looks like they are sitting in a closet, fiddling with knobs and buttons while yelling out nonsense like, “Major European intelligent dance formation!” It’s funny, but more than that it’s embarrassing in the same way it’s embarrassing to overhear an elevator discussion about the finer points of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Petillo and Field-Pickering both think it’s hilarious. But as much as they’re laughing, it doesn’t feel mean spirited. It feels knowing, like they’re a part of it, too. By showing it to anyone else, they’re enthusiastically opening the door into their own special world. It feels good to be there.
Various Artists, Vibe 2 2×12-inch
A compilation of just about every Future Times contributor featuring stoney takes on weird house music stretched over two records.
Maxmillion Dunbar, Max Trax for World Peace 12-inch
Max D, aka Future Times’ Andrew Field-Pickering, loves nature sounds and cowbell. “Polo” sounds like a dance remix of the PeeWee’s Playhouse theme.
Protect-U, “World Music” 12-inch
Protect-U, the project of Future Times’ other half, Mike Petillo, is scrappy, homemade and jittery retro-futuristic drum machine disco.
Beautiful Swimmers, “Big Coast” 12-inch
Field-Pickering and Ari Goldman’s Beautiful Swimmers follows Future Times’ penchant for slightly off dance music and “Big Coast” is a gorgeous slice of digital dub.