One of the main ingredients behind a successful music festival, particularly within the world of electronic music, is a providing high-caliber sound. In North America, the company responsible for turning any music into bass music at festivals is without a doubt, PK Sound.
"It's probably the craziest year we've ever had," says Jeremy Bridge, the CEO of PK Sound, started in 2005. "We've had the pleasure of working with a lot of really great festivals."
Bridge says that the company's festival itinerary has, at this point, succeeded well beyond his own. "To be honest," he says, "there are more festivals that go on than I know about." With an office in San Francisco, California, Victoria, BC, and one in Calgary, Alberta, PK Sound is one of the most sought after sound company, providing proper bass for 30 to 40 festivals each summer. And that number is only growing.
But Bridge and PK Sound's ties to the festival circuit goes way back, back to some of the earliest days of Shambhala Music Festival in Nelson, British Columbia. "PK kind of grew out of Shambhala," he admits. At one point, Bridge was DJing under the name Subvert, promoting his own shows, and working as the owner of a car audio shop. Throughout a period of being knee deep in sound, he and his friends agreed that the sound systems venues and events provided wasn't of a quality that it could be. By the early 2000s, they began working to solve the problem themselves.
"We started building our own speakers," says Bridge, "and that just kind of grew. Then we got involved with Shambhala because my wife had been involved from the beginning. She knew Jimmy Bundschuh, Shambhala's founder, and the whole crew, so we started doing sound for the Village Stage."
Two years after their inauguration into the Shambhala family, Bridge and his team became the stage directors for the Village Stage. Known for it's heavier bass frequencies, the Village Stage was a perfect fit for PK Sound's audial glove.
"This year is actually our ten-year anniversary being stage directors," adds Bridge. "We grew up in the festival scene. From the very beginning, we were all super passionate about music. Just like a lot of promoters who want to give back to the scene, we just wanted to see people having a good time. PK Sound was our way of contributing."
As Canada's electronic music scene grew, as did the number of festivals, and producers, and PK Sound was there to give it all the bass loaded boost it needed. "The electronic scene kind of blew up in North America. We had lots of friends who started out as bedroom DJs and then all of a sudden they had a million facebook fans," says Bridge. "It's super fun to have a hand in giving them their first breaks."
The rise in popularity spurred new opportunities for PK Sound too, as artists wanted to bring their gear on the road. "We started touring with artists, the sound company kept growing, and we were doing more festivals," says Bridge. "It officially became a sound company in 2005."
Despite making their brand and company official, the PK crew worked tirelessly out of their own garages for years, building speakers while maintaining side jobs in Alberta's oil and gas industry. By 2009, it was clear that the company was much more than just a side hobby. "We took the plunge in 2009 and moved out of our garages."
As more tours and events were accumulating under their company belt, PK Sound realized that simply offering services wasn't enough to keep growing demands at bay. They soon began selling their gear separately, for artists and events to use without a staff oversight.
Bridge maintains that the communal spirit of the West Coast music scene, and of course Shambhala, has helped to build the success of the company. "That's what has made the festival community a little bit different," says Bridge. "We kind of took that into the company too. One of the core aspects since we started the company has been that everybody at PK owns the company. It's not like I'm the big boss and I own the company and everybody works under me. Everybody here is an owner, from me to the guys in the back building speakers."
"When people are invested in the company, they have something to show for it at the end of the day," he continues. "Its people. We build products and provide a service, but products are nothing without the people behind them."
For the same reasons, PK has also been successful at maintaining positive relationships with its artists. They now tour regularly with both Canadian and U.S. artists. Bridge says that the work relationship has continued not just because of their superior quality in gear, but also by the way they treat their associates.
"It's a personal relationship," says Bridge of working with megastars Skrillex, Diplo, Bassnectar, Datsik, and Excision. "We try to do more than just provide the sound. There's a tighter relationship there than just being the guys that provide the gear. It's connections and it's helping each other out. We work together."
It's clear PK has high standards for its overall output, ones that apply to their production and manufacturing too. Year after year, the company continues to perfect its products and push the boundaries of it's already face-rattling sound. They're always striving for better gear, higher intensities, and premium sounds. This past June, just in time for festival season, PK Sound unveiled their latest line of speakers, Trinity.
"It's a new loudspeaker. There's nothing else like it on the market," explains Bridge. "Basically, Trinity allows you to aim the sound field so that you can point or focus the sound directly onto the audience area. You can adjust how the speaker system aims the sound from a remote control."
This year at EDC in Las Vegas, PK Sound gave Trinity a test run before hitting the road for more events. "At EDC there were eight stages inside a race track, and they were kind of all pointing either alongside each other or at each other," says Bridge. "So, keeping the sound from bleeding into other areas was really important for them. We were basically able to tailor the sound system to the shape of the dancefloor so that it was nice and high energy. Then as soon as you stepped onto the side, the sound would drop off pretty dramatically."
With EDC a huge success, PK teams have continued to wow festival organizers and attendees with the precision of their latest equipment. Escapade, Paradiso, Astral Harvest, Tall Tree, Bass Coast…the list of festivals that PK has been supplying sound for this year is ridiculously lengthy and they're only half way through.
In a few weeks, the company will be making its annual trek back to the very place where it all began, Shambhala Music Festival. What better way to celebrate their 10 year anniversary with Shambhala than to give the hungry bassheads their yearly dose of pure, unabashed bass-filled bliss.
Hollie is on Twitter.