Alumus pursues dream through music and record label

In Artist Profile, Arts & Entertainment, Music
CSUF alum, Garrett Yim, performs as Meishi Smile, with a sound that’s part indie pop and dreamy Japanese-inspired soundscapes. Yim also co-founded the record label, Zoom Lens, dedicated to fostering creative individuality. (Courtesy of Meishi Smile)

Garrett Yim, a former Cal State Fullerton student, was due to walk at graduation in spring 2014. Yim was forced to miss the ceremony, though not because of sickness or family affairs, but because he was busy touring Japan.

Yim performs as Meishi Smile, producing a mix of noise and dream pop, and co-founded the record label Zoom Lens in 2009. T-Mobile’s Electronic Beats magazine describes the label, which is based in Los Angeles, as a blend of “dreamy indie with 8-bit and rave euphoria.” The label is heavily influenced by underground Japanese music as well as Japanese culture, indulging in an look that is pleasing to the eye, but also carries an underlying darkness.

Zoom Lens is predominantly a digital label, not only with its music distribution, but also with music curation. Yim initially started the label as a place to house his own projects, but quickly expanded the site to curate other artists he enjoyed. Most of the artists on the label connected with Yim through MySpace, Facebook and other online outlets. The label has expanded beyond a place that houses underground artists and into a digital community.

Meishi Smile’s latest record, “Belong,” was released this past October under the Zoom Lens label. Yim said the sophomore album’s lead single, “Pastel” was inspired by the death of his grandfather. (Courtesy of Anthony Thompson)
Meishi Smile’s latest record, “Belong,” was released this past October under the Zoom Lens label. Yim said the sophomore album’s lead single, “Pastel” was inspired by the death of his grandfather. (Courtesy of Anthony Thompson)

Yim personally invites people to join his label. He worked tirelessly to maintain a cohesive image with Zoom Lens. Rob Duffy, who performs as the chiptune-punk artist Cyclops Rock and has released music through Zoom Lens, recalls seeing the label for the first time.

I had my own record label at the time that I had ran for about a year prior,” Duffy said. “But I have a distinct memory about the day the Facebook page for Zoom Lens went up, because I remember thinking how this label with barely any music on it already had a lot more discernible vision to it than my label ever did.”

The vision Yim has for Zoom Lens is one filled with dark imagery of isolation and pain that is blended with a dreamy Japanese aesthetic. “I think a lot of our imagery can be misconstrued as maybe, promoting violent messages,” Yim said. “But we’re basically more so just expressing the things that we’ve been through personally.”

The imagery the label creates has sometimes ruffled the feathers of the artists involved. Some have left the label due to creative differences. Yim wants Zoom Lens to be a place for people to express themselves without shame, and sincerely isn’t about compromising. Despite some disagreement with Yim’s vision of the label, these elements are ultimately what makes Zoom Lens so unique and strong.

“It’s the strength of Garrett’s vision and his relentless artistic and personal support of the artists he believes in,” Duffy said. “Garrett was always the one encouraging me to keep trying and exploring, which is something he offers all the artists on Zoom Lens.”

Yim’s unrelenting drive and determination in creating his own digital space for artists has made Zoom Lens grow into one of the biggest underground labels in LA, which is evident in the increasing number of opportunities it has had to branch out. Meishi Smile has recently opened for well-established indie acts such as Craft Spells and Mystery Skulls, and teamed up with the Japanese electronic label Maltine Records for a small Japan tour back in 2014.

The imagery, vision and willingness to experiment of the people at Zoom Lens has made it a label that stands tall among the vast digital landscape.

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