In their words, Club Comfort are about to “upscale their utopian club vision”. On September 7 they are linking up with Dublin Fringe Festival to bring together live performers and DJs, as well as a series of talks and discussions to National Stadium in Dublin 8.
“The line-up, made up entirely of hardworking Irish artistic practitioners, will shine a light on the quality and vitality of the underground DIY arts community.”
In the run up to their most ambitious event yet, Rosie Gogan-Keogh caught up with the founders Roo Honeychild, Jack Colley and Cian Murphy to talk about how a 21st birthday party in Jack’s parent’s kitchen evolved into one of the city’s most important nights. Photos are by CC fan and excellent photographer Faolan Carey.
How did they all meet?
Jack: Myself and Roo have known each other since we were five years old.
Roo: We were in primary school and secondary school together, but we really didn’t like each other until we were 16 or 17. I’m pretty sure we hated each other for a long time!
Jack: When we were 16 we all started to open up a bit, our walls started to come down and we played in bands together. I had been into electronic music and dance music for quite a while and then I started DJing and a lot of our friends started coming around, including Roo. She got a knack for DJing, just by coming around. I met Cian when I played at his night that he was running three years ago.
Cian: I think I gave you one of your first gigs, Jack? I was running this club night called Palisade that was similarly aesthetically minded. One time we covered the whole wall with tin foil and we got these artificial plants and we put them everywhere and people came up and took photos. Some people were like, ‘it’s different, but I’m just here for house music downstairs’. That was when Jack approached me to do something similar.
How did Club Comfort start?
Roo: We had been talking about doing something for a year and a half before we ever did anything.
Jack: There had been a void. We have been going to clubs for a while, and when Twisted Pepper closed no one seemed to step up and fill that void. Initially we wanted to do something highly conceptual because we were looking at other club parties around Europe and the States.
Roo: Parties that had super strong aesthetics.
Jack: We were struggling to come up with a theme just out of thin air, but then we realised that the party we wanted to do was aimed towards inclusivity and fun.
Jack: We were fantasising about it for ages, but it was just a fantasy thing. It didn’t have a name, it didn’t have anything.
Roo: We had something like a manifesto!
Jack: There was considerably more thought than you would think!
Roo: When we linked up with Cian, that’s when it turned into something real.
Jack: We had two soft launches before we actually got to it. One was for my 21st in my parent’s kitchen. I had met this guy, Aikido, who I had been a huge fan of. Within like 20 minutes of meeting him, I was like, ‘Do you want to come play at my birthday?’, he was like, ‘Yeah, if you pay for my flights’.
Cian: The idea of a UK-based DJ coming over to play at a house party, it was something that hadn’t been done that many times, because it’s insane.
Jack: That lead to how we wanted to approach putting parties together, and how we would book artists.
Where did the name come from?
Roo: The name came from the the dress code we were thinking of at the time. We were really into tracksuits.
Jack: All I really wanted was that I could wear tracksuit and dance and I was thinking of what that dress code would be.
Cian: And that’s the thing, it was going against the dress code, like people ultimately being comfortable.
Roo: Yeah and it went from being material comfort to almost a kind of philosophy. Even before I listened to electronic music properly, I knew I wanted to become a club promoter because I watched ‘Party Monster’ when I was 14. I was obsessed with it and I bought five-inch Buffalo tower platform shoes, and I was like I want to be a club promoter, that’s what I’m going to do.
Tell us about the hosts?
Roo: I have friends in New York and I’ve noticed that they have hosts over there. We made it a point at our first party that me and Jack were going to sit at the door and greet everyone. I really wanted to emphasise this face-to-face thing: to meet everyone, to talk to people, get to know people. We wanted people to know that we existed, to know that if when you are in the club and grabs your ass and says something creepy that we exist and you can come over to us and say this happened.
Jack: And people do, people really do.
Roo: We can’t always do loads, but we are going to do what we can do because the whole point of the thing is that it’s somewhere that people can be comfortable.
Jack: We’ve expanded our host circle so much.
Cian: We’ve strengthened it as well. I wouldn’t have known Robyn [Deane] or Dylan [Kerr] that well before starting Club Comfort, now they have become very dear to me.
What about the music?
Jack: Myself, Roo and Cian are all hugely into the music, but we identify that that’s not the most important part.
Roo: We want to have a party that’s for the people, by the people, for the whoever. And we still get to expose really cutting edge, really good, music.
Jack: But if anything, that’s the best environment to put that music in.
Roo: And also, with the artists that we bring, we have created what we think is the best club ever.
Cian: I’m proud of it, obviously I’m older than the others, so I feel I can take a step back and say, ‘This is actually so incredible’. You know, when you first go to the club, like 17, 18, and you love the idea because it’s new and it’s different. But I’m 26 and I’m like, ‘Gosh, this is actually really good’. Genuinely, the first thing that people are saying is that everybody is so nice, so happy to be there.
Roo: It was like we sent out the club night that we knew we wanted, and people just immediately understood. It was like we were speaking the same language to a lot of people we didn’t know existed.
Jack: I was confident that it would strike a chord, that there was the space for that to exist, but not to the extent that it has transpired.
Roo: It kind of emerged almost fully formed… Not fully, fully formed, because we have a million ideas about what we want to do next and how it will evolve, but in terms of the idea that we envisioned, about creating a space where pageantry and theatricality come to life and a place you can come to if you want to just wear a tracksuit.
Cian: Even just to be there to dance and enjoy it.
Roo: Nobody feels bad about it, or self-conscious or whatever. That feeling popped out immediately and it was weird because, on one hand, we were definitely anxious before. I think me and Jack are both definitely prone to view things differently sometimes.
Jack: And actually, for the first one, I had wanted to push it back a month for two weeks before.
Roo: We had to have a sit down with Jack.
Jack: We had a bit of a standoff, because I was like, ‘I don’t think we are ready’.
Roo: And I was like, ‘Just do it!’.
Cian: Let’s just do it, and I think Roo was definitely completely right, I think we just needed to get it off the ground.
Roo: Yeah, it’s my baby, I’m a little bit attached, it’s the best feeling ever.
Tell us about Comfort Carnival?
Jack: We started Club Comfort as a response to loneliness. I suppose what’s really changed for us since the early days of Club Comfort is that we now find ourselves part of a wider network of passionate underground artists and enthusiasts who exist on the fringes and make their work with a similar kind of DIY ethic. Being part of Dublin Digital Radio has been instrumental in connecting the dots of different voices from around the country and creating this feeling of community.
With Comfort Carnival, we wanted to do something a bit bigger than our usual monthly parties and expand outside of our usual late night context. We’re using this as a chance to curate a cohesive programme that reflects the broad range of interesting things currently happening in Irish music and present a sense of identity. With the venue, we wanted to appropriate a space that is conventionally symbolic of community in Ireland. The function room of the National Stadium fit the bill because it’s this big old hall that has a distinctly nostalgic feel. Many people would have been to community events or family gatherings in local sports halls just like it. To us, it embodies that sense of Irish identity that we’re trying to get across.
We pitched our concept to Dublin Fringe Festival because of their rich history of showcasing new and innovative work and in more recent times their support for club culture. Being in the Fringe opens us up to new audiences. We’re invested in conveying the universal appeal of clubbing and inviting new people of all ages and backgrounds to come dance with us and partake in the collective feeling of joy. It’s very encouraging to be endorsed by an established institution like Dublin Fringe and hope other Irish arts institutions follow suit in supporting club culture. We’ve got talent and passion in buckets, but we urgently need nurturing, funding and space for this scene to truly thrive.
Comfort Carnival takes place with Dublin Fringe Festival in National Stadium Ringside Bar on Saturday September 7.