Traditionally Belfast is a city not known for its embrace of some of music’s weirder sounds. If you walk down any of the cobbled streets around St. Annes Cathedral you’ll hear folk cuts, city bars frequently play stale rock music and even in the club scene it feels relatively limited to house and techno.
There have been scattered attempts over the years to help develop a more varied night life. However the formula that’s prevailed in other cities is the process of creating a small community invested in promoting everything weird. The kind of avid music heads that gravitate to more obscure sounds, the kind of music that requires you to tune your ears to become accustomed.
Two people borrowing from this model are Andrew Moore and Peter Gibney of Plain Sailing. While their first nights were tamer in terms of sonics, the duo are progressively growing more ambitious with the types of music they want to showcase with their parties in Belfast.
We sat down with the pair in a noisy cafe on the Ormeau Road to talk about their attempts to leave an imprint on the city’s nightlife through sharing their tastes ahead of their first grime event.
How do you approach trying to throw different events in the city and what direction are you taking?
Andrew: “We did the hip hop event with Leo Miyagee a while back, we know we aren’t the first people to throw a grime event in the city but I feel like we are the first people trying to build some sort of community off the back of it.”
“You can love it and not want to build a community around it. The whole objective for us is very much to build a blended community of dance music, grime, hip hop and more.”
“The approach reminds me of a documentary on youtube called ‘Keep Bristol Weird’ and at the end a guy that runs a record store called ‘Idle Hands’ laments the fact that in the nineties the grime heads and house heads were at war with each other, when instead they should’ve come together.”
You don’t have to get people to change their allegiance to another genre, there is room to enjoy more than one thing.
Andrew: “Exactly and I think there’s something to be said about small online communities like Jerry Jackson Stole My CD’s (An infamous music sharing group for people based in Belfast) in a city as small in Belfast where you still have 1500 people really actively sharing music. Recently I’ve been sharing a lot of sad emo/trap music to the group.”
There’s a growing emo-tinged hip hop scene in Belfast and it’s fascinating.
Andrew: “Yeah there’s a producer called North and I’d love to premiere one of his tunes! We’ve mostly premiered electronic music so far but I want to try and get as big a mix of different music out there, stuff from bands too. I want our events and releases to be a complete reflection of what we’re into, there are no barriers, we aren’t doing it cause it’s cool, we are doing it cause we genuinely like it”.
“Whenever we launched Plain Sailing, I was hesitant to call it a ‘Dance Music Collective’ because we didn’t want to pigeon hole it, we want to explore a range of things and show we aren’t a one trick pony.”
Why was it grime you went for recently?
Andrew: “Whether I was aware of it or not at the time I’ve always had an interest in grime. I’ve written about the music, I listen to tonnes of instrumental grime like LAST JAPAN and Logos. I mean Bloom has changed the way grime is made, even Björk picked up his work and it led to a remix. Having someone like that in Belfast where there isn’t a lot of DJs that play that sort of stuff is incredible, we also knew Alex could MC so it made sense to push something we’ve always wanted to do. We’ll work with Bloom going forward with bookings too as we will very quickly exhaust belfast’s supply of grime artists. We want to bring people over too and introduce people to different sounds.”
Why do you think Belfast is less receptive to weirder sounds?
Andrew: “It depends on the individual but there are people that eat up house and techno, but I find that those people aren’t usually going for the music, they are often going for a party. At the same time there is a chunk of people in small circles that have always been into different things. I’ve definitely felt a change in the last year or two, there’s enough people willing to take a hit and book someone interesting knowing they will lose a few hundred quid. It’s important to have people willing to do that for the scene.”
“It’s not exclusive to Belfast but there are always going to be people in it for the wrong reasons, but I think Belfast is lucky in a way that we have so many great people. All you have to do is go to a few raves and you’ll know most of the people involved in the scene.”
What other things make an important difference to the growing nightlife in Belfast?
“Theres a promoters group in Belfast on Facebook that run the likes of Suburban and Twitch and Korova and everyone tries to avoid trying to clash with each other. I don’t think it would work in bigger cities but Belfast is a unique case and it means a lot of the time nights can avoid clashes.”
What other types of parties have you done ?
Andrew: “We done the garage event with Carlton Doom, Leo’s hip hop gig, Pépe played footwork and jungle at the end of our launch event and we had Cailín which was flat to the mat techno.”
Peter: “We’ve done a lot since we started, I’ll not even think about the money we lost (laughs) but that’s what it comes down to, people taking a hit. That’s why you don’t see people throw another party for another six months. We were under no illusion we were going to lose a lot of money but there was never a moment where we were like ‘no let’s not do this’.”
Did either of you go to any weird events in Belfast when you were younger that peaked your interest?
Peter: “Nothing specific sticks out but we had the likes of Twitch that got me into dance music.”
Hopefully the grime event could be that event for younger people?
Peter: “That’s the point, we want others to have a go and maybe try dip their toes into different genres and if we can in anyway influence or inspire that then that’s job done.”
Andrew: “It’s a cool challenge to look at Ireland and see if there are more obscure acts, even the emo trap wave we mentioned, if that isn’t a representation of something totally different happening in a place that you wouldn’t expect then I don’t know what is.”
Plain Sailing host a grime event featuring Bloom, Leo Miyagee and Alex MB Friday 18 October in the Ulster Sports Club, Click here for more info.