Hosting Leeds’ only ‘workout-based nightclub experience’ along with inclusive DJ workshops and a stream of the most cutting edge artists in the UK, Stretchy Dance Supply are fast building a chapel to non-conformity in bass music. Ross Wilson talks with residents Dubrunner and Sourpuss about musical direction, satire and how the night has evolved.
“It was a lot weirder before”, recollects Charlie (Dubrunner). In the early stages of the high-intensity bass night Stretchy Dance Supply, it wouldn’t be uncommon to find yourself (gently) forced into doing aerobics or having a kilo of flour chucked over you in response to the question ‘Would you like any cocaine?’. Stretchy’s foundation has always been one of the bizarre.
Freddie (Sourpuss) makes the link to their DIY core, suggesting that this was something they could only get away with during their first year of parties. By all accounts, it was quite full-on (especially for gluten intolerant Freddie).
Stretchy Dance Supply’s relationship with comedy and performance has shifted over their two years on the Leeds party scene. Achieving a maturity within their take on satire, the Stretchy crew have been known to place immersive performers on the dancefloor, adding another bizarre cherry to their cake. Party-goers can expect the weird and wonderful, alongside the reassurance of consistently top-drawer DJs with no interruptions.
Their parties are truly inclusive, keeping you on your toes and always providing a good laugh. Freddie and Charlie recall this amazing story of faux machismo and aerobic power play: “A rogue group of people came all dressed up in wrestling gear and they said, ‘Turn the stage lights on, we’re the Blenheim boys. Where the fuck’s Halli Galli?’ They’d come to fight Halli Galli (an immersive performance group who performed aerobics routines during in the early days of Stretchy) No one had ever heard of them, we had no idea who they were.” It’s this kind of playful satire, even pantomime, that Stretchy accommodates so well. You could never call it a gimmick because it’s simply woven into the fabric of how they run their night.
It becomes clear that these two have many stories to tell, with a very endearing and introspective list of their best and worst times to share. They host these nights for pleasure and genuinely enjoy playing music together. With an alarming lack of humility, they claim that all-time favourite booking was, in fact, themselves - a four-way back to back that they managed to facilitate at their most recent event: Four DJ’s, four turntables, one tune each, repeat.
This extreme DJ flex demonstrates how well the resident DJs know and understand each other. “As our sound has consolidated, we all know each other’s vibe.” Building upon that shared understanding of each other's respective libraries and riffing off to create a greater live musical performance is no mean feat. This story becomes one less of self-appraisal, and more of an appreciation for what they’ve built and the sound they’ve defined together.
Speaking of defining sounds, two names that have become anchors for Stretchy are DJ’s Fauzia and Sherelle. These high-energy London DJs aren’t far from musical family for Stretchy Dance Supply, with their similar take on club music over the past five years and the attention that has turned their way. “We’ve been watching them play for a long time” Freddie expresses.
Fellow Stretchy resident Breaka did a guest mix on Sherelle’s radio show (Reprezent Radio) back in 2016, before she and Fauzia had their respective Boiler Room success. The two London based DJs played Leeds (Sheaf Street) for the first time last year, and guess who booked them? There’s nothing like DIY culture to exploit an opportunity for the community.
Alongside the party, co-promotors Equaliser doubled up by hosting a gender-inclusive DJ workshop and Q&A aimed to encourage aspiring DJs from under-represented backgrounds who may be interested in learning from the London heavyweights. Fauzia, Sherelle and the Equaliser crew hosted 25 young women, non-binary and trans people on the day of the event – “[We] cracked open the door a little” Charlie says, “and they were all there having this really big chat”.
The residents at Stretchy often make edits and remix tunes to play at their night. “We make a lot of the music that we play. It means a lot to us on a very personal level, [but] we occasionally lighten up the mood by throwing in a few curveballs” says Freddie. “It’s not too much of a heads-down party, it’s quite energetic”. Known to play eccentric tracks such as school disco classic Cha-Cha Slide under an electro beat and the Pulse X bass over it, Stretchy is a party that masterfully merges the silly with the intelligently refined.
Asking Charlie and Freddie who they look up to in Leeds was greeted with a unanimous response: Simon Scott. Simon runs Subdub, Outlook festival, Dimensions festival, Tribe Records and nights in Leeds for 30 years. “He’s largely responsible for helping a lot of smaller promotors out. He gave Hessle Audio their first leg up”. We start to giggle at this man’s insane influence on Bass music in the UK. “On the old Subdub posters, there are ones with Chase & Status or Mala in a tiny font, then underneath in brackets ‘South London dubstep’”, Simon was the first person to book Mala in the North. “The second time Mala rocked up, the bus was full”.
However, it’s not just the highest heights that interest Dubrunner and Sourpuss. “We look up to the younger crowd”, Charlie says in reference to First and Second-year University students who are starting to run their first parties. “They’re into the same people as us, they look up to us and we look up to them because they’re pushing the same scene.” There’s undoubtedly a substantial buzz around footwork, jungle and UK breaks at the minute: “It’s quite easy to get wrapped up in your own stuff and forget that Leeds still has a very vibrant DIY scene.”
A club that seems to have a handle on how these scenes and bubbles grow is Leeds’ Wire. “[Wire] asked us to come and host DjRUM, a night where they book artists and then hand over the reins to a local promotor”. Wire put the big money in for a highly in-demand DJ, then they get their pick of local promotors who can pack out a room but might not have had the wallet otherwise. This kind of inclusive policy shows that Wire understands that, in Leeds, the important things happen low budget and underground. Big clubs have the resources to do what arts funding in the North does not.
With the grace, broad outlook and community that they and their peers foster, Stretchy Dance Supply is only getting bigger.
Words by Ross Wilson
Images by Kristian Lam-Clark