For this month’s edition of ‘Culture Talks’, we have Brooklyn based duo Justin Carter and Eamon Harkin, founders of the Mister Saturday Night parties and record label. Getting together in 2009, they both set out to create more than just a night, focusing on creating an experience that’s truly original and engaging.
We found a quiet spot to sit down with them recently after their set at Sunfall Festival, to talk about their DJ sets, their passion for great music, and what it takes to build such a successful party within the community.
CV: Hey guys nice to be able to come and have a chat with you, how did the set go?
Eamon: Short and sweet, as it tends to be with these festivals. But yeah, great fun!
Not what you’re used to with the whole night kind of thing I suppose, being able to dig a bit deeper in to it over a longer period?
E: Yeah, I think we tried our best to compress it into one hour. It was nice to see people coming down the hill and enjoying it.
Are you guys excited for Canavans later? Have you ever been before?
Justin: I’ve been to Canavans before, just to like see what it looks like but I’ve never played there, but Bradley, Eamon and I have been talking about doing this for a long time.
It’s a really cool space and that seems to be something you guys put emphasis on – getting an atmosphere right, what are the things you look for when finding a space?
E: It’s huge I think because so much of the experience of someone coming to the party is just dictated by the raw space that any party starts with so we always look for the space that feels comfortable, somewhere we would want to go to to listen to music – or in some cases a place we would want to live. Does it feel comfortable? Is it like nice, natural light if the party’s during the day? Do you have good acoustics? What’s really important is; does it feel exciting and different?
Of course, and I suppose you come from somewhere that has such a pedigree when it comes to nightlife culture. What made you get to a point, when you were starting your own thing, where you thought we need to do this in a specific way? Were you influenced by what you experienced in New York, or was it very much striking out on your own and trying something different?
J: Before we started doing parties together, so I go down to college in 2003 but I’d been living in New York for four years. Right around that time there was this guy called Todd P who moved to New York and was doing these kind of underground shows, but also some underground parties. He worked with the Chk-Chk-Chk guys and they would do like parties in the bathroom of the weird bar, or at somebodies loft somewhere. So I was really inspired by that and pretty quickly after I started throwing parties. The first DJ gig I did was at some dumb place on Avenue B – some Moroccan themed hookah lounge or something, and it’s funny because it’s a place that people were playing, so on paper it was a coup to have gotten that as my first gig but I was there and I was like – the owner’s were kinda smarmy and kicked us off the turn tables like two hours into it because they forgot they had somebody else who was booked. The vibe was just not right. So very, very quickly after that I was like I only wanna do parties at these places that I like to go, it doesn’t make any sense to do them in more conventional spaces.
“So much of the experience of someone coming to the party is just dictated by the raw space that any party starts with”
So that was something that I’d been doing for a while and in fact when we started Mr Saturday Night, we started in a club and then after ten parties or so it fell apart – the club experience was not the right experience, so we took a summer of doing an outdoor party called Sunday Best which kind of eventually morphed into Mr Sunday. It took a summer of doing that, which was at this party in this guys’ back yard, and in the fall we came back and we decided we were going to do this in loft spaces and underground venues. I think for the first five years that we were doing it, every time we did a party it was in somebody’s house, like somebody lived in wherever it was that we were throwing a party.
Obviously you have connections in Ireland and do the New York shows, is there a reason you chose to come to London, what attracted you to doing a London thing?
E: When we started touring together the dates and the parties that were the best for us were in London, so we realised that we had a little bit of a following here that we could build on. I lived in London before moving to New York and I have family here, so for me personally there was a lot of motivation in building on something in London. But I think also way more important than that, was that we had an intern in New York who was working with us for a while who was amazing, he left New York and moved to London and he started working with Black Atlantic, and because he’d worked with us before and really got to know us, he understood what was important to us from a production perspective, so we started talking to him and the Black Atlantic guys about doing something more regularly in London – so it was kind of a natural organic thing.
J: We did try the party in other cities as well, we did a couple of Mr Saturday nights in Berlin, we did one in Belfast that was just kind of a nightmare more for me probably than Eamon.
“I think for the first five years that we were doing it, every time we did a party it was in somebody’s house”
E: So it’s all about partnering with the right people on the ground and we have that relationship here, and we’re coming back frequently so we can build on it and observe things ourselves – it’s also a nice base to do more dates in Europe. When we tour, the vast majority of the time we’re coming back to Europe, so it works for all those reasons. And it’s not too far from New York – you can get on a plane at night you go to sleep you wake up you’re in London, you battle through the jet lag for a day and you’re fine.
Have you got anything exciting coming up label wise or show wise for the rest of the year?
J: Well we’re doing a big Mr Saturday party at the church [of St John in Hackney] in September – that’s the next big thing that we have here, for sure. And we’re really excited about that, the first one we did was really, really nice – I know there were a lot of people that wanted to come to it but couldn’t, so we’re happy to be able to give people an opportunity who didn’t come last time to come again.
And label wise?
E: We’ve got some stuff in the pipe work, it’s a nice steady stream of 12” that we’re going to announce at the right time, because we want to make sure that each one gets the focus that it deserves. The next one’s from Keita Sano, who has put out a 12” with us before on the brothers and sisters compilation, that came out two years ago now, and then we’ve got a bunch more that will be coming out through the end of the year and into next year.
Finally, I like keeping up to date with what you guys post on Facebook as your last song of the night. Do you have any particular go-to’s at the moment, or is it more that you decide on a whim?
J: For me at least, I don’t have like ‘these records are the last songs of the night’, it’s just like any other record that I play, we’ll just be like okay, what feels right? What’s just played before? What does the dance floor feel like? I’m listening to a lot of jump blues right now, which is basically like proto-rock and roll, like late 40s early 50s, but I’m probably just as likely to play that in the middle of the party as I am at the end of the party.
E: Yeah sometimes I’ll go to a party and have no idea what I’m going to play as the last tune – we just bring a lot of records and we bring a lot of LP’s, and often it’s just a track from that LP that we’ve listened through in the week and it’s just like stick that on. Sometimes the party’s got a certain energy, a certain vibe that will dictate what kind of tune to play at the end.
Thanks for taking the time out to talk to us guys.
If you want to check out any of Mister Saturday Night’s events and releases head over to their Soundcloud and Resident Advisor pages, they’ll be back in the UK on September 10th in London at the ‘Church of St John at Hackney’.
Words by Andy Hickey. Thanks to Sunfall Festival at Brockwell Park.