No one throws a party in New York like DJ duo/promotion masterminds Sleepy & Boo.
As founders of Basic NYC, the husband-and-wife team of Mike (“Sleepy”) and Begoña (“Boo”) Gwertzman has been a driving force in the Manhattan and Brooklyn nightlife for years, keeping the ever-capricious city ravers satisfied and fired up with nuanced offerings boasting some of the best techno, house, and tech-house you’ll find in any of the five boroughs.
With a cavalcade of EPs on labels like Savoir Faire Musique, Moulton Music, and 3Bridge records, 2016 saw the duo exploring their production ventures even further than before. Particularly, the sexy, spooky tech-house slinks on their
Thought Forms three-tracker are not to be missed.
We caught up with the duo to chat about the challenges of keeping things fresh in New York’s ever-shuffling clubland, as well as their recent forays into production over the past two years.
DJ Times: You’ve thrown parties at many different venues around NYC over the years. What qualities make for a successful venue?
Sleepy: Sound. Vibe. How does the room feel throughout the night? Can people get to the place without a hassle? It’s a whole mix of ingredients, but those are kind of the key factors to consider if you’re trying to do a dance-music night. If it doesn’t sound good, people won’t be able to get into the music and the DJs won’t have a good time. But if the place isn’t comfortable for the crowd, if the vibe is off, then the sound can be amazing and it won’t make for a fun night.
DJ Times: Describe New York’s scene now.
Boo: So many different venues to choose from. Of course, we think Cielo has one of the best combinations of all of these factors, and we love TBA Brooklyn and the Bushwick A/V afterhours. Output, Flash Factory, Schimanski, House of Yes, Space, Analog BKNY—these are all great places for music right now, all offering something different from one another. And then, of course, there’s the warehouse parties and non-traditional events that bring their own unique vibes.
DJ Times: What are some of the challenges of booking a regular party in a town like New York?
Sleepy: Every night there are tons of nightlife options. It’s really diverse and spread out. Right now, the nights we are doing are mostly our own headlining residencies. So, that’s a lot of fun for us because we get to focus really on our music, picking the right guests to join us, creating our own artwork and visual representation. It’s still a lot of work, though; you can’t just put your party out there and assume people will show up. You have to do the promotion, spend time on social media, do your outreach, and then follow through to make sure you’re presenting a quality experience for your guests.
DJ Times: You’ve got your Illusion party at Cielo and your Frequencies party at TBA Brooklyn—what defines the vibe and concept of each?
Boo: These parties both represent a kind of philosophical evolution for us as DJs and artists. We believe that music has a transformative power, and each night reflects this differently. Illusion comes from the concept that we are responsible for creating our own reality, so therefore what we think we experience in life is really an illusion of the mind. Music and dancing and the physical and mental release that comes from a night out can be a vehicle to manifest that understanding, and we see Cielo’s sound system and dancefloor as the vehicle to transmit this message.
DJ Times: And Frequencies?
Boo: Frequencies looks at the idea of transformation from a different perspective. It’s been proven that sound waves themselves have power, both to heal and to disrupt. In particular, the 440 Hz tuning scale that is currently in use as the worldwide standard, is not the natural scale of 432 Hz. By changing these frequencies, you can change a lot of things in the world around you. Music can be so much more than just fun and entertainment – and to us, that’s a very powerful idea. Vibe-wise and music-wise, both of these parties are about underground sounds, deep house, techno—and we play a lot of our own productions at each of these parties, many that we have made with that 432 Hz tuning.
DJ Times: You launched a weekly Illusion Radio show on Pioneer DJ Radio. What’s the inspiration there?
Sleepy: It’s a lot of fun to do this show, because there’s just such a huge amount of great music and tracks out there right now. Not all of them fit into a club set. So, we launched it in conjunction with our Illusion night at Cielo, and the radio show is another platform to showcase music we like and support. Each show is an hour long, and we try to vary up the vibe throughout it, typically starting off very deep and then heading to more of a driving, techno finish. It’s also another outlet for our own productions. You can listen live on the Pioneer DJ Radio site, on their app, and all the shows are archived on Mixcloud. We tweet during the broadcast, too, so everyone listening can know who is this track, who is the artist, what label, etc.
DJ Times: Last year, 2016, was a very big year for you production-wise. What were some of the biggest moments/releases for you?
Boo: The biggest release for us was having our two tracks “Skyway” and “Signal Crossing” included on the Yoshitoshi Deep End compilation. We’ve been huge fans of Yoshitoshi for years now and it feels great to have your music be a part of such a pioneering label. We also put our four EPs on 3Bridge Records, which is a label from New York that our friends run. So being able to collaborate with people you’re close with is always a lot of fun.
DJ Times: Has the increase in production changed the way you DJ at all?
Sleepy: The more time you spend working on productions, it definitely changes the way you look at music overall. We get inspired by so many different producers and labels, and now, instead of just liking a track, we’ll say to ourselves, “That sounds really cool, what if we tried doing something like that?” Having our own tracks out, we always make sure to include them in our sets when we are DJing. And, of course, we use our sets as a way to fine-tune tracks that we’re currently working on. It’s definitely a feedback loop, because when we’re DJing we’re thinking about our tracks, and what we should try in a production. And when we’re working on music, we’re thinking about how this track will go over on the dancefloor. And it’s inspiring and encouraging when you play out an original track and see the crowd connect with it.
DJ Times: What’s in store release-wise in 2017?
Boo: Our first release will be on Cenote Records, which is a label that is run up in Burlington, Vt. And we’re working on a remix for Where the Heart Is Records, a label here in New York. We’re talking with Yoshitoshi about more releases this year. We have plans to start our own label and get that going. One of our goals is to do a lot more production this year and just get better and better with our own music. It’s a lot of fun and very rewarding and also a lot of work and patience. Creation is power, and we’re striving every day to tap into that source and energy.