No inhibition: From war bunkers to nightclubs, FROTH is re-energising Wellington’s club scene - Features - Mixmag

No inhibition: From war bunkers to nightclubs, FROTH is re-energising Wellington’s club scene

FROTH has fast become one of New Zealand’s "goofiest" club nights with an affinity for fast dance music, and a particular love for the sounds of donk, bass, and garage

  • Words: Gemma Ross | Photos: Jackson Harris, Ana Adam, Taylor Nixon, Carlos Era, Buda Szerelem-Tolnay
  • 11 June 2024

Functions is our monthly interview series profiling parties from across the world. This week we chat with: FROTH

Self-described as an “amalgamation of clever minds addicted to music”, Wellington-based club night FROTH has transcended local clubland to hit highs across New Zealand’s party scene since it was birthed as a passion project in 2020. What began as an unlicensed party in old shop fronts and war bunkers around the Aotearoa capital quickly turned into one of New Zealand’s “goofiest” club nights with an affinity for fast dance music, and a particular love for the playful sounds of donk, bass, garage, and techno.

FROTH was launched by Theodoor Kraayvanger, who came up with the idea at a house party when the “aux cord grew stale”. After learning to mix and install soundsystems, Theo teamed up with music-fanatic mates to create a community-driven event while “maintaining positive relationships” with venues, artists and promoters across Aotearoa (New Zealand). “Clubbing culture was not cutting it anymore for our friends,” says the FROTH team.

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The team has now expanded to include visual artists like Head Graphic Designer Cole Bowden, who pulls inspiration from each act booked to put together a visual identity for FROTH club nights, Head “Visual Jockey” Graham Dickie with his knack for stage design and creative projection mapping, and Weston Symes & Emile Commarieu who “light up whatever space we use to make the dancefloor a sensation”.

“These are only a handful of the brains that make FROTH a well-oiled operation,” the team explain. “We have a loaded roster of resident DJs and close friends that help us on gig night. From set-up to pack-down, the FROTH whānau (family) consists of hardworking, creative and talented individuals that our gigs wouldn’t be possible without.”

Despite the growth of FROTH as it moves from local line-ups to stage takeovers at festivals and beyond, the development of Wellington’s nightlife scene is still needed to keep it afloat, the team explain. “Wellington is still very limited in venues as we lost a lot of great clubs to earthquake damage and shitty landlords,” they say. Though that picture is sadly looking the same across the world, club nights like FROTH are helping local venues to thrive and keep the sound of Wellington alive.

We chat with the FROTH team about Wellington’s need for more venues, getting silly in the club, and creating a tight-knit dance music community in New Zealand's capital. Check it out below.

How would you describe FROTH to someone who’s never been to one of your parties?

It’s an experience, not just a party. FROTH gigs make the venue come alive for the night. They always feel super welcoming with a fun, goofy atmosphere. We encourage dancing hard and being authentically human. We bring fresh ideas to each gig, incorporating our dancer friends, local art installations and other levels of entertainment, we try to mix up the experience each time. Pork Crackle is known to bring out carrots, grapes and more interesting treats to play with sensations and fuel the dancefloor. This brings a fresh feel to the limited venues in Wellington so FROTHers can always get excited with new ways to party.

We ensure each gig is a safe place where FROTHers can express themselves without inhibition. FROTH doesn’t tolerate homophobia, transphobia, ageism, sexism, violence, racism or any form of discrimination. We promote these values before and during every gig and ensure they are properly enforced. We hire local security teams, and for larger events, have Kaitiaki (Dancefloor Guardian) teams, as well as our huge team constantly roaming the floor, checking in on our crowd to prevent sexual harm or over-consumption.

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What were your aims when starting out?

Our aim was to bring our own style of parties to Wellington. Clubbing culture was not cutting it anymore for our friends, so we started throwing underground parties in old shop fronts and war bunkers around the city. Those run-down, abandoned facilities quickly snowballed into official ticketed events, which allowed the quality and quantity of our parties to grow with the demand of our beautiful city.

It certainly started as a passion project. We never really expected to build this amazing community we have today. We have always had a hunger for good music and safe spaces, but they can be hard to come by - things had to be taken into our own hands.

Where do you usually host FROTH nights?

There’s a list of venues around the city that we love working with. Each venue has flavour and a feel that uniquely contributes to the experience.

A few of our favourites are:

The Grand where we host our epic four-stage multi-level and genre events. We’ve had close to 900 people dance their asses off in this venue.

b.Space, a wicked basement club that has a legacy in Te Whanganui-a-Tara as one of the best dance music clubs in the city.

Valhalla, typically a heavy metal venue that can be transformed into a club with full creative freedom. The Valhalla team is super open to just about anything. Wellington is still very limited in venues, as we lost a lot of great clubs to earthquake damage and shitty landlords.

We would love to see some larger-scale FROTH events. Warehouse venues or an open space to facilitate a bigger capacity of FROTHers would be ideal - more space means more room for theatrical stages, different performers, and more artists.

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What makes Wellington’s club scene special?

We are a tight-knit community. With only a few venues that allow electronic music, all the promoters, DJs, VJs and dance enthusiasts become familiar very quickly. We look after one another and build strong relationships, collaborations with other collectives are not uncommon.

What’s the atmosphere like at a FROTH party?

It’s always high energy no matter what! We are fortunate enough to have built a respectful community, where music lovers come to express themselves. You can expect to see all walks of life at a FROTH, which we love. Everyone is always down for a silly, weird dance or to get lost in the music. The atmosphere is supportive, respectful, fun, and unique, and we always encourage regular water breaks.

You seem to have a particular affinity for donk - can you tell us about that?

Donk has been a recent addition. Two of our head operators, Cole and Kleb, have developed a love for this style over the past few years. Donk is fast, fun, goofy and energetic just like FROTH, so it complements our dancefloor attitude perfectly. The sweet release we feel from it is well-deserved after being hypnotised by our high-quality techno, trance and bass.

Can you tell us about your most memorable FROTH parties?

There have been so many memorable parties over the years. Can’t forget where we started, the old shop front on Adelaide Road in 2017 was our first home for parties and it set us on the trajectory that we are on today.

Our first multi-stage event at The Grand in 2022 was also a massive one that will forever be one of our favourites. It was a real wake-up call that the Welly community, outside of our friends, enjoyed our parties as much as we did. We had four stages playing all night with a wicked mix of locals and internationals. There have now been four events hosted at this venue.

Our Halloween parties always go down a treat, FROTHers know how to dress up and leave an impression. Last year, we took the stage design up a notch and had a massive spider sculpture that was lit up by projection visuals - definitely our craziest stage design yet, chur Hamish.

Our stage takeovers at Twisted Frequency Festival over the past two years have been etched into our hearts. They are truly epic experiences, being gifted New Year's night, we make the stage our own and blow the roof off with insane levels of energy and expression.

The Paige Julia, Truth & Asherz night held at The Grand in 2023 was one of the best yet. The main stage was curated by Jack Ayers from CHUNGA, the atmosphere was electric and humming with the raw talent of Aoteroa’s incredible bass music scene.

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You’ve said that FROTH supports local and international artists, how do you go about booking talent?

New Zealand is a melting pot of extremely talented selectors and producers so our options at home are endless. We generally approach artists that fit with the sound of each gig. From fun and stupid to dark and dangerous, Welly has an artist for nearly every style.

We are always on the lookout for any cool international DJs that we admire. When they are putting together Aussie tours, we ask if they want to add in a NZ show. Everyone we’ve welcomed over to Aotearoa has fallen in love with the beautiful place we call home.

You’ve hosted artists like Narciss, DJ Fuckoff, Badger, and DJ Assault in the past - are there any acts you’re gunning for next?

We usually don’t gun for specific artists as we are off in our little corner of the world. We love finding DJs that have their own flare and energy. Given this chance to shoot our shot, here's a massive list of artists the crew would love to book:

DJ Heartstring, Marlon Hoffstadt, Indria Paganotto, Chippy Nonstop, Salome, KETTAMA, Mall Grab, Ivy Lab, Tsuruda, Partiboi69, Amelie Lens, X CLUB., Skin On Skin, Hector Oaks, Indecorum, Flansie, Sara Landry, DJ Bax, Calvin Harris, Maruwa, DESIREE, MCR-T. Also love his work alongside artists horsegiirL and Miss Bashful - it would be amazing to host them too.

A couple of VJ artists we would love to book are Actualize and Delta Process.

This is totally us trying to slide into all of these artists’ DMs right now... hi guys!

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Do you have any regular residents?

Yes, we have a large crew of homies that are the FROTH whānau. We love giving our residents opportunities to organise and host their own club nights through the FROTH brand. All of our residents are adaptable and free-flowing around their main genres.

Resident DJs, VJs, and lighting designers include:

Bass: CHUNGA, Pulse
Donk: Klonk, Lenny Bolero
Techno & trance: Pork Crackle, Calico, Flatmate, Licious, Kraayjoy
Garage & drum 'n' bass: Clinkz (now based in Bristol)
Mixed genre: The Cooke
Psytrance: Buzzlightyeah, Nate Divine
VJs: Uncle Graham Visuals, Dome Depot, KITTY, Psymes
Lighting designers: Weston Symes, Emile Commarieu

What’s next for you? What have you got coming up?

For our next gig, resident DJ and producer Josh Radcliffe (Pulse) is hosting his 'In Your Eye' EP release party. This will swamp out the b.Space basement with weighty bass. The line-up boasts talent including Pulse, Scorchalula, Licious, Hound, MC PL@ and Faulsk.

Session six of Dance Therapy is on the way very shortly. Hosted by our resident DJ Reuben Romanos (Flatmate), it aims to give new artists a platform. Expect a radiant, joyous continuation of movement.

We have big plans in the works to expand the brand outside of New Zealand and eventually become international. Stay tuned for some action based out of Naarm (Melbourne) in 2025.

Photos by Jackson Harris, Ana Adam, Taylor Nixon, and Carlos Era

Gemma Ross is Mixmag's Assistant Editor, follow her on Twitter

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