Throwing curveballs: SHINDIG has cracked the code of unique clubbing experiences - Features - Mixmag

Throwing curveballs: SHINDIG has cracked the code of unique clubbing experiences

Hosting a month-long clubbing takeover this April spanning parties in London and abroad, the SHINDIG team chat with Becky Buckle about providing a space for self-expression​​

  • Words: Becky Buckle | Photos: AyChibs, Taja Lewis, Bernice Mulenga, Musti & FILMABDI
  • 4 April 2024

Pounding jazz cuts blast through the speakers to a crowd of enchanted, grooving dancers. The room is packed; some people have been friends for years, some only met this evening, others are regulars who are dedicated supporters of the space. Tonight, SHINDIG celebrates the leap year with an evening which will float in time as a “nexus” event. Wrapped in this concept, the party-throwers want, more than anything, for the clubbers to feel at home. SHINDIG is the expectation-defying party flipping the rules of nightlife on their head.

Multidisciplinary creatives AyChibs and ELLADHC teamed up to create SHINDIG while reigniting their love for DJing after the pandemic. The pair met through Twitter in 2016, before bumping into each other more and more regularly at the same club nights, with Soulection parties a particular favourite. It was no surprise the pair joined forces - their intertwining passion for events and music was all the drive they needed. The first taste of what was soon to become SHINDIG came via their regular DJ stream video series, Practice Hours, at Pirate Studios. “We were making chaos, basically,” Ella explains. “We've always just stuck to that word because that suits us best.”

“I'd had enough of DJing over the pandemic,” AyChibs explains. “But at the end of the pandemic, Ella and I started to help each other. I don’t think I’ve ever told her this before, but she really helped me find my love for DJing again. We did a lot of b2b sessions and supported each other's sets, and from that, it grew.”

SHINDIG began as a side project from AyChibs’ visionary collective and creative hub ABOE (A Bit Of Everything). Its success and feel-good nature pushed it to become a regularly-running night of its own. This spirit matched with the team’s determination to build a safer space for Black clubbers, and also to provide a space for introverted dance music fans.

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The first SHINDIG kicked off last year at East London venue The Waiting Room. Despite the saying, “the first time is always the hardest”, SHINDIG’s debut was a breeze. In fact, many of the team still recall it as one of their favourite events so far. Surprised by the turnout, ELLADHC remembers only knowing around 20% of the people in attendance, whilst SHINDIG host Scully still pins it as a mammoth moment for the team.

The club series has developed new ways to take the typical party experience up a notch, not just for clubbers, but for the DJs who perform at SHINDIG nights, too. While making the bookings for an event can be difficult, ELLADHC has mastered the approach. Ahead of each event, she picks out a word like "excitement" or "chaos", which is then used as inspiration for the sound of each event, meaning each time you step through the door of a SHINDIG night, you can expect something totally new.

A year on from their first event, the group are locked and loaded for a month-long celebration of SHINDIG nights in London and beyond. Back-to-back duo and co-founders AyChibs and ELLADHC spoke with Mixmag along with crew members Taja Lewis and Scully just days before their leap year event with a glow of excitement. Check it out below.

So, how did it all start?

AyChibs: SHINDIG locked us in I think. So Taja works with us at ABOE and SHINDIG started as an separate project under ABOE which is A Bit Of Everything.

Taja: We did free ones in Haggerston for like a year. And then Chibs was like "I’m ready", so we were like, "Yeah let's mobilise this". And from there that's been it.

AyChibs: When we were about to launch we got Scully to host and from there he was sold. He was sending me voice notes saying, "I can’t lie this is really cool. I really want to be a part of this". He told me this like three times so I was like: "Yeah let’s do it". And it made sense and is a great dynamic.

Do you guys feel lucky to have found each other?

Taja: I think this is the easiest team I’ve ever worked in. Everyone just knows what they are doing so it's really easy. We’re also not super-defined in our roles. Like if there's an issue we all chip in. We have a really nice dynamic together so it's made it like the smoothest process. Events and stuff can be quite long, but I think we've got a really good formula working together.

Scully: I think a lot of the time stuff like this can not be fun. Working on creative stuff is great but sometimes the magic can leave and it’s not fun anymore. But with SHINDIG, because everyone’s happy with something that makes sense for them. For example, like what Taj was saying, if something needs doing, it will get done. It’s always just lovely. Like when an event is done or we’ve done a collab or whatever it just feels good afterwards. It’s a very energising feeling.

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What is the SHINDIG vibe?

ELLADHC: We're trying to make it so that everyone's welcome. And you don't feel uncomfortable going in you don't feel pressured to dance, you can just vibe if you want to. But also, we are especially focused on making it primarily for Black people so they feel safe and can enjoy it. They're not stuck to certain stereotypes of what they should listen to and what they can't listen to. We say it's a house party for the clubs. You're comfortable in your house and this is the same type of vibe, you can come outside and feel just as comfortable

AyChibs: I think those are like two or three of the main touch points but another is that it's for the DJs as well. I mean me and Ella used to always complain about the bookings we’d get and how like we would do them but they weren’t really exciting for us. I think we’ve curated a space that keeps DJing fun and exciting for us but also for other DJs. Like DJs want to come and play at SHINDIG because they know they can come and play a set that they haven’t played before or be experimental and try new things. I think this is really beneficial for the DJs.

Taja: Also the DJs having fun really translates well into the crowd. The crowd sees them having fun as they’re playing a set that they probably haven’t played before instead of something they could be tired of playing. So it's fun across the board, which is really nice. I think it's quite refreshing.

Scully: I think one of the things I love about SHINDIG is that it doesn't have any airs and graces. A lot of parties right now, it feels like you're there because you're supposed to be there or it has to feel or look a certain way. Yeah, there's obviously an identity that we have in mind and want it to be like, but there's no super airs and graces. Like it was said, if you feel comfortable to dance, you can dance, but you can also have good conversations. You’re going to hear some weird music that you probably haven't heard in years, or you might never have heard, but it's just about feeling at home.

So how does that how the thought process behind a line-up?

ELLADHC: So basically, we do word genres. I'd say in 2023, we just really wanted to book DJs that we liked and then from that, we'd kind of figure out what we wanted them to play. So we'll give them words like, 'nostalgic' and 'chaos'. I basically say to them: "This is your word genre you don't need to stick to it, but I want you to think of any song that makes you think of this word and play with it". But it's quite free and they've all matched it very well.

AyChibs: Also 90% of the DJs we’ve booked at least one of us has seen them live, so that helps know what they bring to the table. So when we do get them the word genre it suits them and it helps us programme as well.

ELLADHC: There are some DJs we haven’t seen live but everyone gets along with the word genre. I think it's a nice thing we've done.

How did the word genre of 'chaos' go down?

ELLADHC: It was chaos!

AyChibs: Yeah that’s the best way to describe our Leo energy haha. But from that first time we went back-to-back it was challenging, but it was lit. We didn't know what we’d play next and it was just really chaotic. Now we’ve reined it in and it's more controlled chaos.

ELLADHC: Yeah I kinda miss that.

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What are some stand-out moments from SHINDIG?

Taja: I think one of my favourite things is when people come up to you — especially when you do production stuff, people usually think you’re kind of associated but don't know — and so sometimes people will come up to me and be like: "Have you heard of this party SHINDIG?" And I’m like: "Yeah, it's our party. You should come." That's so cute, I like that.

ELLADHC: It's always been filled by the public. We have friends there, but a lot of people I’ve never seen before too. I think that's because we can really appeal to people that we wouldn't see on an everyday basis.

AyChibs: I agree, like the first one we did I was surprised by the people I didn't know who were there.

ELLADHC: Like 80% of the people I didn’t know. Which was good, though. But yeah, it's always been like that.

Scully: My favourite one was the first one by the way. I had a friend who I hadn’t seen in like 10 years. He lives in Detroit and he happened to be in the country. He came after DJing for Slum Village. And he was like: "This party is so good, I love it dude." And I was like: "It's the first one haha!" But it's just always good. Like we have a lot of familiar faces. There’s like 20-30 people that come to every SHINDIG. It's nice almost familiarising yourself with them. But also in the different places the party is in, there are always people that will turn up and end up loving it. That's always so much fun.

AyChibs: I think sometimes there are just moments where I’m blown away by a DJ. The WAAW twins were literally wow. Even though I’d seen them before, I was like wow they are so good. It was so sick to bring them into our space and see them do their thing. But also going back-to-back with Ella on a consistent basis is challenging, but it's really fun. I think that's one of the main things for me.

ELLADHC: I have two favourite moments. One was the first SHINDIG. I was coming from a previous booking so when I arrived the room was full. And there was one point when I was playing ‘All of the Lights’ and everyone had their flashlights on it was just so cool. But my main favourite one was our August SHINDIG. We were a bit more worried about this one because of sales and it was carnival weekend so it wasn't as popular as the rest of them have been. But when we got there, I realised it's not really about the numbers. It's about how much fun people have because everyone's still come up with the same vibe. People were dancing like no one was there. Even though you could see it was more gappy in comparison to other parties, everyone still had as much fun.

How do you feel after a night?

AyChibs: We started doing the [photo] dumps actually the day after, so that's always funny. We'll throw in a bunch of random pictures and videos from the night, or like memes that kind of describe the night. That's a nice little ritual.

What is this new buddy system?

Scully: So that's something we're trying to do. It's been experimented with and it needs tailoring, for sure. But we just want people to feel safe when they come to the party. So there are a lot of people who come and they might not know anyone there but they might have seen it online, and they'd love to go but don't know who else is going to be there, or in the very same breath it could also be if you have a friend who drops out. Everybody talks about the need for personal faces and community which is great and very true, but like, it's not every Friday night, Saturday night, you're going to go out to a pottery or painting class - people do like the party as well. So it's kind of our way of making sure that you come to the party and you may not know anyone there, but you will still feel that little bit safer. That's the aim of it.

So, how does it work?

Scully: Last time we made a big group chat but people did get shy. So we are trying to think of a better way that you don’t feel too inclined that you have to speak, but you know that there'll be people there. We’re definitely still working on it, it's a work in progress but it's just all about feeling safe and comfortable in the party.

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Not too long ago you had your Pound and Yam residency. Can you tell us a bit about that?

ELLADHC: So that went really smooth. That was one of the moments when I was like: "Wow, this team is amazing."

Taja: We had a gap from the last SHINDIG until this [Leap Day] one and April one. We kind of wanted to chill but also wanted to do stuff. And we were like: "Yeah we want to radio." And with Pound and Yam and Chibs’ screen visuals, we were like okay this all makes sense. We could easily put it all together with some of the footage from the parties and also show the programming that Ella’s doing. It all came together really nicely and it was good to test some of the DJs that we haven't booked yet.

Chibs, do you create all the visuals for the events and shows?

AyChibs: Whenever we have a screen in the venue I’ll whip up something. I never really have time so it's usually the night before. But it's good as I know the direction down to the tee so I can whip up something quickly. But also on our Instagram, we experiment with different stuff as well. We’re trying to branch out a bit you know.

ELLADHC: Multimedia.

Can you explain some more about your Leap Day party concept?

Taja: We were just deciding when our next party would be and I was like we should do our party on the Leap Day as it would be fun. We knew we were going to do the April takeover so it was like what are we going to do before then? And then Scully came up with the idea of freezing a moment in time and here we are.

ELLADHC: So our word genres for the party are eclectic, ecstatic and exclusive. I know that K, LE MAESTRO has got some exclusive music that he hasn't released. But yeah, I'm excited. It's going to be fun. And as we've said, it's on a Leap Day so the next one is going to be in four years.

AyChibs: It’s just a bit different, so why not? It was our first night of 2024 so we made it special as it was on Feb 29, a date that only occurs once every four years. We documented the night from the perspective of a partygoer, and some of the Shindig team. But for April I just had a crazy idea to do a takeover to kind of challenge us, to kind of push ourselves and see how far we can go.

So what are the April plans?

AyChibs: So we’ve got four weekends planned. Three in London and one abroad because we have a lot of friends abroad that we want to link up with. But yeah we thought: "Fuck it, a month of SHINDIGs!" It’ll be a good way to push ourselves but also see where we’re at.

Taja: And also to show how good the programming is as well. That we can do it for four weeks in a row and they're all as good as each other and as interesting and exciting.

AyChibs: Each weekend will have its own brand, you know. It will each be its own thing.

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What does the future of SHINDIG look like?

AyChibs: We want it to be a space for Black people who are interested in all kinds of music. But specifically for Black alternative people to come and just l share a love for music and the odd and crazy sounds and visuals of the future. I want it to be unpredictable. You can come and expect a certain thing but also we’ve got to throw those curveballs in there that give you a fun and comprehensible experience.

I think the next few years are just about expanding, letting people know what we're about and to expect the unexpected. And also just taking the vibes overseas bit by bit. Using it as a way to link up and find and connect with the right kind of DJs and the different scenes in different places. I feel like after the first party, people knew exactly what we were about, which is a testament to the direction and branding. A lot of people actually complement SHINDIG as they say, "I love the brand" and "I love identity". Which is dope because we put a lot of work into that.

So, the next year or next five years, I guess is about doubling down on that and just expanding and keeping it inclusive. Making an open space, but also keeping it exclusive in the sense that the people that actually want to be there are there and it not becoming too big to the point where like, people like: "Hey, you go and SHINDIG?" And then you don't even know what it's about. It's got to be a space that people actually want to go to.

ELLADHC: As you said, I think as much as we expand I don't want it watered down, I want it to be consistent every time with how good it is and how it applies to people. And that we’re going for introverts. I always want the message to be the same each time. I don't want it to become like a commercial party, you know, it's going to be special every time.

Taja: We keep meaning and connection at the centre of SHINDIG but I think that goes without saying with us. It'd be nice to see over the next few years how the community continues to grow. The people that make friends through it as well and start coming together. Just watching how they grow is really nice.

Scully: Yeah, I want people to have fun. That's the five-year plan. I think fun is an act of rebellion in 2024. I think we live in a place, in a society, where you're just not supposed to have fun. It's actually hard, it's expensive, it’s tough. So, let's just make a place where people can enjoy their life without the effort. Just turn up and be yourself and feel comfortable.

SHINDIG will be celebrating its first birthday this month with its APRIL SHENANIGANS series. To kick things off, the party returns to The Waiting Room on April 5. Get tickets here and keep an eye on everything SHINDIG here.

Becky Buckle is Mixmag's Multimedia Editor, follow her on Twitter

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