Arts & Culture

Adrian Wee: Do Not Ever Play Despacito

About never losing that feeling

Words by
Dawn
Location
Singapore

Regular nights at a club blasting the Billboard Top 40 might be good fun, but it is club nights, such as Emonightsg and Eatmepoptart, that have a cult following. Dance floors with grooving bodies and voices screaming out lyrics after lyrics, these nights are driven by adrenaline, delirium and alternative music. The energy is infectious and the closest definition of ‘unity’ you might experience in Singapore that grows from authenticity and zero obligations.

Eatmepoptart started out with only 50 people in the crowd and now, it will be celebrating its 13th anniversary this weekend. How did this movement even start?

Adrian Wee, better known as weelikeme, walks us through Eatmepoptart’s journey right from the beginning.

How did Eatmepoptart get together to make club nights happen?

I had the idea of having an indie rock or alternative rock night in 2004. At the time, I had already been deejaying for around four to five years, and I was a bit tired of the club staple of house music, and club and ‘chill out’ music at bars.

One evening, when I was at a dinner, some friends decided to put on a playlist with music we had loved during our angsty teenage years, and Britpop, grunge and alternative rock. The gathering turned into quite a party!

Soon after, two friends and me, we decided to work on a club night based on that. We came up with the name Poptart, which was later renamed Eatmepoptart, and started begging clubs, bars, and whoever, was keen to book us.

Our first club show was at Mad Monks, which was what Canvas Club was called back in the day. It was a pre-social media era, so we had to bomb flyers around town and call and ask friends to come. The first night, we played to 50 people, made up of friends and their friends. It was such a fun night, despite the small number. These people probably went to tell their other friends and by the third month, we were packing in the place with hundreds of folks queueing to get in.

The following year, we won the Best Club Night award from Juice Magazine. A few years later, the other DJs with whom I started the night, left due to their other commitments, and I pulled in a new team to carry on the parties.

What are your individual DJ-ing styles and have they evolved over time?

It was a mess at the start. We just played whatever the hell we wanted to. Maybe the beauty was in the spontaneity, haha. Through the years, we have learned to control our sets a lot more by mixing the tracks and having a flow during the night like a proper club show. Of course it was not easy, as there was no one doing a similar thing that we could use as reference. We just went with our guts. Today, our sets are a mix of indie rock, alternative rock, nostalgia and electronic that have been properly planned to keep everyone on their dancey toes throughout the night.

13 years on, were there any surprises when you embarked on this journey?

From the initial crowd we managed to pull, to the crowds we get regularly these days, everything was a surprise. HAHA. Looking back, we have somehow managed to get a good following, despite our no-frills party with a local DJ lineup. Most promoters tend to look for international headliners for their nights and other nonsense tactics to appeal to primal instincts to bring in a crowd. But I am very proud to say that we have been sticking to a very basic ethos of simply celebrating music.

We started this with no expectations. I would be very content if we ended up performing at a dingy dive bar in front of 20 people, as long as they are there for the music and positive vibes.

What do the next five years look like for you?

I really do not know. The club scene has changed so much and over the years, we have been looking for a club we could work with for the long term. However, call it the economic climate or whatever other excuse, most venues end up closing shop or changing their direction towards something we cannot reconcile with, like bad music and taste.

Having said that, we always find ourselves nomadic. Our music is not your staple club sound, so most clubs do not know what to expect and are sometimes uncomfortable with an idea they are not familiar with.

More often than not, if the clubs already have regulars, they will get frustrated that we are not playing their usual Despacito shit. When it comes to a standoff, we will always be handed the shortest straw and have to move on.

However, we have a few great partners who see the value in what we do. We still harbour hope that we will find a club to enjoy a long-lasting relationship with. This really sounds like dating, OMG.

Most memorable show you have played.

We had two amazing shows last year at Laneway Festival, and Local Motion was one of the most memorable shows we had in recent years. It is an amazing feeling playing at a festival to thousands of people who are in sync with our sounds. There is simply no substitute for that.

Three qualities a DJ needs to have to thrive in the Singapore club scene:

Aiyoh, I really do not know how to answer this correctly. I think the most important is an unconditional love for music and the desire to share it with others. I always tend to filter out the young DJs whom I think are in it for just the fame. It is a lot of work with marketing and making a name of yourself with some sincerity and positivity. Then of course, there is the technical aspect of it. You need to keep practising to hone your skills.

Advice for young DJs looking to break into the scene:

Always be humble. Do not let your ego get in the way. Observe what the other DJs are doing. Do not ever play Despacito or Chainsmokers.

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