You Are We is one of London’s original Sunday night shindigs, before Sundays became trendy, You Are We were bringing the vibes to east London and built up a solid following thanks to their hedonistic soirees.
Ashley Wild is a core member of the You Are We family and he’s not half bad at DJing and producing, too. One of the nicest chaps in the business, we sat down for a chat with Ashley recently and he told us all about You Are We’s recent label launch and much more…
“We never really made any money, but it wasn’t really about that. It was the chance to start building something really interesting…”
Let’s start with a bit of info about You Are We… tell us about the brand and the label…
We’re in our sixth year of You Are We now, we started in 2009. It first started out in London in the east side, there were three of us behind the party initially; myself, Ali Watson and Tom Roberts. It was an offshoot of some parties we ran at The Cross for a number of years, run by a team of guys called Halo. I was invited down to play with them after an after party at The Key, and it was a time when I was bringing more of an underground sound and I think they quite liked that freshness. Eventually from that larger party – myself, Tom and Ali wanted to take the underground sound away for a new party which became You Are We. The name comes form a Crazy P song, it kind of encompassed what we’re all about. It was less about promotion and more word of mouth, with a team of friends behind us. At that time myself and Tom were playing out a lot in east London and a lot of the crowd we had emerged from playing after party after after party.
Our parties were located at Corbett place, we wanted to go back there, it used to be Retox on Sundays. We convinced them to let us in, there were some issues with sound restrictions but it was the right location. The music focus was very much on house, and techno depending on the artists we brought in. We just wanted to offer a bit of a fresh party on a Sunday, there wasn’t a great deal going on. It was pretty much just us and the Fuse guys, who we know really well and have a lot of admiration and respect for. It was a chance for us to play out ourselves, and i think people really appreciated the fact we were considerate in taking care of the crowd that was coming in, rather than, ‘Hey, this is a party, we don’t really care about your experience of the whole thing’. We never really made any money, but it wasn’t really about that. It was the chance to start building something really interesting, and we took it from there to a slightly larger venue.
Tell me a little bit about the first party you put on.
So the very first party will have been the start of summer 2009 with David Keno, and about 400 people turned up. I think we had Tim Green and Ekkohaus for the subsequent parties if I remember rightly. These were people that really interested us from a musical standpoint. We weren’t about huge expensive acts. I think we caught a lot of acts just as they were bubbling up at the time. We’d usually have one, possibly two headliners depending on the length of the party and it meant we all got a good two to three hour set each, and we could really control the vibe and the tempo, which was important as we were building something really important to us. There was a nice vibe to it, a lot of people and DJs and promoters we’d met from round London at various parties came to support us, a lot of friends of friends. It became a chance for people to come along and catch up with each other, see familiar faces, DJs would come after their gigs in London, we’d sneak them through when the security closed the doors.
How long would you say it was before it broke out of that inner circle of friends and attracted a wider audience?
Probably towards the end of the following summer. We didn’t really sell tickets online or promote it, we wanted to control the look and feel of the party. I remember getting out of a taxi around Old Street just before one of the events and there were three girls asking how to get to the party, they’d come down from Liverpool. And I was like, ‘Cool jump in the cab with me!’, and that was the first time I’d really come across people that had heard of it outside London. From there we started getting offers from other spaces, artists wanting to play.
I remember being out and about summer 2011 and having who’d be like, ‘Yeah we gotta go to You Are We, that’s the place to go, hope we’re gonna get in etc…’ But not really in the way they spoke about other parties, it really had a kind of niche appeal, a rarity value.
That’s great to hear, that’s exactly what we were looking for. Other nights we aspired to were great but even as punters we were looking for something a bit different. I think we got there in the end. We always struggled with licensing in London as lot people do, but we had a good run with Corbett Place. I think it got to the third year when we realised we had to look for a different space. We had some great sound engineers, we could almost have gone so much further with the sound but there was only so much we could do with that space.
At what stage did you guys decide that a label was the next step?
To be honest it was probably two years ago we started talking about a label. We wanted to do it as a collective from the party. It was myself and Scott and Stu that wanted to be a part of that, to push our own music first and foremost, to control how and when it was released. To collaborate with people who we’ve played alongside with or those who have inspired us over the years. It took longer than we thought, there were certain areas we lacked a bit of direction and understanding what goes into the mechanics of running a label – outside of pure A&R and getting your brand out there. But yeah we’re up and running, into our second release now. It’s been great, we decided to link it to the party as there’s such a good story behind it and we wanted to drive it further. A label and showcases gives us more options to take this abroad. It’s often difficult to pitch a party to a foreign promoter, whereas a having a label behind it helps to do that.
How’s it going so far
As I said we’re on our second release, which is an EP by myself and Antonio. Tboy collaborated with us, he helped with the latter end engineering on some of our tracks. Myself and Antonio came together for a very deep house, techno track ‘Tripwired’. We had a reasonably fair amount of interest when we finished it, so we used it as the second release for You Are We. The first release was the VA; six tracks, I think it was good way to start the label with a VA from artists and friends. It was a bit of a statement, a mix of sounds. I don’t think you’ll ever hear one fixed sound from us. We’re pretty lucky to have a got this far, to have the ability to put out music, to potentially affect people’s lives in some shape or form, it’s pretty special. We struggled a bit with the business side but we’ve got our good friend Bibi on board now to manage the label. We work with Word And Sound who have been fantastic. We’re starting off purely digital, which is mainly a financial decision. We’ll do vinyl for particular releases and we’re looking forward to that, but at the moment it’s battling the minefield of digital music.