Whether you are a seasoned nightlife veteran or an occasional weekend warrior, you will have noticed a certain phenomenon taking hold these last few years in Montreal. An awful lot of young DJs seem to be getting organized, pooling resources, and forming collectives.
The reasons for doing so are not hard to fathom. For one, it takes considerable effort to plan a night or throw a party and, as the saying goes, many hands make light work. Secondly, for the DJ just graduating from the bedroom, it becomes easier to land gigs and fill dance floors when you have a larger network to draw from. Not least of all, being part of a DJ collective is a sure and fast way to expand your musical knowledge and hone your skills behind the decks. What better way to share your love of all things vinyl?
The Vinyl Love crew is one such collective that shares its adoration for the medium especially well. Its first incarnation began in the southwest of the city when Maxime Daigle and Mathieu Coates met at La Drinkerie Ste-Cunégonde and decided to put on a vinyl-only night there called Melomaniacs. Ranks grew when Mathieu met Adrian Warner, a.k.a. DJ Solespin, while digging at one of the city’s most cherished record stores, Death of Vinyl, and invited him to join the action. Justin Doucet (DJ Huile), Félix Gagnon (Le Laitier), and Antonin Rossier-Bisaillon (J-Totes) were later brought into the fold after showing an interest in the sounds getting played during those formative Sunday nights, which, eventually, would come to fall under the Vinyl Love banner.
As you might expect, the types of records being spun became more and more diverse as membership grew. At present, on any given Vinyl Love night, you will hear funk, soul, boogie, disco, house, afrobeat, highlife, hip hop, and 90’s R&B. To all involved, the question of whether or not a record stands the test of time is a more important consideration than genre. They are after “timeless tracks,” says one of the founders, Mathieu Coates. “When it’s above the noise of the hype, of the season, or the moment… It’s just gonna always be fucking good.”
And, as each member agrees, that music is best served up on wax. The medium is a big part of the message, if not the message for these six. “We connect to the DJ culture of the past through the vinyl,” says DJ Solespin. “I enjoy playing vinyl much more than I would an MP3 on a laptop or a CD. I connect with the label, the artist. I see the response of the crowd. It’s an earthy thing.”
Building on the popularity of their Sunday nights at La Drinkerie, the collective have recently found an additional home for that “earthy thing” at Le Bleury – Bar à Vinyle, where they now host a weekly Tuesday night gathering. Le Bleury, with its top-notch sound system and intimate dance floor, seems an ideal space for the group to air out their dusty gems.
A recent Tuesday night there saw them play host to another enthusiastic DJ collective from Quebec City known as Funk Connection. At 9pm, Le Bleury’s booth was already besieged by record crates as DJ Solespin stepped up to whirl the first cuts of the evening. Tracks such as War’s “You Got The Power“, Rene and Angela’s “I’ll Be Good“, and Gino Vanelli’s “People Gotta Move” set the stage for DJ Huile to carry on in the 80’s vein with Shannon’s “Urgent“, The Funkacise Gang’s self-titled boogie workout, “Funkacise”, and hip hop classic, “La Di Da Di”, by Slick Rick.
By the time Funk Connection took the controls, a decent-sized crowd had formed – no mean feat on a school and work night – and quite a few in attendance were actually well-thought-of local DJs themselves, fellow-practitioners of the craft who had come to doff their caps and sway pint glasses to the fine music on offer. The boys from la capitale, Louis Larochelle-Prégent, a.k.a Helpless Louis, and Gabriel Mercier-Blouin, a.k.a Bad’Nuff, received warm reactions at the very outset with tracks like Tulio de Piscopo’s “Stop Bajon” and Mark E’s ingenious edit of “Baby I’m Scared Of You” by Womack & Womack. Later highlights included the early electronic French experiment, “Night Bird”, by Bernard Lavilliers, and a recent reissue of 20 Below’s 90’s house classic, “It’s All In The Groove”, on MCDE Recordings.
The camaraderie between the two crews became apparent during the final hours of the night when Le Laitier jumped into the mix with the Québec duo, dropping deft selections like Electric Soul Orchestra’s edit of Terry Burrus and Transe’s “Love Rockin”, and the ever-explosive 1982 funk bomb, “Body Moves” by Rare Essence. Maxime Daigle, playing only a single track, would nonetheless provide one of the most soulful moments of the evening in the form of the Ghanaian song, “Funky Hilife”, by CK Mann & His Carousel 7.
All night long, until the lights came on, there was no shortage of smiles, high-fives, or shouts of mutual appreciation from the DJs on hand. Record sleeves were passed back and forth. Knowledge was exchanged. “You get to learn about music from the person that plays before you and after you. Any of these people can have a record that I wanted, want, or will want, and that’s the beauty of being in a collective. When you’re with other people, they will influence you if you allow it, and that’s a good thing,” says DJ Solespin.
Indeed, the joys and advantages of being part of a collective were readily visible to all those participating on the Vinyl Love dance floor. As one onlooker put it, “I like that feel good vibe.”
Catch the Vinyl Love collective every Sunday night at La Drinkerie Ste-Cunégonde from 9pm to 3am, and at Le Bleury – Bar à Vinyle every Tuesday from 9pm to 3am.
Interview Erik Faulkner / Photos Sarah-Marie