Javier Perez and Joshua Adjodha on the new Kilo Lounge: "You'll be surprised by how intimate the space will still feel"
For close to two years, fans of quality electronic music in Singapore were finding their way to an industrial building by the Kallang River on weekends, riding up a graffiti-plastered cargo lift to get to the cosy concrete haven that was Kilo Lounge. An offshoot of the popular restaurant, Kilo, located on the second floor of the same building since 2011, Kilo Lounge opened three years later and had set out to be a chilled out post-dinner bar. Instead, it turned into a mini dance club that fit 200, with people dancing shoulder to shoulder thanks to a regular programming of homegrown and international DJs that focused solely on underground electronic music, far away from the strains of EDM being played in virtually every other club at the time.
However, in January this year, news hit that due to zoning restrictions, Kilo Lounge would no longer be able to operate at the same premises. There were rumours of a new location in town, but it wasn't until October that the rumblings were confirmed. As of last weekend, it's official — the new home for Kilo Lounge is 21 Tanjong Pagar Road which will see an expansion that'll fit 400 punters. Those familiar with the area will remember its former premises as the house of gay club, Play, right across from Tippling Club and an endless row of Korean eateries.
Besides Kilo and Kilo Lounge, Puerto Rican co-founders Javier Perez and Joshua Adjodha are also behind the hip and earthy F&B establishments Grain Traders and Camp Kilo Charcoal Club, as well as an overseas venue, Kilo Bali. In just five years, they've managed to pull off these concepts and remained at the top of their game. We find out how.
Who are the main people behind Kilo Lounge and what are their roles?
Joshua Adjodha (JA): For founders there is Javier, Y.C. Teo, and myself. I'm involved in the overall direction when it comes to the design, experience, music and operations. Javier is more involved with the design of the space, the curation of the art that goes in it and more behind-the-scenes work, like the programming of the space. Y.C. has a background in experience design and works a lot with property. He helped with the design of the previous lounge, and he's doing the same with the new venue. He's also our "business guy", structuring all the deals between the landlord and partners.
Our core team consists of the people that you will mostly see at Kilo Lounge now like Luca Colona, the General Manager overseeing operations and Nadia Rahmat, who manages all events and guest relations. QH Yeo, our head artist booker, will be doing all artist management with Nadia's assistance. She brings her years of experience at Home Club and Zouk to our little family at Kilo Lounge. These three individuals will be the backbone of Kilo Lounge, moving forward.
Kilo Lounge at Kampong Bugis was a breath of fresh air and it felt like there really weren't many places to go dancing when you guys shut. Now you're back in a prominent location. What is your vision for the new space and how does it sit with the rest of your establishments?
Javier Perez (JP) : For the new space this is Act 2, take 1! We loved what happened at our first Kilo Lounge — it was organic, raw, unscripted and extremely spontaneous. We could have never imagined that it would be as well-received as it was in the beginning; what we initially set out to do just morphed and took on such a different life of its own.
The fact that it turned into this go-to night spot is thanks to Joshua, who wanted to push the boundaries with music and night entertainment, and he accomplished just that. In turn, I also wanted a place that could offer great alternatives for our city and communities. We did live shows, art exhibitions, stand-up comedy and our Kilo Dialogues series. It was meant to be a space that resonated with so many people from all different walks of life, and not just be a singular space. Our greater vision for Kilo and Kilo Lounge is to have it be that one place that you have to visit whenever you're in Singapore.
Both you and Javier are not from Singapore, yet you've chosen to call it home. What made you decide to start Kilo here and what is next?
JA : I followed a then-girlfriend to Singapore and was only meant to be here for a few months, but I immediately fell in love with the city. I was embraced by two fellow Puerto Ricans, whom I had never met till Singapore. They introduced me to a third Puerto Rican, Javier, who had just opened Kilo Kitchen. There was a huge sense of entrepreneurship being around the friends that I met in those few months, so I decided to take a crack at it myself in Singapore. After one year of hustling, trying to pitch concepts and raise investment, I had the opportunity to work on a consultancy project with Javier. After we saw the synergy that was there from working together, he proposed that I help with Kilo to build the brand and the company. From then on, it's just been us bouncing ideas off each other, always thinking about new concepts and ideas.
My vision for Kilo as a whole is to keep building on the brand itself. I would like to see Kilo Lounge and Kilo's restaurants connect somehow as an all-encompassing experience, even though they're two different things. For Kilo Lounge, I think we'd want to build on the different facets of it: The dialogues, the shows and the versatility of the space. We also want to continue to be a well-designed space that works with interesting brands, companies and people to host their events, product launches or special moments.
I would love to be able to open Kilo and Kilo Lounge in Amsterdam. I love the architecture there, and I think we could really add on to the food and music scene. Kilo Bali has also been doing quite well, so we're considering expanding in the Indonesian market with Kilo Lounge and Camp Kilo Charcoal Club.
I landed on this beautiful island in 2006 after looking at it as a potential place to set up a restaurant with my then-partner and now wife, Sharon. Although she had roots here, she had never lived here, but when we were scoping out potential cities in 2005 we felt that Singapore was eventually going to turn some great corners, and my, has it! Having spent the last decade here, I have seen an amazing revival and feel it still has yet to reach its full potential. I call Singapore home now because it has blessed me and given me so many opportunities that I may not have had otherwise living in other cities. In return, I hope that in the time that I continue to live in Singapore I can contribute to the city and its make-up.
Kilo started as a project after my restaurant in Upper Bukit Timah, Raw Kitchen Bar. I had taken over an abandoned warehouse and was looking to get into urban development of sorts, and be a landlord. After looking for a potential F&B tenant I couldn't find anyone suitable, so I decided to do it myself and Kilo was born! If you asked me five years ago if I thought we would have multiple Kilo offshoots (Kilo Orchard, Kilo Bali, Kilo Lounge, Camp Kilo Charcoal Club), I would have said "nah, you crazy", but it has continued to take on a life on its own, and, just as our ethos states, communicate with people and our city. We hope to give them somewhere to experience, something to talk about, and memories to remember. What's next, other than building upon our other brand, Grain Traders, is to continue building Kilo in the Indonesian market.
Where do you think the nightlife scene is heading in Singapore and Asia and what do you see Kilo Lounge's role as?
JA: Unfortunately, I feel that the club scene may be dwindling down from when we first arrived. I can think of three main reasons. The first boils down to the limitations of the government when it comes to the segregation of zoning and entertainment licences, which can create a stagnant experience for people who frequent the nightlife scene. The saturation of clubs is another reason, at a time when there was a lot of money spent in Singapore on many concepts that popped up but which had no sense of culture, no focus on the guest experience, and were just money-making businesses. The final reason is that the economy is changing, and going out means spending money, and unfortunately people are just not going out the way they used to. Fortunately, it's also inspired a lot of great concepts, events, and shows.
We've always seen Kilo Lounge as an alternative haven of sorts, away from the money and the over-saturation — a niche spot for really good music. Whenever we book our acts, it's never about the DJ's credentials or the amount of records he or she has sold. All that matters is the music and how it fits into the space and the experience we want to offer. Thankfully, that's allowed us to connect with a pretty loyal fanbase, and moving forward I'd like to see Kilo Lounge continue to be known for being a space for quality music, and for anyone and everyone to come in.
I hope Kilo Lounge can become an institution in the music industry in Southeast Asia, and that's something we're definitely working towards. I'd like the lounge to be the reason why international artists come to the area, and hopefully we'll be able to expose them to artists we have on the island and in the region, and offer a platform where they can connect with each other and create relationships.
The new location for Kilo Lounge looks like a serious move to take on a bigger piece of the clubbing space, versus mainly food which Kilo has always been known for. Is this the case?
JP: Yes, we're taking on a bigger piece of the clubbing space, but at the end of the day we see it as stimulating people's senses through more than just food. Food, while important, is only just one part of what we do here. As mentioned, an experience at Kilo can encompass many things. We've opened the Kilo Kallang kitchen up to visiting chefs and amateur home cooks. Again, it's about providing a platform for these individuals which they'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
JA: One thing that Javier has always said, and that has stayed with me, is that we are in the business of creating memories. This is something we always think about when it comes to our concepts or an experience. With Kilo Lounge it's not so much that we're trying to expand massively, it was more about finding a new home for all the music and nights that we loved, and for the people that loved them as much as we did too. The objective was also never just to find a bigger space, but rather a space that felt right and that could continue to transport people through design. Having a larger space just allows us to do a lot more when it comes to design. You'll be surprised by how intimate the space will still feel.
Tell us a few things about the new space that we can most look forward to.
JA: So many things, to be honest. Obviously, with this one there are a lot of upgrades, one of them being the sound. In the previous lounge it was never meant to be a full-on club, but rather Kilo's after-dinner spot, a cocktail bar and living room where we occasionally host parties and events. So when the party aspect took over, we didn't have the best sound nor the funds to invest in a massive sound system. So little by little we ghetto-built a system there that we were satisfied with at the time. It all happened quite organically. This time, though, we have a full Funktion One sound system, which is a highly-respected brand, so I am quite excited to see how it sounds in the space.
JP: One of the things people really loved about the old lounge was the experience getting there. You show up, and you wonder, "What is this place?". You take a dingy lift, and as you get closer the music gets louder, and finally the lift door opens and you're in this space. One of our challenges was to recreate that experience in some sense, and once you're there you'll see for yourself how we managed it. One key highlight of the space, for me, is an art piece by one of my favourite artists at the moment, Cleon Peterson.
Which acts are you really keen to see at the new Kilo?
JA: Well, I can name a few we have confirmed that we are quite excited about like Henry Saiz, Paul Woodford, Chymera, Aera and Osunlade. Some acts that I would personally like to see at the lounge would have to be the Martinez Brothers, Dixon, Mano Le Tough, &Me, Black Coffee and Eats Everything.
Give us a motto you live by.
JA: Hmm, I'm not sure I have just one. Rather, there are several things that I live by that allow me to believe in myself: Capability and intuition. But here's a funny quote that resonates with me every time I see it pop up: "Don't take life too seriously, no one gets out alive anyway!"
JP: I have so many, but two of them may be: "Realisation is an individual act", and "The richest man is not the man who has the most, but the man who needs the least."
Your last words on how best to describe the new Kilo Lounge experience?
JA: "Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.", from Alice in Wonderland.
JP: Huat ah!
Kilo Lounge is located at 21 Tanjong Pagar and will be opening in stages.