EATMEPOPTART: Retracing the iconic club night with DJs Adrian Wee and Robin Chua
Life of the party
How do you rev yourself up to get into 'the zone' that you're looking for?
Adrian Wee: When we first started out, because we were the only ones playing at that time, we didn't have other DJs to look up to. We just did it the way we saw fit. It was random. We played hit after hit. The BPM was all over the place. It was quite a good party, but if there was three or four of us playing that night, we didn't have much to offer that would set us apart from others. Through the years, we came up with a better workflow. In the beginning, it was a honeymoon period. After a while, they started noticing the flow so I came up with a proper DJ set. In terms of that 'zone' we're talking about, we would need to be quite prepared beforehand to DJ like that. A lot of preparation is done together with practice and trial-and-error. The moment when Robin and I are behind the decks, 80% of that flow is already in our heads. The digitally systems we use have made it easier.
Have you recognised the hits that get the crowd going?
Adrian Wee: We do have a list of hits that would work. Some of them have stuck around for years like 'Mr Brightside'. Some of the newer stuff is from The xx, Artice Monkeys and Phoenix. We have amassed quite a few hits over the last two or three decades. Due to trends, it has been harder to find new tracks. It's a mixture now. We might even throw in some Taylor Swift. Everything goes back to the crowd. We are trying to find a balance between the cheese and the quality stuff. Nowadays, the YouTube generation likes a little bit of everything: hip-hop, EDM, lo-fi and synthpop.
What's on top of your Spotify 'Year in Review' playlist?
Robin Chua: It's still primarily indie. On the top is Harold Budd who is an ambient artiste. He has worked with Brian Eno before. It is usually pretty soft, so it's really nice sleeping music. Sometimes I let it run while I'm sleeping, so that's why it's probably on top.
Robin, do you remember your first Poptart night?
Robin Chua: I joined them six years ago. The first one was pretty nerve-wracking. We expected it to be at Velvet Underground, but on the day itself, it was changed to Zouk. They erected a stage for us right in the middle where everyone can see. It was a huge walk on fire.
What happens when a track doesn't work?
Robin Chua: There are two approaches. If I believe strongly in the track, I'll just play it every Poptart. Sometimes I realise it's not the right time in the night to play it. There are some tracks that drain the life of the party when you play it and we won't touch it again. Poptart nights are lively so tracks that are darker might not work. For example, I've played a remix of Radiohead's 'Everything in its right place'. These kinds of downer tracks create some dynamism in the set and I would call them the "go-to-toilet" tracks.
What has been your proudest event or night?
Adrian Wee: We organised a small festival with 4Fingers called Local Motion in 2017. It has been the biggest thing we've done, in terms of being involved in the entire programming. We pulled between 2,000 and 2,500 visitors.
What are some challenges that you would like to highlight?
Adrian Wee: Although it has been so many years, we still face quite a lot of challenges in terms of venues and financials. It has always been in the cards for us to do events with more bands and live performances. It's not as easy as it sounds though. For us to do a club show, it's actually quite economical. If a club has a DJ console, all we need to do is plug in and play. If you have live performances, especially in a venue that doesn't support that, there are plenty of costs involved in bringing in the equipment needed. On top of that, paying the bands fairly is important to us because they bring in a lot of value with their performances. Venues are not as adventurous as they were before as well. They have a lot more to lose if they don't start seeing profits fast. We have jumped venues every year because the club closed down or the management decided to take it in another direction. It's still a month by month kind of process. We are looking to find a club partner to grow our long-term plans in the future.