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Your Love: Short interview with musclecars

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On Friday, October 14, Tama Sumo’s and Lakuti’s event series Your Love is happening again in Panorama Bar. As usual, the line-up offers a wide range of practically all things house, disco, soul and funk. Not only are the two residents playing, of course, but they invited dance artist Kalypso Bang to do a live performance, Chicago selector Rahaan and New York City duo musclecars.

Ahead of the next edition of Your Love, Lakuti caught up with Brandon Weems and Craig Handfield, who are playing their very first Berlin gig on Friday, and spoke with them about their upbringing in and the gentrification of New York City’s borough Brooklyn, their early musical influences and future plans with their party-turned-label Coloring Lessons.

You were both born in 1993 and raised in Brooklyn in New York City. How did you meet?

Handfield: In 2009, we were both 16 years old and hungry to discover the dance music that peaked our interest. In this era of NYC, the electro, pre-EDM wave was boiling and there were plans for the first open air dance music festival happening in our city–Electric Zoo Festival. We both met for the first time at this event. As this was before the big explosion of mainstream dance music in the states, none of our friends were interested in this type of event, which led to us going alone and hanging out together for the weekend.

The festival was funny because they had artists like Deadmau5, David Guetta, and Tiësto, but also François K, Frankie Knuckles, and Mark Ernestus on the same bill. It was a funny duality that definitely played a part in us discovering the sound we’re inspired by today.

What have been the most significant change(s) in Brooklyn from your childhood up to now, and how have those changes impacted the community at large?

Weems: Brooklyn has changed so much since I was a kid. There was a time when no one hung out in Brooklyn, no one really seemed to have an interest in coming here. But now, it’s been in the spotlight for the past few years and everyone wants to move here. Places like Williamsburg have been gentrified to the point where it feels like Manhattan. Bedstuy and Bushwhick have also changed significantly. The community of people that were born and raised there are being pushed out and landlords are jacking up rent prices; it’s fucked up.

Handfield: I think if you ask any born and raised New Yorker, their answer would be the gentrification problem we have here. The rate at which it has happened in our city is rapid and the feeling brings a heavy heart for us BIPOC who have been here before the boozy brunch spots and matcha cafes. It seems like every month there is a new grocery store, small business–insert any resource for our neighborhoods–being levelled to build high rise condos and Trader Joe’s.

All of a sudden you’re back in your neighborhood and you feel like an outsider because nobody looks like you anymore. It’s a sad reality here. This also trickles into the nightlife scene, as we’ve seen a bunch of transplants breach our spaces with not an ounce of etiquette. The same way many aren’t able to navigate living in the hood in a respectful way, they aren’t able to navigate being respectful in our clubs either. It’s probably one of the biggest changes we’ve seen growing up here.

New York City has had the most impact on myself as far as culture and music goes, and that legacy continues to be so impactful, not only to myself but many others worldwide. How has this rich cultural legacy shaped your music and approach?

Weems: Growing up in the city, you’re exposed to a lot. You tend to be influenced by so much and not really notice it. I remember being a kid and going to the Coney Island boardwalk, and there were house music parties going on. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but those early memories have definitely had an influence on my musical taste. Songs like “Keep On” by D-Train and “Call Me” by Skyy would be played out of cars and at block parties.

Handfield: I think we have the ultimate privilege of being from here and witnessing the history first hand. We can at anytime pop over to see any of the legends play on a regular basis and that access has definitely shaped our style and sensibilities. We find ourselves in the midst of this NYC scene, which has had such a huge cultural impact on our global dance music scene, and on some level feel very much a part of this legacy. We see how impactful it has been on so many and feel it is so necessary to push that legacy forward.

Can you tell us about your Coloring Lessons parties as well as the label ? When did you start doing the parties and what made you then decide to expand Coloring Lessons into a label as well?

Weems: Coloring Lessons started in 2018. We had spoken about doing a party but didn’t have a venue in mind to do it at. I met Vanessa Li of Mood Ring during the summer of 2018, and she told me that she and her friend (Bowen Goh) had plans to open a bar in Bushwhick. They gave us the opportunity to play at Mood Ring once it opened and we fell in love with the space. The intimacy of the back room and enthusiasm of the crowd was enough for us to want to launch Coloring Lessons there!

We found that the style of music that we love wasn’t really being represented as much in our scene. Parties like 718 Sessions, Shelter, The Loft, Joy, and Soul Summit were still happening, but remained niche. Starting Coloring Lessons was our way of contributing to the rich historical legacy of dance music in New York City. The demographic at Mood Ring is young, and we noticed that when we played, there was a heartfelt interest in the music from that audience.

Early on, we had intentions of expanding to Coloring Lessons Records, but put it on the backburner to focus on the party and gigs that we had. When the pandemic hit, and clubs closed, we felt that it was the perfect opportunity to start on other projects. We launched the Coloring Lessons Mix Series and the record label, Coloring Lessons Records. It’s important to us to have ownership of our work and that was the main motivation behind starting the label. Also, after hearing about the unfair treatment that our peers would get from bigger record labels, we felt it was necessary to provide our scene with a label that is transparent and supportive of the artists that it collaborates with.

What can we look forward to from musclecars & Coloring Lessons in the future? Rumour has it that you have a debut album in the pipeline.

Weems: We’re currently working on our debut album and are excited to share it with you all when it’s ready!

Handfield: Yes! We have an album in the works that we are wrapping up as soon as we return from this tour. I don’t want to give too much away but it’ll be a really exciting rollout. As for Coloring Lessons, we have our 5 year anniversary of the party coming up next year, so look out for all sorts of surprises around then.

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