ITM’s Looking Local: Animals Dancing, Melbourne

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What are the ingredients of a great party? For the crew behind Melbourne’s Animals Dancing, the checklist looks something like this: a low-lit basement equipped with a punchy soundsystem and strobe, 260 dedicated party people, no set finishing time, and DJs with deep record bags. It’s a formula that’s serving them very well indeed.

Taking over the Mercat Basement whenever the right guest is in town, the parties have earned a keen following. With internationals like Harri, Tevo Howard, Marcellus Pittman, Motor City Drum Ensemble and Prins Thomas leading the dancing, you can see why. For this edition of Looking Local, we spoke to the alliance behind Animals Dancing, and on page two of this feature you can hear five records close to the party’s heart. Just fire up the smoke machine and you’re away…

Who are the member of Animals Dancing?
Tom: Well, the members of Animals Dancing are Andee Frost, Daragh Kan, Lewie Day, Nick Murray, Tom Moore and the wild animals that roam around the Mercat long after everyone’s gone home for the night.

And how were the Animals Dancing parties born?
Daragh: I drew a really cool logo of some animals dancing about three years ago and we had nothing to use it for so we decided to start throwing parties.

Andee: As for the other parties we made logos for but still haven’t got around to throwing, I guess we’ll wait until there are a few more fans on Facebook.

Nick: We had been running C Grade parties for a couple of years and got sick of just playing with ourselves all night, so thought we’d start another party to let some others have a go.

What is it about Mercat Basement that makes it the ideal spot for the parties? Is it that “very intense basement vibe” that Hunee talked about?
Nick: The focus is always on the dancefloor, they have a great Funktion One system, minimal lighting and a discreet bar. Once you fill it up with some smoke and a strobe, you’ve got the perfect place for a party.

Tom: It’s an ancient banana burial ground.

You've sold out a few parties along the way – do you see Animals Dancing as the kind of thing where people commit to the long haul and make a proper night of it?
Nick: Our parties run from 10pm till at least 8am with the international on at 1am, and they almost always play until the end. Presenting this long play format definitely lends itself to people staying the whole night to listen to the waves in the set.

Andee: You never really know what’s going to happen next. When Marcellus Pittman played he stopped the music around 5:30am, no one really knew what was going on was he finished. Some people thought the night was over, but then after a brief pause he starts playing a bunch of Dilla and just started back up again, he kept playing well into the morning before finishing for real. Our guests are masters of working a crowd which keeps them there till the end.

Your guests have come from various corners of the world, but it seems like they’re all linked by integrity in what they do. What are you looking for in your internationals?
Daragh: Other than their musical output, we always lean towards people who are heavily involved in all parts of dance music, whether they are throwing their own parties, playing extended sets, hosting radio shows, running labels and so on.

Lewie: As most of our guests play for up to seven hour sets, it’s important that we book DJs who can hold their own behind the decks for longer periods. This means sometimes turning down acts that may sell the party well, but who might not have the maturity and experience to keep a crowd engaged for these extended sets.

Nick: We are very particular in the acts we choose to do, and I think this ensures the quality and direction of the acts that play in the basement.

It seems to be a positive time at the moment for a community of Melbourne producers working in house/techno/disco. Do you think there’s a sound, or approach, that’s distinct to Melbourne?
Andee: It’s a really good time not just for producers, but also the scene here in Melbourne. It’s in a lot better shape than it was, say, three or so years ago. Music has definitely broken back off into smaller genres and luckily for our mates the sounds we are dealing with seem to be gaining quite a lot of attention overseas.

As for being a similar approach to what they do, who knows? It’s all cloaked in mystery. Everyone works in their own studios but there is a fair bit of knowledge-sharing and feedback around the small community of producers and DJs here. I wouldn’t say there is a distinct sound to Melbourne because everyone is doing their own thing.

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