Sailing Away With Yacht Club DJs
As they come to the end of their party-filled road, we chat to Gaz from YCDJs.
By Liam Apter
Interviews are often done to mark beginnings, but this interview with Yacht Club DJs commemorates the end of one of the last acts of the Melbourne house party scene of 2006. From their birth in fire with the that DJ set at Meredith ‘08 after MGMT, Gaz Harrison and Guy Chappell made it clear, with their mash-ups, that they were an act to see live. And for a project that began in 2006 where they trashed up a venue it seems fitting that they’re gearing aup for an equally rowdy last hurrah.
With their final tour days away, I caught up with Harrison and begun by looking at their not so bright beginnings in 2006. “I think I was in bed and Guy called and was like, ‘Hey I’m doing this gig, we’ll use laptops, will you do it with me?’ I was like, ‘Nah, I’m not in the mood to be a Girl Talk clone,’ and fobbed him off.” But Harrison and Chappell decided to meet up anyway. This culminated in them playing their first live set, spinning tracks ranging from Rage Against The Machine to The Jackson 5, in a support slot for Grant Smilie of Aussie electro-house lords TV Rock. It probably didn’t help that Chappell had never DJ’d before: “Every person in the club who had come to rave to TV Rock was standing in the back room trying to get away from us because we were being insane. I think we pissed a lot of people off that night…” It later went on to become a running joke with Smilie, “We were always like, ‘Remember when we rocked your show?’ Because everyone left when we played.”
Yacht Club DJs managed to get people to stay around and their Meredith ’08 set saw them become a hot product. From there they played Falls, Field Day, sold out two national tours, played at four Splendours and warmed up for Mumford & Sons in the USA. But Harrison explains that the atmosphere of that first gig was something that they always aspired to. “We tried to keep the spirit of that first night, there was something insane and anachronistic about it… There was something about it that we always wanted to re-create.”
Harrison did embrace the insane nature of Yacht Club DJs as he recalls his encounters with police in the Bible belt, near Oklahoma earlier this year. It began with them drinking moonshine, and as day approached they drove out to a nearby town for breakfast, but “these two dudes…ran out without paying. Because we were sitting out front being real rowdy the cops turned up and thought it was us. They had their guns pointed at us and our tour manager had to drive from the campsite to rescue us…”
As he reached the campsite Harrison is told that the cops were there and that he may be going home. “…My stomach sunk as I imagined ringing my manager to tell him that I’m getting deported halfway through a tour of the US.” Speaking with the sheriff, a man Harrison described akin to Jaws – in size and stature – the unexpected happened. “He flicks into this Australian accent and says, ‘Boys will be boys, we just wanted to wind you up’. Turns out he was from Adelaide and he married the chief of police’s daughter and became the chief of police… It turned into probably the best thing that has ever happened to me.”
"We were always like, ‘Remember when we rocked your show?’ Because everyone left when we played."
Yacht Club DJs aren’t just known for their antics but also their mash-ups. Harrison explains that his interest came from hearing The Avalanches’ debut album, Since I Left You, as he was finishing school. From there he listened to DJ Shadow and began to move into house but shifted back to sampling in what was “one of those ‘get back to what you love’ moments, where I decided to buy a sampler and cut things up on a computer.” But Harrison explains that this interest in sampling was never really expressed in Yacht Club DJs: “I kind of wish I got to take it a bit further with Yacht Club, we had to keep it to a mixtape thing where you could recognize the songs… It was something that never really got to happen.”
Asking why, Harrison offers: “We tried to show people an absolute whirl of music that no one has heard. People were starting to ask why we hadn’t released music and we were like, ‘Fuck it, let’s do it’. And our audience was like, ‘This isn’t you guys.’ The lack of enthusiasm saw the team around Yacht Club DJs become spun out by the response and pressured the duo to change. However, they stood firm; “We are what we are, we’ve got our spot. We’ve reached the potential.”
Touching on a recent concert in which they played alongside Miami Horror, who they also DJ’d with when they started out, Harrison states, “It was one of those really cool back in time moments where we got to go back six or seven years and party like we did back then. But then there are so many bands and DJs that are all gone. They’ve either moved overseas or they have different careers and we’re still plugging along like it’s 2006.”
Harrison also tells that after eight years the scene he knew has disappeared. “We always thought those guys would be around forever and they’re not… It was a different scene back then and it’s hard to think about it and not get nostalgic. There was a big house party vibe back then that doesn’t exist anymore.”
A few years ago Yacht Club DJs took an extended break, asking why they couldn’t keep doing the same thing, Harrison offers, “We both have things we want to do. We could, but we’ve done what we want to achieve with the project. Far exceeded what we wanted to achieve.
“We just wanted to have fun. That’s all we wanted to do. We wanted to smash things together and release these ridiculous mixtapes and we spent eight years doing that… Guy is burnt out and wants to do Twinsy… It’s expensive to live out the back of car…and I’m sort of getting to the age where I don’t want to do that anymore. You either make millions of dollars or you grow out of it.”
Perhaps it’s the perfect time to settle down? “No, exactly the opposite. I just want to do nothing. I’ve got an EU passport and I just want to travel around. I’ve never been able to do that… I want to take some time off.”
And as for what happens next, “I don’t know, that’s half the excitement of it I guess…”