Interview: Q&A with Al Brown, Founder of Fluffer Pit Parties
Movers 'n' Shakers #1 - Al Brown
What is a Fluffer Pit Party? Put simply, it’s a no stage - band in the middle - crowd 360° extravaganza. London resident, Al Brown has been DIY-ing the sh*t out of music promotion for a few years with his punk-inspired, raucous events, Fluffer Pit Parties. From small beginnings in the basement of Power Lunches in Haggerston, to secret location warehouse events in and around Hackney, Fluffer Pit now boasts bigger acts and nights popping up across the capital and even at SXSW this year. They're also running a record label under the same umbrella.
Al’s approach to curation sits somewhere between Andy Warhol’s Factory, and a giant punk rock mosh-pit. Seeing himself as part of the resistance against the cavernously commercial O2 live experience, Fluffer Pit Parties are creating mid-sized events with all the excitement and atmosphere of an underground gig. Guided by heart not pound signs, they run nights on a gut punch: hosting the bands that they love and treating the whole affair as some walk-in art installation. Each event is a unique melting pot - with bands, music, venue and different characters coming together for one night only. A never to be repeated experience.
So far Pit Parties have put on bands such as Black Lips, The Wytches, DZ Deathrays, Deap Vally, Japandroids and Spring King, along with a whole host of other garage-psych-punk acts. The next Fluffer Pit Party takes place at Hackney Arts Centre on May 4th, on the bill are Pulled Apart By Horses, Husky Loops, Baba Naga and Girls In Synthesis with DJ's Arrows of Love doing a set. Get your tickets here. Read our interview with Al Brown, below.
"An event is a live, living breathing thing. A work of art in itself. And one that will never be repeated. It lives and dies within that night. Very special indeed" Al Brown.
GL: Where did it all start? What turned you onto to putting these parties on?
AB: We started putting on shows in Power Lunches basement in Haggerston back in 2013. Compelled by the fact that every show my own band played, the promoters did nothing or were really bad. So we thought lets set up a label, promote our own shows and do a better job. Ultimately the goal was to have gigs with people there so bands got seen. In 2016 we decided to be more experimental with the shows and try something different. That’s when we came up with Pit Parties. No barriers, bands in the middle. Crowd 360. Like the band were buried in the middle of the pit. The epicentre of all the energy in the room.
The first one was in Manor House in London.
And at that first one, we realised that everything changed when the gigs were run like this. It was a completely different atmosphere and experience to the traditional setup.
GL: Wewatched your interview with PRS where you describe your philosophy of "moths to a flame" expecting the right people to be attracted in order to bring your ideas to actual fruition. An interesting way to get things done, relying on the cosmic?
AB: I certainly believe in not forcing things. If something isn’t working or a relationship doesn’t feel right then change it. Let things develop naturally.
GL: Totally... You have a club night and a record label under the same brand. Tell us about your record label? What are you up to and releasing currently?
AB: Label came first as I mentioned already... Releasing my own band and then many other new bands on vinyl and cassette and CD. As Pits took off we’ve cut back on releases but we’re always looking out for an artist to grab us by the balls and make it impossible for us not to release them. If that’s you let us know.
GL: The same old format of the gig experience can get boring. New venues and new vibes can dampen that but we think it's promoters, like you, with fresh approaches that are keeping things exciting. What inspired the Fluffer Pit Party?
AB: Exactly that. The live arena is extremely corporate, dominated by the huge billion pound promoters, we stand for the resistance. An independent collective run by artists for artists. Music, artists and fans are at the heart of everything we do. As soon as that changes we disappear as it will mean nothing.
GL: The whole theatre-in-the-round was common in ancient Roman and Greek theatre. How much theatre is involved in a Fluffer Pit Party?
AB: The whole thing is theatre, a performance. Promoters are seen as facilitators and not creators. I believe the opposite is true. Each night is like a blank canvas and every element of that night creates the finished painting. It’s about so much more than simply the playing of the gig. It’s about the personalities you employee to run the night who interact with people, it’s about building the excitement in the weeks leading up to it in people minds, it’s about the setting, the MC getting the crowd warmed up. The 6ft paper mache heads we create to fill the crowd and the relaxed, all-inclusive atmosphere we try to create.
An event is a live, living breathing thing. A work of art in itself. And one that will never be repeated. It lives and dies within that night. Very special indeed.
GL: What aesthetics do you go for in a venue?
AB: We choose venues that are as different to an O2 academy experience as possible. Interesting old theatres, ballrooms, warehouses.
GL: A band on the floor creates a tension, audience members can be on edge, just in case they’re grabbed and pulled you into the limelight - also the band may feel slightly threatened with the removal of boundaries between themselves and audience. Does this add an edge or tension to the evening? Explain how the energy and interaction between the two things happen in your eyes.
AB: That feeling is part of why pit parties are so special. People are asked different questions, put in different situations, perhaps taken out of their comfort zone. It’s exciting.
At the Metz Pit Party, everyone at the front linked arms immediately to create their own human barrier keeping the pit behind from falling in on the band. This kind of spirit as a collective, strangers in it together and helping one another is what pit parties are all about.
The feeling of everything imploding is utterly thrilling.
But the best way to understand is to experience in person.
GL: The artwork for Fluffer Pits really caught our attention, who is responsible for it and how did it come about? We love the posters.
AB: Russell Taysom does the artwork. He’s a legend and we’re very lucky to work with Russell. Hopefully one day we can exhibit all the artwork, it’s a huge body of work now.
We meet Russell at punk gigs in the mosh pits. I think I had a plant and accidentally cut his head with it. We’ve been friends ever since.
GL: What do you think is in store for the live music scene in the next 10 years?
AB: People will keep making music. Promoters will keep putting them on. Hopefully, more independent stuff comes through.
GL: Do you plan to take Fluffer Pits to other cities in the UK?
AB: It would be fantastic to take it around the UK. We never wanted it to be London centric.
GL: How do you curate a night? Where do you start when putting together the bill?
AB: We listen to lots of bands and don’t listen to any PR or ‘sell’. We book purely on music. Tend to start with the headliner and then build from there.
GL: What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a new club night?
AB: Dive in and promote the night. A lot of promoters forget this bit.
GL: What's the most memorable event you've done to date?
AB: All of them. Every event we put on makes me very proud. Very proud to be able to offer a platform for artists established and brand new. And very proud to see so many people having a great time. Hopefully, see you at the next one!
GL: Sure, thanks Al. x
See here for more info on upcoming Fluffer Pity Parties and the latest Fluffer Records news.