Into Leeds with Brotherhood Sound System

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There was something quite beautiful about being in an underground Leeds club, surrounded by 200 Leeds students, listening to the sounds of a Leeds based label co-founder, on a night run by three Leeds graduates; Leeds, Leeds and more Leeds. Tuesday night highlighted the real scope of where Leeds is on the dance scene map. Producing countless artists, labels and sound systems, this small student based city has become the epicentre for underground UK bass music.

One of Leeds’ most recent success stories is the progression of Brotherhood Sounds and their development from a small solitary night in a Manchester basement into one of Leeds’s most renown sound systems, even going onto play at numerous festivals across Europe. It’s taken Silas, Snare Surgeon and Titan four long degree filled years of putting on events to finally grasp the opportunity of producing their very own vinyl record label, which they were very excited to talk to us about. In this feature I talk to Will Sanderson, alternatively known as Snare Surgeon, about the story of Brotherhood, the city of Leeds, and of course the creation of their new vinyl record label.

So, Will, first things first how did the three of you meet? And what were the early developments of Brotherhood?

Basically George and Silas were together in Manchester, organising a couple of nights, but nothing was substantial and it was in Leeds when I met up with them two. I came up to university from London, with a passion for vinyl which was the primary reason that drove me and Silas to become friends. We both had turntables, similarly had the same taste in music and spent the majority of the first semester playing off the back of each other in our own bedrooms. I constantly look back and think that if I never came to Leeds and never stayed in Boddington halls (previous student residences closing in January 2013) then me and Silas wouldn’t have met, Brotherhood would have still probably progressed but without my intervention. From the bedroom we went onto Bigger than Barry, becoming residents in our second year. Playing before Plastician and a crowd of 300 was huge for us, really giving us a taste of the dance culture in Leeds, and giving us the publicity that we needed to get on the ladder. It was respectively at the very bottom of the ladder, but we still then became residents with Bigger than Barry allowing us to play week in week out with some of the biggest DJs in the scene. I would say it was very much an organic growth, and didn’t take place over night as you can imagine.

As you’re hosting Pangaea tonight, a fellow Leeds graduate and co-founder of Leeds based Hessle Audio, do you feel that Leeds as a city has provided you with a perfect environment for developing as a sound system?

Yeah definitely. Leeds is a city with an ingrained dance music culture, with a number of clubs covering a number of genres providing events for anyone and everyone. Our favourite club in Leeds to hold a night was always Holbeck underground, back when we hosted xxxy and Girl Unit it was a really great vibe, but for certain circumstances it’s not suitable to be used as a venue anymore. Full circle Emporium was also another venue that really impressed us, again to much of our disappointment it closed down recently, and we would have definitely held a night at these two clubs this year had they still been open. The Wire, with its Funktion One sound system and a really good management team, was a club that we knew from the start that we’ll be playing many nights there. Obviously having played at Beaverworks in front of a crowd of 1,400 for our first birthday party we loved that venue, but we are on the lookout for another venue for our events in the future due to the amount of closures lately.

Originally Brotherhood was founded in Manchester, how does Leeds’ dance scene differ to other cities in the UK? Particularly your home town, London?

Leeds is, granted, a much smaller city than London. Everyone within the scene knows each other, giving Leeds this ‘community’ across all genres which you could argue aided our success as we were able to bring in DJs to play for us from other sound systems and vice versa. London is so big though and there’s so much competition making it much harder to get known and respectively Brotherhood probably wouldn’t have been as successful if it was in the capital. For Leeds’ size the music scene is ridiculous, people I know that are from London say its better, but because many of my first experiences of the dance music were in London I couldn’t say which one is better, but Leeds definitely did help me Silas and George develop the sound system. 

You could say that you’ve just come off the most exciting summer of your lives playing at numerous festivals in the UK and overseas, and even hosting a stage at Gottwood. How did you find that?

346336_0_brotherhood-sound-system-presents-el-b-barely-legal_400Yeah man Outlook festival in Croatia was crazy, the surroundings of an abandoned fort certainly made the whole experience much better, everyone is on the same vibe and that week was the standout week of our summer. Simon (Scott – founder of Outlook and Subdub and a man at the very heart of Leeds’ successful music culture) has created Europe’s leading bass music festival, which we were proud to be a part of last year and just shows that Leeds is at the very epicentre of underground UK bass music. Gottwood again was a great experience, playing at festivals was something that we never thought we’d accomplish, and something we definitely want to be a part of in the future.

So as it was the label launch at the Wire two weeks ago, was becoming a vinyl record company always been an ambition of yours? And will you continue putting on events or will the label be the prime focus for the foreseeable future?

Well the label had always been a desire of mine, ever since collecting up to 1000 records and at the very beginning Brotherhood I wanted to be part of a vinyl record company, even though I don’t DJ with all my records. The first release (Limbo EP) is from Bristol based DJ Otik, coming out on digital on the 13th and vinyl on the 15th, and he also headlined our label launch party. Since graduating from university and staying in Leeds rather than moving back down to London, this spurred us on to produce a label. Its easier said than done however, and even at the smallest level, we’ve had our teething problems, one of them being the closure of distribution vinyl management company ST Holdings which has slowed down our progress. But we still plan on producing records and our next release will consist of a couple of mine and Silas’ tunes, and the third release is something we’re really excited about. Although at Brotherhood we have never wanted to ground ourselves to one genre, as you can tell through our variety of nights, and we hope to carry this on within our label.

Then one last question, if you could work with any DJ past or present whom would it be?

Well I had always wanted to play with Oneman, as he was one of my favourite DJs whilst growing up and learning how to mix, so playing with him at Bigger Than Barry was a real pleasure. I’ve also always wanted to play with Ben UFO (another Leeds graduate whom created Hessle Audio with Pangaea) so it’d be good to get that organised in the near future.

Tracing back a few years before the foundation of Brotherhood Sound System, Pangaea inspired the very first dubstep night in Leeds known as ‘Ruffage’ and then forever became a pioneer for the production of cutting edge new sounds which stretched beyond Leeds giving him and the other guys at Hessle Audio, Ben UFO and Pearson Sound, the recognition they deserved. Similar to the guys at Brotherhood, Pangaea never wanted to be anchored down to one genre, and has flirted with dubstep, grime and now breaking the boundaries of techno. Pangaea’s set had a massive techno influence, supplying the crowd with bass heavy tunes, raising many a first into the sky. It could be said that the infamous fresher flu impacted many of the regulars that would normally come to a Brotherhood event, but the increased space gave the crowd more room to enjoy Pangaea’s master class. Even though the night’s event didn’t have the magnitude of some of Brotherhood’s successes in the past, this was a special night for Leeds bass music and the Brotherhood/Hessle combination should make us proud that we all live in a city that has such a diverse music culture.

James Bate

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