Feature – Brotherhood Sound System Turns Four

2016 is still young, but this year has already seen the losses of Mono_Cult, Deep Fever, and Bigger Than Barry from the Leeds party scene, with newbies Soul Control and Glug Glug adding further variety to an already rich landscape. With nightlife in the city in a constant state of flux, you could be forgiven for forgetting that a true great is only just reaching its fourth birthday. Starting out with free parties in Manchester, Brotherhood Sound System ventured across the Pennines to the real capital of the North to host their first sell-out night at Beaverworks in 2012, to then become known for secret warehouse parties across Leeds. Their fourth birthday party epitomizes all that is loved about Brotherhood; a renowned local DJ in the form of Nightmares On Wax, in a unique intimate venue – the Northern Monk Brewery. The Gryphon was lucky enough to speak to co-founder George Hartshorn about the story leading up to this landmark night.

The Sound System’s journey to the present day can be characterised by the traditions upheld at each of its parties – erraticism, intensity, and fun. A surreal tale involving the Bulgarian Mafia illustrates this quite perfectly;

“We were invited to host a stage at Horizons festival (which I can’t recommend enough) and were placed in a Nightrider themed bar owned by a ‘local family’. The venue was insane, with flashing lights and TV screens all over the place but there were a few interesting characters hanging about giving it a dodgy vibe.

Midway through the night, in walked a huge man covered in gold (think Mr. T!). He marched straight up to the DJ, thrust a CD in his face with the instructions to put it on, and sat down with a bottle of brandy and a big scowl on his face. In about 20 seconds Bulgarian folk music was blasting out the speakers and the venue cleared before we knew what was happening. Obviously we were gutted to have our takeover cut short, but there was no way in hell we were going to find out what would have happened if we carried on!”


Bulgarian escapades aside, Brotherhood has been a resounding success. The popularity of their events can be partially attributed to the sheer variation offered over the years. If Bonobo and Gilles Peterson at a sold-out Canal Mills isn’t really your thing, then the prospect of dancing alongside a few hundred revellers in a previously disused warehouse should whet your appetite nicely. Whereas others specialise solely on elaborate production or a stripped – back industrial vibe, Brotherhood shift between the two without ever forgetting their roots;

“Brotherhood Sound System existed in Manchester before it did in Leeds. At the time Manchester had an incredible free party scene with collectives such as Gash and Daylight Robbery pulling off some incredible parties, and we started out by putting our sound system into disused warehouses and fields. It was a great adrenaline rush doing it, but there comes a time where the risk outweighs the reward. We got out by the skin of our teeth when the riot police turned up during a party with about 1000 people in a fireworks factory just 5 minutes walk from Piccadilly. I guess the secret warehouse events are just a nod back to those days, but without running the risk of having our sound system confiscated!”

As already mentioned, Brotherhood Sound System is entering a new chapter as some parties call it a day, as the Leeds club scene undergoes some of the biggest changes in recent years. When quizzed about this, Brotherhood remained philosophical as to where things were going, but stressed that they are very much focused on the present;

I don’t think the Leeds scene will ever slow down, but there is always a time when the torch needs to be passed on to the next generation. I know Matt and Joycey (from Mono_cult & Bigger Than Barry respectively) have both moved onto to some really great things and I guess there will be a time that we’ll do the same, but for now we’re happy where we are!”

Their focus on the present is underlined by their commitment to hosting great events this year. Their sell out fourth birthday party is no exception, as they bring a Leeds local in, Nightmares On Wax, a veteran known as much for his DJing as for his production, which has drifted from techno to hip-hop-infused electronica since the early 90’s;

“The fact he’s from Leeds never really came into it (but) Nightmares On Wax has been on our radar for a long time, and ever since we competed against him in the Red Bull Culture Clash we knew we had to get him to come and play for us. Our birthday was the perfect excuse to get someone of his calibre to play in such an intimate venue”.

Leeds partygoers can rest assured that if they missed out on tickets, there is still ample opportunity to catch the Brotherhood before the end of the year, with Joey Negro headlining a Star Wars-themed party at Canal Mills and an extra-special day party on the way in the coming months;

“Firstly, I’d just like to plug the Death Star Disco. We’ve worked with Just A Little before, but never on a production of this scale. We’re going to be pulling out all the stops for this event, and I can’t wait for Leeds to see the fully functioning Death Star we’re having custom built for it!

Secondly, we might seem crazy doing this, but we’re going to sneak in just one more secret venue party before the end of the year on the 1st May. We’ve just had the most incredible venue come through (TRUST me on this) and we’re teaming up with the art collective &/Or Emporium to bring down one of our favourite producers, Tom Misch, to come and play at our first ever day party”.

The shows lined up before the summer alone indicate that the Brotherhood Sound System is by no means slowing down as it ages. The future looks bright, but now is the time to celebrate the present – you can’t beat a good birthday party.

Information about the 4th Birthday (17th March, 2016) with Nightmares On Wax can be found here

Details of the collaboration with Just A Little at Canal Mills with Joey Negro and Space Dimension Controller (22nd April, 2016) can be found here

Full line up and information for the day party (1st May, 2016) with Tom Misch is available here

Dan King

Photo credits: Brotherhood Sound System

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