To welcome the return of Guest Selection to Wax, it feels pertinent to begin with one of Bristol’s most comprehensive and all-encompassing entities. If you’ve had the pleasure of attending one of Spinny Nights’ treasured events within The Old England, you’d of found a night that thrives through varied and selective curation – one that meticulously chooses the artists they present with open-mindedness and first and foremost, a passion about them. Recent sold-out shows with enigmatic rap collective 404 Guild and a sermon with everyone’s favourite queer drag-pop star Lynks Afrikka (who released their debut single ‘Str8 Acting’ through SN) attests not only to their obvious good taste, but the respect the underground music community in the city holds for them.
Rafi Cohen and Arthur Cross have gone on to expand Spinny Nights’ ethos to other ventures within the industry where they are finding more and more notability – their expansion into management with the equally excellent Norman and Park Motive just another example of their conscientious desire to express their enthusiasm through the artists they work with. It’s evident in their Guest Selection – a smorgasbord of eclectic and atmospheric field sounds, 90s rap metal and some of their equally aspiring contemporaries to make a mix that embodies their unrestrictive tastes and quirky allure.
Q: Your nights have become a staple of the underground independent hub in Bristol – I imagine it’s a very exciting thing to put together each time?
Rafi: Definitely! Essentially SN is just organising shows that we would want to go to, so it would be pretty outrageous if each one didn’t excite us loads.
Arthur: I also think not churning out loads of nights has really helped with keeping that excitement there for us! I am really enjoying not feeling like I have to give in to the pressure to put on nights and artists just to seem busy or because it fits someone’s tour schedule, it makes each night a lot more special for us, the crowd and the musicians. It allows us to put into it the time and energy that it deserves.
Q: Your nights are consistently diverse, you book a broad spectrum of acts each time – what inspires the curation?
R: The process usually starts with us being totally in awe of one artist, and trying to coax them to play. As we build the line-up, we want something that is complementary, but still delivers an exploration of the various sensations that live music can give an audience. We always want diversity, but a tiny thread linking everything together really gives each event a unique vibe.
Q: Is it important for you to be able to find a balance where people can simply have a good time and let themselves go and also offer music that will engage with people on a more thought-provoking level?
R: People enjoying themselves and letting go is undoubtedly the most important aspect, and if people leave feeling like something has impacted or inspired them, that’s truly humbling.
A: I do really enjoy the polarity within and between the different nights. Putting on something so beautiful and ethereal you get lost in it feels great, what feels even better is completely switching it up right after and really testing the audience. I think perfection is finding an artist who brings that variation within their own act too.
Q: In the hyper-rushed nature of modern life, where we consume music in such vast quantities and at an increasingly distracting pace and demand constant invigoration – where do you feel your nights stand in that context?
R: It’s really hard to get someone to listen to new music. If someone sends me a song, I’ll take ages to get round to it and then when I finally do, I listen with extra critical ears. But, if someone is performing to me in a tiny room, I hear them out and quickly dispose of any previous assumptions. Diverse DIY shows are so important for giving new artists a fair trial.
A: I totally agree and really enjoy how live music can make you feel really present and demands your attention. It’s harder to mindlessly consume and you can’t skip a song. It’s important for people to sit through the uncomfortable or anxious parts of music too. I really enjoy that with Norman at the moment, how it tests you to sit with sometimes unpleasant feelings and then knowing when they have pushed it a bit too far suddenly pull the song and crowd back again. I’d love for our nights to continue playing with that idea.
Q: You’ve also released music as a label and ventured into management – I imagine it’s exciting when you can explore these different directions in such a multi-faceted way?
A: I think it just felt like the natural progression, putting on an artist feels quite personal for us anyway and managing is just an extension of that experience. You aren’t just helping someone along for a short part of the journey but going on it with them and continually investing in it, just feels so amazing to see something grow like that and be a part of it.
R: It’s just another way to promote music that strikes us as incredible and I’m so glad we’re doing it. Ultimately we’re just helpful – but needy – scrapes who want to associate our project with anything we admire.
Q: What would have you guys taken personally from forming Spinny Nights?
R: A load of friendships which I know I’ll value for a long time. Also, thinking about it, it’s given me a great sense of purpose, the importance of which can quite easily be forgotten.
A: Same here, also an increase to skill level 4 for gaffer tape handling and silk placement.
Q: How would you describe your guest selection as a whole, is there a particular mood or energy?
R: Not at all. I need to demonstrate that I’m someone who is ‘into a bit of everything.’
A: Bit of a pick n mix, but that’s no excuse to put it on shuffle you animal…I had many sleepless nights trying to find the right bird song to go into Chassol.
Q: How do you feel it embodies Spinny Nights?
R: I just tried to pick songs that deliver every emotion that I like getting from music – I guess we try to do the same with the nights too.
Words: Ross Jones Photography: Callum O’Keefe