Unless you’ve been clubbing in the UK or you’ve been to dance festivals in England, you probably haven’t crossed paths with house crew Eton Messy in the flesh — but there’s every chance you’ve been one of the near 90 million people who’ve watched a video on their YouTube channel.
The Bristol-based collective are promoters, a label and a travelling DJ crew that’s branched out from their beginnings in 2011 as a YouTube channel set up by student Adam Engelfield to curate deep house and garage playlists to share with his pals and stick on at parties.
His mates Ed Byass and Charlie Wedd eventually got involved and it’s become one of these accidental social media success stories — taking the lads beyond YouTube and on to club tours and showcases at European festivals.
They’ve now got their own signings on the channel, as well as Eton Messy Sessions. The group have also just released the compilation In:Season, which puts rising stars up against scene heavyweights like Sonny Fodera, Gorgon City, Dusky and Belfast duo Bicep.
They’re also about to go on a European tour that kicks off in Belfast tomorrow (Saturday) at Thompson’s Garage.
We caught up with the guys this week to get the lowdown on the tour and their beginnings — thinking outside the dubstep box.
It’s been five years since the channel launched, at which point did you think you had something a lot bigger than a few lads sharing tracks?
Five years… really? well thats flown by!
I think when we started doing our events outside of Bristol it started to kick in that we had something a little more than a giggle on our hands. But to be fair we have always just cracked on so we never took a step back and had a moment as such.
Were you all listening to house, garage and R&B from an early age? What were your favourite albums or mixes when you were kids?
No we weren’t we were all influenced by house, garage and R&B because it’s always been present in the charts and stuff through our lifetimes. You may laugh at some of these but albums that stood out for us were Pendulum Hold Your Colour, The Streets’ Original Pirate Material, Eels’ Beautiful Freak and Craig David’s Born To Do It.
You would’ve been pretty young during the first wave of UK garage. In the beginning was the Eton Messy sound a nod to nostalgia?
Charlie: I remember one of my mates came home from school one day and tried forcing garage onto me. Ill be honest i couldn’t stand it! But then the Streets Album popped up and seemed to do some damage.
Not sure if any of us saw Eton Messy as a form of nostalgia though, EM was born through people thinking outside the box when dubstep was quite prominent so it probably had a little bit more to do with that. But it’s pretty clear that garage was a strong influencer too.
Has the curation changed any since the early days? I guess to begin with you would’ve been primarily trawling for tracks but now you must get a deluge of releases and cold calls.
There is definitely a helping hand these days with people pitching releases to us but you can’t beat a good old fashioned hunt for music! After all you may not be receiving the most current or cutting edge music so it’s always good to keep sniffing around outside of label releases. We also run a record label so need to be checking out unsigned music all the time.
With In:Season just released, is the idea to release regular compilations?
It all depends on what we can handle as the team isn’t that big! We definitely want to try and get a compilation out every year though.
With constantly updating YouTube, Soundcloud mixes and streamed DJ sets, a mix CD almost seems old school these days. Is there a sense that even though you’ve made your name as a YouTube channel it’s good to have a physical artefact?
Think you nailed it there. There is still a market out there for the traditional format and it’s been great to have our compilations out there in that space too. You also have to think of people that may have been to one of our nights on an off chance and see your album on iTunes or Spotify and think, ‘Oooh I’ll grab that!’
You’ve said before that it’s very important to not take yourselves too seriously, but what’s the main concept behind Eton Messy, or is does this change as you move forward?
We don’t try to stick to any concept like you said we just try not to take ourselves too seriously.
What was it like catching Craig David at Pacha this summer? Would you guys have been big fans of his first time around?
Sadly we weren’t involved in that. Charlie just went along to support the Blonde boys. They have been playing pacha all season and said it was worth checking out. It was great seeing Craig in action too. Yeah we were all fans of his first time round!
You’ve said before that you’d like to start releasing music from bands, is that any closer to being realised?
Not yet, annoyingly! Still is a plan we would love to get to though.
You’ve played at loads of festivals over the last few years, would you ever consider starting your own festival?
It has crossed our minds in the past but lets not run before we can walk.
What’s your opinion on Fabric closing? Do you think it will take a massive club like Fabric to close, to highlight the hundreds, thousands of smaller clubs closing?
It’s a massive shame, a classic example of councils with other plans for an area coming into play. The response, although upsetting has been amazing though. Everyone has reacted in a really positive way and hopefully should lead to things like this not happening again or at least a reduction in the cases. We should be embarrassed though — because literally days after Berlin showed everyone how things should be done by classing the Berghain as a “high culture club”.
Do these closures make you worry about the culture moving forward?
No not really, as horrible as it is to say as old clubs close new clubs open. Its just a shame about the turnover. This turnover cycle needs to be reduced.
I was at the Eton Messy parties at Rise Festival in Les Deux Alpes last year and they were a bit, let’s say, rowdier than you’d expect from the channel. What can the crowd expect at the Belfast show?
I hope in a good way!? For the club events the music always tends to be a little bit more up beat from parts of the channel. so expect some good old club music with some channel favourites and some new bits and bobs for safe measure.
Do you have any other releases you’d like to fill us in with, or any other artists you’ve discovered recently?
That would be telling! But the next six months is going to be jam packed with good music. We have some great things in the pipeline and have just recently signed a track from an act that was one of the reasons we started DJing so its going to be great to get that out in the open…