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Get Ready to Groove at Wild Wood Disco Festival: Interview with Apricot Ballroom.

Kono Vidovic May 6, 2023 240 4 5

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Hey, music lovers! We are excited to bring you an interview with Apricot Ballroom, the Sheffield-based party collective known for their unique late-night hi-fi parties. With their focus on sound quality and interesting musical selections, Apricot Ballroom has become a staple in the city’s music scene. In this interview, we chat with Gabe about their influences, the Sheffield music scene, and their latest venture – a label.

The interview comes just in time for the Wild Wood Disco Festival, where Apricot Ballroom will be sharing the stage with other great names like Crazy P Soundsystem, Dam Swindle, Kristy Harper, and PBR Streetgang, among many others. The festival promises to be a groovy affair, held from June 16th – 18th at The Woodland Glade, Horseheath Racecourse, Linton, Cambs, CB21 4QP.

Thanks for taking the time to talk, where are you today and how are you spending the time?

No problem at all! Just chilling at home, got a rare weekend with no gigs on so taking the opportunity to relax. Dave’s got a gig with his band tomorrow though, so never that much time to slow down!

So many great musicians that have come out of Sheffield. What Sheffield artists have made the biggest impression on you?

My parents were both big Pulp fans, so I grew up listening to them as my first experience of Sheffield music, and then my dad also introduced me to Cabaret Voltaire. As I grew up though I got super in to Arctic Monkeys (like everyone else my age), with my first visit to Sheffield being to see them play at Don Valley Arena. Then when I started DJing and getting more heavily into electronic music, it was Forgemasters that really switched me on to Sheffield dance stuff.

Tell us something you love about your city?

There’s a lot to love about Sheffield, but it’s the city’s DIY attitude that we’re absolutely in love with, particularly when it comes to the music scene. There’s so many small promoters, clubs, bands, parties, and cultural stuff, and everyone really boosts each other and works together in a really collaborative way. It feels like such a positive place to run the sort of thing we’re doing.

How is the city’s nightlife? Is there a lot going on? Where are the main places to go?

It’s smaller than the likes of Leeds and Manchester which are both nearby, but it’s a super friendly scene with some killer DJs and party crews that are super active in a lot of it. We throw our party at Bal Fashions which is an amazing 150 cap space with a lovely upstairs dancefloor that’s separate from the rest of the venue, so keeps a great vibe in there when it gets rocking. Sidney & Matilda’s a great space run by a wonderful team as well with a similar DIY ethos. And then there’s Hope Works and Forge handling the warehouse side of things, and Tuesday Club have been running their weekly Tuesday night parties for about 15 years, which we’ve played a few times and hosts some of the biggest DJs in the game for a midweek party which is a pretty incredible achievement.

Who are the members of the Apricot Ballroom collective and what parts do you play?

We (Gabe and Dave) run everything together, and both have a hand in everything AB related. Our friend Eliot used to run it with us when we first started, but he moved away early in the party’s life and since then it’s just been the two of us. We have a big crew of resident DJs and friends who help out though, with Harry + Lily (Wow & Flutter), Samir (Smorsli), and Jamie (Hames) being our main residents after us two, and then our girlfriends Charlotte and Nikki help us out loads with on the night organization, managing door, and keeping an eye on stuff while we’re playing, along with others from our wider friendship group.

How long has the collective been going?

We’ve been running the party for 5 years this month, and DJing together for about 2-3 years before that. 

How long has the label been going? 

We started the label as a little pandemic project, and have just had the two releases so far. The first was a compilation of dancefloor focused edits from the AB crew and friends, with Joi La Frique, Nonna Fab, and Lancaster Bomber (half of Wow & Flutter) all providing some edits, as well as a killer producer called Lipelis from outside the crew that we’re a big fan of. And then Dave (Nonna Fab) did our second release, with a superb 4 track EP of his own original productions/compositions. We’re working on getting the next few out, with two more releases ready to go, but most of the focus has been on the party recently so they’re on a pretty open timeframe.

Tell us about the ethos of an Apricot Ballroom party?

We call it a “friendly late night hi-f party”, which we think sums up our aim to put on inclusive, friendly parties, with a big focus on the best sound we can muster. Behind the decks this then extends to musical selections we hope you’re unlikely to hear elsewhere (in the city at least), with specific focus on music with interesting production qualities that make them pop on an audiophile system.

Wild Wood Disco Festival

Sound quality is important to you clearly. Makes me think of Loft parties or Lucky Cloud. Are their parties a source of inspiration for you?

Yeah they were a big inspiration when we were starting out. Gabe used to go down and help out setting up the Beauty & The Beat parties from time to time, and once for Lucky Cloud as well. We use Klipschorns for the parties like they both do, and our experiences at those parties taught us a lot about sound, and introduced us to a world of music that we never considered as ‘dancefloor’ or ‘club’ music before experiencing it the way they present it. Lucky Cloud are a direct Loft descendent that still keeps Mancuso’s formula sacred, whereas Beauty & The Beat was another like us that was inspired by experiences on those dancefloors but made changes to the formula to suit their own way of doing things.

Is there a music policy?

Not really, all the DJs that play are just people that we think are great at what they do, with their own unique styles, rather than people we think might sell tickets. It means we can keep it super varied, and when it comes to the party anything that works the dancefloor is good with us. We generally advise guests to play records or high quality digital files to get the best out of the system, but always leave it in their hands to go any direction they like musically.

Apricot Ballroom Wild Wood Disco Festival

Selections and mixing?

Similarly with the music policy we keep this very open. Some guests mix, some don’t. We tend to when we play, but just because it’s the style of playing we’re used to. Any approach is cool as long as it keeps people engaged and dancing.

You’ve had some cracking names play. Who is next on your line up?

Yeah looking back on all the previous guests always makes us smile. It’s so lovely to have had so many wonderful names share the dancefloor with us. Next up we’ve got Haseeb Iqbal for our party in May, after that we’ve got about 6 months worth of parties locked in, but we like to keep them under our hat and release one at a time, to keep the focus on each party as it comes.

Tell us what the technical set up is for your event?

A pair of Technics 1200s with some lovely Audio Technica AT-XP7 carts (which are perfect middle ground between Hi-Fi and DJing), a pair of CDJs, and a Bozak AR-4 rotary mixer. That’s then running through a nice Yamaha amp that’s soon to be upgraded to something a bit more serious, with a DBX Dynamic Range Expander in the chain which is a lovely bit of kit for restoring audio dynamics to tracks that haven’t been produced or mastered quite as well. On the dancefloor we then have our Klipschorns in the far corners (so the DJ can still hear them), with some Celestion Ditton midbass units sandwiched between the two halves of the klips, and then the venue’s Martin Audio system at the front which we EQ to tie in with our system. The 4 point speaker setup is absolutely essential, and makes such a difference on the dancefloor. This was the biggest thing we learned from B&TB and Lucky Cloud, where we saw that having speakers surrounding the dancefloor creates a much more open and fluid dynamic in the room, and means people are constantly moving and turning and interacting with each other rather than staring at the front/at the DJ as is often common at a lot of events.

Apricot Ballroom in the woods

Who makes up the Apricot Ballroom Soundsystem?

In terms of DJing, it’s Joi La Frique (Gabe) and Nonna Fab (Dave) that play as Apricot Ballroom. We pretty much always play B2B, and usually go one for one for the whole set.

What kind of vibe might we hope to hear in an AB DJ set?

When we play together we usually find our groove the most playing funk, soul, house, boogie, and jazzy stuff. We usually play pretty upbeat with the vibe focused on positivity and fun. We go different ways if we’re playing separately or if we’re doing longer/all night sets though, and usually pack very varied record bags. But as with the party we focus on music with high production quality that sounds good on a good system, and aim for stuff that’s pretty under the radar.

What’s the last new record you bought?

We tend to buy predominately second hand stuff tbh, but Dave picked up a record that’s been blowing both our minds lately by an artist called Stella Zekri. The EP’s called Detends-Moi, and it’s a brilliant debut record from someone we are now itching to hear more from.

What’s the last old record you invested in?

Gabe picked up a load of really nice stuff while over in Copenhagen a few weeks ago, with a particular highlight being a self-titled album from 1975 by West Wing, with a heartbreakingly beautiful version of Barry White’s ‘I’m Gonna Love You A Little More Baby’. It wasn’t cheap, but worth every penny.

Who do you think is making great music right now?

Obviously very biassed but Dave’s new band Fuji Speedway are playing some wonderful music right now. Fellow Sheffield local Yarni is also someone well worth keeping an eye out for, with his recent LPs delving into a combination of live instrumentalism and electronics. London based jazz outfit Waaju are killer as well, and Surprise Chef from Australia are on fire at the moment.

Apricot Ballroom Wild Wood Disco Festival

As the festival season gets closer, we see you’re playing at Wild Wood Disco in June. Is this your first time at the event?

Nope, we’ve played both of the last two years. We met Vicki (the lead organiser) at The List festival in 2021 and she loved our set so squeezed us in to the line-up on the Paradise Lost stage later that summer. The next year she asked us back to do a takeover with a load of our residents on the Sett Stage on the Friday which was heaps of fun, and then we opened the main stage on the Saturday as well. So this’ll be our third year going/playing, and we’re thrilled to be back!

What can you tell us about the festival set up?

It’s a beautiful festival. The location is absolutely perfect, and they pay a lot of attention to making sure that everything sounds and looks good. The sunrises and sunsets are stunning, and the crowd is one of the friendliest and most fun we’ve met at a festival. It’s a real hidden gem and we can’t big up the organisers enough!

Who do you fancy seeing on the line up?

The line-up’s ace this year, with a lot of people we love listening to, but we’re particularly looking forward to Mafalda and Dar Disku. Mafalda’s great and plays belting tunes every time we see her, and is on the same stage as us and PBR Streetgang on the Friday night, so will be a good night of music all round; and Dar Disku played a party we did the summer before lockdown and they’ve been absolutely smashing it since then, so really excited to see how their sound has developed! Plus obviously our pals PBR Streetgang (who are running the Friday night takeover we’re playing) are always top drawer, and Bradley Zero’s one of the best around.

Apricot Ballroom outside portrait

What will be your festival secret weapon record?

Wouldn’t be a very good secret if we told ya that 😉 But in all seriousness we’re not really about secrecy within our sets. We always share IDs with anyone who asks, and never really keep anything from our collections a secret. We’ve got plenty of heaters ready to go though, that we’re sure will be new to a lot of ears!

Will you be taking your Klipschorns?

Not this time around. We discussed the possibility with the Wild Wood team but it wouldn’t have worked this year with the plans for the stages – but for another year, who knows? It’d be a lot of fun that’s for sure.

Are you happy roughing it for the weekend.

To be totally honest we’re not keen on roughing it. Neither of us are keen campers at any other time of the year, but festivals are a good enough time to make an exception. We’re both firmly in favour of hot showers, hot food, and bug free lives.

A few final words.

In conclusion, Apricot Ballroom is a collective that is truly passionate about creating inclusive and musically diverse parties, and their dedication to sound quality is a testament to their commitment to their craft. It’s no wonder that they have become a staple of the Sheffield music scene, and we can’t wait to see them bring their unique vibe to the Wild Wood Disco Festival.

If you’re a fan of great music, fantastic vibes, and friendly people, be sure to check out Apricot Ballroom and the many other amazing acts at the Wild Wood Disco Festival from June 16th to 18th at The Woodland Glade, Horseheath Racecourse, Linton, Cambs, CB21 4QP. Tickets are available now on the festival’s official website, so don’t miss out on this incredible event!

Wild Wood Disco Festival Line-Up

Extra information about the Wild Wood Disco Festival.

Experience a weekend of wild days and party nights at the Wild Wood Disco Festival! Created by Vicky Fenton in 2017, the festival returns in 2023 for another unforgettable event filled with incredible music played by a stellar lineup, interactive art installations, and magical decor. With an intimate setting of 2,500 people and four stages built from the forest floor, Wild Wood offers an unparalleled festival experience that you won’t find anywhere else. 

The festival is also a huge supporter of women in music, with 50% of the lineup being female-identifying artists and a competition to encourage emerging talent. Join the Wild Wood ethos of connection, freedom, fun, and purity and experience a festival that truly feels like home. Get your tickets now for the festival, running from June 16th to 18th at the Woodland Glade, Horseheath Racecourse, Linton, Cambridgeshire, CB21 4QP, with shuttle buses available from Cambridge. Don’t miss out on the party of a lifetime and get your tickets here!

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Kono Vidovic at Dirty Disco

Kono Vidovic

DJ | MUSIC CURATOR & SELECTOR | PODCAST MAKER | BLOGGER Professional online interpreneur. Coffee practitioner. Electronic music culture maven. Total music guru. Infuriatingly humble problem solver. Food & sports fanatic.

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