Among the numerous success stories to come out of Leeds’ DIY scene, Brotherhood stands apart as one of the most intriguing. Launched back in 2012 with a party that brought Phaeleh to Wire, Brotherhood Sound System became synonymous in Leeds with wild parties with a community vibe, making use of unusual creative spaces as they tested their custom-built sound rig out around the city’s lesser explored venues.
Offering a diverse set of musical tastes that has evolved throughout their time in Leeds, Brotherhood were originally known primarily for dubstep, reggae and other bass-heavy sounds, though disco, house, techno and more have also seen plenty of playing time over the years. Now looking to free themselves of all genre-specific expectations, the Brotherhood team focus on providing the best party they can, delivering extraordinary music across the full dance spectrum.
Though the sound system that the early years were built upon is no longer part of the Brotherhood inventory, original co-founder George Hartshorn has continued the spirit of the party and seen its stock rise each year, with new resident selectors Tami Pein and Lucy Williams offering new direction with their own unique understandings of music and the dancefloor. Speaking to George off the back of a sell-out season opener with Tom Blip at Wire, we discussed how Brotherhood has retained its place as one of Leeds’ most exciting parties.
Brotherhood events have covered a wide array of styles and genres down the years, with dubstep and jungle nights featuring heavily in the early years but everything from disco to techno now getting a look in. Was the broadening of music a conscious decision or a natural occurrence?
I guess in a sense the change had to be conscious as I have had to actively book the artists, but there was never a point where I sat down and thought ‘I want to be here in 12 months or 5 years’, the change in bookings has really just reflected the music that I have been listening to.
Our first ever booking, Phaeleh came from seeing him on the beach at Outlook in 2010. After his set I went up and spoke to him and got his agent’s details, and a few months later we launched Brotherhood. A similar thing happened this year at Gottwood. I saw one particular artist play a mind blowing set which turned a crowd of 10 into a crowd of 500 in 30 minutes. I emailed the agent whilst I was dancing - and I’m happy to say we’ll be bringing them to Wire Club for their Leeds debut in January.
(The distinctive art space Studio 24 is one of many exciting venues to have house Brotherhood in recent years)
A strong DIY scene in Leeds has seen plenty of young artists and promoters flourish in recent years; how important has the city’s scene been in the growth of Brotherhood?
Over the years I’ve worked with a great deal of people running events in Leeds, whether they have played at my nights, sold tickets for other nights I’ve been managing or I’ve been helping them build up their own. Obviously they have all provided invaluable support to Brotherhood but I think the majority of Leeds promoters work together to help grow the scene as a whole rather than building one night above the other which benefits everyone in the end. I’ve never been a fan of the cut-throat style of promoting, and if there’s a great night on in Leeds I’d tell people to go to it and help promote it, even if it clashed with one of my own!
You recently announced the addition of two new residents to the Brotherhood team: Tami and Luce. What will the two selectors bring to the table?
Lucy and Tami came on board after playing at the Vote2Party event I ran before the general election. Their tune selection ranged from music I was listening to when I was 16 right through to stuff I’d heard at Love Muscle earlier that year. In preparation to come on after them, I pulled Joy O - Hyph Mngo out of my bag. Before I even had the chance to step up to the decks Tami put it on as her last tune! I realised then that they were on the same wavelength as me musically, but actually had the courage to play such a range of tunes over the course of a set.
It reminded me that Brotherhood doesn’t need to be defined as a House or World or Bass Music night - it could be all of those in one - so long as we’re playing good tunes and the crowd are dancing!
Anyone who’s been partying in Leeds for a good few years will have come across Brotherhood in its original incarnation, as the party crew responsible for the Brotherhood Sound System rig. Has the nature of Brotherhood changed now that the sound system itself is not running?
Our focus had always been as a travelling party. The sound system allowed us to turn disused warehouses, churches, boats, skateparks, theatres - you name it - into a place for people to dance which was out of the ordinary. Unfortunately the thing that has put a stop to that in recent times hasn’t been the fact that I parted ways with the sound system, but on the council’s approach to DIY parties. I could really get into it, but we’ve lost out on plenty of venues, had to move parties hours before doors and even cancel some because of licensing. Unfortunately in a bid to ‘improve’ our city, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot and putting a stop to the interesting stuff which makes Leeds such an exciting place to live.
With a label and other parties also falling loosely under the Brotherhood banner, what exciting plans have you got for the coming months and years?
Having moved our regular Brotherhood parties to Wire, I’m already itching to do something really out of the ordinary. I don’t want to give too much away but we’re going for a fully immersive experience with all of our budget spent on turning a warehouse into the most incredible playground for party goers - there hasn’t been anything like this in Leeds to my knowledge, so keep your ears to the ground!
(Brotherhood have long been renowned for giving their DIY parties such high-end production)
Brotherhood return to Wire on Saturday 30th September, bringing disco specialists Kon and Lucy Locket with them. They then return on Friday 27th October, this time with Tama Sumo and Lakuti.
Photos courtesy of Brotherhood