The concept of a ‘banger’ is one we’re very familiar with here at Skirmish. In fact, this very site was started over a shared passion for banging tunes. While the definition of a banger may be open to interpretation, you definitely know it when you hear it.
Two other people well versed in the concept of a banger are California DJ’s Lucy Stoner and Nick Drexler, who run Oakland’s most raucous multi-genre party DoesitBANG?. I first came across them when they played this side of the pond at (what was officially the last legal non socially distanced rave in the UK pre COVID) BangFace Weekender 2020. They DJ’d as part of the absolutely wild American takeover and I was instantly impressed by their energy and ethos, and intriqued that there was a fairly vibrant scene for the more UK centric sounds of bassline, donk and jungle in the US.
They’ve also been proper champions of lockdown hosting some of the best livestream’s throughout, bringing together a solid community of like-minded worldwide ravers, and making not actually being able to rave all that bit more bearable.
Their sets are high octane, and they don’t take themselves too seriously – two great traits of any party in my opinion.
I’m a big fan of what they do and their whole ethos so I was delighted to chat with them and find out more about the night and the wider underground US scene. On top of that, Lucy Stoner has kindly laid down an exclusive stomping mix that 100% does bang, and gives you a flavour of what they’re all about.
1. I suppose firstly can you tell us a bit about DoesitBANG? How did it come together and who exactly is involved in the night? What’s the general vibe at each event?
When Nick and I talked about this question, our answer was “bees, corn, eggs and beans.” But seriously, DoesitBANG? actually came together because there was music and a vibe that wasn’t really present here in the Bay Area. We had really great music and a sort of “scene” vibes present in our underground but there was kind of a lack of silliness and that permission to do whatever you want. Nick said “there was hard music in the underground but I don’t think there were silly bangers.” The question we kept asking ourselves as far as what kind of music we wanted to play, because we’re into all kinds of shit, was always just “does this track bang?” Like “oh this is fun, and it’s good, or this is chill, and it’s good, but DOES IT BANG?”
Nick and I came together through the underground rave scene in the Bay, we were both part of the 5lowershop crew, and we bonded over a desire to play cheesier sillier rave music. I remember we both played at that 5lowershop Skullvomit party and Nick played a Gameboy set and afterwards he hit me like “I wanna make silly music on my Gameboy” so I told him he should, and it kind of grew from there. Nick and I started hanging out and bonded over wanting to hear sillier music and more nostalgic rave music and be in the spirit of raving and get out of our jaded raverness, because I was pretty jaded before we started DoesitBANG?.
And then we’ve added a few other resident DJs which are people whose music we love who get the vibe of DoesitBANG? We also have Rachel (Neurolynx) who has done amazing art and deco for all of our parties and really cultivates the atmosphere of the party. Then there’s a bunch of people who maybe aren’t part of the crew but we consider involved in DoesitBANG? Like VJ’s who play multiple parties, people and friends who are part of our scene who come to every show no matter what, and they are such an integral part. They’re the reason we can keep throwing a free party and doing what we’re doing.
2. The US has a pretty well documented history with electronic music but what were your first steps into the rave scene that led to you playing the music you do now?
For Nick, the Love Parade 2004 was his first experience of a giant rave in San Francisco with all the floats going down Market Street, and he says at the time he thought “OMG, this is what life in San Francisco is gonna be like”.
I went to my first rave at an abandoned roller rink in 1999 in Los Angeles but I wouldn’t say I got really into the rave scene until 2000 when I got into the “mainstream” side of it down there and was going to massive raves with multiple tents of music and big name DJs. Alongside this I was also part of the Socal-Raves mailing list who I pretty much owe my entire rave career to. I got into throwing massive raves for a bit and then really got into the underground rave scene where I was going to a lot of desert and forest free parties like Stormriders and Moontribe. Around 2003 or 2004 was when I really got into the underground hardcore and breakcore community through Darkmatter Soundsystem and that’s who hooked me up with 5lowershop.
I would say I owe everything about my Bay Area rave experience to being involved with 5lowershop and I’m really happy to still be involved with them. I’ve been in a lot of different types of music scenes within the rave scene which I think is why the DoesitBANG? ethos speaks so much to me because I never felt right being fully contained in one genre or one scene because there’s so much music I love and DIB is literally the only place where I’ve felt fully free to play whatever I want. Now that I’ve done DIB long enough, I feel confident to do that in my sets at other places too.
3. I think it’s fair to say that a lot of the music you play is pretty UK centric, especially along the lines of bassline and donk – how do you find it translates to the US audience? Is there many other nights championing those sounds besides you guys? Any producers there making that kind of stuff?
Nick laughed when we talked about this one, quoting the (multiple) times I’ve said “we ARE the West Coast donk scene” when asked similar questions. But I didn’t mean that like a brag though! It’s funny because people say to us all the time “How’s the donk scene out there on the West Coast?” and it’s how I always respond” because really it’s just been us playing this music out at parties here. Everyone’s getting into it though!
One of our favorite local DJ’s who throws a really cool experimental techno and dance music party dropped a Lobsta B track in his set at a SPAZ party – it’s awesome to see how much we all influence each other musically. I mean, we do really play a lot more UK centric music and I owe a lot of that to Nick and Jessica Dropacat. I used to be really into fidget house a decade ago, and I remember hearing Dropacat play bassline for the first time a few years ago and I was like “whoa this is like fidget but on crack! It’s amazing!” and then it was just a spiral – we went down the Soundcloud hole of finding tons of new artists and obviously OffMeNut.
It’s the same with donk, I used to love hard house and I recently came into a bunch of old hard house records from a friend of mine was listening to them thinking “Whoa, this is proto donk!”. So I think a lot of those sounds we were already into but the UK does it in such a way where they blend that silly with the seriousness which really speaks to us. There are some people out here making stuff that sounds like that – Bastiengoat for example makes some really dope bassline style stuff – but there’s not really people in the Bay area making donk, except maybe Alex and that’s because we’ve been inspired by UK music.
But people love it – they come to DIB and expect us to play donk and bassline and look forward to it because there’s no one else really playing it. I’ve actually been really surprised how much people have embraced and dug it at our parties, who might not have otherwise heard that sound.
I also think what separates us from other rave crews or party nights is that we’re very inspired by the breakcore scene and are just like harder, faster, weirder. So for example, we like to speed up house music from 125 to 140 and we joke that we’re saving house music 15 BPMs at a time, but you know it’s true, we’re willing to kind of play with our own American music to make it sound more like that UK music we really like. I don’t think that’s a regional thing either, it’s just a “how do you like music to sound?”, so I think us coming from the breakcore scene really helped us get to that place.
And also, Captain Ahab is a really good example of a project that’s pretty old (15 years ago) that has a silly ethos but more of a west coast vibe (everyone should listen to “After The Rain My Heart Still Dreams” by them by the way.
4. Can you tell us more about the scene in Oakland and California in general? How easy is it to put on a party there? From a logistical side – is there much red tape with strict licensing laws etc..?
There’s actually a pretty vibrant electronic music scene but a lot of it is tied to Burning Man, which we have some crossover with but is not really our scene. There’s also a pretty vibrant underground scene, with a lot of drum and bass and a decent amount of jungle.
There’s a huge variety in parties and scenes and it’s kind of a crap shoot as to how easy it is to throw a gig, how many people will show up, etc. In our scene, you have everything from small word of mouth renegades (free parties) thrown with “questionable legality” to bigger warehouse parties, as well as weekly/monthly club nights to big club parties, and a lot of those scenes overlap. It used to be much easier to throw parties before the extreme gentrification of the Bay Area and later the Ghost Ship fire which really took away not only a lot of our party spaces but also people’s homes and livelihoods. We were extremely lucky to find a home in Brix 581 where we throw DoesitBANG?. They are a small club with an underground warehouse vibe run by people from the rave scene who really “get” what we’re doing.
We are a free party on a Thursday night so we get anywhere from 15 people to a couple of hundred depending on what’s going on that week, but our venue has always held space for us and never made it feel like a “business transaction” (ie you need to guarantee this many people or this much bar tab in order to keep your party.) I think we both really respect and admire each other and see our relationship as a partnership. I could not be more grateful to have a safe, inviting party space that feels as close to an underground vibe as you could get in a club.
5. Outside of California, have you guys built up any connections with other promoters putting on similar nights around the US? Do you play regularly around the country?
We’re actually not very connected with other US crews outside of our West Coast Hard Crew who we traveled to Bangface with. We’ve got folks up and down the coast in Seattle, Portland, LA, etc., but otherwise I’d say we’re much more connected with the UK than the rest of the country. The cool thing about the internet (especially during lockdown) has been being able to connect with more artists and crews around the US, including Robot Haus in Boston, Worst Behavior in NYC, etc…
We were toying around with the idea of a DoesitBANG? US tour this past summer (before COVID messed up all our plans), and I think post-pandemic, we’re going to see a lot more collaboration with artists and crews all over the place but for now I’m enjoying the unifying location of “the internet” for us to discover new music and talent and amazing folks all over the place.
6. You guys came over to the UK back in March, playing at Das Booty and Bangface. How did those gigs come about? How did you find it on this side of the pond – was Bangface everything you hoped for?
We feel so lucky and fortunate to have gotten to travel to the UK and play Das Booty, That Thing and Bangface right before lockdown! I owe a lot to Rory Kelly of Das Booty and Kushti of Solid Sound who both found my music randomly on Soundcloud and either asked me to do a guest mix or shared mixes of mine. I don’t know if anyone over there would have heard of me without those two!
I was booked as part of the American takeover by Shawn Bloodysnowman who is a long-time friend and fellow 5lowershop crew member and I’m eternally grateful to him for asking me to play. Nick and Alex were both booked by Kushti for the Solid Sound takeover shortly after. We were absolutely buzzing about all getting to play Bangface together as a crew, especially since we were already planning on coming over for it before we even knew we were going to get to play!
After getting the Bangface booking, Das Booty’s Rory and Tony Loco of That Thing both asked me to play the week before, and each of those gigs had such amazing energy at them. It was also awesome to get a chance to play three different sets of music since I’ve got so many different genres that I love to play. We didn’t really do too much else while were in the UK, we spent a day touristing in London and a bunch of time hanging out with friends (especially the Mutant Bass crew) in Bristol. We also got to see Samurai Breaks play one of the most lit Tuesday night parties I’ve ever been to there!
Bangface was literally everything and way more than we could have hoped for. I spent the entire weekend on a full serotonin rush from meeting tons of internet pals, seeing music legends that I worship play, and fulfilling a dream of playing my music overseas. All three of us said multiple times that weekend how Bangface just “felt like home” and everyone there “felt like our people”. The next time we go to Bangface I can only imagine that it’s going to be even more magical.
7. What are the main differences that stand out to you between a UK rave and something like Bangface and parties in the US?
I think there’s more of an element of play and performance built into UK parties. A lot of parties here are just “stage, music, dance floor, maybe a bit of deco.” Bangface has a lot of the ethos that DoesitBANG? really loves and was trying to create when we decided to start throwing our own parties here including themes, props, and just general silliness.
I also think that, at least here in California, a lot of people at parties tend to be more caught up in image and being perceived as cool (that’s certainly not true everywhere and definitely not in our small niche underground scene but more in the mainstream electronic scene) whereas UK raves seemed fully there for the party aspect. I didn’t get the feeling that anyone at any of the parties we went to in the UK was there to be “seen”, they were just there to rave their faces off.
8. In your opinion, what are the main qualities in a tune that make it bang?
Oh this is such a good and impossible question – Nick and I talk about this all the time and we honestly can’t give a definitive answer. I think a song that bangs is anything that goes extra hard (that doesn’t necessarily mean fast or abrasive, just pushing the limits within whatever genre it is), that makes people want to lose it on the dance floor or pull their bass face. My child famously once said, “Bangers are songs that do their own thing and when that song is in someone’s heart, they realize it’s coming through their heart and then you realize that it’s a banger’ – a perfect description I think.
We have heard so many bangers in so many genres (even genres we thought we didn’t like previously), and when a DJ is feeling that song and loving that song, it makes you love it too. That’s why DoesitBANG? is a multi-genre party and our comp that we put out last year is called “Multigenre Belligerence”, because good tunes can’t be confined to one genre or BPM or mood. I think everyone knows deep down when they hear a banger, they just have to let it come through their heart 🙂
9. Any recommendations on nights/DJ’s/producers in the US to check out? Any mad genre’s happening over there that might not have made it this side of the pond yet you’d recommend?
Oh this list is so long. Other than the crews I’ve mentioned above like 5lowershop, Darkmatter Soundsystem, Worst Behavior and Robot Haus, there’s SPAZ, Hardcore Junglists United, PLUR Alliance and so many more in the Bay Area, Fukdup Records in Portland, Raver Tooth Tiger in Seattle, etc.
We should honestly compile a list of all the amazing artists and crews from the US that I’ve had the luck to work with. I’ll send that to you as an ongoing spreadsheet that I update soon! If you were gonna check out one artist from the Bay that I think encompass the vibe of our party scene, it would either be Bastiengoat or DJ Please. They both span across so many genres and do it all with a full banger attitude. Also definitely Foxdye (although I think she’s made a pretty big name for herself in the Bangface scene over there.) We are lucky to have a lot of amazing California artists on our Multigenre Belligerence comp that we put out last year.
10. Presumably with coronavirus you guys have been pretty quiet, have you any plans for when restrictions might be lifted?
I think we’ve actually flourished during COVID with our internet parties. I got into streaming pretty quickly after returning from Bangface but even though I got to hear tons of great talent and it was awesome to get to still play music, it felt like there was something missing from them, the element of “party” and interaction that we all experience in person. That’s why we started throwing monthly/bi-montly “Internet Parties” rather than simply doing streams. There’s themes, memes, costumes, almost everything you’d get from an in person party minus the beautifully sweaty dance floor that I miss so dearly.
Once restrictions are lifted, we will definitely be returning to Brix 581 so we can fill canoes with balloons and put googly eyes on everyone and everything, but I think we’ll still keep streaming alive ( but maybe not quite as often), as we’ve formed such amazing relationships with the UK scene and we’d hate to see that go away. We also want all of YOU to come over here as soon as travel resumes and play our party and experience the magic that is DoesitBANG? in person with us!
Nick said something very lovely, that regardless of what the music scene looks like post-pandemic, that DoesitBANG? will always survive because the core of DoesitBANG? is just Nick and I being silly and doing what we love which is playing and listening to bangers. One of the best compliments we’ve ever gotten is someone telling us “It could just be Nick and Stephanie with a speaker and it would still be a full-blown party”. We turned this into one of our slogans which is “DoesitBANG?: We ARE a party.”
11. And finally, can you tell us about the mix you’ve done for us?
I absolutely loved putting this mix together. I tried to make a sort of retrospective of DoesitBANG? classics, the songs we’d play all the time that encompass the energy and vibe of a night at DoesitBANG? and a classic Lucy Stoner multi genre set.
It spans everything from the first tunes that I started playing when I moved beyond just playing breakcore/hardcore to the music that I consider to be the epitome of the “aggressive booty music” style I’m known for, plus some of mine and Nick’s BFF songs that always make us feel mega PLUR when we’re there. I hope this mix transports you to our little corner of Oakland, California where we bang our hearts out!
Massive thanks to Stephanie and Nick for being absolute legends and for the interview and mix!