Glasgow based DJ goes by Sophie Kindreich during the day and Deep Brandy Album Cuts by night. She is a regular at all inclusive Art School club night PVC and a writer for music blog Truants – I spoke in detail with her about DJing as a woman on the Scottish music scene, how she perfected her craft and who has influenced her along the way.
What initially drew you towards djing?
Honestly djing was not on my radar at all until the moment someone, after hearing one of the radio shows I’d done for Subcity, got in touch asking me to play an hour-long opening slot at a night that was happening in two weeks time. Up until that point the closest I’d got to djing was pressing the crossfade button on youtubemixer.net, ha, but I thought ‘fuck it, why not?’ and said yes despite having no equipment, no software and absolutely no technical know-how (#yolo). I definitely said yes thinking it’d be my first and last opportunity to dj and, from the way I played on the night, it probably should have been! I’d sourced a copy of Traktor, received lots of valuable advice from DJ Perfect Puppy Princess and spent what little time I had left practicing, but my set was a hot mess. I loved having the opportunity to play tracks I loved on a club system, especially tracks I didn’t have a chance of hearing elsewhere in Glasgow, but I’d think twice about playing 150bpm Chicago bop before midnight again. S/o to the pals who turned up to support and danced to the bitter end, I’d have been playing to an empty room without them.
To my surprise (and in spite of how that set went) I did get asked to play out again. It was definitely a case of learning on the job – not just learning the skills, but also learning to appreciate what was expected of me as a dj as well as how much I wanted to challenge those expectations. After a handful of questionable sets I settled into a groove that works for me: my ideas about what type of dj I wanted to become and what type of environment I wanted to create with my sets began to gain clarity. Even though there are still huge swathes of Traktor I’ve not learned how to use yet, and even though I often have to shoot the sound tech a pleading ‘HELP ME’ look, it’s the most satisfying thing to have noticed, in real-time, how familiar I’ve become with it. The main factor that convinces me to keep at it is feeling like the tracks and artists and genres I play, or at least the precise combination of genres I play, aren’t getting as much exposure in Glasgow as I’d like them to as a clubgoer and dancer. So it was almost a case of ‘if I want the job done properly, I’m gonna have to do it myself’.
How would you describe your sound?
The genres that are the focus of my sets are rap, r&b, dancehall and soca, as well as a wide variety of club music (mostly the sounds that have emerged in the wake of grime, funky, jersey club, etc). I really admire the way crews like Swing Ting, Fade 2 Mind and Janus can fuse these genres together like it’s second nature, and I guess ideally I’d like to be considered as following in their footsteps – Kelela’s tweet about how many musical children Total Freedom has fathered springs to mind. It still thrills me hearing inventive blends that avoid the trap of watering down perfectly good rap and r&b songs, which I feel is often done in an effort to make it more palatable to white club audiences. I guess it’s up to other people whether my sets actually live up to any of that self-mythologising hype though – come see me at PVC sometime and decide for yourselves, it’s free!
As we’re celebrating women’s history month all throughout March, who are some of the women that inspire you in both your music and in your life?
My mum and my gran, for all that they do and provide. My wonderful friends who work on crisis helplines, who’ve made themselves pariahs in activist circles for the crime of protecting themselves and other women from abusers, who’re dealing with chronic illness and debt and transitioning and PTSD and who were (and are) patient with me through the teething stages of my feminism. They allow me to vent in their DMs and offer the kind of restorative solidarity and sisterhood that keeps me going. The women I chat to online and witness from afar being champs in their fields: Serena and everyone else at LCU who provide a sanctuary when I’m feeling particularly downtrodden by the state of club culture; Jess at Come Thru; Tabitha at NTS; Kat at Salt+Sass; both Auroras; Coral and Tove and everyone else making sure Sister remains the force for good in the industry we need it to be; Karen at Hipsters Don’t Dance; Ciara and everyone else who made Free Pride such a success; the other women who dj at PVC who I know have faced plenty of the same problems I have in terms of getting their foot in the door. Honestly, every woman who’s been resilient enough to keep picking away in an industry where men don’t take you seriously and make you jump through hoops before they’ll accept you: fuck a vinyl purist; fuck a sync button luddite; fuck a gatekeeper.The writers and cultural critics and thinkers whose work has enriched my life and expanded my horizons – the likes of Jenny Zhang and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Rawiya Kameir and Doreen St. Felix and Durga Chew-Bose, Trudy from Gradient Lair and the Black Girls Talking collective and @pastachips. The Glasgow Feminist Collective for being one of the few political organisations left in Glasgow with any integrity.
Musically I feel like I’m gonna be doing a disservice to the hundreds I can’t fit in, but special mention to DJs and artists like Ma Nguzu, The Large, Jubilee, Kazabon, Nkisi, Nidia Minaj, Uniiqu3, Lil Tantrum, Manara, Kilbourne, Kablam, Nightwave, Kamaiyah, the women of Awful Records, emo Selena Gomez, EDM Selena Gomez, Tinashe, Dawn Richard, and Nicki Minaj – whose mid-concert sermons leave me sobbing, whose ad libs at the start of a track give me goosebumps in anticipation of whatever she’s about to bestow on us, and who I will stan for til the death of me.
Can you tell me a little bit about Truants and how you got involved in that?
Truants is a website that was founded and is maintained by 2 Dutch women of colour. From day one they’ve been dedicated to working with a diverse range of writers, and it’s an approach a lot of the more established platforms could (and did) take notes from. I got involved a few years ago when they put out a call for writers. I was looking for more experience in music journalism, which I got, but I didn’t bank on also being immersed in a group of like-minded people the world over who I would come to think of as good friends and comrades. The last thing I worked on for them, an interview with and Truancy Volume from The Large, was a while ago now but her mix is so good it should be on the school curriculum. We’ve glo’d up over the last year or two and I’m really proud of the efforts we’ve all made towards shaping the site into what it is today, and of the things we’ve accomplished as and independently of Truants. Truants is fam, always.
What is it like being a woman and a DJ in Scotland? Are things improving for women in music?
In terms of personal safety, I often feel like being a woman DJ isn’t that distinct from being a woman in the club in general. If anything, being behind a booth and having some sort of relationship with the venue allows me more of a lifeline than your average woman getting harassed on the dancefloor. Before I stepped into the resident and quasi-promoter role I’m in now, I had high and fair expectations of the people who put on nights and that hasn’t changed now the shoe’s on the other foot.
Until people in the positions and with the powers to curate events up their standards and start caring about the ethics of the people they let run wild in their venues or book to play at their nights, going out in Glasgow (read: anywhere) is always gonna be a tricky minefield for women to navigate. The same holds true for survivors of sexual violence, people of colour, lgbt+ people, disabled people and especially those who exist at the intersections of these (and other) identities. Don’t listen to anyone who undermines or sneers at or uses the language of the right to discredit safer space initiatives. These people are usually the ones with the most to fear from venues adopting zero-tolerance attitudes towards bigotry and discrimination.
Things are improving because of the communities women have built to support one another. S/o collectives like Sister and Discwoman, who’ve created networks with global reach and on a bedrock of politics that stand up to scrutiny. Sister and online communities like it act as virtual steamies where we can vent and gossip and share our experiences of the industry, positive and negative. They’re also sites of education where resources are shared, advice is given and practical solidarity is enacted.
Locally, and maybe I’m biased because it’s PVC’s venue, but I really appreciate the amount of female DJs the Art School makes sure to spotlight, whether that be locally or bookings from afar. I’m also really excited about OH-141 launching at Sub Club. I’ve been going out in Glasgow for 5 years and as far as I’m aware this is the first time a night’s had a woman of colour at its helm?! That might be incorrect and a sign of my own ignorance but even so, in a scene as disproportionately white as Glasgow’s, Sarra’s perspective is sorely needed. Having been given the chance to prove herself, I hope this opens the floodgates for wider representation beyond white women like myself. We are the current shorthand for diversity when it comes to local initiatives, often at the expense of demographics more deserving of the recognition and opportunities.
What are your upcoming plans in all creative aspects of your life?
To be honest a lot of the creative aspects of my life (journalism, my radio show) as well as non-creative aspects (my degree, a weekly volunteer shift I was doing) have been abandoned or put on the backburner because of my mental health. I don’t wanna front like I have all these tricks up my sleeve when my life right now is really more about surviving on a day-to-day basis. But, saying that, djing is one of the things I’ve been good at sticking with so far. I think that’s because of how sporadically and flexibly I can accept bookings; I definitely wouldn’t manage if Deep Brandy Album Cuts was my full-time job or if I was reliant on bookings to survive.
PVC will finish up for the summer in a few months so I’ll have more time on my hands. Hopefully I can fill some of that time with a few bookings; I’d really like to do some more shows outside of Glasgow.
I’ve always shied away from having more control of a night than I currently do at PVC – the costs and responsibilities involved were and are majorly dissuasive factors for someone living on benefit payments and the occasional DJ fee. But being given the reins for the PVC I played with Hipsters Don’t Dance and Shugg left me feeling so, so chuffed about what I’d achieved, from the organisation to the promotion to the execution. So maybe I do have something to contribute as a promoter after all, I’d love to play a hand in bringing more acts of HDD’s calibre to Glasgow.