MANGOES & MELONS: THE 90S INSPIRED GARAGE AND SPEED GARAGE TAKEOVER CURATED BY A-BEE
Ahead of their forthcoming night on the 15th of February, we caught up with DJ and founder of Mangoes & Melons, A-Bee. Whilst sipping beer in one of Stoke’s Croft’s finest, Caribbean Croft, we spoke about the prevalence of the vinyl industry, how the label came into fruition and what we can expect of next party
Abby Gray, otherwise known as A-Bee, has gone and created a unique and nostalgic hub for garage, speed garage and house revellers to experience high quality music that represents the scene it’s truest and rawest form.
Music is something that has always surrounded her environment: from the early days of the Walkman bumping RnB and hiphop, to the later days of playing the electric guitar. Though it wasn’t until she was shownTenderly by Disclosure which prompted the smooth transition into the world of house and garage: “I remember hearing that and being like, what the fuck is this, this is what I like, this is my vibe.” From then on the record collection began and music was the motive. Participation in an urban arts course was the first steps into the dynamics of DJing: “We were doing graffiti, photography, urban arts. Signed up for a term and got there and then there were some CDJs and they also had some computers, and they were doing production and DJing. Production at that point I was not really interested in, but DJing I was like fuck yeah, I've always wanted to do this, yes!
“So I was burning CDs, bringing them in and I was really eager and everything, so the guy who was teaching us was like, I'm gonna get you on don't worry I want you to have a big start. That ended and then I did a Gold Arts Award which was offered by the same people because the urban arts thing closed down. I studied DJing as my art form, you get UCAS points from the arts award. So you run like five creative events and you study a creative art form, it was all funded as well, that was pretty cool, I just kinda fell into that really.”
THAT'S THE HARDEST THING I'VE EVER HAD TO DO
If you were being taught to DJ by someone else, you’d like someone of a reasonable calibre to guide you along the way. This posed no issue whilst Abby had lessons from the Ruffneck legend that is, DJ Dazee: “Obviously she’s cool as fuck, and just a really nice, genuine person. I remember saying to her, I really wanna do this, what do I need to do? How do I get into this industry? She was like, well either you wanna make tunes, or you wanna run parties, and at that point, as much as I love music and have always been creative, I just didn’t wanna do production. I didn’t wanna sit behind computer. I had a shit laptop, I didn’t have the means to do it either and I thought well, I’ll start running some parties.”
At this point she was situated in Bath, in which she enrolled onto an apprenticeship in live events and promotion: a company that helps young people get into the creative arts. Here would hold the birth of her first brand, Function 16: “So I wanted to DJ more and I remember my course teacher, she was like, well why don’t you make a business plan, set up a night, and pose that business plan to the person who owns the company. So I did a business pitch, I did all this research and stuff like that and then you know kinda changed it a bit to and fro, and yeah they ended up funding my first brand.
“I did three years in Bath, booking all sorts of people: it was all between grime, garage, bassline, jungle, dubstep. It was like a multi bass thing. We had Kahn & Neek, Sir Spyro, Flava D, TQD, at the time that was pretty big, that was the biggest event we did. That’s the hardest thing I think I’ve ever had to do, so stressful. I started running that night through getting some investment, and then you know I was able to play at each one of these nights. Then I was starting to book people like Deadbeat, Dr Cryptic, and all of these people, and then I was kinda getting known by other promoters by doing that.
“It all just fell into place, the right place and the right time, because I wanted to do it and I was kinda seeking it out, the right opportunities in life came.”
For a scene to thrive and flourish passion is needed to be at the forefront of everyone’s motives, and that is something that shines through her music and her brand. Abby’s dedication to the garage scene is inspiring: “There is a massive amount of people that wanna hear this old school garage and speed garage sound which is incredible. I kinda just started it up and see what happens, and there’s such a big audience for it. Each time I’m doing it there’s one in one outs, you know what I mean? The whole club is packed and it’s amazing. I do it for that really, because each time I get stressed before an event, I say it’s the last event I'm gonna do I don’t wanna do any more events. Then you have that event and everyone’s there it’s just fucking buzzing, and that, that’s it.
“It’s the same with DJ sets, some DJ sets, you know, you may go there and you don’t get paid that much money, like you just about cover your travel, maybe somewhere to stay and eat but it goes amazingly. Or you go to a festival you get a free ticket which is great, but you’ve got to drive there, you’ve got to eat food while you’re there, festivals are expensive. But then you play a set there and, wow, that shit is better than playing in a club, it’s amazing.”
One festival that has global recognition is the mighty full body experience that is Boomtown Fair in Winchester, as it’s roots are based in Bristol, they are a group of people who care a lot for the Bristol underground music scene. Following their newest venue opening in Bristol, Area 404, it is a new and exciting time for local Bristol sound creators. Abby has featured at Boomtown events for the past three years, opportunities that she doesn’t take for granted: “I played at their venue in November when they opened it up, it’s good for them because it’s not residential and it can be loud and it’s great. It’s so cool, it’s like being at Boomtown, small scale, you know? There’s little corridors as you’re walking through, there’s actors and windows you’re looking in with weird shit in it, it’s an immersive experience.
“I think it’s really exciting for Bristol, it’s another big venue that we've got. It’s good for Bristol, really, really good for Bristol, and supporting Bristol artists. They’re supported me and I'm really grateful for that you know, it’s been a big part of my journey, playing at Boomtown at various stages. What’s great about when you play at a festival is you’ve got people from all over the country, especially somewhere like Boomtown, gigs come off the back of doing a gig at Boomtown, it’s brilliant.”
Mangoes & Melons is strictly vinyl. “All vinyl, all night, it’s 100% vinyl.” Bringing that 90s essence to the Cosies dance floor is a key factor of the turntables, something that is not to change anytime soon: “From running my parties vinyl only it’s just so special. The whole night is special and the audience are feeling it in every record you play, there’s a much deeper connection for the tunes and the whole crowd is vibing off that as well. It’s amazing.
“When each of the DJs have brought their own personal tunes that they’ve probably spent a lot of money on getting, it’s a really personal experience. If each tune your buying is between £5 and, I don't know, £30-£40 dare I say it, you know it gets expensive. You’re gonna know that each of those tunes that artist really loves.”
THERE'S A MUCH DEEPER CONNECTION TO THE TUNES
So why was Function 16 left behind in Bath and replaced with some succulent Mangos and Melons? Abby explained: “I wanted to start releasing music because at this point I had got a lot of friends who were producers and a lot of people who I really rate, I wanted to set up my own thing where I could release those tunes and create a bit of a vibe there. I kinda wanted to showcase a bit more. So I stopped running that brand then I kinda set up the idea.
“I was reading a book about rave art and I was reading about how in the old school raves they used to eat mangos and melons to help their gurns, and then I was like, that’s a cool name. In fact, actually I won’t take credit it was my girlfriend to be fair, she was like, you should call your label that. It just happened. I didn’t really want to run parties, because I did three years of solidly running parties like once every two weeks or once a month, I was pretty done with that, you know? I just wanted to chill out. But I thought you know I’ll run one party, all vinyl, I just wanted to see how it went. It was me and Jossy Mitsu who were b2b, and there was Wilfy D and Ten Levels, who are both two local Bristol DJs and producers. The event was one in one out, Thursday night, complete sell out, so then I thought, okay, there’s a scene for this. I kept going with that you know, we’re quite well known for the nights now as well as the label, so it’s good.”
Cosies accommodates the parties vibe excellently, where the bumpy vibes of a garage party suits the enclosed environment: “The vibe works there, it’s very cosy. With what I'm doing for this party I don’t think we would suit being in a massive warehouse for some bumpy garage and speed garage. It’s not really a big warehouse kinda thing, it’s quite an underground bubbly sorta thing and I think doing it in a venue like Cosies it works well.” The scenes for all pockets of underground music in Bristol is so uniquely vast it’s astounding, Abby is feeling good about the scene right now, “I think there’s definitely a scene for it, just kinda judging how our parties have been. The turn out we’ve been getting for our events and I think it’s all been really positive, and the venue have been really impressed with it as well. I think there is definitely a good scene for it here in Bristol.
“I think that scene isn’t just happening in Bristol, it’s popping up in London, Sheffield, even not there even in like France and America. There’s all sorts of people I'm starting to see running parties and releasing this kind of sound, I think it’s on the uprise definitely.”
Thinking into the future depths of 2020, Abby has some increasingly intriguing plans in the pipelines. “I've wanted to step back a little bit from doing so many releases and moving forward to vinyl releases. I've got the first one lined up so it’s just kinda doing the finishing touches just to sort it out really. I think that’s gonna be the direction from now, I’d rather invest the time into doing big vinyl releases and maybe doing two or three of those a year.
“I think there is more of a scene that’s growing for it because I think again, this whole 90s resurgence is happening and I think there’s more people that are kinda wanting to do things in that way. I think wanting to put a little bit more investment, make a little bit of a whole art project, rather than just whack it up online and hoping for the best. I mean no disrespect to that because that’s what I've done with the label so far anyway, and I know loads of people who do that and a lot of DJs around the world, well the majority are all doing it on digital anyway so it’s an obvious way to be, but I think there’s certain pockets of music and certain scenes. Like speed garage and garage are very 90s, it’s a 90s genre, and it’s very nostalgic. Same as jungle, same as hiphop, certain genres that are just kinda like that, deep house, and stuff like that. It was born for the 90s and it still stays quite true to it’s core. I think a lot of people have quite liked it being that way, liked it being nostalgic.”
Headlining the next event and going b2b with A-bee is the dubplate donny, Riz La Teef, a man well respected in his field of selecting and mixing capability, let alone his tune arsenal. They came in touch after having booked Riz for a party back with Function 16, however didn't become properly aquatinted until a while after at the Red Bull Music Festival in London: “I had a good chat with him and said I wanna book you for my party, would be quite up for doing a b2b, and he was like yeah man definitely, I'm so up for that. So I was like cool, I locked it in after the party so it’s happening now. I’ve had a really good response from it, Resident Advisor, they’ve put it up on their website and stuff like that. I’ve had 1020 Radio and Noods both asking us to do a radio show, so doing it on 1020 because they got in their first, so me and Riz are gonna go b2b 5-7 warming up for the party.”
THEY DO IT FOR THE LOVE AND FOR THE SCENE AND WE'RE BEING ABLE TO CREATE SOME PRETTY LEGENDARY PARTIES IN BRISTOL
The party is looking to be quite a night. I am sure the music will do the talking on this one: “I’m kinda just going on the same vibe really, keeping it old school, keeping it vinyl, keeping it garage and speed garage and a bit of house that comes into garage.
“We’ve got Conspiracy Dubz playing, he’s from Birmingham, Solihull, he used to work at Hard To Find Records, so he's been on the scene for a while and he’s got a really, really sick taste in music. He’s been making some really sick speed garage and jungle releases, but they’ve been limited so like 10 pressings each, you know what I mean? So they’re worth a lot of money.
“I’ve got Ten levels warming up who’s a local garage producer, been releasing stuff on 2TUF-4U, Karl ‘Tuff Enuff’ Brown’s record label. He was with Tuff Jam, who were a really big garage producer duo in the 90s, so it’s gonna be a really, really sick night.”
The vibe that is created in Cosies is something to be praised, as Abby told me that is what the artists getting booked primarily play the gig for: “I’ve wanted to pay them more and stuff but because it’s such a small venue I can’t, but I've kinda gone with, this is the vibe, showed them a video and showed them some pictures. Like I’m completely fine if you say no, but if you wanna come and do it, here’s the offering. Then they come and play and you feel the atmosphere there and it’s amazing, and it’s worth it, so it’s nice that we’ve been able to do that.
“I'm really grateful that they come and do it for less than what they’re worth, and they do it for the love and for the scene and we’re being able to create some pretty legendary parties in Bristol I think. I’m really proud of what’s been happening, I'm just really pleased that a lot of other people wanna be a part of it as well, being part of the scene and supporting it and making it grow.”
Grab your tickets for the 15th now and check out A-Bee and Mangoes & Melons in Bristol!
Mangoes & Melons:
February 9th 2020