How do you usually experience music? Do you ever wish there was more to the traditional nightclub format? This is the question at the centre of everything Mister Saturday Night do. “If we’re given the opportunity not just to do the thing that you do,” one part of the duo, Justin Carter, tells me over the phone, “We think instead, ‘How can we make this special.’”
If you’ve ever been to one of their parties in New York or London, or seen any of their Boiler Room efforts online, you might be nodding your head in agreement. From the perfect sound to the most optimised flow of the room, being at a Mister Saturday Night party means never itching to check your phone or head outside for a cigarette you didn’t want — you just keep dancing. We chat to Justin ahead of their Farr Festival appearance, to find out how they make their parties so good, discuss their new immersive listening parties, and that special ‘moment’ that keeps him going.
Congratulations on your successful crowdfunding for Nowadays Indoors, Mister Saturday Night’s new permanent home. Can you tell us about the space?
Well, we made sure there’s a wooden floor for dancing, and that the sound is really right; we added acoustic panels to the room. If you get those things right, people can really get lost because they’re experiencing sound in such a wonderful way. The indoor space is just an old warehouse, but the thing we really like about it is these windows that wrap around two of the four walls. They’re at the top of the space so you get this beautiful light that shines into the room. I knew it was the right space even when it was a construction site.
Everything you guys do is very well-considered. You once held a Boiler Room at a dance studio, and it was just so refreshing to see something like that. What was your thought process behind that, like, did you think, “Usually it’s just people standing around holding drinks?”
Exactly. They came to us and asked if we wanted to do something, we said yes, but we didn’t want it to be a thing where the camera is focused on us. There are a few house dancers that come to the party, and they were like, “There’s a big house session that happens on Friday night, you guys could just do it there.” So that’s how the idea came up. But you know, I think, if we’re given the opportunity not just to do the thing that you do, we think instead, “How can we make this special,” like, “What would I want to see.” And that’s the same way we think about the party.
This fits into MSN’s new Planetarium series, an immersive listening party where people can lie on the ground. Could you talk a bit about that?
In some ways, Planetarium kind of was an idea we (him and Eamon Harkin, the other half of MSN) were thinking of before we started Mister Saturday Night. The idea for MSN was to do live bands and to do dance music, and have it be totally seamless so that the bands would play in and out of the DJs and you wouldn’t even look up, you would just keep dancing. But it didn’t work, because at the venue where we did it, there was a stage — you put a band on a stage, you put lights on them, it’s gonna be jarring, people are just gonna watch until the band is over.
So with Planetarium, we figured out that we could do music in the DJ format while also do live music. On the very first one we did, it made me so happy — Eamon was playing a set, and I went and sat down on the couch that’s like the sweet spot of the room for sound. The vibraphonist Will Shore start to play. My friend was sitting next to me, and he leans over and goes, “Man, what record is this, it’s so good.” And I just pointed over to my right and I was like, “There he is!”
That’s really nice.
I love that from the perspective of what Planetarium is about for me — presenting music and an experience around music in a new context. Live music is, most of the time, experienced where the sound is all in one side of the room, and you’re kind of driven to look into that direction and stand still. So it becomes weirdly antisocial even though you’re with a bunch of people.
[Planetarium is] a place for music to be performed live, where it’s not about wowing the crowd with some sort of antics, it’s not about keeping the energy up, it’s a really comfortable experience that allows people to perform in a way that they wouldn’t normally. I feel like it’s rare for bands to be able to sustain energy from song to song, but here, the live performer is doing it in one song, or one improvisation, for like 10 minutes at a time, and then a record comes in. They get to play in a different way, and there’s a lot less pressure as an artist — you just come in, make an impact, then step away and do it again later.
And also, people love a wide range of music. A good example is the album you released in February, which is kind of this ethereal, slower music that wouldn’t necessarily be heard at a typical MSN party. I wonder about that contrast — would you go home from DJ-ing and think, “I have this side of me that I need to release?”
Well, I had been making music on my guitar since I was like 12, before I even understood the concept of DJing. When I started to DJ, it was always my intention to continue to make music in that other way, but you know, you have a gig, so you’re gonna practice for that gig and buy records. And I’m so happy that that’s the way my life is, but I wouldn’t have time for this other thing that is a really important part of me. So I would have to clear space, set aside a week to say “I’m gonna write music this week.”
But I wanna make the connection here between my music and Planetarium, cause I feel like it’s probably no coincidence that you went there from what we were talking about. The album was the thing that finally made me solidify the desire to do Planetarium. I was actually in London at an Optimo party, and it was through talking to Keith (McIvor) and his wife Iona that I finally was like, “This is where this music that I’m making can find a context inside of Mister Saturday Night.” I talked to Eamon, and he had been really inspired by a lot of the listening bars when we went to Japan, so it’s kind of a perfect opportunity to turn it into something real.
What keeps you going?
What I can return to are just those individual moments where you really, like, shed your inhibitions, you leave your consciousness behind for a second, you really just get in touch with yourself and get connected to music and to other people. I mean, you could have them doing yoga, you could have them having a great conversation with a friend, you could have them listening to music on your headphones, or on the dance floor at a club. Just that feeling that you get in your heart, you know? Those are the things that keep me going.
Mister Saturday Night will be playing at Farr Festival, July 13-16.