The Perfect Party: Resident Advisor Talks To Us

A few months ago, I got an email from Lee Smith, a writer for Resident Advisor, asking me about the ins and outs of throwing parties. The resulting article is up on RA now. It’s a good read, and you should definitely check it out. I thought it’d be interesting to post all the questions and answers that we exchanged as a supplement to the article. The Q&A is below the jump.

Lee Smith: Tell me how and when your party started, what your initial inspiration or aim for the party was, and how you went about it.

Justin Carter: Mister Saturday Night, like all the other one-offs and series Eamon and I have ever been a part of, started because of a desire to create the kind of party we wanted to perform and spend time at. Eamon and I have fallen into the business of throwing parties because we want to DJ a particular kind of event that we don’t think exists otherwise, so we’ve had to create it.

LS: What kinds of challenges did you come up against, starting out?

JC: The challenges in the beginning were the same as they are now – finding the right place. We know the music; we have the soundsystem; we know great artists from around the world to come and play with us; and we have a strong connection with a great group of people who want to come and share an experience with us. Real estate in New York is hard, though, and that manifests itself in a lot of ways. It’s hard for club-owners to bring everything up to code, follow every law by the letter and still make a place feel like home, like a place that people want to revisit over and over again; and that means that for the most part, clubs aren’t a great option for a party. They too often feel sterile or antiquated. They have to breathe down your neck because someone’s breathing down their neck to pay a hefty rent or obey some arcane rule.

With the off-the-beaten path spaces where we’ve done the bulk of our parties in the more recent past, there are other, obvious challenges. It’s hard to throw a party in a place that is temporary. There’s a lot more setup and upfront cost than there would be at a place with a permanent soundsystem, a built-in staff and all that. And, of course, you never know when a temporary space is going to cease to exist. It might happen a week before your party. It might happen five minutes before your party. It might happen during your party.

LS: Conversely, how do you feel luck or timing may have played a part in your party’s success?

JC: I don’t think luck or timing has much to do with it, at least no more than any other person’s parties. It may have been easier to find spaces twenty or thirty years ago, for instance, but I’m sure there were some things that made it harder back then, too. We like to think that our parties are good because we work diligently at making them that way. Hard work creates good luck and differs bad luck.

LS: What, in your opinion, makes a killer party? What makes a party fundamentally different from a regular club night?

JC: When people are sharing with each other in some way, it’s special. The difference between a real party and a show or a regular club night is that a party is a fundamentally social thing. I think we all want some sort of connection, whether that’s dancing with or among other people, having a great conversation with someone off the dancefloor, or feeling like you’re on the same plane with a performer or DJ. There are a lot of things that go into making those connections possible. The music has to be good, of course, but there also needs to be a place away from the music where people can talk. The people who greet you at the door and serve you at the bar need to be friendly to set the tone of openness and interaction that should occur at a party. The prices should be fair so that people who come don’t feel like they’re only wanted for their money. Each one of those elements is as important as the other. If one thing is out of line, it can all break down.

LS: What are your key promotional tools? How do you go about using them?

JC: I’d rather not get into all the mundane details.

LS: What have been the highest points for you, as a promoter?

JC: The best moments have always been during our own DJ sets. It’s beyond rewarding when you’re doing something that you really love and you look out and see that other people are loving it, too.

LS: And the lowest?

JC: There were a lot of bumps in April and May this year. Market Hotel closed. A month later we had what was going to be one of our biggest parties of the year shut down five minutes before it started. A few weeks later, after a hugely successful opening of Sunday Best (the other party we do with Doug Singer during the summer), the venue management and the landlord had a falling out. We pushed forward through all of it, never once canceling a party, but it was hard.

LS: Putting on a party is hard work. What keeps you motivated to do it?

JC: Eamon and I feel like what we do is important. Personally, I feel like it’s a higher calling. Life is hard sometimes, and people need a place that they can come and be happy, and have a positive experience with other people. I’m very lucky to be able to be a part of what’s going on at our parties, and I think the hard work is worth it.

LS: Can you list any “do’s” and “dont’s”:

JC: Do: Practice, be patient, enjoy yourself and dance at your own party. Don’t: Freak out or give up.

The “dos” are all things I think are important as ideals, but I definitely have slipped on all of them before. I need to remind myself about all those things all the time. The “dont’s” I’m pretty good at, though I think we’ve all had our moments.

illustration by Sarah Lincoln from RA