Last year, I met up with Rowan Wright and El Parks, two well-known faces of Scotland’s music scene with a plan to create their dream club night. Desperate to create a night inspired by cult movies of yesteryear and their desire to find a club where ridiculous dancing is openly encouraged, the pair teamed up with Kiki Wilson, and on 25 May 2016, the very first Drugstore Glamour was held. Luminous bunting adorned the walls, heart shaped stickers were attached to party-goer’s faces, and music from every genre and every era echoed around the basement of Nice N Sleazy. A year on, the hype surrounding Drugstore Glamour hasn’t died down. Boasting a monthly night and several DJing appearances at some of Glasgow’s best loved clubbing institutions, the team have achieved what they were aiming for and then some – I met up with them to discuss the experience so far and their upcoming first birthday party.
Luna: Hey guys! Congratulations on such an amazing first year! What have been your highlights so far?
Rowan: I think for me it’s kind of a long standing there where it’s amazing to do this every month with people that I care about and like, do something that I care about and get that reaction back. It was so overwhelming to see the turnout actually, consistently but especially on the first night – seeing that there was that many people that cared and came along, but have also persistently continued to do that right through.
El: When we played, this one time, we’d just started – I think it was maybe two or three nights into Drugstore Glamour, and I think that the word had got out or whatever and it was just very very very busy, and Rowan had just played an amazing set, and Kiki and I were like ‘How do we follow this?’. The highlight was when we played Wuthering Heights and everyone just started to just sway together. Was it Matthew and Sam Ross…I filmed them, there was like a little video clip of them and that just made everything happen. Kiki played Raining Men and they all got their umbrellas out.
Rowan: Also, totally forgot, one of my other highlights specifically, was we had a Drugstore that fell on the night of Burns Night and at the end of the night this girl came up to the stage and was like, “I’ve got a set of bagpipes” and she actually piped everyone out of the night with a traditional Scottish tune. And everyone was going for it. It was kind of weird and funny but great. It just fitted really nicely.
Kiki: I think one of the highlights for me is it’s great fun being able to DJ with your friends, but throughout the times we’ve been DJing more and more people have come up to us at the end of the night and showed their appreciation, like one of my friends even said to us ‘you don’t know what you do for women, seeing women up there, working it.’ You feel amazing after it. Having people come up and thank you so much. The good thing about Drugstore is it’s not elitist in any way, anyone can go and feel comfortable, and that’s the main thing. To come and have a good time and dance with your friends. Emotions!
El: Yeah, DJing with your friends. We get so wrapped up in it and we’re like, I love you, I love you! You’re a babe! I love this song! And afterwards you’re like, oh I really got carried away there…hope you understand….
Luna: Has Drugstore Glamour been everything you planned for it to be, or have there been some changes to the original blueprint?
El: I think probably logistically because I don’t live in Glasgow anymore…sometimes because you feel your club night is so good you worry, like if I’m not doing something, what if nobody turns up, so you kind of put extra pressure on yourself. You freak out a lot. I personally want our club night to be one of the best ones, not just in this venue but in this city. Is that okay to say?! *laughing* I think it’s turned out a lot better than what I’d ever thought it would be. And every time it’s fun. I always get anxiety but…
Kiki: one you get into it….you have expectation of what you want it to be, and it always exceeds that. It’s always amazing.
Rowan: Logistically I think all of our situations have changed, so every month it kind of becomes a different thing in how we organise it. Like right now, I’m super busy so I’ve had to take sort of a step back from the promotion side of things, but I’ll go back to doing that again once things change. Every month is a different thing but every month, expectation wise, it’s way better.
El: Yeah, between us we’ve got a career, uni…I’m a Mum! Things change! And then we’ve got a club night each month as well so it’s sort of like, escapism!
Rowan: As soon as you come back to it it’s like the first time we ever did it. It’s like being back that first night and the excitement is still sky high. We always just have an amazing time regardless of the month before. It’s a totally grounding experience because we’re there, we love eachother and we want to do this and make it work and enjoy ourselves. We always do.
Kiki: We’ve all got our own individual style and we’ve all got music that we want to play…I like to play more funk, Chaka Khan and things like that, and it’s funny because the last time we were here the steward at the door (who usually tells people what’s on) asked us what to say to people at the door! And we were struggling! Because you can’t just say ‘oh, it’s gonna be this’ because it changes all the time. There are so many different genres.
Luna: Why do you think the night has been as successful as it has?
El: I don’t think there’s another night like our’s. That’s one of the main reasons. There’s nothing contrived about it, it really is just really good music. I remember when Kiki played Q-Lazarus, Goodbye Horses, and this Dutch guy lost his fucking mind. He was like “girl, you’re a blockbuster” or something. Like, thanks??! I don’t know what that means…but I don’t think guys sometimes think you’re gonna be knowledgeable about music and because we play stuff that’s sometimes obscure, sometimes it’s well known, sometimes it’s stuff that you haven’t heard in ages. What’s that *hums a tune* who sings that again?
Kiki: Touch And Go?
El: Touch and Go! People are like what the fuck! I haven’t heard this in ages! I love this song!
Rowan: I think the other thing definitely in our stead is we never go into a night thinking exactly what we’re gonna play. I think a lot of the time it’s intuition. We play for the crowd that’s there that night. It’s not like we go in thinking this is what we’re playing, this is what the crowd will like. There’s times that I’ve gone in with a bit of a set list, started playing it and realised this isn’t working and changed it. I think that’s maybe something a lot of DJs don’t do nowadays. Take into consideration who they’re playing for. Especially in a venue like Sleazy’s where you’ve got a lot of through traffic, and people who aren’t necessarily there just to see you, making sure you’re playing the right thing is really important. So if you see someone react well to one song, I think we always kind of click and go, maybe let’s follow through with that and keep going with that vibe just now. Get people into a place where they wanna dance, and then you have a bit more room to experiment and play stuff you wanna play.
Kiki: You do have to have a good intuition. You have to have a sharp eye and watch the crowd and think this is what they’re responding to. The very last song we leave the decks and go and dance with the crowd.
Rowan: It’s not focused on genre or era, it’s about the people that are there. Giving them a good time regardless of whether that’s with a bit of hip-hop or a bit of r&b, a bit of disco, a bit of funk, electronic, pop, whatever.
Luna: In your time doing Drugstore Glamour, have you discovered anything about what it means to be a female DJ?
Rowan: Disclaimer! We openly encourage all women to get involved with DJing! It is so rewarding on so many levels. And there’s 100% way more positive things that happen to you than there are negative. But the negatives are still there. And that’s something I’ve learned entirely, that there will still be dicks that give you a shit time. Over this year I’ve become 1) a lot more aware of it but 2) a lot more able to cope with it and much less passive. I don’t like it – before I wouldn’t have known how to deal with it.
El: First of all, I’ve been told that my type of DJ’ing – our type of DJ’ing – isn’t DJ’ing. To which I’m like, go fuck yourself. Because, yes it is. I got more sets than most males when I was in Edinburgh. And I’ve been doing this for almost 8 years. What I would say is you’re never going to be just called a DJ, you’re going to be a “female DJ”. Which is fine. But guys are always gonna be a bit more intimidated by the fact that you’re the ones making a crowd full of people dance. And it’ll never change. The amount of people that have come up when we’re mid set, and literally just took up the space as if they were entitled to it. And were just looking at our decks and looking through all of our stuff. You have to say to them what are you doing up here. And they’re like oh I’m just having a look. And you have to tell them to get off the stage, like what the fuck do you think this is? Would you come up here if this was a band? Would you come up here if this was a guy?
Kiki: One of the first Drugstores, a guy came up onto the stage and was just watching us. And we were thinking is he wanting to ask for a song? What’s he doing? And Rowan asked if he was okay, and he said who are the DJs? *laughs* You’re looking right at them! After that it was like, right, is this what we’re gonna have to do.
Rowan: I’ve had guys come up and try to scratch the decks over my shoulders, really quite invasive.
El: You have to work a bit harder. I’ve seen a lot of nights that are run by guys and there’s nothing to what they’re doing. There’s no essence to it at all, they’re not even dancing. It’s far too serious. If I want to listen to that I’ll listen to it, but I want to move! I want to escape and stuff. Our club night’s based on the culture of scream queens and stuff, I think that our aesthetic and everything, the whole background that we put into it, has a theme. The theme, the feel, the aesthetic is very retro, very nostalgic, and because we take a lot of influence from it, people think it feels different. Look at all these decorations, look at how they’re dancing, they don’t care. They think this must be okay, I can do that too.
Luna: What more do you want from Drugstore Glamour going forwards?
El: Probably festivals. I’d love to do a festival. I’d love it if Sleazy’s were just like ‘Right we’ve got a budget to put up a tent at such and such a festival and you guys are running it. And you can put on what bands you like and DJ at night time. And here’s a sound guy. Here’s some tents, go have some fun. Maybe do a little blog.’
Rowan: So the last couple months we’ve done weekend slots and it’s been so rewarding. It’s amazing because not only do we have the regular people, we also have the weekend crowd and they learn about you. Getting that sort of reaction has been really fulfilling.
Kiki: We’re very happy that our birthday is falling on a Saturday!
Rowan: Yeah, very happy! It would be lovely to have that as a permanent thing.
El: We’ve had to work really hard to boost a Wednesday. I think the booker thought this sounds like a really good night, here’s a Wednesday, and I don’t think anyone really expected us to do well. Whenever we get a Friday or a Saturday you have no idea how great it feels because you know it’s definitely gonna be busy. It takes off so much pressure.
Luna: Do you have any advice to people who are interested in becoming DJs themselves?
Rowan: From one female DJ to any woman that wants to be a DJ, just don’t let those people make you feel like you’re not good enough. It’s still for me a wee bit that way where if you’ve got someone telling you ‘oh you should play this, the crowd will like it more’ or ‘is this what you do, do you know what you’re doing?’ any of those things, you know better. You do. It’s your night, you should be having fun and enjoying it. You’re doing a job, like you’re working! Don’t let someone else tell you that you’re not doing it right because only you decide that. Honestly, it is difficult, but those people are just rubbish. They don’t know what they’re doing to be honest.
El: Anyone out there who wants to learn how to DJ, just get in touch with us. We will literally just show you what we know and then it’s over to you. Then you can take your skills and use them elsewhere. Male or female!
Rowan: It’s because of El that I know how to DJ, and I want other people to know that yeah, there is a way into it. There are some really great things going on, The Art School I think is running a night now for DJs that have never DJed before. We’re always open to having new folk getting involved.
Luna: Thanks so much for meeting up with me today, I can’t wait for your birthday celebrations! To finish up, could you each pick three songs that summarise Drugstore Glamour?
Rowan: I think all of us would agree Wuthering Heights.
Kiki: Ain’t Nobody by Chaka Khan!
Rowan: In terms of songs that I really enjoy playing and songs I like to get a reaction from, I really like playing Grimes – probably California. I think it’s the track that I’ve played the most often at Drugstore. And then Urban Cookie Collective – I’ve Got The Key. It’s probably one of my favourite songs to dance to.
El: Definitely Q-Lazarus, Goodbye Horses. The one that I’m loving at the moment is The Chain. Everybody is just air base playing. I like that we play a lot of different kinds of music, it means a lot of people you don’t expect will turn up and dance. Get the posers to let their guard down.
Kiki: Even the bouncers are dancing!