Claude VonStroke cried at the end of Billy Kenny’s set this year at the Dirtybird Campout.
Ok. Maybe it was actually Billy who cried. Nonetheless, the Dirtybird label boss and Campout head counselor did proclaim Billy’s set was one of the top three standout performances of the weekend. A sentimental Billy Kenny was overwhelmed by the amount of love he received during his set at Campout’s Late Night Lodge, de facto home for after-hours music all weekend long. During his set, he rinsed unreleased tracks from himself, his mates, and his label This Ain’t Bristol, which he runs with long-time friend and collaborator, Sebastian of Maximono.
Now, Billy Kenny and Maximono have just launched into a 20-stop trek across North America, kicking off with their performances at Dirtybird Campout as well as the release of their recent One Night Stand EP. The tour includes stops in San Francisco, Orlando, Austin, Seattle, Portland, Calgary, Detroit, Austin, with still more to be announced.
We caught up with Billy Kenny and Maximono at the Dirtybird Campout to find out what it’s like to get in the studio together, their plans for North America, and how they decide to run their burgeoning label, This Ain’t Bristol.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re from, how many followers you have, or how cool you look, if you have one eye, one leg, and one follower, I really don’t care… if your track is dope, we will put it out.”
Over the last few years, the sound of House has been stretched, expanded, and reconfigured into a new distinctive brand of playfully forward-thinking dance music. At the forefront of this movement is German-based label, This Ain’t Bristol. What started out as a small club night in a little town in North Germany has become far beyond just that. This Ain’t Bristol’s sound has become far reaching, thanks in-part to the creative selection of label co-founders Billy and Seb.
Some people are unaware Maximono is made up of two people and as Billy explains it, that people sometimes “don’t know who is involved with the label, which is fine. I like that. It adds a mysterious factor to the label.” Although only one half of Maximono actually does work for This Ain’t Bristol, it’s the chemistry of the crew that has captured so many ears around the world. They have developed an electric rapport among themselves and even from the half-deflated inflatable mattress we are sitting on, it shows when Nick says, “we are basically all on the same vibe. We are just having fun, we love writing music and we love DJing.” It’s a mantra that well sums up This Ain’t Bristol’s infectious pizzazz.
This Ain’t Bristol’s catalog boasts releases from artists like Kyle Watson, Low Steppa, BOT, Worthy, and Bruno Furlan as well as up and comers like Josh Brown and Fritz Carlton. Yet, Billy and Sebastian are likely to pick only two of every hundred demo submissions. As Billy words it, “it doesn’t matter where you’re from, how many followers you have, or how cool you look, if you have one eye, one leg, and one follower, I really don’t care… if your track is dope, we will put it out.” Their careful curation of the tracks they release on the label has proven to be a business model worth looking into. Billy mentions that they spend “hours and hours listening to every single track and eliminating some and cutting some back. There is a lot of effort just put into the selection of the tracks.” As both Billy and Seb have expressed, tracks can’t be just good, they have to be great; there is no room for mediocrity.
When they are not hard at work on the label or following a gruesome touring schedule, they are continually pumping out monstrous house tunes in the studio. Because Nick lives in London and doesn’t get to see a lot of Billy and Seb, unless they are on tour together, most of their studio time is spent either by internet or by traveling between Hanover and London. On their recent release, One Night Stand EP, Nick feels that, “the tracks came together really quickly, which is always a great thing. It’s just an amazing feeling when tunes come together nicely like that, and you just kind of vibe on it and get it finished within a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be out in Germany, to join these guys in the studio, but we pass ideas back and forth all the time.” Finding the right workflow and the adaptability to work with other artists can be challenging, especially when done without the luxury of being able to work together in person.
Regardless of their track record (pun intended), not all of their productions materialize so easily. “We were very lucky with this EP,” Billy notes, “I think I’m the same as anybody when I say when you work with anyone else, like a collabo or even if you’re just engineering for them, it’s a complete luck thing. And the fact that we got four tracks that I’m a million percent happy with, I feel so lucky. Since we finished that EP — I’ve been so excited for everything, the release, the tour; everything.”
Their selective musical curation coupled with their distinctive graphic design has accumulated an aura only matched by labels like Dirtybird. However, the This Ain’t Bristol crew doesn’t like to be referred in such close comparison to Dirtybird’s sound. While some similarities can be drawn between the two, since both labels have released some of the same artists, they are still distinctive in their own rites. Sebastian even admits, “if somebody sends us a demo and they say that we are the second choice because Dirtybird rejected them, we can’t take their record. It’s great to hear someone say ‘Oh there’s only two labels on the market right now – Dirtybird and This Ain’t Bristol’, but we’re still trying to keep our own vibe.”
Despite the resemblance, there are no hard feelings and This Ain’t Bristol continues to strive to be a label that prides itself on originality, selectiveness, and aesthetic.
Although a part of their success in the United States stems from the recent migration of underground house to mainstream ears, the team that dedicates their time to the label really drives the whole thing. For example, the man behind all the graphics for This Ain’t Bristol’s releases, flyers and other social media content is their close friend Phil who Billy claims is extremely hard to get a hold of: “He literally has a full time job and he’s doing all of this, all the time. He literally works his ass off for that. You can imagine for someone who doesn’t get the full spotlight like Maximono and I, I always just respect the fact that he does it just because he loves the label. This guy literally will get home from a long day of work and will just spent 6 hours on our designs.” That’s hard dedication to come by!
It was even Phil’s idea to add the Booty Call line for the One Night Stand Tour, to which the This Ain’t Bristol crew got a friend from America to get a SIM card and let the number go live for booty calls across the country. [Call now for a chance to get sampled in one of Billy’s or Maximono’s tracks @ 1(323)200-4646]. Although the booty call line may be a bit risque by some standards, the idea is merely an extension of This Ain’t Bristol’s playful atmosphere. Furthermore, it’s this unique combination of jocular attitude and dedicated work that helps projects and labels like This Ain’t Bristol sculpt their pocket in the scene.
“We are basically all on the same vibe, which is that we are just having fun, we love writing music and we love DJing.”
The team’s less-than-serious demeanor combined with their serious efforts in the label is what makes This Ain’t Bristol so special. Their careful curation of tunes, unique graphic aesthetic, and general attitude towards the scene has placed This Ain’t Bristol as a leading brand in the current and global landscape of dance music.