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Sleepy & Boo: Bringing the Underground to Marquee

Natalie Freilich, New York / Ibiza - United States - on 8/6/13

Sleepy & Boo: Bringing the Underground to Marquee

Sleepy & Boo are no strangers to the New York City nightlife scene, in fact, they have had a steady hand at cultivating it. Married team Mike and Begona make up Sleepy & Boo and it's been nine years since they first started their Basic parties at Sullivan Room. Since that time they've held a residency at Cielo and have thrown parties at District 36 and loft spaces around Brooklyn.

It's a new chapter for the duo, as they spearhead Marquee New York's exploration of underground electronic music for their musical program on Fridays. The club that reopened in January, with a new Funktion One sound system and a redesigned two-floor space, debuted with Dubfire and has been graced by acts such as Richie Hawtin, Claptone, Lee Burridge, and will see the likes of Damian Lazarus and Slam in the upcoming months. This Friday, however, is a special event as Mike and Begona present their Sleepy & Boo and Friends night with Vanjee for the first time at Marquee. It's a night where the tables are turned, and they headline the night with good music and good vibes. The tradition carries on and we can't wait for it to take hold at Marquee.

We had a chat with the couple last week, ahead of their gig in Montreal during the Grand Prix, to find out how they got the ball rolling for Marquee's exciting new musical selections and what to expect for this weekend's return of their headlining night.

How did you get involved working with Marquee when it reopened? We had had discussions with Marquee going back to the end of the summer. Essentially, they came and looked for us. They basically told us, ‘Listen we’re doing something different. We’re going to change the club. We’re going to renovate the club. We would like to start doing more underground music,’ and they were familiar with us and what we did and they wanted to get a different perspective in programming. So we started talking and we all got along really well and we liked what they were going to do with the club and what their perspective was on it and it just kind of went from there.

What was their perspective initially for underground music? When Marquee in Las Vegas opened it was really the first club that was kind of custom built for electronic music so that was kind of a new thing for them and they really enjoyed the experience and they liked working with the DJs and the artists and the agencies and everything. They got very good at it in Las Vegas so I think they realized that New York is different than Las Vegas. The club itself is different and they felt that now is a good time to try to incorporate this kind of music into their programming because these guys travel a lot. They go to Ibiza and they can see how successful nights like Luciano and Marco Carola are over there and that really kind of opened their eyes to the idea that music didn’t necessarily need to be kind of commercial to be successful and to make sense for their club.

You guys run Fridays at Marquee and you feature a range of talent that is a little different from your previous bookings at Sullivan Room for example. Has working closely with Marquee allowed you to access talent that you didn’t have the ability to work with before? The parties that we’ve done have always been kind of venue-specific. When we were at smaller places, there was only so much we could do with those rooms. Being a part of Marquee, I don’t know if it’s given us access really but it’s a name that people know about and they’re intrigued by it and what’s great about Marquee is that the sound system and the lights and the whole feel of the room is really unparalleled so a lot of DJs see that and they want to be a part of that and they see what they’re doing with the programming and they say ‘this is something that I would feel comfortable doing. So I think what we’re trying to do musically is open it up a little bit more to a whole range of sounds because we want to get all these different DJs and their fans feeling comfortable about playing at Marquee and coming to check it out.

A lot of times when even big clubs want to book forward-thinking artists they often end up not. When you first began those talks, even though Marquee travels a lot, did they have jitters or doubts about going this path? I think anytime there’s a new club opening people are definitely a little hesitant but one thing in the industry is that Marquee is known for being a super professional organization. What they’ve done in Vegas and here in New York with their venues, there’s no doubt that they’re nothing but top notch, professional people with a sterling reputation so I think there’s always a little hesitation because people see a club that’s not known for a certain kind of music and they say, ‘Well, is this gonna be the right place for me? Is the crowd that’s going to be there going to appreciate what I do?’ and we’ve definitely had to do a lot of kind of being ambassadors for the club and saying ‘Listen, this is a great space. The room is great. You’re going to have a great time playing there” and ultimately the proof is in the pudding. Everybody who’s played there has had a great time. They’ve loved the club. They loved playing there. They’ve had a fantastic experience. So it’s really just about getting people to come and do it and try something that might be a little bit off from what they’re used to and I think that’s what we’re trying to do with Marquee, is show people that underground music and really cutting edge music can be heard in all different kinds of environments, especially nowadays, and it should be heard in all kinds of different environments because they artists are so talented and there’s so much great music and such a variety of music. It’s not one size fits all and it’s not black or white. Artists will perform different types of sets in different environments and we think that Marquee is a really nice showcase for this kind of music.

I’ve noticed that you have different themes at some of your parties. Who comes up with those themes and do you guys work closely with the dancers as well? Yeah, the whole staff at Marquee are very creative people. We have a lot of resources as far as production and there’s dancers, there’s costumes for that, there’s visuals, there’s lights, so oftentimes we’ll say, ‘Listen, we want to try this for this night because this artist is known for something.’ Like for example, we had Claptone perform, he wears a gold metal mask when he plays, so we thought it would be cool to kind of have the dancers wear a costume that reflects that and we told our friends to wear gold and black to match the look of the room and we had visuals that matched so it’s really about taking a look at the whole environment and saying what can we do with this space. We have this great space. It’s like a big open canvas. What can we do that will make it resonate a little more and make something that the artist will remember and take home.  Also, I wanted to go back to your point earlier. Dubfire played our opening party and he understood that Marquee is trying to do something different than they’re known before. I wouldn’t say that he took a chance because a lot of these guys have known us and worked with us for many years so if we said to them, ‘This is gonna be a great space. You’re going to like it,’ they trust us but it was something that he wanted to do and he put himself out there as the first kind of underground DJ to play at the new Marquee. But that night was amazing so it shows that certain artists are definitely willing to put themselves in an environment that’s maybe a little outside of their comfort zone and I think it’s a rewarding experience for everybody.

What can we look forward to on June 14 for your first Sleepy & Boo and friends party at Marquee? Well, I mean this is a party that we’ve done ourselves. We started it at Cielo and we did it there for two and a half years and what we had at Cielo was great because we had the opportunity to do headlining sets once a month. In New York, we play a lot of different places. A lot of times we’ll be opening and that’s what we’ve done at Marquee so far. We’ll play like a warm up set for DJs because they either specifically want us to be DJing with them or know that we’re going to do a great job getting the room ready for them but we enjoy playing headlining sets as well. It allows us to really choose different music and really get a good groove going so basically for the fourteenth, that’s kind of what we’re looking forward to doing, is taking over the decks and playing more of a peak time set. I think we spend more time in Marquee than almost anybody else because we’re there almost every week and sometimes a few times a week. We know the room really well, the sounds, the flow of the crowd. We’re just looking forward to having that opportunity.

Can we hope to see more of these parties in the future at Marquee? Yeah, I think the idea is that we’re always gonna have a mix of kind of the world’s best out of town DJs and then mix that up with more of the of great locals that we have in New York. On the fourteenth, we’re also playing with Vanjee, who’s a great DJ. He’s travels a lot. He plays out of town. And he’s someone that we started working with here at Marquee. He’s a great DJ and we’re looking forward to having him on our night as well. So really just kind of showcasing the room for the right DJs whether they’re from out of town or locals.  Our Basic nights are really kind of built around great out of town DJs and international DJs and that’s kind of been our mission since we’ve started this almost nine years ago.

You’re playing this weekend though at Velvet Montreal. It’s a super sexy venue. Are you excited to play the Grand Prix in Montreal? Yeah, that’s going to be great actually. We played at Velvet once last year and unfortunately it was in March and Montreal winters can be pretty rough and the weekend we were there was like freezing cold and it had just snowed but amazingly enough when we played at Velvet, the place was packed and it was a great crowd and a great party so I can only imagine how fired up everyone’s going to be with the F1 weekend and summertime in full swing in Montreal. So yeah, we’re definitely looking forward to being there and we’re starting the weekend on Friday with opening for Nick Warren, who’s making his Marquee debut. Nick is an amazing DJ, who we’ve had the honor of working with a few times before and kind of the DJs like Nick are when we first got into the room at Marquee we looked at it and saw the sound and everything and we said, ‘It would be great to have someone like Nick come and play here because his sound is just so suited to that kind of dramatic style of room,’ and he used to play a lot at Twilo, which used to be around the corner from Marquee, so it’s kind of like spiritual stomping grounds for a lot of these guys.  

We’ve seen you play Ibiza before. Do you have any plans for returning there this summer? We’re definitely coming back to Ibiza this summer. We go there almost every year. We haven’t’ set any plans yet but we’re definitely going to be coming. You know, we’ve been really busy with Marquee. It’s like our baby so we spend a lot of time focusing on that and making sure everything is up and running properly with it. We’re also going to be heading out to Vegas for EDC. Marquee does a lot of stuff with Insomniac and they're putting on a bunch of cool afterparties at Lavo with Carl Cox, Claude Von Stroke and Dirtybird, Sasha and Dubfire, and John Digweed. We're going to be playing with Carl, and Sasha and Dubfire, so we're really excited to be a part of this - you don't get to hear this kind of music in Las Vegas too often, its a big honor for us to be a part of these events.

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