“The audience control the lights with a Playstation controller.”
This crew will intoxicate you with good vibes. Breakaway are a new breed of party starters in Dunedin, shelling down sets and destroying doofs. They’re creating a new culture stamping out the discrimination and damaging binge drinking in scarfie life. Experienced in sound and lighting technology, Breakaway know what makes a party pop. After their last rager left Leith Street legless, we caught up with the boys to see why the world needs to break away from boring booze-ups.
What are you breaking away from?
“We named our crew Breakaway because we wanted to break away from traditional Dunedin student culture into something more meaningful, wholesome and straight up more fun. In particular, we want to break away from the often times destructive binge-drink culture in Dunedin where people feel the need to get absolutely smashed to enjoy a party.”
What inspired Breakaway?
“We were concerned about a number of factors surrounding the student lifestyle – particularly how normalized and accepted antisocial behaviour is in the context of our binge drink culture, but also how measures to curb the binge drinking culture were affecting students as a whole. The reality is that lots of people are too self-conscious to let loose and have fun without alcohol, but the majority of the time in Dunedin things are taken too far and the focus is put on consuming alcohol for its own sake, rather than loosening up a little to get down and meet some people. We also feel like a real contributing factor is that because the focus of lots of parties in Dunedin is purely on how drunk you can get, they aren’t enjoyable in any other state.
“None of the events really instil a sense of awe in anyone – weak sound systems, nobody dancing – sounds lame. We knew that if we created events that were so high-quality and run passionately, people wouldn’t feel the need to be so fucked up.”
“We wanted to emphasize true connections.”
Your first official doof was at cave rave hot-spot Long Beach. How did your sesh stand out?
“Our first doof was called Breakthrough and was a test run for doing bigger and better events. We invited a whole bunch of friends and people we love having at gigs to the forest area of Long Beach. We thought being amongst the trees rather than the caves would create a unique atmosphere for the event and it did – the night had heavy fog and walking into the misty forest really felt like you were walking into a new world.
“We made sure to heavily curate what was being played to really emphasise our sound and ensure our sound was unique. Currently the bush doof scene is dominated by DnB and psydub/psytrance style genres and while we have no issue with any of those genres, we felt like other styles deserved representation in the underground party scene as well.
“We wanted to emphasize true connections and allow people to form real, lasting friendships from this event, so we also made sure to have planned activities before the music got started, including a group meditation and yoga session. Creating the foundations for relationships before the party properly kicked off allowed more genuine, real connection to form as the night progressed.”
You throw gigs and flat parties for “music enthusiasts”, what styles and genres in particular?
“We’re all life-long music lovers, so we all have vast taste. On the usual night we try to play every genre, with a heavy focus on our favourites: countryhouse and countrytrap. Typically Sean plays mostly house, Brett plays mostly trap while Josh plays a mix of both.”
“We fully recreated the Ouija board from Stranger Things with controllable LED festoons.”
What equipment is in your arsenal?
“We have a pretty perfect system for boutique parties. Being that Liam and Brett have previous experience as sound and lighting techs, we knew what quality equipment does for an event. We grabbed a JBL SRX728S Double 18” Subwoofer, which is pushed by an MC2 E15, as well as some dBTech Opera 10” tops.
“Liam has spent the last year or so building battery powered, wireless lighting out of raw LEDs and circuit boards, as well as creating the software to run them, collectively dubbed ‘Haste’… He has a lot of wacky ideas for lighting – from massive LED glasses and Kmart lamps, to letting the audience control the lights with a Playstation controller or a Launchpad. Letting crowd members have a go at the lighting is an awesome way of letting people get involved – the software is so incredibly simple that anyone can make something look good.
“In terms of other gear, we have an almost comical collection of bits and pieces. We do something different for every party, so there’s a lot of weird shit. We have a good 80m of conduit pipe laying in our conservatory. We had a Halloween party last year where we fully recreated the Ouija board from Stranger Things with controllable LED festoons as part of a lighting show. We have some massive controllable LED photo frames put together.
“Our good friends at Gravity Events, a local event company, help us for scalability of events by providing us with some heavier kit when need be.”
“It was a pretty boujee and complicated idea.”
How did your most recent pop-up party go?
“Our most recent pop-up party was a huge success. After two years of learning what makes a good party, it really felt like we nailed the formula and created something special and memorable. There was no violence, no discrimination, and nobody overly intoxicated.
“We spent the few weeks prior to the event brainstorming ideas, and came up with making an “airplane hangar”-like stage out of conduit. It was a pretty boujee and complicated idea, but boujee is really just what we do.
“We took turns putting on a high-vis vest, going round and picking up rubbish and making sure everyone was having a good time and if anyone had any concerns.
“Local legend Josh Smythe came along to spin some fire, which was awesome.
“Special thanks to the team at Candy Coated for really helping us get the ball rolling with the first pop-up party – the second wouldn’t have happened without their help with the first.”
What kiwi producers/DJs would you most want to book for a party?
“Montell2099, Quix, T1r, Jeddy Beats, ScarfE, Haan808, Ian Munro, Chaos in the CBD, the list goes on. We love linking up with anyone who is passionate about music, especially when that passion is paired with the level of talent a lot of New Zealand producers have.”
Your gigs are safe spaces for all. How can student parties limit discrimination?
“The best way to limit discrimination is by not tolerating it. Silence is solidarity.
We like to think that what makes our parties unique aside from the lights and sound is the culture we’re trying to grow. We think that the herd mentality enables discrimination and violence. We have a special little group we call Friends of Breakaway, who are the people that we know are all about positive partying and keeping everyone safe. We invite them to every party, and because they bring such good energy, it rubs off on everyone else who comes along. After every party, we find more people to recruit to this page, and over time our group will get larger and larger. We reckon as long as we hit a critical mass of people with good vibes then everyone else who comes along will feel the good vibes and it’ll rub off on them, and we like to imagine a future in Dunedin where we can have parties on a huge scale without the destruction and violence that often accompanies parties like that here currently.”
“We want to see harmony between every demographic in Dunedin.”
What’s next for Breakaway?
“Our next big event is the always wild, and always heavily scrutinised Hyde Street Keg Party this coming Saturday (21.04.18). We’ve got a nice boutique stage setup in the back courtyard of 23 Hyde. We really wanted to do something Hyde has never seen before, and we think our setup is going to accomplish that.
“We’ve got some big livestreams coming.
“We’ve also got events to help people get people involved and nurture the Dunedin music scene (Pass the Aux). Our big goal is to have support from the University and the public. All we want to see is harmony between every demographic in Dunedin, and we won’t see that until the binge-drinking culture is less destructive.”
Interviewed by: James Wijesinghe
Images: Sean Stenhouse