Justin Carter and Eamon Harkin started their New York loft parties in 2008 under the guise Mister Saturday Night.
Cemented as a pillar within the big apples clubbing community, the pair went on to launch their own record label under the same name – distinguishing the highly talented Anthony Naples, and recognising their talents in A&R. Following a stand out performance at this years Sunfall Festival (after they’d travelled 19 hours) It was a pleasure to lift the lid on this insightful duo.
Pete: So you guys run a bar, a label, you have the parties, and you’re touring. How do you take time out to rest and just switch off?
Eamon: [laughs] I don’t know. At the moment it feels like we don’t. but it tends to get quieter after the summer and with less parties going on. So we’re a bit more free then. I think we are both okay just chillin’ at home with the family listening to records.
Pete: And so Antony Naples. How did you guys link up?
Justin: When we started the record label we put out a call to our email list which is the vehicle we have for communicating with our audience in New York. and Antony was one of the producers that sent in some music. and we were actually travelling to a gig in Philadelphia and we were listening to some of the demos in the car, and we both really liked him because we could tell he had a real ear for production. The space between the sounds, and the way his productions just hung together. But we felt it was lacking a little bit and just didn’t work with the right song structure, and so we gave him that feedback.
Pete: Ah okay so you guys provide feedback to your artist’s before putting anything out.
Eamon: There are maybe two or three records on the label which haven’t had back and forth feedback. Where we’ve said “what if you put a little something there, and something there, you know”.
Pete: Can you explain what you’re looking for in a record?
Justin: Yeah sure, there are things that define why you feel about something I guess. Everything on the label has a particular swing to it. Quite loose. and I think that is something were both drawn too. but beyond that i mean theres everything from like spiritual jazz to like slow electro, to techno to house etc.
Pete: But do you guys define it by genre, or do you try not to pigeonhole those records?
Eamon: Not at all, it’s really like, just listening to stuff that comes our way, and if we like it we take it.
Pete: So New York’s scene.
Justin: When you open a place, and with all the tonnes of stuff we have going on, we don’t often get the chance to go out. And we have our own parties and the little bubbles we’re operating within. I think probably most people who go into their 30/40’s, they’re not going out the same way they were in their 20’s. And without the party, we would probably still go out. And in fact, in that slow time when we don’t run our parties, I go out cos i’m hungry for it. And want to hear other people play. But we get our fix every weekend, and the experience of being at the party, where we happen to be the ones throwing the party. But we’re still touring as well.
Pete: Where did you guys meet?
Eamon: We were both working and DJing at different clubs. Justin was the artistic director at a club doing great things at the time in New York, booking all the Detroit guys. All the good DJ’s coming through New York were playing there. And I was a resident DJ at a newer club in Brooklyn and just because we were in the same thing and going out alot, we inevitably crossed paths and you just start talking about what we’re in to and not. What inspired us and whats missing in the scene, and there was loads of common ground there. And the main thing that pulled us together was that we both took it very seriously.
Justin: You know your in the scene and there are people you meet who are really fun to hang out with and of course inspired by music, and people who are maybe into the scene because they feel that it is something they can do which is not that serious. Where as we were both looking at this and being like this is what we want to do and we don’t just want to like laze around with it. We wanna get out there and see what we can grow.
Pete: So that professionalism was there with your whole approach?
Pete: And were you guys like, right lets get the company registered, accounts, business plan etc.
Eamon: Nah, more just the ambitions were serious, and the intent to do it properly, because I think alot of people in their twenties when they get into parties, they’re just like ah this is a fun thing to have on the side. And there was alot of that.
Justin: Well I think alot of people who do it for their career they almost approach it as if all you have to do is have fun and treat it as if it were something that you do on the side. Where as both Eamon and I we realised that if you work as hard as you work at like a regular job, and your smart about doing the thing your passionate , then you can take that to a entirely different level, than if you were to just DJ around town, all the time.
Pete: At that period of your lives, was it a hard decision to make, committing yourselves 100% to your Mister Saturday Night as a career choice. Because of how unpredictable this industry can be, and the expectations that we often have growing up to enter a regular ‘proper’ job with stability?
Eamon: interesting question, and probably one for Justin because for me I had another job for a good amount of time. I don’t have another job now because this is what I do, but we worked out a dynamic between ourselves where by the pace that we were growing and the amount of work we had was almost one and a half persons work, so we worked out amongst ourselves that I would stay and do my job. I was also applying for a green card, so I had to stay back home. But I was always working towards this, hoping at some point it might happen. So to answer your direct question, and in terms of risk, I always had something else.
Justin: But now you don’t.
Eamon: And at the time this really was tempting me away from my job. And there is risk, and nothing is guaranteed in music. Long careers in music are a rare thing. But that just motivates you to work harder, and be more professional and more on it, and put in the hours to keep the thing that you’ve got going, and move forward creatively with different ideas and proposals for things.
Justin: Yeah. When we started Mister Saturday Night, the last job i’d had before that which wasn’t directly music related was working for a publication doing journalism. Did music writing for a while. But, as soon as I got out of college, I was doing jobs at a record label, djing and its been this thing i’ve been doing all along. So in many ways partnering up with Eamon was something that created more security and stability because id already spent all this time throwing this party here and djing with this person and that person. Playing at all these clubs and feeling around. After working together for a while, and one day we got together and were talking about how we knew that if we really wanted to take it to another level, we can’t just play all over town, but make a thing that was only our thing which only we did together, and that was what would take us forward. And we knew that instinctually this is how we’ll do this, by watching others to see what they were doing right and wrong and when we made the decision i knew it would work.
Pete: A lot of artists say they have a magpie approach in their profession, jumping between lots of different areas to find their feet. And just sitting down to put on paper what it is you’re trying to achieve. And knowing your goal.
Justin: definitely!!! to know your goal I mean, there is many ways to do that. Writing down is always a good idea. But the main thing is to know where you’re going. Years can go by and you can just be flitting between things, and trying things out. But until you say we should do it this way and that’s where we wanna be, how do we get from here to there. Then you draw the steps. That’s how you get somewhere.
Pete: So what is your end goal for MSN?
Justin: I don’t know if we have an end goal. We have a thing we want to achieve with every party. And the party in general, as it evolves over the years. And I think we have achieved that goal with each party. And thats the overarching mission. But within that we have goals we come up with on a yearly basis. Starting the record was one. Getting the initial party up and running was one. Setting up the night in London and making that consistent, that was another. Touring more too.
Pete: Do you find you put more weight on your shoulders the more you take on?
Justin: The weight of throwing a party nowadays isn’t the same as it was before because we know how to do it better each time, and we have a great group of people who work with us to make it happen. We won’t show up at the party until the party is well started and probably half way over. But I don’t worry about us not having a good party, because we have a great group of people who will make it happen
Pete: Do you think it is that momentum and brand which makes it good now. Was it harder at the beginning when you didn’t have those things established?
Justin: No. There are new challenges with people knowing your brand right. We just want people to show up, get lost in music, communicate with each other, stay connected, and you know, the more popular something becomes, the more people kind of just go because its just a cool thing to go to. And we find that sometimes the dance floor is not as good as we want it to be because there are people there who don’t really get it, but they’re just going there because ‘Ohhhh, Mister Saturday Night, i’ve heard of that, and they show up just for the name.
Pete: Can you pick those people out?
Eamon: The ones not dancing, and the ones with their phones out.
Justin: So the challenges always evolve. At the beginning it was just getting people to come, although we never really had to much problem with it, because Eamon was already throwing a really successful party, and I was already doing parties around town. And I had the venue I was working at. We both had our own thing which was good.
So its not like it was a big struggle to come out at the beginning. But things that were struggles, were logistical and technical things. And now the biggest struggle is making sure that the party stays good. The people that used to come and still come don’t say “i don’t like this anymore, because the vibe isn’t right”
Pete: So what makes a good event?
Justin: I think that our neurosis do [laughs]. You should read our emails that we’re sending every day. Just, you know, how to make sure that we preserve whats good at the party.
Eamon: What makes it good is first and foremost the people that come to the party. So we work hard to make sure that our core community of people that come each and every week, and are the nucleus of the party, set the standards of the behaviour and bring the energy that everyone else feeds off. We make sure that the party continues to be the party that they want to come too. And I think that if we achieve that goal, then everything falls into place. Because, for the people that came in for the brand, they walk in and realise this is something different. So you kind of have this peer pressure thing, where you’re looking around, and everyone is dancing, getting really into it, and your like I should do that. I shouldn’t take out my phone. I shouldn’t stand idly on the dance floor. I should contribute to this. And that’s what we’re here for is to foster that. The core of the party.
Justin: And I think then with that we also have the lofty goals, which is to open people to music that we love. To get people really into the music. We’re music sharers. And we also want people to meet each other, and share time together. For relationships to be created. And so those things will happen if the vibe stays right.
Pete: Did you find it harder moving to London, and having that same responsibility to bring the right people. Because like in NY, you have the circles, and you know the people. Moving to a foreign place, was that harder?
Eamon: It’s harder because we’re not doing it often here. So because the party happens weekly for half the year in NY, you get that consistency of people coming through and you can change things quite quickly, and have an immediate impact because it’s happening every Sunday. Like we’re doing London parties 4 – 5 times a year, so these singular one-off events make it trickier. But with that said, we’re super happy and excited about the parties in London. Many of those elements we’ve just described, like the same people coming through, the response to the music, the level of diversity in age, orientation and race is there. So as much as we can build on that, that’s our goal in London. And we just have to do a little bit from NY because we cant be here all the time, and we have to a little bit from a far so I think it’s moving in the right direction.
Justin: It’s funny because in NY, we have this weekly thing that people just go to and they don’t necessarily digest all the information that we put out in to the world. Like maybe their friends tell them about it – it’s this thing that happens in the same place every single week. So they are probably come every single week and don’t know that it’s us thats playing, or maybe don’t even know that the party is called Mister Saturday Night. And therefore they probably don’t even know that we have a set of rules that are important to the party right. So the challenge there is to get those people to understand, whereas with London, a lot of people who come to the party have bought into the idea of what it is that we’re about, because they know about the party and have read all about it. It’s a different set of challenges but I feel people are generally more respectful of the whole no phones on the dance floor rule.
Pete: What would you guys say to the 20 year old you’s?
Justin: You’re going to get to DJ with Q-Tip, and Snoop Dogg. That’s crazy. And I would be like, woah, that’s crazy [laughs].