If you’ve ever gone out dancing to Belle and Sebastian, the Shout Out Louds, or the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, then chances are good that either DJ Kevin Wolfe or DJ Ben Breier has worked some musical magic on your moves. Originally from Toledo, Ohio, the cousins spin some of the sweetest indiepop beats in Brooklyn.
What is indiepop, exactly? “It’s more of a spirit than a sound,” says Kevin. “It might be catchy, or sweet, or occasionally anthemic, something you can clap your hands to. It’s earnest, it’s not ironic, and it’s not necessarily cool or attempting to be cool.”
“Shameless but not guilty,” Ben adds. “”People need a place where they can go and be blissful and sweat on each other.”
Kevin started DJing shortly after moving to New York in 2001, and, in 2004, he and his friend Maz joined Mondo, a show their pal Millie had started earlier that year (the three are pictured below). Mondo remains the gold standard for New York indiepop. Kevin describes it as “a carefree party in your parents’ basement.” The party is held at Don Hill’s every first and third Friday, and on July 31, Bruar Falls is hosting a special Mondo. Kevin also DJs his own night at Huckleberry Bar every second Saturday. Meanwhile, Maz–who Kevin calls the king of twee–books the annual music festival Popfest and DJs a night called Deluxe every second Friday at the Bell House.
“I’m aggressively hit-seeking,” Kevin says. “Every time there’s a new Mondo I usually review thirty or forty songs, with the hopes of finding one that will sound like a timeless gem that belongs in the middle of a prime time set. That’s what I’m always looking for. They don’t make them very often.”
You can trace the roots of indiepop back to 1960s girl groups–the music Kevin grew up on. His father was a drummer, into “egghead jazz and psychedelic rock,” while his mother raised him on a steady diet of girl groups, Carole King, and Barbra Streisand. When he was a teenager, he started listening to the Cure and New Order.
Ben’s parents were not as into music. “I remember actually liking some Chicago growing up,” he confides.
“I remember the year that Ben got into music,” Kevin says. “So, I’m gay, Ben’s straight. One Christmas Ben got a boom box and Janet Jackson’s Greatest Hits CD. And I will never forget him singing and doing a little dance to ‘Nasty Boys.’ And his dad looking at him, and then looking at me, and then I think I just left the room. It wasn’t even my choice! I wanted to listen to New Order!”
Thanks to Kevin’s influence, Ben’s musical taste evolved. The first time he ever DJed in front of a crowd was at Mondo. He was visiting New York, and Kevin let him crossfade one song.
“Do you remember this?” Ben asks.
“Maybe,” Kevin answers. “I was probably a little drunk.”
“I crossfaded into ‘Cannonball’ [by the Breeders], and I just watched everyone freak out. And I felt like, ‘Now I understand.'”
Ben moved to Brooklyn and, with friends Dana and Mike — whose DJ name is EnginesAtSea, recently started a night called Happy House every fourth Friday at the Bell House–the next one is this Friday, July 23.
Indiepop isn’t just danced to in Brooklyn–a lot of it is made here. Kevin can’t say enough good things about Brooklyn bands World Atlas, The Hairs, Minks (“Sounds a little like the Psychedelic Furs fronted by an adolescent Bob Dylan.”) the new Crystal Stilts album, the Ballet and the Secret History. Ben recommends Frankie Rose, !!! (Chk Chk Chk), the Holy Ghost, and LCD Soundsystem. He’s stoked on seeing Foals in October and the PS1 Warm Ups for live music. Check out the mix they made us for more indiepop picks>>
And, the cousins still keep their shows a family affair. “My mom came to a Mondo,” Kevin says. “She was there with her old high school friend, who’s also Alicia Keys’ mother, so they were having this crazy dance party with members of [the band] the Secret History.”
“I was there, too,” Ben added. “I left at like two-thirty am–she outlasted me!”
>>>>>>Brooklyn’s Dreamers (sponsored tip) At Deity, this Thursday, July 22, you can help support Theatre for a New Audience’s upcoming move to Downtown Brooklyn by attending their annual Summer Bash, a party with great people, music, food, raffles, salsa dancing, and young and arts professionals networking. The fundraiser’s tickets are $25 to $40 in advance/$35 at the door and include snacks, drink specials and a free drink.>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Text by Leila Sales, sent by Annaliese. Photos courtesy of Jane Bruce.