North East Social Club Is Keeping the Independent Party Scene Alive - Men's Folio
Lifestyle, Arts & Culture

North East Social Club Is Keeping the Independent Party Scene Alive

  • By Izwan Abdullah

As clubs are reopening, what will the future of parties in Singapore look like? North East Social Club — an independent event curation and organisation collective — reveal their ambitions for the future of Singapore’s party scene.

(From left to right) Natasha Hassan, Chris Sim, Jerome Chong, Esther Goh. The photography is by Jaya Khidir.

Firstly, could you introduce yourselves?
I try to make money through photography.
Jerome: I won’t go into details about my day job in IT but I can tell you that I play drums in a band called Xingfoo&Roy.
Natasha: I’ve been in music and entertainment for a while, specialising in creative direction and content creation. I can’t play music, so this is how I contribute to the ecosystem.
Esther: I dabble in a couple of roles. I’m a television and media content producer, scriptwriter, and events producer. These roles allow me to work on new creative collaborations all the time, and I love it.

What is North East Social Club?
Chris: We’ve been throwing parties recently, but North East Social Club is first and foremost a space for us to indulge our respective creative proclivities. We’re still finding our place in Singapore’s arts & culture landscape so defining ourselves at this point feels premature.

Having the name is useful for branding and business development though as our collaborators seem to like it.

Tell me about the first independent party that you guys had a few years ago before the pandemic. How did that come about?
Nat and I really just went for it and did it. We knew each other from attending gigs and stuff, and we’re both really opinionated so throwing a gig seemed like a logical next step. I remember pushing out the socials for that when I was at Tokyo DisneySea — the long coach ride from Ikebukuro to Maihama went by really quickly because I was so invested in writing the copy.

Natasha: I was having dinner with Chris at Serangoon Gardens, and he laid down some ambitious plans about starting a collective. One of the first ideas he had involved wrestling and live music, and I thought, “damn, that sounds metal as heck. Sign me up!”

Our filmmaker friend Koonhoweven wrote a bunch of epic scripts for it. That ultimately fell through, but it was the beginning of everything else. For the first event, it really boiled down to wanting to host a party that we would enjoy attending.

Aside from living in the North-Eastern part of Singapore, what is something in common that all of you share together?
Jerome: I believe we all share the love of bringing people together. It’s a really nice feeling when we see people show up and have a good time!Moreover, I feel extremely privileged to have been able to meet new people, and reconnect with friends and acquaintances again through our events.
Natasha: Do you know that Vengaboys song? We like to party.
Chris: Yeah, we definitely like to experience nice things together such as good food, movies, etc. We went to a laksa steamboat place earlier this year, and I’ve been itching to return.
Esther: Also, I think we have a heart for the local music scene (and arts in general), and we enjoy sharing that love with people.

How powerful can a good party be to the human experience?
Jerome: You know you’ve been to a good party when you’re still thinking about it even after a few days. And with music being one of the greatest forces on the planet (a core element in our programmes), we see familiar faces returning.

Natasha: Part of the human experience is to seek contentment, and I think having an absolute ball at a party counts! Going to my first good party changed the way I consume music and the way I live. I owe my fruitful formative years to the wealth of collectives, labels, and promoters that sprouted and flourished in the late 2000s to early 2010s.

The Council, SYNDICATE, Middle Class Cigars, Good Times… some of the best nights I had in my life were because of these people.

Esther: It feels like a cathartic release. Especially during difficult moments in life, it just reminds you to take it easy and have a good time. I guess in away, you sometimes come out with a renewed sense of your existence in this entire universe.

Why do you think that the independent party culture has remained relevant?
I must preface my answer by acknowledging that access to art and culture is a privilege not afforded to a significant number of people living here. Appetites unfulfilled by what is widely available will be provided for eventually. Moving away from the focus on parties for a bit, Singapore does have the right conditions for subcultures to flourish.

Access to information is, for the most part, easy and the population is well-travelled so this all leads to diversified tastes. Civil infrastructure is solid which means venues aren’t at risk of physically collapsing or experiencing chronic power outages, and so on.

So efforts helmed by enthusiastic collectives will remain relevant, simply because it caters to someone’s needs.

Natasha: As long as belief in collectivism remains, independent party culture will continue to grow.

I’ve noticed that a lot of party organisers have been pushed out of traditional nightclubs. In the past few years, It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to host events like you guys do with the limited amount of event spaces we have here. What do you think about that?
Natasha: For us, we take that as a challenge to do things differently. As Chris mentioned earlier, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic encompasses grief over what we’ve lost, adapting to contemporary socio-political conditions, and finding fresh ways to thrive. However, even before the pandemic, there still were promoters and labels that pushed limits.

A specific example of challenging what venues could be was the ‘IceFactory Rave’ set in a Defu Lane warehouse hosted by The Council.People like the late Eileen Chan from The Council paved the way for others who chafe at the status quo.

Esther: There’s also been a lot of support from other types of venues badly affected by the pandemic who were forced to innovate to get by. Our frequent collaborators at The Projector have been hosting all sorts of music and art events since their inception, and they’ve provided a really good space for all of us to come back to.

To be honest, I think most organisers want to move out of traditional nightclubs just as much.

What are some limitations and challenges you face with the work you do?
Jerome: As we do not have our own inventory (i.e audio equipment, tables, chairs, lighting etc.), we sometimes find ourselves having to do last-minute sourcing from vendors or even borrowing equipment from friends.

Apart from that, we also have to deal with the the occasional angry attendee who’s just a bit less understanding than everyone else. We also have had to deal with people sneaking into our events.

Natasha: Doing things for passion, but realising midway that there needs to be sustenance to maintain that fire. You get burnt out quickly creatively, physically, and sometimes even financially. At the end of the day, we are four working adults with a day job.

Esther: Time is definitely a big challenge for us — we all have to work around our professional schedules and other commitments so it’s been difficult to juggle it all, but I truly appreciate the team’s effort in always trying to make it work no matter how tired or busy we are.

Chris: Paperwork.

What are some things that we can do to keep the independent party scene alive?
Natasha: I don’t think there’s a formula to that other than to support the community by showing up.
Chris: Being conscientious like keeping venues clean and respecting the people around you goes a long way.

Lastly, what’s your ideal independent party like?
Jerome: A three days and two nights music festival on a secluded beach, with access to essential amenities of course.
Natasha: A three-day lineup with all my favourite acts for my birthday. I just want a Laneway-esque festival to come back. Any venues or corporate entities reading this, drop us a line.
Chris: I still want to host a hybrid wrestling and live music event!E: Good music, good energy, and great company would make any party the most ideal party. Probably even better if it goes from sundown to sunrise!

Once you’re done with this story, click here to catch up with our August 2022 issue!