“WE want to be like the Aldi wine of club nights. No frills – just a good, affordable product that everyone loves,” says Non Chalant, one-third of Sydney’s newest DJ collective Swytch.
Born out of a frustration with the mainstream club scene, Swytch seeks to subvert Sydney’s nightlife, mainly by putting on inclusive events that aren’t always of the same genre, with an all female/gender-neutral lineup. The music Swytch loves is diverse, ranging from deep house to vogue and Afrobeat. True to form their inaugural club night at the end of November features an eclectic bill of artists including Chanel and Jikuroux, giving the night a Jersey and grime flavour.
Initiatives like Swytch – while common in the US, like Papi Juice (Brooklyn), Darqness (Seattle) and Ships in The Night (Oakland) – are still in their infancy in Australia, which is especially significant given how women of colour, as well as non-binary and queer folk often don’t get to find safe club spaces to fully express themselves in.
“If you can’t find it, make it,” adds DJ and Swytch co-founder Chris Blanc, referring to the dearth of venues in Sydney that provide a space for people usually on the margins of club culture. “Be the change you want to see” forms a huge part of the foundation behind the collective.
For such a tight unit, the women behind Swytch haven’t been friends for ages. Rounded out by up-and-coming DJ Kilimi, the group formed after meeting at a DJ competition they’d each participated in earlier this year.
Mutual experiences of alienation and discrimination – both at the event and in the mainstream club scene – caused them to click immediately. At this, Kilimi pipes up: “I’ve found that collectives usually form over shared passion of a genre, but Swytch started over our shared experiences of Sydney’s nightlife. Is that weird?”
As Swytch preps for their first club night, we spoke about their experiences in the scene, what they hope to do with the collective, and the creation of inclusive, safe spaces in clubs.
“WE want to be like the Aldi wine of club nights. No frills – just a good, affordable product that everyone loves,”
There is a real lack of women in the music scene, women of colour even more so.
On The Philosophy Behind Swytch
Kilimi: When I go out I don’t hear the music I’d like to hear that often. So with Swytch nights, it’s kinda all the music you’re dying to hear in a venue with the best people around.
Chris Blanc: Playing a variety of music that will make you dance just as hard, if not harder, by DJs you otherwise wouldn’t see in a mainstream club. Our goal is to basically create a space for anyone who wants to dance.
Non Chalant: We’re really just trying to create a club night that feels more like a good house party.
On Sydney’s White ‘Dude Bro’ Scene
Non Chalant: Clubs aren’t always the friendliest of spaces and it can be really intimidating to go to an event where you don’t know anyone or feel like you don’t fit into that scene. It helps that we all come from very different backgrounds and social groups. We keep each other grounded and it’s important to us that we are this way.
Chris Blanc: We’ve come together because we feel we don’t fit into the mainstream club scene, it’s the same white “dude bros” and associated trap/dubstep. There’s not much breathing space.
Kilimi: So many club nights are out there being “for the girls” but by the boys. But I know what I like to get down to and what kind of club vibe I’m after.
On The Lack Of Diversity In The Club Scene
Chris Blanc: There is a real lack of women in the music scene, women of colour even more so. Women are usually not encouraged to be part of music production due to the “boys club” nature of the scene. The industry is also about connections, they can be blind to the inclusion of female artists. Plus, your “typical DJ” is seen to be a white dude so that makes entry [for women] harder. As women of colour, we deal with these and struggle with cultural barriers on top. It’s a constant battle.
Kilimi: With women, it’s a very “nah I can’t do it, I’m not good enough” or “I don’t know enough” or “I haven’t seen anyone else like me do it so how could I?” sort of attitude, you know? There’s a lot of room given to men to make mistakes, whereas women are often not given the same consideration.
A lot of the women of colour in the scene right now are also first-generation migrant kids. We’re juggling living in the western world but being raised in the same way our parents were back in their home countries. So I guess it’s just not a comfortable thing for some to go into the club scene, and wouldn’t even give DJing a thought.
Non Chalant: Under-representation is always a result of lack of diversity among decision makers. White people don’t notice when people of colour are missing from a group, in the same way men rarely notice when a whole boardroom is filled with only men. But we notice, because we struggle to find people like ourselves to be role models, or show us that it can be done. It’s hard to know if you can be successful at all when there’s no clear path for someone like you. We’re trying to put the power back in our own hands, create a platform for us to express ourselves. We hope it helps other people like us feel comfortable to do so too.
On Creating Safe And More Inclusive Spaces
Chris Blanc: Having a safer spaces policy is important to us, and we want to have that reflected in our events. We want to make it a point that our club nights are based on inclusivity, particularly for POC/women/queer folk, who don’t often feel like they can let loose in clubs.
Kilimi: There isn’t really an environment where [work by] POC and queers are being promoted and cultivated. So we’re making an extra effort to work directly with people from these groups, whether they’re logo designers or photographers. There are so many creatives out there who aren’t white dudes; there is no better way of being inclusive than actually supporting these people.