After announcing The Maccabees were to split, guitarist Felix White set up a tiny, buzzy indie club. He tells Rhian Daly how you could do the same
Do it for the right reasons
Felix White set up Yala! with his friend Morad Khokar after noticing that the kind of clubs his own band cut their teeth in were becoming an endangered species. “It became evident in the first few weeks of being home that what used to exist when we started – all the little indie nights and 7” clubs – weren’t there anymore,” he explains. “It just felt like maybe we could build our own thing like that, where we were doing it for the love of it. But you need to genuinely want to do it and be there because it’s going to be total trauma if you don’t.”
Find people who will DJ for free
DJ-ing is fun, and your mates have good taste in music, right? “My brother DJs for the fun of it and I’ve got lots of friends who enjoy it too,” says White.
Foster local talent
Local indie nights are a vital part of the ecosystem for bands. “They’re places where a band becomes a band with a capital ‘B’,” Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis tells us at Yala!. “This is not only where you make it, but where you make yourself.” White’s committed to finding new artists to play at Yala, and performers so far have included dark rockers Crows and Brighton punks Abattoir Blues. “Everyone we’ve had on so far has been great. Once people know you’re doing it, bands will just come through to you.”
Find that perfect venue
For Yala!, it’s Bermondsey Social Club, a small place behind a black metal door under the railway tracks in South London. “The venue is very important,” says White. “The great thing about Bermondsey Social Club is that it’s out of the way so you get this feeling every two months that you’re going somewhere special.”
Keep it small
Yala! has a capacity of just 120, and White has no plans to expand to a bigger place just yet. “The idea is to keep Yala! small so that people know when they come back they’ll see the same people and it’ll be the same thing. You don’t want to lose that element of it, because that’s the whole point.”
Get your friends involved and the place will fill itself
For White, that’s the likes of Florence + The Machine’s Florence Welch, Wolf Alice, Mystery Jets and Foals’ Philippakis, who’ve all DJ-ed at the night. Your friends might not be quite so well known, but you’ll want to get them on board (and through the doors).
Extend your empire
As well as being a club, Yala! is also a record label whose first release will be The Magic Gang’s forthcoming EP. “It’s important that labels like this keep coming,” says the band’s Jack Kaye. “A few years ago they were far more prevalent and now they’re few and far between. They’re really important for putting out music that would otherwise go unheard.”
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Don’t suffer the party jitters
White says, “The first one had that horrendous feeling of when you throw a birthday party and you’re not sure if anyone’s gonna come. But you can’t control it – put on good bands, play good music and just let it be what it’s gonna be.”
Make it regular
Yala! takes place every two months or so, meaning each one is an event. “That’s the point – you want something where people want to come back cos your mates are gonna be there and other people are gonna be there and it’s an exciting night,” says White.