Below the pavement of Deptford Broadway, the walls of an old World War II bunker are pulsing to a thrumming drum ‘n’ bass track. The Goldsmiths student haunt – famous for its £5 doubles and grotty toilets – is filled with weekday ravers in low-rise cargos and colourful bucket hats stood clutching camcorders, dancing precariously on the edge of the stage, or applying tooth gems beneath the light of a head torch.
Fast remixes of pop bangers generate a buzzy energy inside the south London venue, while members of Loud LDN’s ever-growing group chat spill onto the streets to continue those long, rambling conversations that come from meeting an online friend in real life for the first time. They anxiously share stories of moving to London alone to pursue music, and experiences of being taken advantage of by men in the industry. For Loud LDN, tonight is a chance to celebrate, but this collective is as much about improving the experiences of young, female artists and producers as it is about putting on midweek raves.
The Loud LDN collective, which includes a new wave of drum ‘n’ bass revivalists, such as Piri (of the drum ‘n’ bass duo Piri & Tommy), Venbee, Willow Kayne and A Little Sound, started in May as a group chat called ‘Ladies Making Noise in London.’ The initial spark came when co-founder Maisi came across one of DIY singer-songwriter coupdekat’s songs on TikTok and sent her a message about potentially working together. They met up for lunch, and immediately started a group chat for London-based female and non-binary creatives.
“Maisi had just become friends with Piri and it seemed like we would have enough people to make a group chat,” says coupdekat, whose catchy pop songs laid over drum ‘n’ bass beats defy easy genre classification. What was initially a space for 10 or so friends looking to vent, get advice and share experiences about starting out in music has grown into a flourishing community of more than 50 drum ‘n’ bass, pop and R&B artists at all stages in their careers. The only requirements to join are being a women or non-binary person who lives in London and makes music full-time.
Two years ago, an event like Loud LDN’s recent showcase would have been impossible. Clubs were still closed due to the pandemic, and mainstream perceptions of drum ‘n’ bass were largely still stuck in the past. Yet you don’t even need to have been at their recent event to know that the genre is experiencing a revival. Drum ‘n’ bass is finally receiving recognition from mainstream tastemakers: this year, the MOBO awards launched their Best Electronic/Dance Act category, and two drum ‘n’ bass artists, Nia Archives and SHERELLE, were nominated. The award eventually went to the former, who also received the Best Producer Award at the BandLab NME Awards 2022 earlier this year.
Meanwhile, DIY artists are also ascending rapidly. Last year, Loud LDN’s Willow Kayne scooped the Ivor Novello Rising Star award, while Venbee broke into the UK Top Five in November with ‘Messy In Heaven’, a song that she’d initially posted to TikTok as a demo. The app’s preference for quick, catchy hooks has meant that the majority of Loud LDN’s members got their start on TikTok, and they’ve since nudged the genre into a new era that eschews the self-seriousness of drum ‘n’ bass purism in favour of an embrace of influences from pop to R&B. Therefore, the next wave of this sound is more open than ever before.
Artists like Charlotte Plank, who helped organise the first Loud LDN event, are evading the constraints of the once rigidly-defined genre by fusing dance and pop. She’s currently working on a mixtape on which she lays dreamy vocals over a fast drum ‘n’ bass beat. “The dance world is so male-dominated,” she says over Zoom a week after the event. “But we’ve got Venbee, A Little Sound and Piri who are the leading the scene right now. It’s really nice that we’re cutting through and taking over the scene a bit because it’s been so male-dominated for too long.”
London-based collectives, including Loud LDN, but also EQ50 and Sexy Lady Massive, are making sure that the new wave of drum ‘n’ bass is safer and more inclusive than ever before. As Plank notes: “We don’t want to shut men out, but we also want to create a safe space where women can go and relax, and they don’t have to worry about getting groped or touched up.”
Another key point of connection between Loud LDN and the wider drum ‘n’ bass scene is the newfound sense of community that many fans, like Plank, report feeling at raves. “When I started going to drum ‘n’ bass raves, it was the most welcoming and passionate community,” she says. “There’s something really special there, and I think drum ‘n’ bass heads are happy that the sound is becoming a bit more mainstream.”
Genre-based movements are one thing, but just because artists are grouped together because of their sound, it doesn’t always translate into having a community in real life. Being a musician in London can be lonely regardless of personal success. However, the Loud LDN group chat has always included established artists alongside those who had only just released their first song. “Even bigger artists like Piri and Venbee who we imagined would already have this sort of community were totally down,” says coupdekat.
“What’s so great about the group is that it’s for musicians at different stages in their career,” adds Loud LDN member Lucy Tun, who DJs drum ‘n’ bass but whose own sound as a solo artist ranges from folky tracks to upbeat synth pop. “There’s no sense of hierarchy. Regardless of how many followers or streams you have, everyone in the group is genuinely there to help each other out. You have people who are killing it at the moment and are established in their artistry, and then you have others in there who are session musicians or engineers, or have just started out and need advice.”
For Maisi, the most important function of the group has providing support to other emerging artists. She speaks passionately about the need for community and working together, rather than competing against each other. “Everyone in the group chat has had the same experiences, whether it’s having been patronised by men in music or treated inappropriately by them,” she says. “It’s been good to be able to discuss it with each other.”
Online spaces had been vital in bringing Loud LDN together, but from the start, it wasn’t enough to be talking and sharing music through screens. Nothing compares to dancing, laughing and sweating together in a physical space. “The party brought the community to life,” says coupdekat. “It’s the next stage in how relationships should be. We didn’t want to keep it as an online thing, especially post-covid when these things can happen.” This feeling, too, appears to be animating the dance music revival where strictly defined genre matters far less than a track’s ability to get people dancing.
Challenging the constraints of genre purism while providing support for women and non-binary people in a male-dominated arena is quite the undertaking for a young collective. But as the group continues to grow organically following the event, these artists have proven that Loud LDN is a force to be reckoned with. “It’s DIY,” says coupdekat. “It’s about the girls creating a community by themselves.”
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