If there were a creative duo whose work summed up the post-modern digital age, it would be Acyde and Tremaine’s. Already consulting for the likes of Stussy and A$AP Rocky, the pair formed No Vacancy Inn in 2015, combining their love of music, fashion and well… parties to form a talk-show-turned-music-station, merch and party collective they operate travelling around the world. Catch them hosting live events at various pop up locations, releasing mixtapes and their t-shirts being sold (out) at Dover Street Market. They’re everywhere and yet nowhere for a long amount of time, but using their connections to create fleeting hubs for people to engage in.
The pair were in London last week to give a talk on ‘The Transatlantic Blend: London & New York: Art, fashion, nightlife and the new Special Relationship’ at Chivas Regal’s ‘The Blend Sessions‘, a new whisky pop-up at the Truman Brewery. We talked to them about our generation’s responsibility to regenerate our nightlife culture, shifting cultural mediums, and the importance of SoundCloud.
Notion: No Vacancy Inn encompasses a lot of things; radio shows, live events, fashion, mixtapes – how would you define what it IS you do?
Acyde: We create culture. I got asked this the other day and a lot of people think, ‘That’s a lot of stuff to be doing’ but I really don’t think it is. If a lot of people took the time out of their lives to look at what they’re interested in and try to make a living out of it they would end up doing a similar amount of things. It’s just that they have a real job and that’s their job whereas for us, we chose a bunch of different real jobs and put them together. So, that’s how I would define it.
Does moving around with the project give you a greater sense of artistic freedom or do you feel limited by not having a base to work from?
Tremaine: I think moving around gives us that artistic creative life. I never felt more limited than when I was stuck in one place working, personally.
Why do you think it’s important to continue to create physical spaces for art and music?
Acyde: Physical spaces are important because I think they’re meeting points but they need to serve a function apart from just being a ‘space’. When I think of the physical spaces that matter to me personally, that matter to us, you start with night clubs but then you go back to record shops and then you go back to clothing shops and then the original inception of this idea for me, is something like Andy Warhol and The Factory. He literally went out of his way to create a space where he could work as a painter, where they could make films and throw parties and The Velvet Underground could perform and out of that came a magazine and I think you can only do that in a physical space. A virtual space doesn’t give you the four walls for people to feel safe, to trust each other, share ideas and discuss. In the virtual world there is a lot of anonymity. Sometimes people can pretend to be who they’re not. In a physical space you get a little more of the sense of who people are and out of that I think that culture really develops naturally because you discuss and you share and that’s what culture is.
You’re speaking about the relationship between London and New York tonight – they’re two cities that often get compared but is there anything that really sets them apart from one another in your minds?
Tremaine: America, in general, is the tree that fell off the apple that is written. So innately, it’s connected but New York, as a city is more convenient. They’re very both very connected but New York is a bit more commercial, more transient than London. That said, they have a symbiotic relationship for a lot of reasons. Logistically, it is only a six-hour plane journey away. I grew up in a place called St. Albans – you’ve probably heard of St. Albans as it was named after the St. Albans in the British countryside, 30 miles outside of London. Even with names, it’s all connected.
Acyde: You can also flip that backwards because America, and New York especially, is literally the birth child of Great Britain and London to a certain extent. It is primarily an English-speaking city with lots of immigrants but I think London feels more like a port – even when you look at where London and England sit in terms of the longitudes and latitudes of travel. It’s only six hours away from anywhere in Africa, six hours away from New York, just two hours from Paris and three hours from Spain. So what London naturally has that New York doesn’t is the fact that, in a way, it’s the central part of Europe that allows everyone from all over the world to come and share and discuss. I think that’s why there is so much culture and it’s still vibrant now. London is expensive, dirty and small – it shouldn’t really work and should be a bit like Venice. It should just be somewhere where you go just say, ‘Oh there’s a Queen, isn’t that nice?’ and then leave but people still want to stay here and live here. He (Tremaine) lives here most of the time. I think New York, because it’s still America, is a part of the American system which is a slightly more capitalist, newer version of what London and England is.
One of the big topics in London at the moment is the decline of nightlife – as people who have been involved in nightlife and subculture for a long time what’s your take on the future of the city?
Tremaine: I think around the world nightlife is in the toilet and that people like us, and more importantly the younger generation are going to have to find and create new experiences. For example, Serge Becker, my mentor, in the 80s he and a group of others created Area, a club that had a new type of nightlife. Before that, there was Disco, but then that died and so did the whole ‘club’ thing with velvet rope – that stuff is dying and I think its up to us and the younger generation to create a new thing. People shouldn’t focus too much on reviving what is dead as everything is cyclical and everything has a life span. We have a life span and I’m not going to be here forever so why would a club culture, as you knew it, be here forever? It used to be in the 50s that you would go and listen to jazz live on 52nd street and that ended. They never thought that would end. And then that went to disco and then disco ended and then it went to clubs like Area and Studio 54 and then to the 90s with places like the Tunnel, Limelight, Cheetah, Hacienda and Fabric. All that stuff is dead and dying and so we need something new. I think it’s going to be a sort of combination of food, music and drinks. I don’t know exactly. I might not be the one to start it. I might be a dinosaur that doesn’t know it and I’m fine with that but there is going to be something new that has to come up. There always has to be something new and if it isn’t new, we’re stagnated.
Acyde: Yeah, Tremaine has said it perfectly. The reason nightlife is so important is because sub-cultures are so important. Clubs only existed because the kids were into a certain sound at a certain point in history and needed somewhere to go to experience it. Whether it was northern soul or jazz, whether it was disco, whether it was funk or techno, there was always a need. Literally house music came out of warehouses as they had to invent a space or find a space that already existed to play their music . We haven’t really had a music sub-culture, not a brand new one in the last twenty years and that’s why clubs are declining because they are relics of the last two to three decades of sub-culture and those sub-cultures are now old. It’s like, you can still go to a reggae club if you want but that’s not the most new, most modern thing that’s happening but it does still exist. Unless this generation take it into their hands and start to think about how they can do something for themselves, there won’t be a need for clubs because there’s nothing being invented to fill up a club, now you just basically go to a lot of clubs to listen to old music. Clubs are actively reflective of the time period they’re in – what’s happening with the culture and with the music. And right now with music, when you really look at it, there’s nothing new happening globally at the moment. Maybe there’s something happening in Iraq, Pakistan or Malaysia that’s yet to emerge that we don’t know about.
In reality, we haven’t had anything since techno, house, two-step, grime. Trap is just a version of rap – it’s got a different cadence and a different drum pattern but it’s rap music and so until something new emerges, clubs are going to die. That’s my opinion anyway.
Can you see similar problems happening in New York?
Both: [laughs] It happened – done!
Tremaine: New York was first to be hit.
Acyde: I’ve been trying to work this out like a jigsaw in my mind and the thing that is so amazing about New York is it’s full of amazing people – it’s a modern place. What is really incredible about New York is that between 1977 and 1979 they managed to invent the genre of music called Punk. They managed to bring to life a genre of music called disco and managed to invent a genre of music called hip-hop. They invented those three genres in the space of literally a year and a half, which were fully formed with looks, sounds and visual cues. I think it’s almost like giving birth to Einstein, Picasso and Marilyn Monroe or something – you don’t want to have kids after that because you’ve already kind of done it and I think with New York in a way, their success was almost their failure. The rest of the world is inspired by disco, punk and hip-hop. That’s what we’re all still living off now. Any genre of dance music is based on disco. Any genre of rock music that’s modern has got a punk influence. Any genre of any black music that has vocals over a beat is based on rap. So even now, apart from Jamaican dancehall, New York did it all, and in a way, they’re a bit stuck. When you give birth to Picasso, Marilyn Monroe and Einstein you kind of think that your other kids aren’t going to turn out as great.
Tremaine: That’s a good way to put it
Acyde: I’ve been thinking about it a lot as nowhere else in the world has ever done that – it’s crazy! Chicago maybe has a similar thing with jazz and house music.
Tremaine: New York has the trifecta – it’s nuts!
Have you noticed any other changes in street and subculture during your time working in the scene? What’s been the biggest cultural shift either of you have experienced?
Acyde: The bloody internet.
Tremaine: Yeah, the internet – so many things. For example, Virgil [Abloh] went from printing a t-shirt to then doing a fashion show two or three years later in Paris. What else? I’d say the consumption of music – how labels didn’t embrace Napster and all that stuff. They tried to lock it down and now the birth of SoundCloud has allowed kids who don’t have record deals who are making five or ten G a show or even more. They’re making a career and a living on SoundCloud with no record label – on that level it’s truly incredible. More than ever people have been able to make a living independently beyond a corporate structure. Not everyone but there’s a certain crews of musicians and clothing lines – for example people are making clothing lines and are getting signed like they’re a record label. Virgil got signed and my home girl Pia got signed to Revolve. They’ve licenced their brand but they have control and they get paid well – that’s very modern and very new.
Podcasts aren’t something traditionally associated with underground culture and music – have you ever encountered a stigma around creating them? What about that medium appeals to you?
Acyde: A stigma? I don’t know about a stigma. Going back to the cultural shift question because I think they play into each other, I think the biggest cultural shift is seeing the power shift from traditional mediums. I was talking about Vogue Magazine yesterday with someone from the fashion industry and they were like ‘That’s done. That’s just old.’ Like Tatler and Harper’s Bazaar – they’re for 50 year-olds now. I remember 5 years ago when you looked at fashion week, everyone cared about what fashion editors wore like Emmanuelle Alt and all these people and now it’s like, ‘What are the bloggers wearing?’. The power has shifted from traditional mediums and I think it’s similar with record companies. SoundCloud is so important. There is no stigma for us doing a SoundCloud podcast because trying to get a job on the BBC as real presenters isn’t even that relevant anymore. Kids don’t listen to the radio.
Tremaine: The A&Rs now like Young Lord aka A$AP Bari, they’re breaking dudes. Bari broke Lil Yachty. Ian broke Playboi Carti.
Acyde: There is a massive argument for instance about radio playlists and how they should reflect what is going on in culture and with the youth but then a lot of the smart radio owners are saying, ‘Well actually no because what radio is meant to do is – when you turn it on you are meant to be able to hear the music you want to hear, that you know is going to be on the radio. If you want to hear something else, go to SoundCloud because it’s available.’ When people advertise on the radio station, they do it because they know that the people are tuning into the station to hear Taylor Swift twenty times a day. That’s what radio is. Yes there are shows that are meant to reflect the tastes of sub-cultures or independence but ultimately, we don’t need that from radio as we have SoundCloud and YouTube. I literally spend my days on YouTube trying to find versions of songs or new kids doing stuff that I have never heard. I don’t listen to the radio for that. I don’t think I’ve heard a new song on the radio by someone I didn’t know in about 5 years. In a podcast, there is no stigma because the audience that we speak to don’t look at the old mediums as a way to get their communication. One thing that I’ve learnt and have slowly come to realise is that people like to hear people talking about stuff that’s interesting to them. I think that is how we learn everything – through oral tradition and stories.
Tremaine: Yeah, it’s more a natural human thing. Humans love nothing more than being acknowledged and what could make you feel more acknowledged than someone who is an authority on something confirming what you think. Beanie Sigel is one of my favourite rappers and Taxstone did a 3-hour interview with him. That confirms that Beanie Sigel is great because Tax put three hours aside to talk to him. It confirms your belief in the person or the thing or a culture or a song and I think that’s the main thing. Podcasts affirm people’s beliefs whereas radio doesn’t do that. Radio is selling something and that’s ok unless you want to drop out of society – we do live in a capitalist society.
So you’re here at The Blend, what do you expect from tonight and what are you doing tonight?
Tremaine: I just expect to talk about our stories. We may be saying a lot of the same things we have said here and I’m fine with that, as I remember when people didn’t care what we had to say. It’s cool.
Acyde: [Jokingly] I’m not sure they do care actually. I think they’re paid to care and paid to smile. I think that we can expect to hopefully meet some interesting people who are knowledgeable and aware and can share some information with us too. I think there is only so much that any individual knows so it’s always really good to interact with people that you haven’t met before and to get their perspective on it, so that’s what I look forward to.
Are you looking forward to making your own blend of whisky?
Acyde: I’m looking forward to drinking more of them! If I have to make it then yeah, that’s what I’ll do.
Chivas Regal’s The Blend is open until 4th December, where you can learn the Art of Blending your own whisky
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