Four to the Floor
It’s a Thursday afternoon in April, and beams of sunshine illuminate the world outside. But as the day reaches 4pm, the sky becomes grey and overcast, and the spring sun is suddenly concealed. It’s a fitting shift in atmosphere, as a b2b2b2b radio mix from four lovers of dark, intense techno from Copenhagen begins to air.
A week later, I pick up three of the Apeiron Crew at the hotel that they’re staying in during their brief visit to London. Having just travelled from their hometown, they’ve come here to play a party at Peckham-based record store and club Rye Wax with Siren, another female crew of DJs who are operating from London. While this is the second party that Siren has put on, they’ve already gained a reputation. “I got a huge recommendation from Ben UFO to the party. He was like, ‘it’s fucking great you’re playing there,’” says Najaaraq Vestbirk, who DJs under the name Courtesy. It’s a good fit; both crews share a similar ethos – playing mind-splitting techno while also being conscious of their significance as women in a scene that has a very notable gender imbalance.
As we settle down in nearby café, Najaaraq, Emma Blake (Solid Blake – a play on Metal Gear Solid character Solid Snake) and Sara Svanholm (Mama Snake) are discuss how the crew was formed. Fourth member Simone Øster, aka Smokey, isn’t present with us, and so Crack’s photo shoot is scheduled in Copenhagen the following week to make sure she’s involved.
“When we first met, we’d all broken up with our boyfriends and we just hung out and partied together for like a year,” Najaaraq tells me. While she’s been DJing for 10 years – dipping in and out of other projects including music journalism, record label work and management as well as various activities with Red Bull Music Academy – the other three started playing out more recently. After working together in a record shop situated in Copenhagen’s Nørrebro district, the four women decided to form Apeiron Crew two years ago, and they’ve become good friends in the process. “That’s how you maintain your friendships anyway – you have to be doing stuff,” states Emma, who is from Glasgow. “Very early on in our working relationship, I remember Najaaraq saying ‘I want to spend my free time with people who I’ll also be working on projects with.’”
To me [DJing as a living] sounded like something that was a bit ridiculous,” Emma says. “Yet I studied Philosophy, so I don’t know what the fuck I was doing.” After moving to Copenhagen and settling into the scene, the idea of a music career began to feel all the more realistic to her. While the crew might not seem overly concerned with making DJing their sole source of income, their passion for music is compelling. “For all of us, we want to continue DJing forever,” says Sara, who’s studying medicine and will graduate this year. “I probably won’t get shitfaced in the club until 8am when I’m 45, but I’ll probably still be playing, no matter what kind of doctor I’ll be.” Emma cuts in: “A surgeon and a wedding DJ.” Everyone starts giggling at the table. “The least booked wedding DJ ever,” Sara says.
Separately, the four women have distinct styles as DJs – working through different strains of techno, house, electro and jungle – but they’re unified by their tendency to play hard and dark. “It’s not the jazz that makes people dance in our sets,” Najaaraq smirks. “I think some of that’s playfulness. For me, certainly, I like to play really hard sometimes because it’s fun!” Emma chimes in: “For me, when I want to play hard and dark in a club – it’s the energy. When you get a reaction from a crowd playing like that, when you can see the glistening faces of people sweating – it’s like, let’s just push it harder.” Najaaraq agrees that being able to experience it physically is one of the most appealing aspects of that approach. “It’s the physicality of the sub-bass,” she begins. “It’s cool to listen to at home and we all do but being able to listen to any sort of techno on a sound system with a big ass sub, the physical side is really fucking cool.”
Another genre which is very much about physicality and visceral reactions is punk, which has an established scene in Copenhagen. While Emma was going to punk shows while living in Glasgow, the rest of the crew have no roots in punk. For Najaaraq and Sara, they were more interested in hip-hop. “I wanted to be the first female rapper in Copenhagen,” Najaaraq tells me, barely able to suppress a laugh.
However, they are noticing that there are parallels between the city’s established punk scene, noise and techno since they all started working together. “There’s a big crossover in Copenhagen,” Sara says. “My boyfriend is a pretty good example; him and his old punk and metal friends are listening to techno now and are into electronic music.” While the city doesn’t have a specialist store for dance music, there are techno records interspersed casually between rock records at the shops that do exist. When it comes to parties in the city, there’s one venue that dominates over the rest in regards to techno – Culture Box, where the Apeiron Crew are residents. “For the four of us, a crew, to be booked in a venue that size doesn’t happen that much,” Emma explains.
"The physical side of listening to any sort of techno on a sound system with a big ass sub is really fucking cool"
Whether they’re putting on parties as a crew or separately, it’s imperative that the vibe, sound and setting is on point. “One thing we’re doing with our parties is decorating the whole club with flowers,” Emma remembers. “The first time we did it for the Lobster Theremin night, we bought real flowers and decorated the club on the Thursday night and by the time we turned up for the party on the Friday, all the flowers were dead.” Sara laughs, “It turned into a funeral vibe instead of a wedding one!” Emma continues, “We were just like; we’re going to be the girls from The Craft, this is just a 90s teen party – we totally meant it to be that way… Second time we used fake flowers, and that worked because they stayed looking alive.”
The Apeiron Crew’s joint ventures go beyond DJing and throwing parties, as they’re starting a label together called Ectotherm. One of the people involved in that process is the renowned engineer Rashad Becker – who’ll be doing the mastering for the releases. “I met him in Tokyo at Red Bull Music Academy,” Najaaraq recalls, warmly. “I love him, he’s the best engineer. We have Lobster Theremin doing the distribution and they’re really good friends of ours as well. Everyone that we’re releasing with is a good friend of ours – people that we really love.”
With a well-received music policy and a string of Europe-wide bookings, the Apeiron Crew’s profile seems to be expanding. But while the increased demand might bring on more pressure, they’re in no rush to define things when they’re having this much fun. “We’re still figuring out what Apeiron Crew is – it’s constantly changing and I really enjoy that,” Sara says. “It’s hard to say ‘Oh, in two years this is what Apeiron Crew will be.’” Emma, perhaps thinking about all those flower-adorned club nights, jokingly rounds off: “It depends who’s off the rails, and who’s settled at that time.”