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XOYO celebrates its first birthday as a proper club

Marcus Barnes

xoyocrowd 300x193 XOYO celebrates its first birthday as a proper clubThe first time I went to XOYO was quite some time ago, before its current incarnation, around late 2010 when it had not long opened. Shy FX put on a Digital Soundboy event and it was good fun, although I remember the sound system not being up to much and the men’s toilets had flooded.

Over the years I’ve been back on many occasions; seeing Jessie J just before she became super famous, numerous hip-hop acts at an event called I Luv Live, Benoit & Sergio, Ed Banger Records and plenty more.

The club underwent a huge refurbishment last year after being taken over by new owners – and it’s now the jewel in east London’s crown, one of the few medium sized clubs that remains an essential destination week in, week out. Their first birthday is just around the corner, so I spoke to Andy Peyton (head booker and part-owner of the club).

Can you begin by telling me a little bit about XOYO’s history – what was the building used for before the club was launched?

The space was an unused basement (previously a printworks), which the owners before us had to fight to get a licence for.

Who started it and what was the original ethos?

We purchased the club from a consortium which included Bugged Out and Eat Your Own Ears (two of London’s best promoters, who we still work with today). Originally it started out as a multi-purpose arts space but since we took over our main focus is making it the best nightclub it can be.

Not long ago XOYO shut down for a while and had a relaunch, what was the reason behind this?

We bought the club in August 2012 and had some strong ideas about the changes we wanted to make. We wanted to create a space that was more suited to dancing, so we moved the gents toilets and created a longer bar. Small things, like not being in the DJs eye-line were really important to us. The DJ booth is now raised and permanent. Looking out from the DJ booth down onto a club full of moving bodies is amazing… The bigger sound system meant we had to improve soundproofing too. It’s just an altogether better clubbing experience.

Yeah, I remember in the early days of the club, the toilets were a bit temperamental and the sound wasn’t too good either, of course that’s all changed now. What other key changes has the club gone through since it was first opened?

The upstairs Room 2 is now really important to us. We want it to be a place that people enjoy spending time in. We’ve drastically improved the lighting and now the temporary stage and seating are solid, so people can dance all over them. I recently went to Berlin and visited some of the smaller clubs there. Every room in those clubs have a fun, house-party atmosphere and that’s exactly what we want for upstairs at XOYO.

Bookings in Room 2 aren’t a side-thought either. At the start of the month we had Sampha and Lil Silva play upstairs at Deviation… Recently too we’ve had a string of East London gay promoters take charge of upstairs – they bring great music and a great crowd. The whole operation is an ongoing process though – in September we’re doing another major refurbishment to stop the congestion at the top of the stairs.

Originally XOYO was a mix between a live music venue and a club – it now seems a little more focused on the club aspect, why is this?

We feel the club is where our expertise and our passions lie. Me and my team love to be there on a sold out Friday and Saturday night and the space has an incredible atmosphere. That said, we’ve had some amazing live gigs this year: Nas, Foals and Solange have all played shows. Looking ahead, we have every single mid-week date booked out for gigs in the last quarter of 2013 so the live music hasn’t been neglected.

What can a newcomer to XOYO expect?

An amazing club space for dancing and listening to the best DJs out there. Our sound system compares favourably to anywhere in London, and the line-ups we have are huge for a club our size. You can’t beat opening the doors into the basement and being hit by the lights and sound.

The main thing we are striving for though is to be a friendly face in clubland: a place where both the DJ and the crowd are having a good time. Our line-ups go across the board when it comes to genres. We want it to be a club that you can come to any week and have a good time whether you like house, techno or hip-hop. No pretentiousness.

Why is this year is being billed as the 1st birthday of XOYO, when it’s actually been around for longer than a year?

Because, without sounding conceited, we’ve only been a proper club for a year. Previously they hired out the space to any promoters who would pay the hire fee, which is not how we want to operate. I book all the Fridays in-house now (and most Saturdays), and as of 2014 all the Saturdays too; so we can have real musical identity in the way all the best clubs historically have.

How does XOYO in 2013 compare with XOYO in 2011?

It’s unrecognisable.

A very small core team are behind the running of the club, marketing, bookings and so on – how do you guys cope?

I got extremely lucky when we bought the venue, in that an amazing team landed at my feet. An intern interviewed to do the press in my first week and her friend turned up uninvited for a job, and blagged his way in. Between those two and the five other twenty-somethings, I have the best team anyone could hope for. They work day and night, and only book holidays to go to festivals or Berlin – they live and breathe clubbing.

XOYO is now one of the most popular venues in east London, what is it that has helped it get to this position?

I think a combination of things. We have a great team who genuinely care first and foremost. There’s also a real fatigue with ‘warehouse events’ that end up being in the same three or four substandard spaces, and of course so many great clubs have closed. We’re also the only space in Shoreditch that is music-led. With that area being so popular now, the easy route is to make spaces more ‘West End’, which sets us apart a little bit.

Events like XOYO Loves are good examples of the club/brand diversifying a little – what does the future hold? Any more plans for similar events?

Yes we’ve had some amazing events – Skream taking 200 people in a conga line from his hotel rooftop party over to XOYO was a personal highlight. We’ve just done a deal with the music channel ‘Thump’ to make the XOYO Loves videos a regular feature and on September 3rd we’ll be announcing our winter XOYO Loves events – they eclipse what we’ve done so far….

XOYO celebrates its 1st Birthday across two events on August 30 & August 31 – for more information visit their website here.

Follow Marcus Barnes’ www.hoxton.fm radio show via soundcloud.com/marcus_barnes

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