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Justin Carter and Eamon Harkin, the duo behind Mister Saturday Night and its summertime sibling, Mister Sunday, are nearing a pair of milestones that only a few have reached: They’re about to toss the 99th and 100th editions of their party.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Mister Sunday
When was the first Mister Saturday Night party?
Justin Carter: It was January 17, 2009. The reason why we started this was that we had both been doing parties where we were parts of these larger crews, playing at this venue and that venue. Everything felt very nebulous. Eamon and I had been talking for a while, and we both realized that we wanted to do something that would focus our energy on one thing, instead of focusing on one party one night and then another party the next night. It felt like the right thing to do.
Eamon Harkin: We really put all of our efforts into this party; we don’t really play anywhere else in New York very often. That’s by design, and we think that it helps to make each party as special as it can be.
I’ve always wondered how much of a thought process went into the spelling out of Mister, rather than the more common abbreviation.
Carter: Believe it or not, we talk a lot about things like that! I actually don’t remember the specifics of how we decided to spell it out, but it probably had something to do with us looking at different versions of flyers and seeing what we liked better. I think we just decided it looked better that way
It’s definitely more memorable.
Harkin: That’s exactly what we were going for. And when people abbreviate Mister when they write about it, it bugs the hell out of us.
I have been warned. How do you choose your guests? It’s such a wide range, from the Horse Meat Disco guys to more esoteric artists like Four Tet, a lot of Detroit guys like Omar-S and Kyle Hall…
Carter: We even had DJ Premier at one of the first parties. It’s really as simple as the way we think about what we would play in our DJ sets. It’s who we’re inspired by, and what music we’re listening to. It’s just whatever or whoever we like.
Harkin: The way the party has progressed over its three years, we’ve actually been making a conscious move toward having less guests. For us, the best parties—the ones that we’ve been inspired by—have been much more than just a bunch of DJ bookings. They’ve had their own scene and community, and that comes from resident DJs. That’s been an ambition of ours, to create something like that for Mister Saturday Night and for ourselves as DJs. So now we’re trying to strike a balance between doing parties by ourselves and parties with guests. And, really, unless it’s a huge guest—someone like Caribou—the number of people who come through doesn’t really vary between the two kinds of parties. That’s immensely satisfying. Of course, we’ll continue to book guests; it is 2012, and people’s attention spans mean they want new things all the time. But we feel like we have a really good dynamic right now, between the party being its own brand and us bringing in exciting talent.
Carter: As we’ve had more parties with no guests, one thing I’ve realized is that most people play very differently than how we play. And when we do have guests, it’s actually really great when they play a totally different sound in the middle of a party. Like when we had [house-meets-R&B-meets-bass-music artist] Jacques Greene on, it was very different than the way we play; but the crowd that’s developed around the party is pretty broad-minded, so it totally worked. And hearing different people—Jacques Greene one week, Pearson Sound the next, Omar-S the next—do different things than what we do both broadens the scope of the party and is a great way for us to get inspired. We really get to hear such amazing music, so that’s pretty easy.
And I imagine the guests inspire your crowd as well.
Carter: Sure, and having interesting guests will bring people who are into a specific kind of music, who haven’t necessarily ever been to the party before. But because there’s no start time or end time for a guest’s set—it’s just whatever feels right—people won’t be like, oh this is a Pearson Sound show. We’re at a party. It brings people into the fold, which is really great. It keeps our crowd diverse.
You recently started up Mister Saturday Night Records. What’s up with that?
Harkin: We always felt we could expand the aesthetic of the party by starting a label and putting music out. We buy a phenomenal amount of music.…
Carter: Oh, God, yeah. So many records.
Harkin: So that whole culture is very important to us, and we wanted to be a part of that. At this point, the label is vinyl only. We took our time in starting this up, because we wanted to make sure we got the right music. We wanted to find something fresh—not because we didn’t want to put out a release from someone who’s already been putting music out or anything, but we wanted something that would make us excited. So we sat on a bunch of stuff for a long time, and had ongoing conversations with quite a few artists. They would send us stuff, and we would give them feedback; there was a lot of back-and-forth. Anthony Naples, who ended up doing our first release, was one of those guys. He had initially sent us a bunch of stuff, which was all really good but a little bit incomplete. So we gave him some feedback to maybe help him round out his sound a little bit—make it a little bit more musical—and he nailed it. We were super excited to put that out.
Carter: One thing that people might not know about that record—and I didn’t know it myself until after it came out—was that the very first parties that Anthony ever came to were our parties, when we used to do them at Market Hotel. That was an all-ages venue; he was only 18 or 19 at that point. He told me later on that that was what inspired him to pursue dance music. He’s coming out of a place that’s very specifically our party; he’s making music with our party in mind.
That’s pretty cool, and music be quite fulfilling for you guys.
Carter: Oh, yeah, in every way. To find out that someone could be so inspired by something that we were responsible for, and then to create something wonderful out of that…I don’t know what more we could ask for.
When is the next record coming out?
Carter: We’re waiting for that to get pressed right now. We actually have four records mastered right now, so there’s a lot in the pipeline. But we can’t even talk about release dates or anything yet.
I like the aesthetic of the design; it’s very basic and hands-on, complete with that hand-stamped label.
Carter: Thanks. It’s not like we’re saying, “This is our aesthetic, so everything has to be like this, this and this.” What we try to do with the label is the same as we do with the party, which is to put our hands on everything. You know, except for the 13 parties we did at Santos Party House, we took care of everything from top to bottom. The sound system has been brought in and set up; the bar has been brought in and set up; we’ve hired security staff; we’ve hired the bar staff; we created the whole experience that people are experiencing. The same goes for the label. It’s important for us to understand what goes into the thing we are creating. Eamon and I are both…well, some would say controlling people. [Laughs]
You guys go as far as physically putting the records into the sleeves yourselves right?
Carter: Yes. Not to say that we’ll always do that; we don’t have any hard and fast rules, like “We must hand-stamp our records.” But I like the fact that I can tell you what company makes the labels that are on the vinyl. I like the fact that I can pick up the phone and call the guy that presses the records. I like the fact that I talk to the designer, who’s the same guy who designs our flyers. We’re aware of every step that goes into it, and I think that makes for a good product. If something’s not right, we can make it right. One of the reasons that the first record took so long to come out was that our label is an off-white label—we didn’t want a completely white label—and it took an extra month to get the right off-white label. What’s important to us is that we want to know what’s going on.
That shows, right down to the fact that you knew that these upcoming parties are you 99th and 100th editions. A lot of people wouldn’t have kept such close count, I don’t think.
Harkin: Well, we knew we were headed in that direction, and we had a hunch that we were getting close, so we figured it out. It’s a good milestone to celebrate.
The 99th installment is a Mister Saturday Night party, and the 100th is a Mister Sunday event. What do you have lined up for them?
Harkin: We have Anthony Naples playing on Saturday night. He’s part of the family at this point, and it felt good to have him be part of the celebration. And we have Jay Daniel, who’s an up-and-coming talent from Detroit. We actually struggled a bit when we were deciding who to have play; we didn’t want to overshadow the party, but we wanted people who would add a lot to it musically. When Justin suggested Jay, it immediately felt right.
Carter: We had been talking about it for months. I said, “What about Jay?” He had been on our radar for awhile. Eamon said, “Yeah!” I called Jay and it was done. It was that simple. And then the 100th at Mister Sunday…honestly, that space, Gowanus Grove, is so special, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever been a part of.
That is such a great spot to do a party.
Carter: There’s no space like it in New York, and it has a lot to do with people coming to that party. As a matter of fact, it has a lot to do with people knowing about our parties at all! [Laughs] That’s not to say that we haven’t earned what we’ve gotten. It’s been a lot of work.
You certainly are in a good place right now, but I have a feeling that you guys are always looking forward. Once the 99th and 100th parties are over, what’s next?
Harkin: Well, we still can get a lot of mileage out of the label; we’ve only put out one record so far. We want to put out a series of really good records. We want to put out LPs as well, and we really just want to explore the creativity that goes into running a really good record label, one that has longevity. As far as the parties go, well, we’re really happy with them. Now it’s just a matter of maintaining them, of keeping them special.
Mister 99 is at House of Yes July 28; Mister 100 is at Gowanus Grove July 29.