Tom Thorpe and Bonar Bradberry first met a decade ago, and from their shared a love of music, partying, and nightlife, PBR Streetgang was born. Coined after a friend watched Apocalypse Now one sleepless Sunday morning, the pair set base camp in Leeds, where they became an integral part of the city’s fabled Asylum nights. Fast forward almost nine years, and they’ve become regular fixtures as far afield as Ibiza’s We Love…. Sundays, Croatia’s Garden Festival, and Berlin’s finest boltholes. And in recent years their production work has garnered attention on Red Music, Wolf Music and Hot Creations, with the fantastic Downstroke landing this spring. We caught up with them before they played House Of Disco to find out what makes them tick, what makes them grate, and why they love John Hughes.
So, we’re here in London, down at Basing House. Is this another one of your home-from-homes? You play down here a bit now.
Bonar: Maybe. We did about three gigs here last year. It’s still a bit of a special place for us to come down to. We don’t do it often enough for us to be blase about it.
Tom: I constantly feel blase! We hate using the phrase snowballing, but a few years ago we weren’t playing much down here, but now there’s a good few gigs and we’re down again soon.
What makes PBR what it is?
B: As much as like PBR Streetgang is ‘us’, there’s a big social group that hang out with us. Our girlfriends, their friends. We go to festivals together. As much as it is about our music and what we do, there’s always a big gang around it.
T: I know it sounds cheesy, but the togetherness, getting in the studio together, bouncing off each other, going out and gigging together. There’s a really great feeling, we enjoy each other’s company. We tend to do back-to-back, one-off, one-on, and you don’t know what you’ve got to follow. You have to step up, and it’s really spontaneous, and I really, really love that.
A lot of DJs do that sometimes and it’s a fun thing to do once in a while, but for you it’s every time. Maybe there’s a self-centredness about DJing on your own that most people prefer.
B: Maybe, yeah, that people want to take all the glory. A lot of DJs when they play back to back, they’re just trying to get that big record and outdo each other, but when we do it, we’re trying to think on the same wavelength.
Like a single, living breathing entity….
B: A semi-concious one!
You’ve been friends for a very long time, but even best friends get on each others tits. What gets on your tits about Tom?
T: I think I know what this is already. I’m too eager in the studio. I’m like “this this this, and here, and do that. Now now now”. He’s a calming influence. The best thing to dilute it for us, is going to get me make a cuppa tea.
You come back and he’s muted a load of channels?
B: Yeah… [laughs]
T: I’m seventy-four years old and have a memory like a fish, so I’ll come back and go “oh, wow, that sounds AMAZING.” And he’ll have left it just as it was.
Come on, what gets on your wick about Bonar? And no, you can’t be cheesy and say nothing.
T: I think that’s why we get along so well. I really don’t have a bad word to say about him. He is annoyingly good at mixing. Actually I take that back, I have to pull him through. Just to put that on the record. [laughs] You have to have a strong partner when you’re mixing, and it’s me every day of the week.
B: That’s been a long-running joke for about ten years actually.
T: That’s it. PBR is OVER. World exclusive! [laughs]
Have you ever thought of running your own label? Or are there not enough hours in the day?
B: A mate asked me this a couple of weeks ago. I’ve worked at 20:20 Vision for five or six years now and I’ve seen how much effort goes into running a label like that, which I really respect, it’s almost a full time job.The last thing we’d ever want to do is to start a label as a status symbol. Or to just release tons of our own stuff. It’s just fucking with your quality control. We’re not some Napoleonic musical genius, with every record we make is amazing.
T: Bonar’s a lot more clued up about that than me. I’m the promoter, I’ve been putting on parties for years. We just want to concentrate on what we’re doing, what we’re good at.
B: We already have friends at really good labels, that we’re really into and it’s great for them to be a vehicle for our music.
Asylum’s been as big part of your lives for 8 years.What do you think is the key to still going strong?
T: There’s no magic formula. It’s massively hard work. When we set it up in Leeds, we were trying to do something different to what was already musically going on. Promoting’s such a hard game, but the beauty of Asylum is that musically we’ve always purposely tried to think outside the box. When we started we didn’t really get DJs that were massively popular, but ones that we were into, and I think people are more clued up than they’re given credit for, so they’d trust us with it. That gives us a longevity, and hopefully still does.
B: The crowd over the years, they’ve always trusted Tom and Steve. They might not know the DJ who’s playing, but they know the music’s going to be good, that it’s the least thing they’ll have to worry about.
Leeds has changed so much – fashion wise on a weekly basis – but what’s changed so much over those 8 years?
T: I’ve managed to to grow a tache in the last 8 years. [laughs] Leeds is an amazing party city. Basics been there for so long, and Speedqueen now fifteen years, it’s been weaned on really good music.
B: And the new promoters all have really good attitude about putting on good music in the right way. You’ve got guys like Mono_cult, Louche, newer ones like System, and Flux, and their intentions are all really solid. You can sit there and say “oh it’s not good, it’s competition” but that’s not the way we see it….
T: Yeah, they can all do one! [laughs]
So, Basics is 21 this year. What are you going to be doing with Asylum in 2024?
B: I dunno, I think I’ll be living in space. The solar system, rather than the club.
T: He’ll be wheeling me around in space! Yeah, Asylum’s coming up to 9 years this year, so if we’re going another ten or more, maybe our kids will be running it!
Speaking of Space, We Love…. was such a massive part of your year in 2011. Are you going to be doing it again this year? Can you spill any beans for us?
B: I think yeah, we can. You’ve got your exclusive!
T: Yeah we’ve got a few gigs there this summer. One in June, July, early September, I think. And we say this every year, but the We Love…. lot are an amazing bunch. There’s a great family vibe around it, and every year we go in to do it, we don’t count our chickens, we’re just happy to be included again this year.
B: We’ve done the Terrace the last two years now, and we never take it for granted that they’ll ask us back. And I think that helps. Mark and Sarah and Darren have been so massively supportive. They give you the opportunity, and you keep progressing and because of that you keep trying to get even better, and it’s really nice to have that. Normally promoters that big, they can easily just go for the pre-packaged, big name, superstar DJ that they know will drop in, play two hours, rock it, fly out again, but….
T: We’re like fly in, do the gig, do the afterparty, miss your flight, stay for a week, and then go home!
B: They make sure that you feel part of that team, rather than just getting you to play and putting you on the flyer. And that’s great.
Before we finish, I think it’s only fair that we talk about your great love of classic, 80s cinema. The Sunday afternoon movie, you’ve been out all night. What is in your top three?
B: For me, I’d have to say Withnail and I. It’s a classic. Just for shits and giggles, and its slant on burglary. Weekend At Bernie’s, just because it’s so mindless to watch, it’s so easy. The part when they start playing cards… It’s just brilliant. My third would be a toss-up between Weird Science and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
T: You can’t have two!
B: You know what, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I’ll go with that. So, Withnail And I, Weekend At Bernie’s and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. What a top three.
T: Weird Science, is top. I mean, what can you say? It’s just…
“It’s snowing in my room goddamit!”
T: [Laughs] “Chet! Chet!” [laughs] It’s got to be top of the tree. I’m also a massive fan of The Big Blue. It’s a really underrated film. If you’re in the right space in your head on a Sunday, it’s perfect. You know, it’s Jean Reno, Rosanna Arquette, and Luc Besson directed it. It’s amazing. And to be honest, what I’ve watched recently that has to be in there, is the new Muppets film.
The Oscar-winning Muppets. It won best song.
T: Well that’s justified it in one! I watched it recently, and it was just brilliant. That’s the top three.
To round off, not in a macabre way, but if there was some sort of freak yachting accident, and PBR were to be no more, at least musically, what would be on the PBR headstone? How to sum up the ten years together?
T: “It was a right laugh. I love you, Bonar”.
How can you top that?
B: I can’t!