Getting to Know Bristol Beat Social with saaazPosted on: 18 Jan 2023
For the first installment of 2023's Getting to Know, we chatted to Sara (a.k.a saaaz), one of the minds behind Bristol Beat Social - an open mic for beat producers. We met Sara in Trailblazer CBD Cafe - the recurring site of Bristol Beat Social.
Why don’t you introduce yourself, and Echo World?
So, my name is Sara – but my producer name is saaaz. I’m part of Echo World – we run these things called ‘Beat Socials’, which is like the producer equivalent of an open mic night.
For a lot of producers there’s no chance to perform unless you can get big and DJ or something like that. We wanted to make an event where people can come, in a supportive environment, and just play whatever they're working on – doesn’t have to be done, doesn’t have to be polished. A whole range of people, different types of genres – as long as it’s got a beat, it’s for the beat social.
We’re running it in Bristol and London, this year we’ve started going for Leeds and Cardiff as well. There’s only three of us – there’s my partner, Saul, who’s called Injijo – he’s the founder of Echo World. Then there’s our other friend, Joe, who’s called mylofiguy – these are all real names and then production names.
Bristol Beat Social has been based at Trailblazer CBD Cafe for the time being – how long has that been?
We’ve been doing it for technically two, three years – but obviously there was a lockdown in-between that. We did about two before lockdown, then after lockdown it took a while to get back in the venue scene.
We had a few different venues that we started off with but we’ve stuck with this place because it’s cosy, it’s comfy, and the whole vibe of this place is...it’s like a front room. It’s very relaxed. We very much wanted it to feel like you’re hanging out with your friends and playing your music to each other.
We tried a few other venues in Bristol, but they’re all quite performance focused. That intimidates a lot of people who are coming to just play their music for the first time – they’ve never played for a crowd.
That’s the Beat Social – talk to us a bit more about Echo World at large.
We started out specifically as an events company in 2018. We were doing all kinds of events – so video games, lofi, all of that. We were trying to find a new kind of event which isn’t about having to dance, or get really drunk to enjoy it. It’s the alternative event for people who just want to get outside the house but not feel too much pressure to be super social.
We did that as a start off point, but from doing the Beat Socials, we met a lot of producers who were really talented, but not producing or releasing any of their music. We asked them why they hadn’t gone with a label – and they either said they were intimidated by labels, or they just didn’t feel motivated to release. So we just started a label eventually.
We’re trying to slowly build on events, especially with the Beat Socials this year, and build more of a UK community. Particularly with the Hip-Hop community. There’s a lot of hip-hop lofi producers who are completely disconnected, not even realising they live in the same city. Then they’ll come to our events and be like “Oh my gosh, I listen to your music – what are you doing here?”, and be genuinely shocked.
Your website mentions you sell cassettes sometimes – and they’re all 100% recycled plastic, and completely recorded using solar energy. How are you swinging that?
So, we’re not doing it – luckily. That would be a lot of work. We use a website [BandCDs] that does cassette printing – but the whole point of the website is it’s all made with recycled plastic and renewable energy. I think they’re based in the UK as well, which is quite nice – makes the whole thing a bit more eco-friendly.
We’re all quite into sustainability and all that stuff; we thought if we’re going to do cassettes, or records, it’s going to need an edge to it where we don’t have to feel bad that we’ve made more plastic, basically. It’s really nice to have physical music – there’s something different about owning a cassette or a record and listening to it rather than listening to it on Spotify – but you need to do that in a way that be renewable in the future.
limited cassettes available— Echo World (@echoworldco) January 10, 2023
cozy season, various artists [echo world compilation]
release date: 09.12.2022
purchase link: https://t.co/godnrs7HB5
international shipping available.#lofi #cassette #limited #hiphop #beats #chillhop #season #cozy #music #physical #independent pic.twitter.com/uFNsJyxW52
What’s the state of Bristol’s beat & lofi community?
It’s changed over time. When we started in 2018, there wasn’t really anything going on – let alone events with lo-fi playing. Lo-fi’s become really big now, but in 2018 it had only been around for maybe two, three years.
I know there’s a few other people on the scene like Lyric Lounge – we know the people who run that – but they’re more focused on the MCs. There’s a big community out there for vocalists, but not so much just for the producers on their own. Unless you’re coming with a vocalist, or you’ve set out a performance date, there’s no real scene for just casually playing your music.
There’s not a lot of open mics just for production, basically. I think I’ve seen some more over time, over the last year or two, but the hip-hop scene itself, for just casual networking, I don’t think it’s quite there.
How do you think that compares to the rest of the UK?
I think every city does have a different vibe to it.
We’ve started to organise our Cardiff events, and they’re a little bit more of a live music scene, but the kind where everyone knows each other. Whereas in Bristol there’s genres where everyone knows each other. I don’t know if that’s legitimate, but that’s what I’ve found.
Cardiff seems like everyone knows each other because they go to the same venues. There’s only a few main venues – whereas Bristol has a lot more venue choice, and a different span of genres.
London is more focused on trap and things like that. London surprised me because I kind of got the idea that London was quite intimidating, quite professional. But at our London events, everyone’s been really supportive, really quite kind, in a way that I was shocked to see – not because I don’t think there’s people like that everywhere, but just because you imagine London’s the “big time”.
All round there’s supportiveness in each city, but each city has more of one genre. Bristol has a bit more boom-bap, like old school hip-hop heads. London is more trap and modern production – at least for the people who come to our events.
Let’s talk a bit about your career – if you had to, what genre would you categorise your work as?
Probably lo-fi. Lo-fi or bedroom pop. I think everyone knows me for lo-fi now but probably it is more bedroom pop. I’ve just managed to force people to agree that it’s lo-fi.
I’ve been producing for...how many years now? Quite a while. I wanna say since 2014? But that’s when I really started, like you don’t know anything.
I wasn’t ever really performing at all – the way I got involved with Echo World was the first time I was ever gonna play. Saul approached me who first thought up Echo World as an event idea. He said “do you wanna play? I really like lo-fi, I really like beats, and I want some lo-fi producers to play.” He got me to play for the event. I was so enamoured by how fun it was that I asked if I could help out doing stuff. It grew from there.
It just so happened that because I was so in the lo-fi world, and Saul really liked that type of music, and we were working on this event together, it just started to come more into that. Lo-fi also started to come really into the mainstream, so it worked really nicely.
For my stuff, it took ages to figure out what to perform as, and where to perform – because beats don’t necessarily fit a night out in Bristol. There were so many events I did – not bad ones – where people would be playing 140 afterwards, and I’d just be there with my lo-fi beats. There were a little bit speedy, but they weren’t fast enough…
I’ve played a lot of events now and done a lot gigs, but that’s from expanding my genre base but I always play lo-fi at the Beat Socials. That’s the space where you don’t have to overthink about what genre you’re playing.
Break My <3, saaaz's new record.
Do you think there’s a place for lo-fi in a more formalised gigging enviroment, outside of stuff like Beat Social?
Yeah, totally. We did an event in Paris – a year ago now I think. There are a lot of really big lo-fi producers in France.. We played a few really well known artists, it did really well, we filled out the whole place. Everyone was saying: “we’ve never seen events like this”, and this was in Paris! They hadn’t even heard garage – we played some garage at the end. These are all people who are either musicians or know musicians, or are really into music.
There’s definitely a place for it, but it’s about that first step of producers seeing that there is a way to get there, and perform more relaxing music – and there is an audience who want to see it. I think before producers thought they had to learn to DJ, and play a different genre.
Those spaces work, they just need to be built?
Yeah! There needs to be lots of options as well. We’ll try our best to try and provide an event, and a really professional one, but there might be another promoter out there who has a slightly different version of it. It’s nice to have variety – I think it’s better than just us doing it and being the one people know for hip-hop and stuff like that, there should be loads of people doing it so everyone can enjoy the scene fully. Everyone has different taste within that genre and I think it’ll be more enriched if loads of people are doing it – so I wanna see more of it.
While we’re on your work, is there anything you want to shout out that’s new or upcoming?
Oh my gosh, of course I will. I’ll totally use a chance to promote myself…
I’ve just had my second record out – very nice record, it’s bright pink, so anyone who likes pink should definitely get it. I’ve got a release every week this year – I’m releasing a song every week, because I have a lot of songs I’ve made and I haven’t released any of them so this is the year. And I’m probably going to have another record out later this year.
And what’s that new record called?
It’s called Break my <3.Very edgy, very internet.
You’ve got your first Cardiff & Leeds events coming, when are they?
We’ve got our first Leeds event in Februrary, and our first Cardiff event in March – and we do monthly events now here, in Bristol and in London.
So, Cardiff is 3rd of March at Porter’s, 9pm onwards, and then our Leeds event is 11th of Februrary at Hyde Park Book Club. All our events are on our website – and just message us if you need any other details.
If you were Mayor of Bristol for a day – what would you do?
I’ve never thought about this...all I can think of is the red trousers one of the old mayors used to wear.
Really random one, okay, this is so random...There used to be a free issue that would go round Bristol, that was in a little brown envelope, called “Don’t Panic”. I haven’t seen it since, it might still be in another form elsewhere, but Don’t Panic was this amazing envelope that you’d find round Bristol for free in shops. It had a really cool design on it, you’d open it and it would have like one poster, lots of little issues of what’s happening in Bristol that month art-wise and music-wise. I’d love if Don’t Panic came back – it might still be around but I haven’t seen the envelope form of it in years.
We wouldn't mind being told not to panic either, these days. Cheers Sara.
You can check out Echo World's events and artists on their website. Bristol Beat Social takes place each month, the next one is this weekend, Saturday the 21st of January. You can find more info here.
Getting to Know: 20th Century Flicks with Dave Taylor
Patrick is a filmmaker with so much Bristol in his blood the white blood cells are graffiti'd. Educated at the Northern Film School in Leeds, he’s returned home to be a Videographer and Reviewer for 365Bristol and BARBI. When he’s not messing about with cameras, he enjoys playing guitar, spending far too much time on tabletop RPGs, and being an awful snob about cider. Have a look at his work here, or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.