July Digital Cover: DLT
Black British culture is at the foot of its self-titled honouree moment and Days Like This (DLT) events, stand as a gala for every inch of this Oscar-winning hour. Encapsulating music from a roster of carefully selected DJs and hosts, the DLT experience has reached gold standard decor in the hall of fame of the so-called Black British experience.
At the head of the table sits MK and Ant, fanatically obsessed with foot printing every destination accessible to Black people on the planet. The dream started as an average day in New York City, when friends; Boss, Ant and Michael fell for the brunch experience the concrete jungle had to offer, with a particular taste for the African- American twang. Landing back in London, and starting small, the event sewed its roots on a “if you know” basis amongst friends. A progressive few years later, and the term ‘Days Like This’ has become a household name. Foundations were set when the event started in 2016, and has since grown to be a huge phenomenon, with tickets selling out almost instantly every time.
With a seat that brags status as the ones who illuminate friendship and enjoyment for a generation, the importance of DLT dives deeper than spotting your Twitter fave at the bar or singing along to an afrobeats set with Stormzy. It cuts into all access for the most melanated ticket holder and freedom of expression without police interference. While on a lighter note, the legion of fans it has acquired throughout the years has resulted in insightful storytelling of a myriad of unique experiences. It takes a certain gravitas to keep afloat as an event collective and constantly deliver new backdrops. Like three kings on a mission, accompanied by their own team of gifts, Ant Michael and Boss have continued to follow a path that has reaped rewards with every pillar. Fresh off the flight from its most recent Malta takeover, which saw a headline of acts such as Kaytranada, Wizkid, Shenseea and Rema party amongst enlivened partygoers, the DLT brunch team took some time to explain the formula of art and music, as well as what the future looks like for Days Like This.
What does it mean to you, to be Black British?
WILL: That's an interesting question, man. It's an experience, it's an identity. It's a lot of things. I'd say the Black British experience is like no other. We're talking music, we're talking food. If we're talking just outlook on things, especially nightlife as well where we're concerned it's an amazing thing. But it's not always like roses, there's a lot of different things that we have to face day to day. But the main things that we’re prevailing, you know, I mean, we're doing great, and we're hoping to do better each day.
ANT: I think what I like about being Black British, the variety, I think, especially in London, there's like so many different elements of being Black British, there's the Caribbean culture, the African culture: West Africa, and the Southern African, Eastern Africa. And I feel like when tried to represent, it shows how different we are and how we aren't a monolith and that we are so different in just everything that we do. And we tried to just embrace all the different aspects of us.
MK: Yeah, and I would kind of agree and echo that point in the sense that, I feel like we're in a time where we are almost kind of setting the breeding ground for what being Black and British is, at the moment. Everyone is kind of expressing itself. And we're in this period of Black expression, Black joy, Black love. So it feels like a great time to be Black and British. I mean, like, now is the time to just be out here and just do our thing.
You guys invited me to DLT, I loved it by the way - insert clip here. How much planning and effort actually goes into one day?
MK: It actually depends on how much time we’ve got.
ANT: I feel like with the local ones, it's becoming a little bit more automatic.
MK: Yeah, I feel like we're the local ones. We kind of got the team, we know what we're doing, and we know what to expect. And then it'll be easier. I feel that with the travel stuff, it's a little bit harder. Like that's months and months of planning. But I guess for anyone looking at this and thinking, you know, it's simple. It's not always simple. Like for us to get to the point where we are now - it wasn’t easy. That's like six years of doing this, you know what I'm saying.
WILL: I'd say on the day is potentially the easiest part. Definitely some hard parts to deal with. But like they said, you know, it takes months of planning, negotiating, finding the best people for brunch, DJs, artists, for Malta for example. But yeah, it's a real journey. We reap the benefits on the day.
ANT: I think how I perceive is, like I said earlier when Michael was talking, it's a bit more automatic. And I think because we've been doing it for years now, six years now. So it's the situation where I feel like we've built the brand enough and we've kind of worked with a lot of people to know what works and what doesn't work. We still try to bring and put other people on, but it's still very much like I think we've got enough experience and knowledge to [know] this might not work and this will work. So it's becoming easier as we're doing it locally, as opposed to international.
What was the idea behind the name Days Like This?
ANT: So we were in Boss' car, I think? We were in someone's car. And we were like, well, we've got this concept. We found the venue. And like, what should we call this thing? And we were just like, literally racking our heads on what makes sense. And then I remember I really liked the Shaun Escoffery song Days Like This, I was like yeah, that's it, guys. Why don't we just call it this? And they were like, yeah, you know what, this perfectly encapsulates what we're trying to give off as the vibe. And then literally, that's when the name was born. And then I guess I feel like it's a really long name. And then we started to find a way to call it DLT for it to be a little bit more snappier.
I also read that you guys were inspired by the New York brunch experience?
ANT: Michael and Boss and I, we lived in New York. And we were shocked at the whole day party scene.We were like come on, London definitely needs it. And so we was like, let's take the risk to kind of do this. And then that’s where it started.
MK: I guess the most shocking thing, like and I don't know if people remember this, about six, seven years ago, there wasn't a Black London scene. There wasn't a, I'm going to a Black London event, it was let's go Shoreditch, let's go and hope that they let us in, or we go in a mixed group and hope that, you know, they don't cause us any trouble. So for us to be out there in New York and to see this is a Black New York scene with a varied different type of personality, like all different types of people. And what we're just here and it's just pure Black expression? We were just like this is something we need to try and replicate. And I guess, when we first came back, it was just like, let's just do it amongst our friends and if we like it, we like it. If we don't, then whatever, whatever. And then, I guess with that is just when I guess we almost realised people almost kind of fell for it. Like, yo, this is something we like, this is what we need. And then yeah, since then, it's just been. Here we are.
Yeah, here we are, you guys have Grammy-nominated lineups and people coming to town with the intention to visit DLT Brunch - talk me through that.
MK: It’s mad, It’s mad. For us, I think we were in a bubble of just doing our own thing for a very long time. And I feel like, as a collective, all of us were quite a very close knit circle. And we're quite content in that. So sometimes we forget the impact we have in the outside space. And then it was like, slowly, just like seeing all these celebrities just attending the party and then reaching out and saying, Can I just buy 10 tickets or want to come with my friends? They're not trying to come and come for free - they want to buy tickets or buy tables? And then sometimes we're like, No, we're like, sold out. Or other times are like, yeah, alright, cool - We can accommodate you. And I think for a very long time, we didn't realise the impact. I think, for me personally, it was when Stormzy reached out to us, I was like, yo, can I pull up you lot are in Croydon can I just pull up please? I was just like, cool. But it was like that for us was like wow, like big, big Stormzy wants to come to our party.
Will: So coming into the team 2018 as someone that was attending, and now be part of it. It's definitely been amazing to see. So I'd say there was one that we had at 28 West where we had Juls, Mrs. Wardrobe, a bunch of other people come through. And I felt like that was like a moment of like, okay, cool. People are literally like on Twitter asking how do I get tickets to DLT. I need to be there. It really felt like an event where you could see your internet favourites. But it also didn't feel too stuck up. That’s when I knew we had something special. People feel calm in the midst of like, all of the influencers that they love. And the influencers feel calm to walk around as well. That’s when I felt like cool, we have something here and we’re taking it somewhere.
So you guys have just come back from Malta, what made you go international?
Ant: It's something that I think we all as a team have that all aspire to do. We've obviously done stuff in Ibiza, Nigeria and Ghana before, but I feel like we knew that we had the opportunity to do something bigger in a European country. And I think me and MK had a conversation that, I think it’s time for us to do something bigger than what we do locally and time to get the big artists involved.
MK: Previous years we'd obviously attempted to do smaller intimate vibes in like, Mykonos. Marbella, but the pandemic happened, and we didn't get the opportunity. We saw that people still wanted to do those things. So we thought, you know, this time, let's give them that, but let's give them more. Let's give them Wizkid, let's give them Kaytranada. Let's really reward the culture and say come. You guys have been supporting us throughout all this pandemic and all these uncertainties. But now let's do it properly. And it feels like a coming of age for us in terms of like, alright, this is time to grow up. Let’s start doing things bigger. Well, not necessarily too big, because it's still an intimate experience. But bigger and better.
What particularly stood out to me was your DJ lineup, it's so carefully curated. Do you hold auditions?
WILL: That's really interesting. So like I said, I came into this as an attendee. But at the time, I was managing AAA and RBC. The first DLT we did was The Hot One. And we were having, like, bits of conversations here and there with Ant and MK and we decided, yeah, AAA is gonna, like, you know, do the first one at 28 West, obviously a legendary venue. When I say he started and it was like, everything was floating. It was insane. People were hanging out the windows, it was an absolutely insane day. Ant came to us and he was like, can you do another hour? He was like, no! But I think that moment there kind of allowed everyone to know that, you know, our DJ lineups are fun but they're serious. There's an order to it. We've got Buttery Hotness that takes us through the brunch hours, RBC comes in and that takes up a notch like, early 2000s flavour as well. Then we'll have space for new DJs to come in as well. Because we always want to kind of give people a platform to show people who are coming to the brunches, who's next and what's up next as well. Then we've got a AAA at some point, they'll be shelling it down all the time. And again, we might have another room for another up and coming DJ as well. And obviously, we've got a Tiny Man who does hosting as well. So there's like a real system that goes into it and we're very, very focused on how the order of the day goes.
ANT: There was a time when we had no clue what we were doing. I'll be the first to admit, there was a time when like, we'd literally just used to hire any DJ and then I think once we saw the impact of what these guys did, that's how we even got them onto the team. They were managing AAA and RBC and I was like you guys actually kind of know about the DJ’s - do you want to join the team? Here we are now it's like they've just got it on lock, it's automatic now so it's amazing.
MK: I’ve been to Malta before, and I said it two three years ago that this could be the spot for DLT. I think that when you do events or like you do what we do and you go to a certain space and you’re that [makes you say “this works!] Malta is like a European Africa. The people are from Africa, Sicily, and then another part. The language is a mix of all three. When you go there as well, as a Black person, you don't feel like I'm not supposed to be there, you feel like a part of it. Also, it's affordable as well, which is key like in terms of when people are going somewhere. You know, we made the mistake of going Mykonos - that was a big fucking mistake. Yeah, so we won't be going back there again. But this felt like the right fit for what we wanted to do. And I feel like tourism over there also welcomes it. So it was perfect, very scenic. They filmed Game of Thrones there, it was just like the perfect vibe, beach clubs, just vibes. It just was a perfect fit for what we wanted to do. And I think yeah, that's why we decided on it.
We really had a halt with the pandemic, DJ’s became playlists, how did you guys survive that hiatus?
ANT: It wasn't easy. I think as a collective, we were really, really frustrated because I feel like that (2020) was the first year that we actually planned. Everything we had been doing was really random. So I feel like as a team, we got really close. We started jumping on Zooms trying to keep each other motivated and trying to find ways to like exist outside of us doing parties and just want to find out, what does DLT really mean to us? And I thought that was really cool because we got Rami onboard - she's in charge of all of our digital marketing. She really implemented a cool plan for us to show what we really care about as a brand as opposed to just the party. That really changed everything. So like everything that we do apart from all the DLT stuff and promoting the party, she's like, hey, we like music, we like clothes, we like fashion, food. And she kind of helps us show that kind of stuff.
WILL: I'd say it definitely made us more personable via our socials. For sure. Like, I think people have a better understanding for who we are as individuals via our platforms. Whereas before, it literally maybe just repeat photos at the events. Yeah, flyers, pictures..
Your artwork is super distinctive!
Ant: I have to give it to this guy, MK. He said Ant, you know you actually know what's good and what's not. Because I wasn't that much involved - I didn't care. He was like, you know, what's good, you know what looks good. Like you should help find people to work with us. And we found the first guy that did a lot of artwork, Rash - big up Rash. And then he kind of really helped us find what our brand was, to really understand what a brand looks like and know what we want the brand to represent in terms of art. We've now found Ali who's just taking it to another level where he makes it you have these moving elements. He came to me and said “I’m doing your graphic design now, I want to become like the Creative Director. I want to be involved in everything that we do, everything visually we do”. And like he's come to us. He's like really taking charge. So as much as the artwork is cool. I feel like when you see other stuff that we do that looks cool - think of Ali.
So to conclude this, what is the future of DLT? I mean, we literally had a conversation, BTS, and spoke of travelling to cities around the UK.
MK: That's the plan. I think that the plan for us is to exist in every pocket that we’re needed. Every pocket that requires this kind of experience. Us being in London was born out of we didn't exist. So I can only imagine how many of our pockets in the UK, in Europe, in America, in Africa, that we can exist and our plan is to always try and be in those pockets. So that's the long term plan for us.
Any last words?
Will: Yeah, man, I think it's just the start of it. We're definitely going to start, we love going back to Africa, Ghana is probably one of our favourite places for sure. But expect us in more continents. I'd say you know, DLT isn't just a party, it is a possibility of what Black people can do in terms of tearing down barriers for like venues. I feel like anytime we hit a venue, we see an onslaught of like several other Black events coming through and we applaud that, you know, saying that we need to start changing the narrative more and more, and that's exactly what we stand for. I'd say you know, like we said already, we're local guys, but you know, we've got global in our focal so you know, just expect amazing things all the time.