Playback: The First 10 Years of A Love Supreme
A Love Supreme is the Brisbane-based sometimes dance party / sometimes DJ act / sometimes radio programmer / one-time record store / always community gathering founded by Ben Chiu, Alex Intas and Paul Marinos in 2012. On the verge of their 10th anniversary, Ben and Paul are presenting two one-of-a-kind parties in Brisbane, packed with ambitious line-ups that spotlight local talent and international excellence. Ahead of the celebrations, we spoke to Ben and Paul about the story so far.
Gilles Peterson at The Brightside (2020), photographed by Muktub.
1. When Benny Met Paulie.
Today, Ben Chiu says the thing he most admires about Paul Marinos is that he always gets things done.
Ben: Paulie. “Old reliable.”
Ben: You know those cars you get that just last? Paulie’s like a Volvo. And always lots of jokes, he’s always got a joke.
The duo weren’t always so close. Ben opened the independent streetwear boutique Apartment in Brisbane’s Elizabeth St Arcade in 2006, with his brother Nick. Paul reckons he first came into the store late that year, maybe early 2007. He was a sneaker enthusiast at the time.
Ben: We were all well into our sneakers.
Paul: It was a time! I burnt a lot of money on shoes.
Ben: Yeah indeed.
Paul: Air Maxes and Dunks were the hot thing at the time.
Ben: And Dunks are back again.
Paul: Surprisingly! But also, none of the ones I’ve retained would be worth anything now.
Paulie would come by Apartment and chat to Nick about their weekend plans, and what was going on in-store.
Paul: And Benny was an asshole! He refused to acknowledge my existence.
Ben: I wasn’t an ass… I was just doing my thing, you know, I didn’t feel the need to also be chatting to everyone Nick was chatting to.
As the trio hung out some more, they discovered a mutual love of basketball. Nick invited Paul down to the local Girls’ Grammar courts, where the brothers played every Sunday.
Paul: I was slightly better than the boys at that stage–
Ben: (laughing) Paulie was like Kobe to us! And when he came along, realised that we kinda sucked.
Paul: I don’t know, maybe that’s how I earned some respect.
Their bond was cemented when they joined a social basketball league, playing together two or three times a week and even sporting matching tie-dyed singlets for jerseys, with spray painted numbers on the back. They’d go out together on weekends, too.
In 2012, it was actually Nick who had the idea to throw a party in the courtyard of Apartment.
Ben: We put on a barbeque and there were maybe 100 or so people who came along.
Oddisee was the headlining artist – a Washington/Brooklyn beatmaker and emcee, who’d been introduced to the owners by their friend Gavin Boyd (Soul Has Not Tempo). Alex Intas, another friend of the Chiu’s, helped with the vision.
Paul: I had nothing to do with [organising] them yet, and I just had the best time. I helped lift speakers up and down stairs, general busy work.
It wasn’t like any other party I’d gone to in Brisbane before. It was a proper block party with an international artist playing, and there were guys cooking chilli dogs!
A couple of parties in, the boys asked me, “Do you wanna join the ALS crew?”
Alex Intas, Paul Marinos and Ben Chiu.
The Apartment courtyard held three more parties, hosting the likes of Inkswel and James Pants, which was about the time the A Love Supreme crew linked in with Red Bull Music. But when the store gained some new neighbours, it quickly became clear that their gatherings would have to move.
Paul: That was the end of them. There was a new building that went up next door, and the manager was furious that these parties were taking place. He said, “If I hear any music, I’m calling the police straight away.”
Ben: We should’ve just done it, and shut the door.
Paul: It’s true! But if it’s an international artist you’re bringing, the worst thing that could happen is that the party gets shut down before they even get to play.
Ben: So one of the parties that we had slated there with Jneiro Jarel had to be shifted last minute. Shout out to Super Whatnot for the late assist.
More nights were held at more ambitious venues, and then Ben opened Ben’s Burgers in Fortitude Valley’s Winn Lane, where the neighbours were more receptive to the idea of patrons eating, drinking and dancing.
At the time, the boys were taking advantage of acts who were thinking about tacking a Brisbane show onto the end of a run up the East Coast.
Ben: At the very start, we’d get given a lot of Sunday dates. Friday and Saturday would always be taken by the big paying cities – so Sydney and Melbourne – and then they’d be like, “Hey, we could come to Brisbane.”
Paul: We were always the cream on top of the tour. For a minute, it felt kind of necessary. That’s not saying that we did something super special, but there weren’t a lot of people pushing it.
Theo playing in Winn Lane. Photographed by Ben Chiu.
2. Source material.
The duo have always prized discovery, and the left-of-field, fusion sound ALS parties are known for can be traced back to their early passions.
Paul: Growing up, I had my Walkman with a cassette, and I’d record stuff from radio shows, things like that.
Ben: You were probably recording much cooler stuff than I was. I wasn’t recording very cool stuff!
Paul: I was recording a lot of punk and ska and reggae and that shit. Hey – I love ska! The first wave. The first wave of ska was amazing!
As I got older, you know, in my early teens, the music you listen to starts to identify you more. The Beastie Boys really rang true for me, because they did the big crossover from punk to rap.
Ben: I never got into the Beastie Boys that much, hey.
Paul: I mean, sure – they’re kinda cheesy now, but they were huge for me.
And then all of a sudden, streaming started – Limewire, Napster, all that stuff. You’d download all your songs even though half of them would be completely different.
As technology grew, my musical world became infinite. I mean, these days, it would be a real shame if kids weren’t interested in … discovering music, in my mind.
Ben: I thought you were going to say it’d be a shame if they weren’t interested in ska…
Ben: Nick was really into that 90s hip hop era, and he was getting The Source magazine all the time so I listened to that a lot. That’s when I started getting into music big time. Prior to my teens, I was listening to whatever was on the radio. I wasn’t really nerding out on much.
Joyce Wrice, Silentjay, Benedek and Kuzich at The Foundry. Photographed by Ben Chiu.
Paul and Ben had been collecting music well before they first learned to DJ, (the real learning, ironically, happened well after they’d first been asked to play).
Ben: We’d been buying records and collecting music, and Paulie was obviously playing in bands.
Paul: I played in a lot of punk and ska bands, mostly.
Ben: “I LOVE SKA!”
Paul: No comment on the ska music. They were more punk bands than anything else, really. As a teenager, it sets you up with that anti-authoritarian attitude.
And that was the attitude of the bands I was in. Through that whole process, you spend a lot of time listening to music, collecting music, and that’s when you start to be like, “Oh, maybe I could play this music to people!”
A call from Red Bull threw Paulie in the deep end for his first live set to an audience.
Ben: You were good with music!
Paul: Yeah, I’d played in bands and I thought I got music, but let’s be real – I was not good. Red Bull had booked A Love Supreme to play their stage at a festival. We had a B2B with Alex, James Wright and …me, for a couple of hours in the afternoon of Day 2 of a very rainy festival.
That was the first time I ever got on stage. I thought, “I should really learn how to do this properly. It’s kind of daunting, being up here and having no idea what I’m doing.”
Ben: I was like, “Good luck with that, bro.”
Ben’s introduction to the decks was a little more measured. Ben’s Burgers had opened a joint in West End, and the restaurant had an entertainment slot to fill.
Ben: I thought, “What’s the cheapest thing we can do?” Oh– not pay anyone, have me do it! So I just started playing records at the shop, and my first thought was that I needed to get better at it.
Paul: Liking music, promoting parties and being a DJ are three completely different things. You can be extremely passionate about one of them and not know how to do the others.
By 2016, the duo wanted to run a more accessible event highlighting Australian talent. A Love Supreme started hosting a monthly club night, BLESS, which had a two-year run at The Foundry.
Paul: There was a certain pocket of time where it was to the clock: every month, once a month, there’d be a BLESS party. And people were stoked to come, stoked to be there. Because it was a club night, so many young kids would filter in and hang out, and every month, there’d be fresh faces coming. That whole experience was really fun.
Ben: We had a bunch of awesome nights.
Hosting local or interstate DJs meant the entry fee was lower than the ticket price of an ALS party with an international headliner; the boys would sometimes play a warm up set so the main support they’d booked wouldn’t be playing to an empty room.
Ben: When we were younger and partying, you could go to Lick It, when that was at The Empire. That was the cool club night to go to that wasn’t just straight-up commercial music.
Paul: They were doing some left of field stuff, for sure. Bookings that weren’t necessarily in my wheelhouse, but-
Ben: At the time, it was like, stuff that wasn’t strictly mainstream. So we took a little element of that and did Bless.
Paul: Inclusivity was really big for us. There was an aura at some of the early parties, where people thought it was this exclusive, cool-guy party for cool, trendy people. Actually, we just wanted people to come on down. If you want to come drink a beer and dance to some music, you should come down! Bless was good because it changed that thinking a bit, it was a turning point.
Booking interstate DJs we personally really loved, and watching them bring people together was really nice. There’s something extremely rewarding about seeing a room full of people dancing, and knowing you had something to do with it.
Ben: The music we’ve always pushed from the get go definitely stems from jazz, soul, that realm of music, into the electronic stuff, and the message within that music is a positive message. That’s the kind of music I want to share, and it’s underrepresented in Brisbane, as genres that people listen to. Brisbane is a rock band city, which is fine. But over the years, we’ve been lucky that the punters who’ve come through our parties have been pretty open-minded. Once you get into dance music, especially left-of-centre dance music, it can get very interesting and worldly. For some people, that can be pretty new.
Club BLESS, photographed by Zanda Mylo.
5. Slightly bigger than goldfish.
Despite clocking up close to 100 events as presenters or co-presenters, the largest event ALS has ever put on – Block Party – got about 800 people through. Ben and Paul don’t consider themselves big fish.
Ben: I think we’re maybe slightly bigger than a goldfish.
Paul: When you consider the scale of events that are going on, we still feel pretty small.
Ben: These 10-year anniversary shows, the one’s coming up are pretty big. They’ll be our biggest in terms of capacity. We’ve just been doing lots of pretty small things for a long time, which I guess is because-
Paul: We’re doing shit that people haven’t heard about in Brisbane.
Ben: Unpopular shit!
There’ll still be times where we’ll speak to friends and say, “You know, we’re bringing out this artist,” and they say, “Who?”, and we say, “Well – they’re big to us!” In our little bubble.
So we’re not booking out anything that will sell out the Riverstage. And once it gets a lot bigger, it outgrows that bubble where it still has a community feeling. We haven’t felt the need.
The duo are most proud of that “community” they’ve managed to sustain over a decade of presenting Australian debuts, giving newcomers a space to dance, and lifting up the underground. A recent open-air ALS party was treated to an intermittent downpour for the last four hours, but Ben reckons 80% of the crowd stuck through to watch Paula Tape, from Chile.
Ben: Everyone got soaked. Everyone there was just like, “Yep, we’re in it.” That was a really nice moment, the fact that they all stayed. It seemed to bring everyone together even more.
One of Paul’s most treasured memories was finally booking Gilles Peterson, in what ended up being the last ALS party before the first round of 2020 lockdowns.
Paul: This one was a real bucket list experience for us. We had spent so much time listening to Gilles on the airwaves over the years and to have the chance to host him was a must. In our world, his influence can’t really be understated – he’s the originator of joining the musical dots.
Just spending time with him and discovering how his brain ticks really was something else.
Block Party (2018), photographed by Chris Mehmet.
A Love Supreme don’t half-ass a party – even when a night is descending into chaos, they’ll do whatever it takes to keep the fire burning.
Paul: I admire Ben’s ability to stay as calm as possible through stressful periods, like, funnily enough, trying to get through our doggy door at the house, whilst one of the turntables at a BLESS party started malfunctioning.
Ben: I’d caught an uber home–
Paul: He’d caught an uber home to pick up a replacement, and forgotten to take his keys with him! I’m back at the venue, freaking out because it’s becoming mayhem.
Ben: I can’t say I was that calm.
Paul: Maybe not…
Ben: I was on the phone like (hisses) “Paulie! Paulie, I forgot my keys! I’m trying to get in through the doggie door, but I can’t!”. And he goes, “Try harder!”. And I go “I’m trying as hard as I can, man!”
Paul: I thought you were surprisingly level-headed.
To celebrate their double-digit birthday, Ben and Paul are putting on two lots of festivities: a live night, headlined by Brazil’s Azymuth and Marcos Valle, and a DJ night, headlined by Floating Points from the UK.
Ben: Azymuth and Marcos Valle is monumental, not just for us but for Brisbane, for Australia. It’s the first ever tour in Australia that Azymuth is doing, and they’ve been so influential in music since the 1960s. This will probably be the only time they come to Australia, considering their age.
Both acts were really key to me getting into more Brazilian music, and Marcos Valle is such a huge Brazilian icon. To have them both on the stage together, and to be able to bring that show to Brisbane is pretty incredible.
Paul: It’s lucky, let’s be real. We were given the opportunity to do it, and it’s really the holy grail for us.
And Sam (Floating Points), Sam’s all time.
Ben: A phenomenal musician.
Paul: A neuroscientist.
Ben: The guy’s a genius!
Paul: A genius. The way he approaches music – he’s putting out reissues, he founded Eglo Records and Melodies International. His output alone, even apart from making his own music, is insane.
Ben: Even the stuff he’s done with rediscovering Brazilian music as well – the stuff he’s done with Gilles Peterson.
So, where to from here? The last two years have obfuscated the future of live events and music. At the same time, our pandemic-induced hibernation (and subsequent abundance of free time) has proved enough of an encouragement for a handful of new promoters to pop up locally.
Paul: The amount of people throwing parties now is really cool.
Ben: So now we can enjoy going to someone else’s things!
Ben and Paul are certainly happy to be back from the break, but their approach to the future remains unhurried, and as always, they’re unbothered when faced by more questions than answers.
Paul: At some point, you start to think, should we be doing things on a larger scale? Rather than trying to facilitate what’s coming into the country, do you start taking the plunge to tour someone yourself? We’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to put these artists on, but do we start creating that opportunity for ourselves? I think that’s probably the next step.
Gilles Peterson in Fortitude Valley, photographed by Muktub.
“A Love Supreme: 10 Laps Around The Sun” is a two-day celebration held on Sunday March 20 at The Princess Theatre, and Friday March 25 at The Tivoli.
March 20: Azymuth and Marcos Valle (Brazil), Middle Name Dance Band, The Jazz House, DJ Paprika
March 25: Floating Points (UK), Ruby Savage (UK), DJ Jnett, Mike Who, Sophie McAlister, Lori, Respect Guy
Tickets available through www.alovesupreme.co