Simahlak and J-Fro
Turntable wreckers Simahlak and J-Fro (of Goontribe) have, between them, probably made millions of feet stomp Montreal dancefloors near and far. Starting this Saturday, they bring a new weekly, Shuffle — a “two-for-two” concept wherein both DJs go back-to-back every other track, without sticking to any given format — to famed local hang Tokyo Bar.
The names aren’t new to local nightlife lovers but the concept is fresh and clean, so we caught up with the pair as they get ready to work new angles in a comfortably worked in party spot.
Here is what they had to say.
Darcy MacDonald: J-Fro, you rock Tokyo with Goontribe, tell us a bit about that experience please.
J-Fro: I’ve been a part of the Goontribe since around ’08 ’09. It’s always a great experience working with talented DJs. Sundays with the Goontribe has been one of my favourite nights in this city for a very long time. Asides from Sundays, I like collaborating with other DJs, looking to push the creative envelope further.
DM: Sim, you are new to Tokyo — please describe what drew you to the club in the here-and-now?
Simahlak: First and foremost, I really appreciate the staff at Tokyo. They welcomed me with open arms both professionally and personally. For me to commit to a “golden egg” night, I’d have to be picky with the timing. Also, the DJ set-up is overlooking the crowd which is different for me, I can read and feel the energy flow in a different, visceral way. So far, each Saturday, there’ll be moments where the crowd jumps while dancing like no one is looking and I’ll look at J-Fro like “Bruh, you feel the floor shaking??” Honestly, there have been times where I asked other DJs to go two for two and they refused. The second I asked J-Fro, he was down right away. I can respect that hunger. In turn, it keeps me sharp as well. These were all positive signs which led me to say yes.
DM: How did you meet and come up with the concept?
Sim: We always used to bump into each other after our gigs and talk about DJ-related things and bounce ideas off each other. The most frequent topic was the DJ A.M. documentary called As I Am as well as the Do Over in L.A. which is an all-format party. Those two combined sparked the idea of Shuffle, where we both embrace playing all genres of music to create a flow the crowd might or might not expect.
DM: I understand the Shuffle concept but please explain it in your own words — maybe Sim can handle the technical details and talk about how it compares to your past weeklies. And J, maybe you’d like to speak about what will distinguish it from other Tokyo nights or your own.
Sim: J-Fro and myself do two-or-twos from the beginning of the night till the end. As artists and DJs, this pushes us to challenge ourselves on the spot to come up with creative musical segways, sequences and arcs that lend to a time-travelling type of musical journey. So we can go from, say, Travis Scott to Earth Wind and Fire. Nothing is prepared beforehand as far as selection — it’s all done spontaneously. It’s a bit like exercising different body parts — akin to random crates — in one workout/session. Iron sharpens iron. Technically, I’d say it’s way more gutsy but hella fun. I carry my other nights by myself (Tenant at Apt 200, Sounds of Sim at Suwu and Get Nice at Blizzarts) but Shuffle will be the only residency where I go back to back with another DJ.
J-Fro: One of the great things about Tokyo is that it attracts a wide variety crowd on all their nights. I usually DJ alone for the most part on — Throwback Thursday’s at Tokyo — where it’s focused more on throwbacks from mid 2000 with a mix of current Top 40. Fridays and Sundays is more urban-based (hip hop, R&B, dancehall). On the other nights, I’ll work with another DJ but the time is split maybe a half hour here and a half hour there. As Sim pointed out, we go two for two the whole night.
DM: Both of you being vet club DJs, what do you think the format reflects about current trends in nightlife, here or otherwise?
Sim: Before anything else, we’re just grateful for the opportunity to be doing what we love. We’re constantly learning and trying to get better at the art and craft of DJing. The fact that the format is open allows us to experiment with all types of musical genres and become vulnerable in a way by taking risks with every song selection and transition. Having nights where it follows a musical structure can get tedious and predictable at times. So the shuffling of genres gives room to more possibilities as opposed to an all trap or house night.
DM: Who is this weekly aimed at? And why is Tokyo the right place to do it?
Sim: Tokyo just seems so fitting. They always attract a wide variety and random crowd, in terms of age, lifestyle and background. We love it that anyone and everyone is welcome. ■
Shuffle official launch at Tokyo Bar (3709 St. Laurent) on Saturday, Sept 10, 10 p.m.–3 a.m., price unlisted