Somewhere back in the midst of the mid-2000s, Martin Novosel had a vision – if the Beastie Boys had fought for his right to party, then it was his responsibility to ensure the party went on. Purple Sneakers was born – and 11 years on, its legacy is still intact as it holds down the fort of its big-picture empire. Ahead of Purple Sneakers’ massive birthday celebrations, Novosel gives us a brief history of how this night of dirty indie dancefloors came to define his being.
“I was working in London at Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. I was in publishing as the assistant editor, which was not exciting at all. I was running parties the entire time I was working there, though. My inspiration was this guy called Erol Alkan – a lot of people don’t know him, but he was the whole reason I wanted to get into parties. I went to his club, Trash, pretty much every week. So I was going out, I was running parties and I was working as well.
“I remember one Thursday, I called up to say I was going to be in late – they said, ‘Don’t bother coming in at all,’ and they fired me. I rang back because my contract allowed me to get paid out for the month’s work – and they offered to let me finish up. I decided against it so I could continue pursuing what I was doing. It was the first time that I had really backed myself.”
“I got my visa on a student extension. I was supposed to be studying, but I was just throwing parties. I wanted to start a label over there, and I went to register it. I got a letter back from the government telling me that I couldn’t start a business because I wasn’t on the right visa – and also that my visa had expired [laughs]. So I just said, ‘Fuck it,’ and I came back to Australia. When I got back, I tried working at some places… it wasn’t for me. There were bands that I was seeing in Chippendale, and I remember saying to one of them, ‘I’m gonna sign your band!’ They were like, ‘What? You don’t have any money!’ I told them I was going to start throwing parties in Sydney, make money off them and then put money towards their album. The label didn’t do so well, but the parties did.”
Kicking off the party
“Purple Sneakers literally started because I wanted to fund a label – Boundary Sounds. That ended up being a managerial company. One of the artists I had on the label then was Sparkadia, and I still manage Alex Burnett to this day as a songwriter. We threw parties in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra every week up until about 2012, when the club market sort of downturned. Up until that point, though, we had something really special and we got to champion all of this great music.
“We were behind Disclosure’s first Australian shows. We got behind The Rubens early on. We put on Flume’s first three shows in Melbourne; same with Alison Wonderland and What So Not. For me, it was all about the platform that we had to share new music with people.”
The naughty aughties
“I get that Purple Sneakers was really a time and a place for a lot of people. We were running a club where people that were what you’d call peak triple j artists were coming in, week in and week out. There’d be nights where you’d spin around the room and see Dave from Dappled Cities, Alex from Red Riders, Jake from Bluejuice, Alex from Sparkadia and Sarah from theredsunband. Later on, it’d be bands like Tame Impala. Kings Of Leon would come hang out after their shows if they were in town. Bands would play on the rooftop. There were some great parties and some great nights, but I try not to dwell on the past all that much.”
“Purple Sneakers is the name we use for the parties and for DJ sets. It was in 2010 that we started up the blog to go along with it. The vision that I had was we had this great community, so I wanted to turn it into an online community so that we could connect in between Friday and Saturday nights.
“Boundary Sounds is still a management company – we take care of Nicole Millar, Moonbase, Little May and Oliver Tank, among others. We’ve had a lot of great people in the industry come through our ranks – people like Nick Findlay and Gerry Bull, who work at triple j, as well as people like Johann [Ponniah] from I Oh You and Alistair [Green] from Maker Agency. The whole thing has kind of been us making it up as we went along.”
Keeping Sydney going
“I feel like what we’re doing today is a lot more vital and important than ever. Musically, where we are as a country is so much more on point musically and culturally than ten years ago. Australian artists are popping off internationally – and they’re so much more relevant. I don’t want to compare apples and oranges, but I feel it’s more exciting now.
“With the venue issues and stuff like that, I really feel like we’re out of the worst of it – more venues are stepping up and making space for music to happen, and that’s really exciting.”
Purple Sneakers’ 11th Birthday takes over The Lord Gladstone on Saturday June 17 with Bad Deep, Caitlin & Hannah, Kali, Mowgli May, Purple Sneakers DJs and more. Register via the Facebook event.