We Had an Awesome Sleepover With an Electronic Music Collective
Toronto’s cutest internet-culture artist collective asked us to stay the night.
IMPORTANT DETAILS FOR TOMORROW ~ PLZ READ
- this is not a drill
- we are building a blanket fort and renting sleeping pads... so IT WILL BE COZY ~ you won't have to just sit on the floor (see attached drawing)
- that being said, please bring a sleeping bag if you have one! and a pillow if you can! dress so cozy, there will be pics taken of u
- we will have a DJ setup that will be open for anyone to do sets. also, if you are willing, bring stuff to do a 15-minute live set! yaaaaAaAa
see you at 10 ♥
It was the strangest invitation to a party I had ever gotten as an adult. It sounded like the most creative way ever to get bedbugs (don't worry, that didn't happen). Of course, the invite could have been sent by none other than Bedroomer, an electronic music collective in Toronto that has become a home for misfit producers and visual artists.
As I opened the door to the White House Studio Project, a communal art space in Kensington Market above a Mexican restaurant, and climbed the narrow red staircase adorned with white lettering, I was immediately drenched in childhood nostalgia that had grown up while I wasn't paying attention. A blanket fort at least ten times the size of what a child could muster emerged as I surfaced on the main floor. From the glow of pink, blue, and purple lights emitting within the giant canopy of patterned sheets, I could make out a den of blankets and pillows of every colour, along with scattered stuffed animals and an end table supporting both a vaporizer loaded with a never-ending supply of Canadian weed and a green-and-blue lava lamp. Inside, about 15 young adults dressed in pajamas and sweatpants were hanging out, drinking wine or beer, and listening to spooky club set courtesy of Bedroomer member Burglar.
"I think a lot of the people that feel like outsiders within the dance and electronic scene just kind of... gravitate to us," said Eytan Tobin, one of Bedroomer's two head curators, as we sat in a back corner of the canopy laying on pillows and intermittently puffed on the vape. "One thing everyone here has got in common is that they like weird internet music."
Bedroomer in its current iteration has been around since early 2014, though it was born out of a band breakup the year before, and its members have been booked by both Mansion and NXNE. And since it isn't really a label, but more just a collective, its members don't hesitate to branch out: Eytan Tobin and Michael Imperial have releases on Rare Beef; Hudson Alexander has an EP on West Coast label Hush Hush. But the general consensus is that Bedroomer is known for two things:
1. Weird as fuck art parties.
2. A strong sense of inclusivity.
When I asked Bedroomer founder Liam Sanagan or, as many of the Bedroomer kids lovingly refer to him, "Big Daddy" Lum, to try to define the collective under a specific genre, his tone started to change and he looked a bit put off. While the mustachioed, 6-foot-something vocalist, producer, and visual artist dressed in an all-white sweatsuit—which one of his fellow members dubbed "drug dealer chic"—initially rambled on about how much of their music has pop elements, he decided instead to pose a question to the fellow Bedroomer members around him:
"Fuck man," he whispered under his breath, his eyes darting sideways. "What's our genre, guys?"
Various PJ-clad members, some engaging in consensual cuddling, started shouting out answers: "Poopcore!" "Gaycore!" "Daycore!" "Décor!" "We're genre-benders." "I don't know, pop something? Future pop?" "Slumbercore!"
"Does there have to be one?" Sophia Katz, a turquoise-haired vocalist and DJ also known as Shifra, asked as she lounged in a black-and-white skeleton onesie. "Why? Why does there have to be?" She sounded genuinely upset.
"I don't know," Lum said, resigning. "We all fuck with pop music, we all fuck with dance music... I'm getting the dirtiest looks right now."
The tension created in the room by me asking Bedroomer to define their genre was quite obvious, and maybe that was really the point—the crew is so inclusive that they reject stiff identifiers, instead preferring to carefully curate the feeling that a collection of music evokes. For their new compilation, Bedroomer Volume II, this mood was what Eytan described as "melancholia, sleepiness, winter party."
Eytan isn't originally from Toronto; he grew up in Israel. In fact, though they're based in Toronto now, there are a number of Bedroomer members whose origins lie elsewhere. Producer and vocalist Kare (Kara Marcinkoski) is from Edmonton. Burglar (Evan Burgess), Shifra, and Hudson Alexander all hail from Winnipeg, a prairie city best known for racism and, until recently, for being the murder capital of Canada. While Hudson and Burglar lived in Winnipeg they were part of a venue called Dead Lobster, which was grimey, makeshift, and filled with furniture from an old Red Lobster. Hudson used to DJ and help run the door, which was spraypainted with a lobster and only opened if someone called the number of the cell phone he was holding. Once Hudson moved to Toronto, he found his weird party-throwing counterparts in Bedroomer, and when Burglar came to visit him, he also decided to relocate.
"Bedroomer's Heaven & Earth party was a year to the day that I moved to Toronto, and it was probably the most fun that I've had DJing," Hudson told me. "I remember looking around and thinking I didn't know any of these people last year... It just made me feel really good about where I was at; stuff like that makes me want to stay here as opposed to going back to Winnipeg and being comfortable and shit. It's like, OK, this is kind of worth it."
The venue the sleepover was held in, White House, was appropriate for a couple of reasons. Jennifer Ilett, a visual artist who, often in collaboration with Lum, is responsible for much of Bedroomer's graphic design and installations, rents space here; the collective has held two parties at the studio, including the ethereally themed Heaven & Earth. And just down the street in Kensington at the back-alley venue Double Double Land, they threw a body part-themed party featuring giant papier-mâché testicles and a kinky one that included pink faux fur and chains.
Just after midnight, we had a listening party for the new compilation. Hudson's track, "Waiting," stood out from the others, veering more toward the house spectrum. Unsurprisingly given their natural inclination toward inclusivity, the type of music displayed on Bedroomer Volume II is all over the place, just like the identities of their members. Yet somehow, it feels cohesive. Meesha, who is a daycare worker in his everyday life, has two tracks on the comp, including "Best Friends," a track that features sounds reminiscent of retro video games. Kare's track "Head in the .cloud" combines her classic opera-trained vocals, which earned her the chance to sing in a choir for the queen of England, with a sample taken from a Pokémon level, Snowbell City.
"Even in our parties, we always just wanted to be inclusive and make everyone feel welcome, and I feel like that ends up rubbing off on what we're doing musically... It's a natural thing that's happening between all of us as a community," Lum said. The group rarely gets together in a group this large, unless they're having parties; mainly they communicate via a Facebook group called "Bedroomer Chat" where they share memes and music.
But unlike many of the tight-knit crews I've encountered in my years of being a part of the electronic music scene in Toronto, the individuals who make up Bedroomer stand starkly opposite the salty, jaded, and negative types one normally encounters in certain purist house and techno circles. When I've been around other collectives in Toronto—many of which are now defunct—I've witnessed people steal from each other, tear down their closest friends, and even dictate the way their members dress.
"I think a lot of the other crews are more close-minded or their taste in music is narrower," Meesha, who has two tracks on the new compilation, told me. "I'll be turned off if I don't like the kind of people that go out to the shows, and I find that the people who go to the Bedroomer shows are really open-minded."
Direct messages from randoms on social media asking, "Can I become part of Bedroomer?" go unanswered; the group prefers to allow integration of new members to happen naturally.
"I've never let anyone into Bedroomer who's asked me to be in it... we [Lum and I] need to agree collectively that someone should put out music with us," Eytan told me. "It kind of happens organically, their amount of involvement."
In the time I spent with Bedroomer, one thing was consistent: they always made me feel included. From the first time I met Eytan at his apartment in Chinatown and drooled after I took a hit of his vaporizer, he assured me, "Don't worry, that happens to me sometimes too." We went out to breakfast together a couple of days after the sleepover, and over eggs benedict, we talked about our experiences with immigrating to Canada. That night, I went to see Eytan and Meesha open for RP Boo, a Chicago footwork legend, and watched people in Teklife shirts participate in a dance circle after the lights came on past last call. Afterwards, Lum and Hudson, who were there supporting their fellow Bedroomer members, agreed to accompany me to my friend's private after party on Queen Street West that is known for its numerous large stuffed animals.
Though core members of Bedroomer like Lum and Hudson fumbled when I tried to get them to define themselves under a genre (and understandably so) a newer member whose first track with the collective is on Bedroomer Volume II pointed me toward a different aspect of the group to explain their identity, a testament to the organic process of integration the collective employs. "Even the name of this group, Bedroomer, it really talks about being by yourself and being at home... the process of waking up and being able to work on something in my room," Carson Teal told me.
My night staying over with Bedroomer will always be the most bizarre sleepover I've attended in my life. Between watching anime projected on the walls of an art studio, to the sounds of profoundly experimental electronic music layered over the button mashing of a Super Smash Bros tournament, to watching a kid with no pants on zoned into his smartphone the entire night—for all the sleep lost, like any Bedroomer party, it was an experience that could not be gained elsewhere.
You can catch members of the group in Toronto at the following events: Eytan Tobin is opening for DJ New Jersey Drone on December 4 at Double Double Land. On December 11, Internet Daughter is playing b2b with Eytan Tobin, opening for Baauer at the Hoxton. On January 21, Hudson Alexander and Meesha (live) are opening for Jessy Lanza at ROUND for Archi_Textures.
Allison Elkin is on Twitter.