Hey, DJ: e’Lish

Credit: Meghan Morin

While DJ e’Lish has only been DJing a few years, she has already fulfilled a longtime goal of bringing the vibrant vibes of house music back to the Castro with a party called Hey Sugar.

“Queer people of color created house music to feel free and we are hoping in our own way we can create a space for people to be who they are and who they want to be ,” she reflects on the party she co-founded with two friends.

We spoke with e’Lish about her affinity for daytime parties, her must-have records, and her forthcoming Go BANG! debut.

She makes her Go BANG! debut Saturday, 8/5 at The Stud. 

SF Weekly: Give us a brief history of how you got into DJing.
e’Lish: I got into DJing through happenstance. My friend Robin Simmons posted something on Facebook about DJing, music lovers and dancers. My response to his post led him to offering to show me how to DJ; this was about 5 or 6 years ago. I loved it immediately. During our lessons he also talked to me about the history of house music, where it came from and why it is important.

SFW: What music did you grow up listening to? Has that changed since you got older?
E: I grew up listening to everything from classical music to hip-hop. My tastes as I’ve gotten older have definitely ebbed and flowed depending on where my state of mind is at the time but I would say the core of the music I love is the same. Music with a connection to human emotion will always be what I find most interesting.

SFW: How does your DJ name represent the style of music you play?
E: e’Lish, is a nick name from my best friend, David. It represents the music I play because it’s playful and light hearted.

SFW: What role has house music played in your life?
E: House music has given me community. I tend to be a bit shy and quiet but sharing music and being on the dance floor has allowed me to meet some of my very best friends

SFW: Describe to us your first ever gig. How did it go?
E: My first gig was a party called Disco Cabana. I was definitely nervous and had a bit of stage fright but overall it went well and subsequently led me to getting more gigs.

SFW: You’re stranded on an island with a record player and three records. Which records would they be?
E: Daydream by Mariah Carey. This was the first record I listened to as a child that made me feel a spectrum of emotions. It made me realize that music was something that would help me not feel alone.

Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill. From the moment I got this record I haven’t been able to stop listening to it.

Homogenic by Bjork. It’s unique and powerful and through the years is a record I have never grown tired of.

SFW: Now tell us about Hey Sugar, a party aimed to bring house music back to the Castro.
E: Hey Sugar is a party my friends and I decided to throw because house music is missing in the Castro and we feel with it the queer identity that made the Castro vibrant and colorful. The trend musically now is Top 40 and EDM, we want Hey Sugar to be an alternative to the mainstream like house music was when it first began. Queer people of color created house music to feel free and we are hoping in our own way we can create a space for people to be who they are and who they want to be. Throwing it at The Cafe on Saturday afternoons makes it accessible to older fans of house as well.

SFW: What are some of the benefits of throwing a daytime party versus nighttime ones?
E: I think daytime parties have more of a community feel versus nighttime parties. In general I prefer to play daytime music which is less aggressive and more uplifting in my opinion.

SFW: Is there a song you think that’s perfect for the day, but not the night?
E: “Washington Heights” by Sahib Muhammad. The horns, vocals and piano in Washington Heights sound perfect for an afternoon BBQ. It’s tempo is upbeat and more airy than other songs. I’ve played it plenty of times in the day and it always translates well with dancers cause it’s fun. I’ve tried to play it at night in clubs and I think people want songs that are more sultry when they’re in a nightclub, heavier beats, stronger bass lines.

SFW: What’s your favorite part of Bay Area nightlife, and what’s the best party you ever attended?
E: My favorite part of Bay Area nightlife is the amount of options there on any given weekend. We are spoiled with the caliber of DJ talent that come to visit and also local talent. The best party I’ve ever attended was The Odyssey. Robin Simmons and Elaine Denham were so thoughtful in the curation of music and were so great at creating a vibe that felt like community.

SFW: What would you like to see more of?
E: I would like to see more parties that are musically more true to the roots of house and disco.

SFW: What are you most excited for in your Go Bang! debut next Saturday?
E: I most excited to share music with a group of people who have been so supportive of me and my DJing. But more importantly to share the joy that Go Bang! makes me feel every time I am on their dance floor.

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