Introducing: Heels & Souls

In an age of hedonistic individualism and oft benign, depoliticised state of club culture, it's easy to forget the healing capacities of music, and the industry that surrounds it. For the past three years, London's Heels & Souls crew have been slowly amassing a devoted following, hosting well-considered line-ups in beautiful locations around London with the goal of raising money for Key Changes, a music-based mental health charity.

On Friday 22nd June, H&S make their Pickle Factory debut, inviting a stunning cast of deeply talented selectors to play under our wooden beams. Headlining is Chicagoan all-star Mark Grusane, founder of the city's legendary Mr. Peabody store. He's joined by Jo'berg's own DJ Okapi, founder of the South Africa's bubblegum blog and subsequent label, Afrosynth Records, and Ata Kak's band leader Esa, who used to run Highlife with Auntie Flo and has recently released on Dekmantel.

Start out by introducing yourselves – who are you both and what’s your involvement in London's party scene?

So, we’re Pat and Ben. Our involvement in the scene here started when we begun the parties about 3 years ago. Since beginning in the back-room of a Congolese Restaurant in Brixton we’ve been fortunate enough to meet many amazing DJ’s, dancers, artists and have done some parties in some spaces somewhat off the beaten track, and just become more involved over time I suppose. We’ve also worked in some wicked places that have given us a great grounding – Pat used to work at Secretsundaze for instance, and seeing how James, Giles (and Andrea!), approach their parties and stick to their guns in terms of ethos and bookings was definitely a big influence.

You’ve been running parties for around 3 years now – how did the H&S concept first come about?

We both had intended on starting our own projects once down here, and things clicked and grew naturally from there. Both of us went to Uni in York, and despite a strong local scene there (big ups the Freakin / Earworm crews and Tim Perera especially), we spent a lot of time high-tailing over to Leeds for parties. Cosmic Slop was a name that kept cropping up for us both, and the charity aspect of their parties struck a chord with us both. When we finally got ourselves down to one of their dances too, you could see the transformative impact of partying for such a good cause and in a space like Hope House. That was a real eye opener and inspiration, so the whole team there played a big role in developing our concept.

Heels & Souls parties are a strictly non-profit affair; tell us a little but about your chosen charity…

Though we’ve worked with numerous charities over the years, we’ve now struck a partnership with Key Changes that we feel is a perfect fit. They’re an amazing grassroots charity here in London who help people dealing with severe mental health issues through music-based recovery services. A lot of their work involves going into wards and directly working with patients who have little contact with the outside world, and depressingly little to occupy themselves with. They also have a studio where people on their program can come and work on music in a professional environment. Having volunteered with them this year one of the key aspects is the community they’ve built at St Luke’s. The weekly open mic sessions provide an invaluable space for people dealing with these issues to meet, have a laugh and perform their music. You can tell these meet ups are worth their weight in gold to those in need.

During 2018, we set ourselves the target of raising £5,000 for Key Changes. If you’d like to donate, or simply read more about our partnership with them and the amazing work Key Changes do, you can check out our Just Giving page here

Your musical policy as a party is pretty expansive, digging deep through disco, jazz, house and boogie – who are some of your greatest inspirations behind the decks?

That’s a tough one. It’s hard to be definitive, but the past 12 months has been an eye opener in terms of watching DJs play much longer sets. Many that spring to mind happened here at Pickle – Hunee, Josey Rebelle and Call Super’s All Night Long sessions all really blew us away for instance. Another real inspiration to us would be the Tangent parties, hosted by Nick The Record and John Gomez. Their records are danceable and flawless from start to end and the way they blend countless genres and styles really amazes us.

You were recently added to Dimensions’ DJ Directory, and will be performing at the festival in Croatia this summer – what else have you got lined up for festival season?

Nice and busy summer for us! We’re off to Albania to the Beach Stage at Kala Festival next week, and also have Farr and Lost Village lined up alongside Dimensions, where we’re back at Noah’s Ballroom, and also this year making a boat party debut thanks to ya boi Andrew Hill/Abandon Silence. Big love as ever to Andy Lemay and the whole Dimensions family for including us in the Directory and for their continued support!

This is your first party on home turf at the Pickle Factory and we’ve heard you’re pulling out all the stops – any hints of what we might expect?

Taking inspiration from Robyn MC’s fantastic artwork for the party, Tom Bailey, Oval and Pickle’s resident lighting whizz has constructed an installation that will hang from the ceiling of Pickle on Friday. Think luminous clouds pulsating and fluctuating to the beat. James Younger has also made some amazing visuals to accompany our clouds, which we’ll be projecting against the wall behind the booth.

And finally, tell us a little bit about who’s joining you behind the decks this weekend, there’s some pretty exciting acts lined up for us…

It’s a real honor bringing this line-up to Pickle. Have to say maximum respect to Mark, Okapi and Esa for all being so generous and getting behind the Key Changes cause. Mark Grusane, former owner of Mr Peabody Records and notoriously dope DJ and deep digger is flying over from Chicago for the gig, and Okapi, who runs the authoritative Afrosynth blog and record store from his home town of Johannesburg is also flying to the UK for the occasion. Also originating from South Africa but now based in London, we have the wonderful Esa, who we’ve been wanting to book since the very beginning of H&S. Finally, in Little Pickle, we’ve got Laani, Dan RW and Charles Vaughn playing choice ‘chill-out room’ cuts throughout the evening on the gorgeous vintage soundsystem in there.

Tickets are a steal, remaining at just £10, and all proceeds go towards a more than worthy cause. There's now just 50 advanced left - go and get em.