Teaming up with everyone from Tom Sachs to Stüssy, No Vacancy Inn are documenting street culture through podcasts and pop-ups
No Vacancy Inn is something between “a nightclub, a record store and a clothing shop,” chimes Acyde, a London-born musician and one-half of electronic music project We Are Shining. Along with Tremaine Emory (a.k.a Denim Tears), the duo launched No Vacancy Inn at the start of this year. The project has no fixed residence or exacting definition; it is a reflection of the transient lifestyles of its co-founders – one week they’ll be collaborating with New York artist Tom Sachs at his Bodega pop up, like they did in March of this year, the next they’ll be hosting a Boiler Room event with the likes of Virgil Abloh, Heron Preston and Benji B, as they did last week in Brooklyn. And this weekend, they will be releasing a series of t-shirts with Dover Street Market. Operating as a sort of ever moving hangout spot, No Vacancy Inn incorporates parties, merchandise and a regular podcast-cum-radio show, interviewing the likes of Luka Sabbat, Joey Badas$$ and Stephane Ashpool, founder of Parisian fashion label Pigalle.
“Acyde and I met five or six years ago at a party. We started talking over cigars, because he had a cigarillo,” explains Emory, a towering New Yorker who flits between the realms of fashion and music, working with the likes of A$AP Rocky and Stüssy. The duo would go on to throw a series of parties in London and began hosting their own radio show, part of A-ron Bondaroff’s KnowWave imprint, before launching No Vacancy Inn at the start of this year.
Like the record shops, clothes stores or assigned gathering points of pre-internet culture that would form the cornerstones of youth tribes, No Vacancy Inn has taken this ethos and adapted it for a digital age. Their mix of online content and IRL parties are all founded on the same principles of connection and shared values. “I’m really obsessed by the idea of curating culture,” quips Acyde, explaining the influence magazines like The Face had on him growing up. And with this platform, he too is seeking to be the knowing, big brother-like figure that these magazines were to him in his formative years. With their focus on creating experiences in the physical, No Vacancy Inn provide a fresh perspective in an era of abundant throwaway content and forgettable nights out.
At what point did No Vacancy Inn come into existence and what was the initial idea behind it?
Acyde: Tremaine and I have been doing parties for a few years, it was the sort of thing that glued us together. We started doing one of these in Dalston about five or six years ago, but one of the things that we found is this there’s only so much control that you have over those spaces. We felt that it’d be great to have a space that represented our mentality – if you could imagine a physical space it would be something like between a nightclub and a records shop and a clothing shop right? But, things being as they are financially, and also actually you don’t need to, you can make these spaces virtual. No Vacancy Inn is a sort of virtual realisation of that idea. So we would do a party out in Brooklyn or we’d do a pop up with Tom Sachs in downtown New York, essentially realising that the idea that we had one day might have a physical space, who knows what it’s going to be! It will eventually get there, but for now, we’re just taking it as an idea that we can just move around and do with friends and family across the world and it’s kind of working out so far. That’s essentially what it is.
You mentioned working with Tom Sachs, how did that come about?
Tremaine Emory: I recommended Tom for an artist I worked with – a musician – for a project that this musician is coming out with at some point. Maybe six months later I was in New York and went by to say hi and he just asked me if I wanted to come and do a residency at his Bodega. I thought it would be great to do No Vacancy Inn there and Tom was down. I let him see the designs for the merch and gave him some of the ideas of what we wanted to do, like selling my mother’s red velvet cake and the USB mixtapes.
“To keep it very simple, if we personally wouldn’t want to have a conversation that lasted more than five minutes with someone, we’re not going to interview them. It doesn’t matter whether they’ve got a record to sell or a clothing line” – Acyde
There were some pretty interesting contributors on the USB mixtapes, like Angelo Baque of Supreme and Hiroshi Fujiwara. What was the thinking behind that? It almost felt quite anti-internet.
Tremaine Emory: I wanted it to mean something, if we just put it online why would you come? We made no money on it, we sold it at a loss. We just wanted for people to come and have something specific to their experience. Because that’s the only thing that’s left, live experiences. Those are the only few things that are still analogue, everything else can be experienced online.
Acyde: We’re not snobs, it’s never about doing things that limit it for the sake of cutting people off, but at the same time not everything is for everyone, ‘cause not everyone understands it. There are some mix tapes on that USB that are quite abstract and avant-garde in terms of what music it is. And we have to respect people who collaborate with us. Sometimes you put your stuff online and it’s like you put it out in the wilderness, it’s like you put out a child in the wilderness, and there’s no protection and then people have an opinion on it, or they start to run it down, you get all this criticism. Where if you genuinely came down to obtain that USB and you listen to those mixes, you are going to give them a little bit more respect, cause you’re trying to understand what it is. So doing something like those USB tapes is our way of saying “you know what? The people who are coming to pick this up are the people that really wanted to listen to it and they really like it and they’re really into it.” And they give a shit as opposed to some random SoundCloud.
Where did the idea of the No Vacancy Inn radio show come from?
Acyde: It started originally with KnowWave, which is still going. A-ron Bondaroff is a really good friend of mine and the mastermind behind it. He asked me to do a show in New York like a few years back, Tremaine and I were both in New York. Then he opened up the KnowWave studio in London. So we continued doing it. The aim was never to sort of like, make ourselves these public podcasters.
We started travelling and people would just come up to us and be like, “Man, thanks for doing that interview with like, A$AP Bari or like Skepta or for that information.” Like, I take that information for granted, but for a lot of younger kids, it’s kind of like a revelation, to know how Skepta’s been in the game for like ten years, or how ASAP Mob started or anything else that was happening. And once that started happening we were like cool, this is really useful for just spreading information, communicating with people.
In many ways, podcasts feel like an antidote to so much of the throwaway content that’s out there. To really glean any sort of meaning from each one, you need to listen to the full thing. Was that something you considered when choosing this medium?
Acyde: No Vacancy podcasts aren’t getting like a million hits, but the people who seem to care about it, they really care about it. It shows you when you give people information or you communicate to them in a way, that’s right for them, they will gravitate towards it.
I think as human beings, the oral tradition is one of the things we naturally found quite easier to share with each other. Whether it’s through storytelling or myths, just the way we communicated our ideas over time, and I think print and writing things down is secondary to that. So, I think that podcasting in a way is sort of continuing that tradition, it wasn’t like in my mind when we started doing it but I realised now, that’s probably a huge part of it. People like listening to other people, information is something they want to hear.
“It’s about connecting with things you thought were cool regardless of where they come from. That for me is a big part of No Vacancy” – Tremaine Emory
How do you go about selecting who to interview? So far it’s been a broad spectrum of people in terms of age and profession.
Tremaine Emory: If we find them mutually interesting and if we think other people will. And timing, that’s the key thing. We want to just interview people that mean something to us or mean something to people and make you feel something. We have people that we have tried to interview for a while and it hasn’t happened yet, we have some people we never thought of interviewing and then it happened and it was amazing, we weren’t trying to interview Joey Badass but it happened and it was incredible, it was a great interview.
Acyde: To keep it very simple, if we personally wouldn’t want to have a conversation that lasted more than five minutes with someone, we’re not going to interview them. It doesn’t matter whether they’ve got a record to sell or a clothing line.
I’ve noticed from your DJ sets to your podcasts, there’s a real diversity in terms of sound and who you interview. You don’t seem confined by any genre…
Tremaine Emory: I think it’s important to remember, Acyde’s family is Nigerian, my family is African American. And in popular culture or even sub-culture, blacks are not often seen outside of hip-hop and sports. Perfect example is someone like Grace Wales Bonner, whether you like the clothing or not, is that it shows African culture outside or sports or entertainment.
But there’s plenty of guys like us. I’m a human before anything, but I think hip-hop is so powerful and that contribution to sports is so powerful, that young black man and women still feel like it’s their only way to express themselves, so that’s ‘their culture.’ But that’s a vignette of black culture – hip hop, or our contribution in sports and entertainment – when there’s a million different things. Even if you just want to talk about the types of music that we’re into, it doesn’t even have to be black music, it could be metal machine music, or Lou Reed, but I like it. It’s not a big deal – because it’s human beings who made music and I’m a human being. So it’s about connecting with things you thought were cool regardless of where they come from. That for me is a big part of No Vacancy.
You also have some tshirts releasing at Dover Street Market this weekend, how did that come about?
Tremaine Emory: I think they saw some stuff on Instagram for the residency we did with Tom Sachs, and they appreciated our viewpoint on t-shirts. So we’re giving it a shot. If you think about it, me and Acyde have been involved, in some way or another, in street culture, subculture, culture, whatever you want to call it, since our late teens. So you’re looking at between us at over 50 years of experience, and that’s not including all the people we had behind the scenes. So you put that together and it’s maybe over a hundred years of experience around music, around shows, around parties, around art, so I think that’s a big part of it. I still think that there’s a lot we need to do, but I don’t think I would have done it this well in my younger years.