What happens when you take the night out of nightlife and replace a Jägerbomb with a latte instead? That’s the question posed (and answered) by Coffee & Turntables: Think fat slabs of vinyl with chunky vegetable soup and a rich cup of Joe. And not simply at night – a coffee and bite to eat in daylight hours with a backdrop of serious tunes feels very now:, a more relaxed, more thoughtful way of combining socialising with music.
Launching in May of 2018, Coffee & Turntables’ Ivan Thunders and Peter Martin met after bonding through their shared love of obscure Brazilian music at one of Pete’s DJ slots at Craft Taproom.
Ivan subsequently asked The Baltic Roastery if they were able to play outside to bring in customers, enjoyed a successful 11-week residency and the rest is history. We sent Jason Simon to find out about Liverpool’s most democratic DJs.
With DJing being so associated with nightlife, what gave you the idea to bring it to such a relaxed environment?
Pete: Playing music in a warehouse in the evening isn’t exactly a revolutionary idea, there’s plenty of options for that kind of thing. We wanted to make the most of the sunshine, sit and chat a bit more and enjoy the music and food.
Little kids have a dance, it’s quite democratic.
Would you say Coffee and Turntables is a more welcoming environment than a night out?
Pete: You’ve got to remember that not everyone can go out. We like to think when you’re in a café, anyone can come along.
Ivan: People bring their dogs or people come by and hang out just because they hear the music outside. Little kids have a dance, it’s quite democratic. The kids are fascinated by the turntables because they’re not used to them, they always stop and stare. We show them how to do it as well, we don’t mind them coming and having a go.
Pete: Bring your mum, dog, grandkids, whatever it may be.
What sort of music do you play?
Ivan: We’ve got quite an eclectic mix that people aren’t necessarily used to, but sound good in those environments. We play stuff like soul, Motown, northern soul, some psychedelic, lots of Brazilian music. A nice groove and vibe, people just enjoy it.
Pete: It’s a mixed bag and you won’t necessarily get the same thing every week…
Ivan: …but somehow it magically works!
Pete: There’s no pressure of trying to keep a dancefloor bouncing and having to pander to what will work in that environment. You can play more of a variety which you can’t in a bar late at night.
What are your guests like at your events?
Pete: There’s kind of a wider coffee and turntables family that bring their different tastes. We have regulars but we try and get a variety every week. They’re might not be experienced, or they might be old hand. We try and get a mix of different age groups as well. It’s not all young and trendy or old and experienced either. We had someone last week and it was only their second ever go.
How were they?
Pete: They were worried. A lot of people say: ‘I couldn’t do that’. You could, you just need a safe environment you can have a go. The art is picking good tunes, and not everyone can do that!
Where are you currently playing and where do you tend to play?
Ivan: This summer has been a Baltic takeover almost by accident. We’re playing at Chapters of Us on Fridays, The Baltic Roastery on Saturdays and Coffee & Fandisha on Sundays.
Pete: This is our third summer back in the Baltic. We’ll do residencies in a café for around a month. Not every month, we’ll do maybe a month on and month off. We work around the city.
We won’t do it anywhere where we don’t like the food or coffee. We want to honestly, hand on heart, plug where we’re playing and be able to say: ‘you’re gonna get some nice grub here, come along and join in’.
What’s different about Coffee and Turntables?
Pete: I can’t stress enough how happy it makes me to be able to sit down and DJ in a café where people bring me delicious cake and sandwiches. It’s my ultimate way of DJing. It isn’t gonna make us rich, but it gives you a sense of fulfilment. It’s a nice way to engage with where you live, the people around you and nice places in the city. You see people leaving with smiles on their faces and think ‘I was part of that’.
How has Coffee and Turntables coped under Coronavirus?
Pete: It’s times like now where people really need to support local small cafes and not chains, if they feel safe and happy to do so. That’s why we decided to do our events at places where we know we can be outside and social distance. We have tons of hand gel and we’re cleaning all our gear after an event.
Is there anything you aspire to do with Coffee and Tunrtables in the future?
Pete: We’re hoping to go to other parts of the city we’ve not taken it to before like Anfield, South Liverpool and we’d like to go back to Lark Lane. We’re open to suggestions for other places.
It’s not fair on cafes to announce things without consent while plans could change, but we’ve got things lined up later in the year and we hope to do our Christmas special too.
How do people connect with you?
Pete: If you fancy going along, social media’s your best bet. If you’re a café and you’re interested in having us, send us a message through social media or get in touch through the website, you’d be surprised how affordable we are!