Support your locals is, no doubt, a phrase you will be familiar with. Belfast is in a great place at the moment in regards to electronic music. Fusing together the local element with the finest sounds within the genre are Timmy Stewart and Jordan, founders of The Night Institute, one of Belfast’s most beloved club nights.
TNI celebrates its second birthday this Saturday, with Timmy and Jordan at the helm. It has become common expectation for a night to book a renowned name for a birthday celebration, but with the two founders set to dictate the pace all night I can’t help but feel a sense of refreshment.
This is, of course, why The Night Institute was founded. A club environment with a sole focus on great musical output coming from local DJs. Belfast is standing on its own two feet and it’s wonderful to see.
Ahead of TNI’s second birthday celebrations, I caught up with Timmy and Jordan to talk relocating, future projects and raised eyebrows when Donna Summer is dropped.
So, two years old this Saturday! Did you foresee TNI growing and developing into the event that it is today?
Timmy: We really hoped we’d get to a one year celebration and once we hit that milestone it was kind of right on to the next. It’s a lot of work maintaining a weekly but it would be hard to imagine life without it now. Hopefully Belfast feels the same!
Jordan: The main plan was to create something sustainable for Belfast – affordability meets quality, alongside the stream of fantastic DJs that fly into the city on any given month to a range of quality monthly club nights. The idea was that people would always need a bit of a ‘go-to’ to hear good underground music – hopefully we’ve achieved that.
Last year’s birthday took place in a different setting. Do you now feel that you are well settled in the new venue Foundry? It was quite troublesome for a little while prior to the grand opening wasn’t it?
Timmy: Yeah we started the night in a smaller space and moving house is rarely a smooth process in my experience. The killer sound system & constant tweaks going on at Foundry at present have made the stress of the move easier and makes us feel like we are improving the experience for the people who attend the nights and that’s so important to us.
Jordan: We’ve heard loads of stories about licensing issues in Belfast in the past so we weren’t overly shocked to hear the launch date had been pushed back. It made us go back to basics for a few months. We threw a huge street party to 700 people for Culture Night, threw secret parties in the back of the Frames complex, hosted the amazing Honey Soundsystem crew with Aaron at Hotel MOtel. Those few months ended up a lot of fun actually.
You’ve had some huge guest appearances throughout the year, ranging from Krystal Klear to Octave One to Denis Sulta. Who provided your favourite set?
Timmy: We’ve not had that many guests in two years so we’ve been very careful about who we select for those shows and none have disappointed but it was an honour for us to host the Octave One live show. I’ve collected their records since I first got into music in my teens so that had a little full circle moment for me. Black Water live in Belfast is something I’ll never forget.
Jordan: I’m a real Moxie fanboy and her NTS show is a regular feature in the car, so to have her over was great. Fantastic DJ and lovely girl. Octave One blew me away as expected too, though unfortunately I missed Denis & Krystal Klear as we were playing all night in the bar straight after warming up in the club!
Can you list a few highlights from the last year? Anything from the crowd to funny stories to a particular track you played that went off?
Timmy: The shutter on the booth going up and down mid sets caused some crazy scenes with people literally drumming on it in time to the music and when it rolled back up the room atmosphere exploded. Phil Kieran and I took the tempo from 90 to 130 bpm over the course of 5 hours which was insane haha.
Jordan: The last hour is always a lot of fun. Keeping people in a club ’til 3am, after the bar has closed is a fun challenge. The bouncers have raised a few eyebrows at Donna Summer, Talking Heads & even Blur after a night of straight up house and techno.
TNI has thrived even when guest sets aren’t locked in. Both of you seem to have created a weekly club environment that thrives off the yearning for quality sound in comparison to most standard club nights. Do you feel that this symbolises the love and support for local DJs, seeing as you can sell out a night even with local artists dictating?
Timmy: This was honestly the plan, Belfast has big monthly guest led multiple room affairs but we wanted to create a feeling of a night you trusted to give you a good experience as opposed to a heavyweight booking. Rarely having guest overheads has meant we can keep our door price low which also provides an antidote to the £15 + nights. The support on the nights has blown us away to be honest!
Jordan: I think the city is in a good place at the minute with a lot of electronic tastes catered for from underground names to big room hitters. There’s also a type of person who wants to go out for a few drinks and know there’s somewhere they can go to hear the music they like in between those nights where they’ve bought their tickets in advance.
What’s next for TNI? Do you have any plans to develop the night further?
Timmy: We are both keen to start an imprint to release the kind of music you hear across the night, that feels like a natural extension of the local side of things. We have started work on the music already, so that’s definitely in the pipeline. We also enjoy bringing TNI to other venues, we had some amazing gigs this year playing 4-6 hour sets, doing what we do on the nights but in other cities. So more of that would be fun!
Jordan: We’ve no urge to upscale massively, as intimacy is key to what we’re doing, the focus is on building the weekly party. As Timmy said, we’d like to put out some music that reflects the sound of the night, and of course all night sets elsewhere as often as possible. Pygmalion in Dublin was great. 6 hours – no lights, in a brick basement!