Host Spotlight: an opportunity to shine a light on our wonderful radio hosts and wider community, be it a new music release, a brand new music residency or simply to champion them as an individual.
This week, we chat with DJ and founder of QueenswaY, Luna Thee Frenchie! Based in Birkenhead, Queensway is a platform for Merseyside's underrepresented artists within the electronic music industry. As well as hosting events and radio shows as part of the collective, Luna Thee Frenchie is also a resident DJ for PLUSH and 1/2 of DJ duo 'NEX2' with her twin brother. We find out more below...
Hey Tash! Can you tell us more about how QueenswaY was born?
Hello! Yes I sure can… I started QueenswaY back in March which feels like a million years ago now. It was born after I didn’t get a job I applied for with a similar organisation and I kind of thought… hold on a minute, I could start something special here myself. I was living in Birkenhead at the time and there were quite a lot of exciting changes happening with local venues like Future Yard and Bloom Building. Growing up in the Wirral there has been a severe lack of opportunities and events - it’s an area which is culturally disregarded and overshadowed by Liverpool. People see the river Mersey as a colossal barrier, when in reality it takes about 7 minutes to drive under and even less on the train. It’s been super exciting to collaborate with these venues, throwing inclusive events to celebrate minority artists in the area I grew up in, it means a lot to me.
What are the main ethos’ of the platform? What kind of opportunities does it aim to provide?
Our main consensus is to increase female, non-binary and LGBTQIA+ representation across line-ups in the electronic music industry. I’m really chuffed to say that since launching in March we’ve been able to give a total of 15 different DJs the opportunity to play paid sets, 83% identifying as female or non-binary, and 17% as male. It’s about supporting underrepresented people to play in live venues with professional equipment in a safe and nurturing manner. We also aim to create a community through Instagram - using it as a resource for people to quickly access mix links from a diverse range of artists.
Why do you think it’s important for a space like this to exist in Merseyside?
I feel like it’s important for spaces like this to exist anywhere. Merseyside in particular? Well, I was personally quite bored of going to events in Liverpool and seeing the same men on the line-ups. And that’s not me throwing shade or trying to subtract from any male’s talent - we all know there are some extremely talented fellas in the area. But this privilege is something which continually detracts from queer, female and non-binary folk. You have to shout ten times louder, and QueenswaY aims to f*cking scream the house down about inequality in the electronic music industry. I listened to a podcast with a female producer recently and she said that women in general seem to be much more reluctant to experiment than men, in fear of “doing something wrong”. This really stuck with me and made me reevaluate my own reactions. For example, if I do a clangy mix, which let’s face it happens to us all, it really will throw me off playing out again for a considerable amount of time. I see this self-critical pattern of behaviour repeated with a lot of my fellow female spinners and it really angers me because I don’t recognize this as frequently within male DJ’s. I think that women are unfortunately a lot more cautious of making mistakes, stemming from generations of oppression, which has lead to a hyper state of self-consciousness. With QueenswaY I really want to encourage women and girls to try mixing, producing, artist liaison, sound teching - anything and everything, and facilitate a safe and nurturing space to do this. Merseyside has some incredible independent venues and it’s a joy to be productively collaborating with so many of them!
Also an incredibly talented DJ in your own right, how did you first get into music?
Ahhh you’re too kind! Thank ya! That’s a realllllly big question…
I am the daughter of two alternative noise loving individuals, and was brought up listening to the likes of Stiff Little Fingers, The Cure, Radiohead, The Ruts, Black Uhuru, Joy Division etc. I think this inspired me massively because I’ve always felt drawn to darker, atmospheric and unconventional sounds. But I never really got into my electronic music until I moved to Hamburg in 2019. I was properly thrown into the deep end of industrial techno here and indulged myself in the city's superb range of independent underground clubs. I noticed a tremendous culture difference in the way people engaged with music - I’d been at uni in Leeds in the previous years and found that nights orientated far too much around drink and drugs.
It was an enlightening experience to go to a German club surrounded by like minded people enriched and charged in a totally different way. Here I started to listen to artists like Kollectiv Turmstrasse, Christian Kluge, I Hate Models and 999999999, building up a collection of my fave techno sounds. I found it extremely difficult to come back to England after this year and not get dragged back into past bad habits, but this is actually when I started messing around on decks. I was living in a flat directly below a DJ who loooooved Makina, who is now a dear friend of mine. He taught me a coupla bits and bobs, as did my lovely brother Nick and well the rest is history…
What other projects keep you busy?
I work in an youth centre in Birkenhead teaching a group of wonderful young women about visual arts! I also volunteer at The Open Door Centre, mentoring people with symptoms of depression and anxiety through cognitive behavioural therapy. They’re an incredible charity which offers a free 8 week programme to anyone struggling with their wellbeing. If you or a loved one is struggling this winter please go check their services out. I’ve recently delved into my own creative practice again after a lengthy 18 month hiatus since graduating in art. Apart from that, QueenswaY, mixing and tune searching takes up hella of my time.
Can you tell us a bit more about being part of a minority group(s) within the music industry? What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Being a woman who is youthful in appearance and small in stature, I often feel that people don’t take me seriously or are dismissive of my experience. I think the best example of this was a few months ago, I went to a venue to pick up some equipment I’d left. There was a group of men there setting up for their event later that night. The sound technician took one look at me, presuming I was a member of staff, and went “ahhh at last! You here to make us some bacon butties love?”.
Unfortunately I know of other horrific incidents other women have experienced purely based on their feminine presenting identity. Sometimes when you’re a minority it’s not safe to react the way you would want to and there’s a level of guilt and anger which comes with this. I think talking about these issues can really help - knowing that you’re not alone can aid navigating these situations when they arise again. If I can give any advice it would be to remain your unapologetic true self, don’t let anyone else’s ideas of what being a woman/gay/bi/pan/non-binary and so on shape what YOUR idea of YOUR self is.
Where do you hope to see the music industry in five years time?
Line-ups that are gender split by 50/50 at the bare minimum. Inspiring events that are feasts for the creative mind that combine art, sound, visuals, performance and love. Big queer energy. Equality. Respect. Diversity. An ever evolving, reflecting and LOVING industry.
What advice do you have for any women, people of colour and members of the LGBTQIA+ community looking to get into DJing/production?
Just go for it! The hardest part of doing something new is TRYING. You will be ‘bad’ at first, whatever that means. All that matters is that you’re having fun. If you do start to get sets out then look after yourself and be true to yourself. You do not have to say yes to every set you get offered. Prioritise your mental health. It’s easy to get roped into bad habits in the world of music and performance and lose your sense of routine. I find it super helpful to surround myself with people who are good for my soul and have my best interests at heart. We all need a grounding figure in our lives! Reach out to collectives in your area that you can identify with and can gain a sense of community from. Do not work with people you don’t feel safe with. If somebody says or does something that feels wrong, never be afraid to act upon this.
What was the last record you bought?
Eeeek if we’re talking vinyl - I bought a fluorescent yellow acid smiley record at The Vinyl Whistle in Leeds. I was on my way back from Houghton festival and was on an absolute vibe after listening to music for approx 20 hours a day for the past 4 days… I don’t even know the name of the artist, but it’s about 160bpm and sounds like Sonic The Hedgehog on crack. I love it.
The last song I bought on bandcamp was Icy Like A Hockey Puck - Juicy Selekta.
What do you have planned for 2023?
QueenswaY are planning to collaborate with a number of festivals to help increase their gender diversity on line-ups and platform some of the brilliant folk I’ve worked with this year. We’re also hoping to secure funding to enable DJ workshops for marginalised people in the local area and to create some immersive out of this world events. Buuuut you’ll have to follow us on @queensway___ to find out ;)
QueenswaY are looking for people who identify as female, LGBTQIA+ and/or non-binary to join their DJ/producer pool! Whether you're in a band, a songwriter, produce electronic tunes or DJ, get in touch here. In the meantime, check out the latest episode of 'QueenswaY Presents' below: