Tom Bray is one of the founders of Yeti Out, a collective of DJs, producers, promoters, and graphic designers upturning the music scene with live events spanning from London to Shanghai, and everywhere in between. Together with his brother Arthur Bray and co-founder Erisen Eli, they’ve established themselves as tastemakers, encompassing not just music but also other creative pursuits such as apparel and footwear.
Coming off the heels of their latest project with Nike, we talk to Tom about the pivots they’ve made as a team during this new normal, exciting developments in music they’ve witnessed, and how we can push the culture moving forward.
The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Prior to the pandemic, what projects have you lined up in the near future? How much of your projects have changed?
Prior to the pandemic, the 2020 calendar was scheduled with our club residencies in Seoul, Bangkok, Saigon and a capsule release with Japanese artist Guccimaze in Tokyo for Fashion Week. But in the beginning of March, everything started dropping like flies. I was on the road and managed to get back to Shanghai just in time before the boarders closed and they enforced mandatory quarantine.
How did Yeti Out’s collaboration with Nike begin, and what was the process like, especially compared to previous collaborations?
The sneaker release is part of a larger project we’ve been working on at Shanghai’s On Air studio titled “LOST SIGNAL” which explores the relationship between URL and IRL in club culture. The project was an 8-week residency which consisted of a photo & flyer exhibition from our past events, a series of zine-making & screen-printing workshops, and a pop-up radio which featured local artists and DJs. The last part of the project is this sneaker release, which falls under the same theme.
How did you interpret Yeti Out's own aesthetic into the silhouette?
We want to create a design that’s authentic to us, but is also relatable to the world. We live in a time when WiFi is like water, and connectivity is at the center of our lives, even more so during COVID-19. Without signal, there wouldn’t be Yeti Out, our workflow (for better or worse) is based across three time-zones and made-up of shaky WeChat calls and multiple Whatsapp & Slack groups. These are the rooms to our satellite office, and the heartbeat to this transient, international label.
Yet, there’s also a dark side to the ubiquitous presence of signal. When was the last time you didnt have your phone on you at a music event? How do you connect with music? Furthermore, if connectivity is an option - when was the last time you unplugged? These are the sort of questions we want to explore with this design + project.
“If connectivity is an option - when was the last time you unplugged? These are the sort of questions we want to explore with this design + project.”
We also wanted to create something that we would wear, hence why we have two shoes. The Metallic White pair is for day time, fitting for the summer, and the Voltage Purple pair is made for nighttime - a design that’s comfy and durable but can be still worn as a beater overtime.
We were stoked to work on the React Vision, since the React Element 87 and React Element 55 are both really comfortable sneakers. As promoters, we need to do site check, pick up artists and go for meetings in the day, and when the sun goes down, that’s when the night shift happens - whether that’s DJ’ing or putting on an event, so a comfortable sneaker for our 24/7 lifestyle is really important.
Much of what we’ve seen from DJs and club artists, and the music scene in general, have taken their efforts online in the form of radio broadcasts and virtual festivals. What interesting movements or experiences have caught your attention recently?
It’s been really interesting seeing how artists and collectives have shifted their content creation online more than ever. The Club Quarantäne movement really caught my attention with it's 36-hour virtual rave featuring DJ sets by the likes of Ben UFO and Jayda G.
Are these current efforts sustainable for everyone involved? While the experience is different, do you think it’s going to be the new normal for a pretty long time?
At a time of social separation, the Internet has bought communities closer than ever before. Online live streaming and virtual music communities will be more prominent than ever before. Artists, brands to record labels have all levelled up during the pandemic with their live stream ideas and set ups. There’s a lot of new talent and spotlight artists born during these quarantine times and all sectors of the creative industry have been forced to adapt to these trends and think outside the box for content creation.
“At a time of social separation, the Internet has bought communities closer than ever before.”
Yeti Out has been doing a lot for the culture by bridging the East and West through music and events, as well as highlighting emerging talent from different regions. As fans and customers, how can we help push the culture forward, even in these trying times?
Just keep an open mind and continue to support creativity by engaging in it. That could be in the form of creating art and sharing it to inspire others or support your favourite artist or brand by streaming their EP or buying a graphic tee.
Photos courtesy of Yeti Out; Lookbook photos by Robert Nillson for Yeti Out