Photography: Jemma Parker / gemmaparkerphotography.com

Although their parties are far-reaching in cause and effect, SISBIS started out as, and remains to this day, a close-knit collective – built on foundations of friendship, communal love for musical festivity, and maybe a drunken email or two. Ahead of their second birthday, I sit down with two out of the three members who put on SisBis: Giovanna Briguglio (SisBis resident DJ and NTS host) and Eliza Turner (SisBis promoter and organiser). Lisa Buckby, the collective’s third member, is away on travels. We’re in Eliza’s new flat, located on the top floor of a Georgian Quarter building, which luckily happens to be just above Gio’s own flat. Eliza has just moved in, so the three of us sit on the floor in a circle in the bare room, on a patterned Moroccan carpet with red heartwood hues. The vibe is unpretentious and intimate, much like the atmosphere which pervades the SisBis dancefloors.

Gio and Eliza take me back in time, as they explain their inspiration for SisBis and how it all came to be. The trio first met at a party held at The Bakery Warehouse in Kensington. These events were thrown by mutual friends Theo Temple and Adam Nezam, and were organised with the aim to raise money for Asylum Link via STAR (Student Action For Refugees). At these parties, everyone did everything – and it was this strong sense of community which drew Eliza to her first Bakery experience. After temporarily leaving Liverpool, Eliza returned to find herself somewhat alone, as a lot of her friends had moved. She tells me, “I didn’t really know many people. I still wanted to go out, but sometimes it’s a bit daunting to go out and not know anyone. If you’ve got something to do – if you feel part of it, like you’re helping, it brings you together.” The Bakery parties saw a lot of firsts, one of the most notable being Gio’s first live set as a DJ. It is also where Gio and Eliza first met, after they were both put on the door. A year later, the first SisBis party took place.

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SisBis events promote both unity and variety. Unity through their holistic origins and commitment to social justice; variety through their open DIY mentality and the selection of music played. Working together with Refugee Women Connect, SisBis take donations upon entrance to their parties and raise funds for refugees. One of the factors which differentiates them is their status as an all-female collective. Its establishment stems from a desire to address the lack of woman DJs and promoters in Liverpool. SisBis offers a platform for showcasing all kinds of talent – supporting women of the music world but also women participating in other artforms, such as film, photography and graphic design. This women-led focus is echoed in their choice of charity and also through their aesthetics – the visuals and graphic designs for SisBis often use glitchy, disrupted representations of the feminine form. This is not to say that the trio’s ethos is gender exclusive. As Gio tells me, “It’s not like we don’t book men, we book it for the music.” It is this fierce love of music which brought SisBis into existence.

After seeing Donna Leake play on a Milanese night out back in 2017, the trio wanted to bring the DJ’s trademark jazz fusion and funk to Liverpool in order to share this music with their friends. They were so enthused, they drafted an email to Leake upon their return from the club that very night. They never expected a reply. It was one of those creative ideas we all have when we’re slightly on the tipsy side, and which, in most cases, do not come to fruition. But Donna Leake replied, and the trio had a month and a half to put on their first event. Gio and Eliza tell me this story with complicit giggles and glee, admitting, “We didn’t know what we were doing at all… We were like, ‘Yeh of course! It’s fine, it’s a party, it’s not that hard. If people don’t come that’s their problem’.”

“I’ve never played or been to a party where people dance as much as SisBis” Giovanna Briguglio

This initial act of spontaneity and inspired nonchalance is palpable at every SisBis event, creating an individually energetic atmosphere of clubland fun. When I ask the two what they believe to be the main factor that differentiates SisBis from other events, Gio promptly tells me it’s their dancing crowd and assures me, “It’s quite mad”. She is resolute: “I actually have never played or never been to a party where people dance as much as SisBis.” With past line-ups featuring Sophie K, Carista, RAW SILK and SNO, it’s easy to understand why this is the case.

When I ask Gio and Eliza if they have a standout SisBis event, the two immediately begin to run me through their party at The Reeds, which started at 10pm and finished at 12pm the following day. No other could party could so perfectly encapsulate what SisBis is really about. The Reeds, now closed down, was a former Chinese restaurant owned by Eliza’s friends, located on London Road. During the six months for which it was active, the venue would traditionally stay open until 9am or 10am thanks to its 24-hour licence. Among the restaurant’s decor was a giant elephant head, a bunch of old books and a plethora of plants – all complemented by a slight mess, rounding off the venue’s raw charm. The occasion for this SisBis event was an afterparty for Eat Me & Preach, Liverpool’s alternative drag cabaret. Eliza wanted to add more to the venue, collecting recent trimmings of leaves and flowers from a nearby park. The booking for the evening was RAW SILK, the London-based duo still very much under the radar at that time. From what Gio and Eliza tell me, it was a night of vibrant jubilance. People were dancing with the flowers Eliza had collected, offering them to RAW SILK as they flawlessly took them through the dance. A massive disco ball made its way around the room, as did delicious food, cooked by Eliza’s friend who is a talented Brazilian chef. The decks were on the same level as the dancers, so people went b2b with RAW SILK, mixing up the night’s musical flavours even more. The SisBis trio left around 8am and confidently left their party to its own devices to taper out – which it eventually did, four hours later. So yes, the evidence here makes it clear – that dancing madness at SisBis events is a certainty.

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Another SisBis certainty is the level of diversification these events bring to Liverpool’s electronic scene, which is predominantly house and techno. With Gio and the artists that SisBis book taking on some of the city’s most intimate venues, the sounds of jazz, soul and disco are starting to emerge as part of Liverpool’s sound. But the musical styles do not stop there. You’ll hear Gio playing Afrobeat, synth pop, Japanese jazz, Balearic house, Italo and whatever else strikes the selector’s fancy. When I ask about her musical inspirations, Gio mentions Nabihah Iqbal, the Ninja Tune DJ and producer who SisBis booked back in 2018.

In addition to playing regular club nights as both resident and guest, Gio also has two radio residencies, one on NTS (Manchester) and the other on Melodic Distraction (Liverpool). Gio is extremely modest when I ask her about her mixing process. Although she generally tends to play vinyl, the DJ light-heartedly declares, “I’m not a record fascist.” Gio credits her lack of computer skills as the reason for sticking to the old school style, joking that “the only reason [she] mostly plays records is because [she] can just put it on and press play.” Despite this apparent simplicity, and never preparing a live mix in advance, the Italian selector creates musical journeys which are harmoniously textured. These are eclectic and surprising as she smoothly jumps from one genre to the next, re-invigorating the dance with every switch-up.

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There is much promise for the future of SisBis, not only because of its popularity and committed community of party-goers, but also thanks to the recent visibility afforded to the collective following their collaboration with Resident Advisor’s Alternate Cuts. Although things have gotten more stressful since having grown in size and recognition, Gio doesn’t think “much has changed in terms of vibes – it feels exactly the same every night.” This regularity is maintained thanks to the organisers’ consistent vision and the continuous support of SisBis regulars.

The Liverpool promoters witnessed their community’s effect at its finest when they threw the Alternate Cuts x SisBis party which saw Jayda G play a rhythm and blues set at 24 Kitchen Street all night long. This collaboration attracted a new addition to the SisBis crowd – Liverpool students. Eliza tells me that “they all had a really good time and everyone one got on”, crediting the SisBis community for fostering this transition. As I ask them to look five years ahead, Gio and Eliza are reluctant to picture SisBis any differently. If there were to be developments, they would want them to take form organically. Eliza explains that they could see SisBis “evolve in a similar way that Theo and Adam’s parties evolved into ours – and then other parties that other people also put on”. In terms of Liverpool’s creative scene, progressive continuity is another thing they want. Their appreciation for the city’s DIY scene is strong, so they wish for nothing more than for it to “still [be] around in five years’ time”. SisBis are determined to stick to their roots and “keep the parties as they are”.

Gio tells me with playful zeal that she wants the events to stay wild and sweaty, “Messy and wrong.” Nothing less should be expected for their second birthday, which will take place on 8th November. The celebration will see new friends and old ones take to the decks, with Mafalda headlining SisBis for the first time and Theo Temple, The Bakery nights founder, returning to the fold. You’ll be sure to hear bisbisbis, which means encore in Italian, as the trio once again bring their love for music, dance and party culture to the familiar confines of Kitchen Street.

 

@sisbispresents
SisBis host a party at Behind This Wall in London in October, and their second birthday party takes place in Liverpool on 8th November.

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