Boots & Kats have well and truly made their mark on our island. Their sights are set a little bigger now with past gigs in New York and more upcoming American dates, but they’ll honour us, once again, this summer with Yurt City, a self-curated festival in District 8.
A humble Toast residency in Opium was where the boys made a name for themselves within one of the most prominent collectives in the city at the time. They’ve since skyrocketed to the top with their versatile, fun and passionate stage presence captivating almost everyone who encounters them.
Their rise to the top of the Irish club world was fast, with certain monumental festival moments tipping them into the big leagues, leading them from a weekly student residency to selling out some of Dublin’s best venues.
For Boots & Kats, aka Jack and Ciaran, there’s more to them than just ‘the music’.They make sure their personalities shine through in every set they put together, and it’s this that’s got them support slots for industry heavyweights like Annie Mac and Joey Negro and billings at Life Festival and Electric Picnic’s Casa Bacardi stage, one they’ll return to this August.
When I caught up with the pair for a chat it was our mutual place of study, DCU, and its Snow Sports Society, known for belting out the best tunes at the society fair, that provided the common ground.
The duo have had a busy few years championing DJ careers while also maintaining their separate interests and professions. They told me what they’d been up to.
Jack: I’ve been in a perpetual state of disbelief the whole time. Even from before things started picking up pace and we started getting gigs all around the place. I just felt so lucky to have the Opium residency and to be playing at Toast like that. It’s unbelievable. It’s hard to talk about what’s happening. Every time I go to think about it, something else happens. We’re just trying to ride the wave and see where we end up [laughs].
Ciarán: I’d be delighted if we were still doing that.
Dublin is home to some of the most innovative, exciting and ambitious DJs and producers in the country now, with Boots & Kats right at the centre of it all. How do they feel about the current landscape of dance music in Dublin? Are we experiencing a saturation of young DJs and producers?
Ciarán: It’s absolutely thriving. Obviously, there wasn’t that social media element a few years ago and that kind of made it way more accessible back then. But I definitely don’t think there were that many people doing it back then. Everyone has a really distinct style too, though. It’s mad. They’re all from a very small country, most of them are even from Dublin, but they all have a massively different sound. You can still tell their productions and tracks apart straight away.
Jack: It’s snowballing. Once someone sees someone else who could be their peer having success, everyone gets out there and has success, in their own right, with just being class creative people and good performers and stuff. Even though they’re all based around house and techno, it’s kind of mashed into this new sound for everyone else. It’s not defined like it was before, where it was, ‘This is house and this is techno’ and that’s it. New sounds are coming from all of those that came before.
Agreeing with me about the multidisciplinary requirements that come with being a DJ these days and the ‘be your own manager’ attitude that manifests, Boots & Kats have unintentionally built a brand. It’s grown entirely from songs they love and their desire to just have the craic with their mates. They tell me more.
Jack: I think personality is definitely a massive driving factor with most people these days, especially with social media and how it is. I think it’s definitely a factor with us, because people can see that we’re people, they can see that we are just lads that have somehow managed to get to this position.
Ciarán: Even before all of this sort of happened. Some of the artists I’ve looked up to, you end up meeting them face to face whether it’s through this, promoting, or District 8, or whatever. I’ve just realised that they’re all just really normal, but because they don’t have very much of a social media presence, you wouldn’t really know that. It makes them a little bit less relatable. But it works well in some cases.
Jack: It’s not the same as it used to be where, I don’t know, celebrities or artists you’d be in to or whatever, it would be a lot to do with the mystery behind them and that definitely added to the appeal, there was a certain aspect of that. But nowadays people want personalities and relatability.
When talking about their residency at Dublin collective Toast we soon stumbled upon the subject of venue closures in Dublin.
Ciarán: It’s very sad. The state that it’s in at the moment, we couldn’t have gotten to the position we’re in now without those places and where the scene is at now, you know? We had our residency in Opium Rooms, now that’s gone. Twisted Pepper, that’s gone. It’s just very hard, especially if you’re just trying to start a small collective. It’s not a very good place to start off.
Jack: At the same time, I think it might pick up. There are these little boutique venues starting up everywhere and they all have such personality in the buildings. People need to be more creative about where they have their parties.
I ask if they think Ireland supports its creative inhabitants enough, or at all.
Ciarán: Obviously you want to get noticed elsewhere, but we don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket. We’ve both got our own things going too. The way it’s going at the moment, with the growth, I can see it more and more likely for me to be able to build myself here [in Ireland]. If we keep that kind of level up, though, we are aware that we will burn out in the eyes of the crowd.
We moved on to the topic of touring. The life of a DJ can be an exhausting and lonely one with artists like Scuba temporarily retiring from touring to protect his mental health. It can take its toll but, as the lads explain to me, gigs are made a lot easier just by having the company there.
Jack: One thing I can’t understand, and I don’t know how DJs can do it by themselves, is going from complete isolation to a thousand people screaming in your face, and then straight back to isolation. We can kind of wind up and wind down together, which helps completely. We’ve both had encounters with mental health issues, even if you go too hard and you’re with someone else you’re more rational about things, instead of being caught in an irrational train of thought by yourself.
Ciarán: That side is made a lot easier by having two of us there. The travelling is awful but if there’s two of you there, you can always kind of buzz off each other. I imagine travelling by yourself you’d be bored out of your skull.
Our conversation winds down and I’ve just one more question for the pair. As their self-curated day festival Yurt City looms, and with a host of festival slots and gigs just around the corner, is there an element of their job they love the most?
Ciarán: Being able to curate Yurt City was absolutely class. Just being able to give this platform to our friends that I just consider to be so talented. I love to push them as much as I can.
Jack: Just being able to play with your mates…We definitely prefer our own events because it’s more of a community affair. Your mates will be there, with their mates and so on. It’s always the best buzz and it’s always going to be a great crowd of people who will be really fun to play to. Everyone on the [Yurt City] line up we have met through DJing, obviously we have loads more people that we would have booked but there’s only so much space on a line up. It’s all people we’ve met in the last three years that we happen to get along really well with and they happen to be some of the most class DJs around.
Yurt City takes place in District 8 on August 11.