Belters Only proudly wears the title of Ireland’s leading dance music outfit, and if record sales are any indication, they are the most successful of all time. With millions of streams, sold-out arena shows, chart-topping tracks, an Ibiza residency and platinum certification, they have permanently altered the trajectory of Irish club culture.

Robbie Griffiths and Conor Bissett make up the powerhouse Dublin dance music duo, Belters Only. Having met earlier in their careers, the pair had developed a mutual respect for each other’s artistry; while working as sovereign artists, the concept of collaborating seemed obvious, but it would not arrive until a few years down the line at “the end of COVID when Bissett was building his studio”.

The pair’s journey in dance music is like those of many from Dublin, written in the hallowed walls of clubs gone to the wayside. Both had previously had successful solo careers and had become somewhat cult figures in Dublin’s dance music theatre of the late 2010s, cutting their teeth at venues such as Sin and The Wright Venue.

“We both grew up in the same club around the same music. We had the music in us. So when we got into the studio, everything worked, it was nearly easy for us. We both understood the assignment.”

During COVID, nightclub doors began to close, while studio doors began to open. Throughout this period, Robbie G and Bissett chiselled out the foundation of Belters Only. After a few sessions, a sound emerged, and the pair began to rewrite Irish dance music history.

“Every artist is looking for that feeling. When we came together, we both got that feeling and we knew that this was different. This was special. From there it was history.”

Belters Only and fellow collaborator Jazzy have laid the groundwork for what would become the iconic Irish electronic sound. Rooted in the exuberant sounds of Ireland’s ecstasy-glazed golden years of rave culture, while also interweaving the contemporary sounds of a new generation of ravers, many of whom are blissfully unaware of the bedrock of dance music culture; for those, Robbie G & Bissett are their teachers and, in many ways, their messiahs. Belters Only has been delicately marrying the old with the new in a boldly fresh yet comfortably familiar loving affair that has captivated the hearts and hips of thousands of Irish dancers.

We’re very proud of who we are, and where we come from. The sound that we represent is a product of that. The music that we make is the music that we grew up on. It brings the people that were with us to a certain time and place. It also has a 90s feel that resonates with that era, while also bringing a modern feel. Some of the kids today have never even heard this stuff before.”

Since the inception of the project, the idea of etching out a sound that was not just distinctively Irish but also uniquely their own has been central to their goal. The pair’s drive to make their stamp on Irish music history originates from their own musical backgrounds and the importance it’s played in their own lives. The duo have studied the Irish dance music book, but they aren’t afraid to tear out a few chapters and write their own story while they’re at it.

“When we started, there wasn’t there wasn’t a way of doing things. We figured this out for ourselves. Nowadays, we like to think that there was a bit more of a structure in Ireland and it’s improving.”

“There’s a sound starting to brew in Dublin, which is something that we set out to do. There are a lot of talented artists in this country and I feel like a lot of them didn’t know what way to go or what to do. We’re trying to create the blueprint.”

Forging a sense of community and affinity that is directly associated with the Irish sound is fundamental to the Belters Only project. In many ways, the duo’s successes and accolades are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to their predictions for the future of Irish dance music. Robbie and Bissett are laying the groundwork for future generations, and their conviction directed at erecting a thriving environment for Irish artists to grow far outweighs anything they have or will do.

“This is bigger than us. We want to change the lives of young people who we believe are good enough and deserve to be shown on a global scale.”

Music has played a central part in both Robbie & Bissett’s lives since their early years. For Robbie, music runs deep into his family’s history, “Music’s been in my life since I was born. My granddad was in showbands, my dad was singing to me since I was in the womb, and all my cousins & aunties from both sides of the family are amazing singers. It was normal to me that music was always around.”

Both Robbie and Bissett discuss how music has always been a source of comfort for them during difficult times in their lives. No matter what was going on outside, the ability to create music has always been a comforting blanket and an important part of their identity and security.

Robbie touches on a time before he had started making electronic music “I was struggling mentally from a very young age because I knew school wasn’t for me. I knew something was missing from my life to create my full identity. When I started to see progression with making music it was that feeling that we were searching for. Once I got that feeling that was it.”

For Bissett music was a lifeline during a period of uncertainty. “I started making music at 17, my girlfriend at the time was pregnant, I got made redundant from the job, I didn’t go to college, I had no money. I put every bit of my redundancy money towards buying a laptop. That laptop then got me the software, which I then made Every Single Time. That track brought me some money to invest in a studio and that’s where me and Robbie came together.”

Although the Belters Only sound is representative of Ireland, the pair’s desire for transparency in their own stories and music leads them to focus on their own backgrounds, which are rooted in working-class neighbourhoods. Dance music is frequently viewed as a haven for diversity and acceptance but people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may be somewhat excluded. As the industry expands, the barriers to entry for the working class become more difficult to overcome.

“When you come from the working class, you’re already at a disadvantage. There’s not much going on other than trouble and standing on corners. People who sound like us and wear clothes like us can get shunned and put into a category. But this is who we are, we’re never going to change, no matter how big we get. We’ll always be the same people that we are now.”

Belters Only recently unveiled their new label, We Are Active Records. The Dublin-based imprint aims to provide a home for Irish dance music as well as a safe haven for Irish producers seeking not only a platform to release music but also guidance as their careers progress. Artists are frequently told that in order to be successful, they must emigrate, but the pair strongly disagree, and actively work towards erasing this misconception. Robbie and Bissett are committed to forging a thriving environment in their own backyard, and they see no need for Irish artists to turn elsewhere for success.

“I feel like artists, including ourselves, had to go elsewhere to get what we needed in terms of services. It’s hard enough to be an artist. It’s hard enough to truly express yourself in a certain way. We’re trying to make that easier for the people. It’s an exciting time for Irish dance music, not just for our label but for the scene in general.”

Labels are frequently preying on younger artists, exploiting their naivety and excitement for their own gain. Their latest venture We Are Active Records wants to safeguard rising artists from entering into lucrative contracts that may not be in their best interests.

“It’s a family. Artists in this industry have been taken advantage of far too many times. They get put in contracts, labels throw a ton of money at them and next thing you know, you’re in a contract for the rest of their life and you don’t know what the fuck to do. We know we don’t want that.”

“If you give somebody a good experience at a young age the potential is limitless. It’s a long-term project for any artists that are represented by We Are Active, we’re trying to build careers not just make a quick buck.”

The Belters Only train is full steam ahead, with a slew of impressive accomplishments recorded in 2023, including a sold-out show at the 3Arena, an Irish chart number-one hit, a top ten entry in the UK charts, over 100 million streams on ‘Make Me Feel Good’ on Spotify alone, and becoming the first Irish dance act to receive diamond certification, to name a few. Although it has been a long and laborious journey to this point, the pairing is quite content with their success and cherishes every moment of it.

“We did work for this, we implemented this into our lives the exact way we wanted to do it, but that still doesn’t take away from how crazy this is. If it were to all stop tomorrow and we were to look back at all this, it would be something we’d be very proud of. But sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming.”

Another significant milestone for the duo was their recent collaboration with UK-based house icon Sonny Fodera alongside Jazzy on their track Life Lessons. Sonny, dubbed ‘one of the biggest draws in house’ by Mixmag, is a huge fan of Belters Only, frequently playing out their tracks and chatting on social media. After meeting in Dublin at Fodera’s 3Arena show, a collaboration seemed inevitable.

“He played ‘Giving Me’ and ‘Make Me Feel Good’ in Dublin and when he saw the reactions to them it was a no-brainer. He’s a very good friend of ours now. He’s one of the good ones.”

Following the pair’s landmark sell-out show at the 3Arena, they now embark on another year of shows, as summer looms, the sun-soaked sound of Belters Only will takeover festivals across Ireland and Europe. Their biggest run of gigs is yet to come as they take their show to Kildare, Cork, Galway, Belfast, Longitude, Creamfields, Parklife and more. As always their shows encapsulate everything the project is about, soul-dripping house music with an Irish twist. They don’t say much about the show but “They’re going to be a spectacle.”

The pair seldomly reflect on their successes, their thoughts are geared towards the future. More plans, more music, more milestones to shatter. Their string of well-received anthems lays the basis for what’s to come as they focus on a much larger project: a debut album. “We’re working towards an album, we definitely have a chance of getting it out this year.”

Aside from their own projects, the duo is eager to return to the label and discuss potential collaborations with other Irish artists, such as their remix for Maverick Sabre, which was released last year. The label presents an opportunity to put the Irish on a pedestal; international collaborations are certainly on the cards, but building up the Irish contingent of house music is what their minds consistently lean toward. The idea of the label being family seems to be more than just expression as Robbie alludes to his sister featuring on the label “My sister is a great singer and songwriter, so we’re going to bring her in.”

The first We Are Active release, by 17-year-old Josh Dowdall, will be available next week on March 15th, along with more in the pipeline. The pair also vowed to release the 3Arena set before their upcoming Irish shows, with the film serving as a direct glimpse into Irish music history.

Music runs deep in Robbie and Conor’s veins; they can’t get away from it or turn their backs on it. They’ve been doing it since they were teens, and their reluctance to conform might be their most important asset. Music means more to them than others; an escape in every sense of the word, house music has been a guiding light throughout their lives. Their mission is to pass on this feeling to as many people as possible.

“Find your true self and stick to that. If you feel a certain way about something regardless of what’s going on around you. That’s who you are. Stick with who you are and you’ll find true happiness.”

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