Living in a city better known for its extravagant opera house, gaping harbour and architecturally-pleasing bridge, Sydney staples, Tom Studdy and Mike Curcuruto (aka Mike Who), guide you through an alternative tour of Australia’s oldest city. Their most recent party series World Records, co-run with Cake Wines owner Glenn Cassidy, aims to bring eclectic worldly sounds to Sydney’s shores. Their label Midnight Swim showcases talents closer to home, a combination evident in this City Guide mix.
The recent addition of Mike to Midnight Swim family allowed the label to branch out and become an all encompassing artist, booking, and events agency. In their most recent endeavour, the pair are opening a brand new record store, providing a refreshing addition to a city which is often overlooked on the world’s musical map.
Check out the map above and interview below for Mike and Tom’s favourite spots, while you listen to a 100% Sydney mix.
Favourite place to buy records?
Tom Studdy: Sydney has a healthy amount of record stores and in recent times more have been popping up so it’s hard to choose one favourite. Instead I’ll list the ones I visit regularly when doing the rounds. They either specialise in specific sounds or have a broad range of styles I look for when digging. Network Connection (Newtown) This is a relatively new store with a small and well curated selection of music covering everything from Techno through to Tropical Boogie. Josh who runs the operation is a friendly and knowledgeable guy who is always smiling and willing to help out with suggestions or tracking things down. Radio Free Alice (Darlinghurst). The owner James hands down knows the most about music than any other person I have ever known. Luckily I call him a friend so I’ve been able to absorb much of his knowledge. Another small and well curated selection the shop deals in obscure, out of print and hard to find titles, along with known or should be known classics across Music, Books and Films. James is always down for a good chat and you’ll end up leaving with an arm full of amazing finds. Otis (Online). Starting out as a hole in the wall haven for music rarely or easily found in Sydney. Hugh aka Hubert Clarke Jr has since morphed the shop into an online offering and launched a label under the same name. His depth of knowledge means he’s often stocking things well ahead of trends and making records easily available to locals that were once hard to track down. An incredible DJ/Live Musician be sure to keep an eye on the output of the Otis label and also check out his endeavours releasing on other labels such as Wolf Music and 100% Silk.
Mike Who: Revolve in Erskineville when the freaky Peruvian Gonzo is manning the counter. There is something for everyone in this happy place from library joints to classic and under the radar funk, soul, house, disco, boogie and reggae all the way through to hip hop and rock. The Record Store in Darlo for current club vibes. One of the last brick and mortar spots left in an area that was once a neighbourhood with record stores on every second block. They have always remained relevant and serviced working DJs in the city with quality up front 12’s. The store has proper heads doing the orders that play out in Sydney and have amazing taste. They also provide solid support for local labels with a rack dedicated to quality and consistent Australian releases. Shouts to Benny, Josh, Barney, Adi & Steph!
Favourite live music venue?
Tom Studdy: It’s much too hard to choose one in particular so I’ll go with the ones I attend most regularly covering many of the various styles of music I love.
Play Bar (Surry Hills) – The official home of Hip Hop, Soul, Funk and various off shoot styles of the aforementioned. This cosy basement bar has built a community around providing a home for like-minded individuals, taking risks with the music programming, staying true to what they do and offering huge amounts of support to the musicians, DJs, promoters of Sydney.
Freda’s (Chippendale). Freda’s is a party spot where once you walk through the doors you know it’s on. They have diverse and interesting music programming with a good amount of local and international live acts and DJ sets throughout the night.
Cake Wines Cellar Door (Redfern) An extension of the Cake Wines brand this venue was set up with the intention of bringing the worlds of food, music and wine together. The owners vision is really unique and much needed in Sydney. Fitted out with an amazing soundsystem, a contemporary and design driven interior along with a great selection of food and wine this is the spot where you can experience anything from the best Jazz musicians jamming out classics to internationals from all over the world playing to intimate crowds to a lights down low hands in the air boogie.
Mike Who: Cake Wines Cellar Door for intimate live vibes. I have seen some incredible shows down there in the past year. No stage or riser just on point programming, live acts on the dance floor and a properly tuned Funktion One rig.
For bigger live shows I’d say Oxford Art Factory is pretty hard to go past. A Sydney staple who have done it all and held it down for a very long time in regards to forward thinking programming. I have many fond and blurry memories from here over the past decade. It’s that perfect size before a venue gets too big and you feel disconnected as a punter.
Best soundsystem / favourite club?
Mike Who: The Civic Underground still has my heart in regards to the best sound system in the city. Certain DJs and styles of music translate better on that rig but it’s a really special room with a huge amount of history. My favourite club shut it’s doors a little while ago but for now I would say Freda’s & The Cellar Door are both fun places to hear local & DJs take risks and play good music. There are some not so low key warehouses that also have regular killer parties just outside of the city.
Tom Studdy: Cake Wines Cellar Door. It has a Funktion One system tuned perfectly for the room. The sound is warm, never too loud and no matter kind of music you’re listening to it always sounds good. Also the programming is always on point.
Best party in the city?
Tom Studdy: This is completely dependent on what kind of music you’re wanting to experience in a night out but the longest running, most consistent and inspirational party would have to be Mad Racket. Run by four of the cities most diverse and seasoned DJs Simon Caldwell, Zootie, Jimmi and Ken Cloud, this is a unique session that truly and honestly captures what underground dance music culture is about. Everything is on point from the sound, to the music, the crowd etc. They’ve created a huge community along with a format and blueprint over a long period that quite simply works each and every time. You’ll never leave a Mad Racket jam feeling anything less than amazing and they’ve inspired so many people old and new over 18 years of putting on these sessions.
Mike Who: Co sign Tom on the Racket call but for me personally just based on the amount of time I have spent there and my personal memories Love Bombs is the one. From killer outdoor parties in parks, on rooftops overlooking the city, in old theatres or warehouses pushing disco, boogie & modern soul burners. It’s generally an all locals affair with these DJs holding it down on the extended flex. Heavenly & Vibe Positive also hold down consistently amazing programming and throw proper parties in Sydney.
Best view of the city?
Tom Studdy: There’s so many places where you can get open and honest views of the city depending on where you’re looking from but Observatory Hill to the left of the harbour bridge is certainly one of (if not) the best. A 180 degree view across the harbour towards the North means you really get a good chance to take it all on and realise just how special a harbour city is.
Mike Who: For city skyline views there are a few amazing spots near Nielsen Park on the coastal walk. Milk Beach being a worthy stop off to take in the view of the city from a distance.
Best spot for a picnic?
Observatory Hill (see above) along with Centennial Park and Mrs Macquaries Chair. All 3 spots offer a good glimpse into Sydney life and if the weather is good then these are the places to be (along with everyone else).
Favourite Cafe’s and Restaurants?
Mike Who: Erciyes (Surry Hills) for good Turkish Pide and dips, Abduls (Surry Hills) for the fatoush, garlic chicken and staunch customer service, Ichi ban Boshi (Bondi Junction) for Ramen and food coma’s, Fatima’s (Surry Hills) for Falafels and late night chats, Chinese Noodle House (Haymarket) for the eggplant and invasion of personal space, Al Taglio (Darlinghurst) for a new take on traditional Italian Pizza, Nomad (Darlinghurst) when you’re ballin or wanna impress a date and The Cook and the Baker (Bondi Junction) for cakes and coffee
Tom Studdy: Four Ate Five (Surry Hills). Straight up cafe food made incredibly well with fresh and seasonal produce, amazing coffee and service that’s on point. Shouts to my good mate Lucas and co. Youeni (Surry Hills). Back to basic whole-foods for those looking for health conscious options. Nolan and the team are very friendly and it adjoins a great clothing store called The Stables. Scouts Honour (Redfern) My local and easily one of the best cafes around. Simple, affordable and healthy food made by laid back, happy and chilled people. It’s a hole in the wall so at times it can be hard to get in but it’s worth the wait. Ester (Chippendale), the few times I’ve eaten here I’ve had some of the best food in my life. Most of the menu is cooked in a woodfired oven so the flavours are distinct and very specific. The menu is straight up, no nonsense and a mix of seasonal Australian ingredients put together in interesting and progressive ways. Bar Reggio (Darlinghurst) An institution that serves up well priced Italian fair that never strays from being good. It’s a go to spot for many people from all walks of life and the laid back atmosphere makes it a great spot to go with a large group. Kepos St Kitchen (Waterloo) Israeli style food served in a beautiful old building in an area that’s up and coming and developing. Madame Nhu (Surry Hills) If you’re a fan of Pho and vietnamese food it’s a must go spot.
Is there somewhere you like going to escape the hustle and bustle and take some time away for yourself?
Tom Studdy: Without leaving Sydney you can take a short drive North or South to any of the beach areas for a little more peace and quiet, swimming, bushwalking, good food spots and down time. And if you drive just a bit further either side you’ll end up in the Central Coast to the North and to the south in places like Kiama, Berry and the Kangaroo Valley. Some of these spots have the most beautiful beaches and it’s hard not to unwind when you’re surrounded by bush and moments from the ocean.
Mike Who: Anywhere beach side, Sydney’s city and Harbour beaches are all pretty special. If I have time I’ll always head to the south coast. Only an hour to an hour and a half out of the city pending where you live and you feel still feel really far removed from hustle.
Best place to experience something unique to Sydney?
Tom Studdy & Mike Who: Bangarra Dance Theatre. This is a national indigenous performing arts company that tells the stories of their ancestors through modern dance. I’ve been to see several productions and each time I’ve left so energised and inspired. I can’t recommend it more to someone who is a fan of arts and culture. Not only is it entertaining it also tells us of Australia’s traditional land owners history which is so important to locals and visitors alike.
First thing you miss after leaving Sydney?
Tom Studdy: The weather
Mike Who: Co Sign the weather and water
Best place to see another medium of art other than music?
White Rabbit Gallery – A gallery showing only contemporary Chinese art. Art Gallery of NSW – Classic old style masters alongside the new school. Museum of Contemporary Art – Progressive and global contemporary art with great views of the harbour. Palace Verona Cinema – Art-house and foreign films that don’t make it to the major cinemas.
What are your favourites shops for things other than music?
The Stables – A multi faceted retail experience where you can discover unique fashion labels, grab a bite to eat or get a great haircut. Above The Clouds – The go to spot for limited edition sneakers and street wear. The Standard Store – Impeccably well curated Mens and Women’s fashion with a distinct European flavour. Big Trouble Store – Japanese and American workwear inspired garments with great accessories alongside hard to find pieces. Kinokuniya – A book store where you’ll find almost anything on any subject matter no matter how obscure or hard to find. Lunantiques – Bric a Brac antique store housing some of the most interesting pieces from past to present. Footage – Quality clothes and accessories with amazing owners that know how to make you feel welcome.
Are there any markets in your city worth checking out?
Tom Studdy: Marrickville Markets – Growers market for fresh fruit and vegetables. Rozelle Markets – Bric a Brac, oddities, vintage clothing. Kirribilli Markets – Old and new fashion alongside good food. Surry Hills Markets – Vintage clothing you won’t find anywhere else.
Mike Who: Glebe & Marrickville Markets are both solid.
Where will you find the friendliest, most interesting locals to have a chat with?
Sydney-siders are generally friendly people so most will engage you in a conversation and especially if you’re from overseas as they will be interested in where you’re from. Music venues and bars plus cafes/restaurants along with market places, boutique retail stores are where you’ll always find friendly people.
Describe Sydney in 5 words.
What’s the best and worst thing about living in Sydney?
Tom Studdy: Best – The pace of living and way of life. Everything is relatively easy, close by and there to experience or take in right in front of you. It’s also a very safe place to live due to our geographical location. Worst – The increasingly high cost of living along with a feeling that sometimes we are way behind some other parts of the world when it comes to social, political and cultural progression. It’s a deep and complex thing to dissect but quite literally it feels like we are at times so disconnected from things and moving backwards. I can’t not mention the lock out laws which along with the aforementioned have really hurt our cultural, social and artistic fabric.
Mike Who: Best – It’s a global multicultural city, there are jobs, good people, good food and it’s generally a pretty a safe city. Worst – Huge lack of affordable housing and cheaper places to rent. Honorable mention to the shitty Lock out laws who have really hurt the cities music, culture and nightlife. It’s been sad to watch so many close friends who own venues and bars struggle against backwards decisions and laws put in place by incompetent and detached people at the top of the food chain.
Who’s doing good things for Sydney music right now, who you’d like to shout out?
Mike Who: Heaps of people doing amazing things in Sydney, I’m mad appreciative of everyone maintaining the hustle regardless of the current challenges we face in Sydney. In no particular order and I will no doubt forget a million people. Shouts to FBi Radio, Astral People, Picnic, Cake Wines, Heavenly, Vibe Positive, Ricardo’s, TCD, Freda’s, Midnight Swim, Low Key Source, Mad Racket, Love Bombs, Ken Oath, House Of Mince, Ghostly, Sydney Pony Club, Charades, Grindin, Fifty Records, Motorik, Post Pluto, Otis & Moonshoe.
Tom Studdy: Despite the issues I mentioned earlier with lock out laws plus the huge costs of living there’s still so many amazing things happening and we are lucky to have so many talented people living here doing great things. In recent times there’s a new energy that’s taken over the city with new labels, parties and record stores seemingly popping up all the time. Along with the previously mentioned shops, venues/spots and crews I must acknowledge and send special shouts and love in no particular order to the Afrobrasiliana crew, Bondi Beach Radio and extended crew, The Goods, Sistas With Soul, Organiiq, The Posse, Steve Spacek, Peret Mako, Chasm, Edseven, Mohi, Setwun, Personal Best Records, Ken Oath Records, Cosmo Jones, Simon Caldwell and the Mad Racket crew, Lorna Clarkson, Cam Baird, Cake Wines Cellar Door crew, Play Bar crew, Soul of Sydney crew and affiliate DJs, Ben Peterson, Carly and The Picnic crew, The Boogie Monster, Anno and the Love Bombs crew, Preacha. Casey at Fifty Records, JNR, Diola and Low Key Source, Cantaloop Crew, Ben Kronenberg. Also a special mention goes to anyone I may have forgotten to list and shouts to everyone doing their thing and making Sydney great in their own way.
Are there any interesting organisations/charities/projects involving music based/happening in your city?
The two that spring to mind are Keep Sydney Open and Heaps Decent. Both operate in different sections of the industry but both are vital and equally important to the progression of arts and culture in Sydney. Keep Sydney Open is a group of Sydney music venues, cultural organisations and concerned citizens joining together to fight the imposed lockouts. Heaps Decent is an Australian based dynamic arts organisation working with young people & emerging artists from marginalised & disadvantaged communities, providing a means by which they can tell their story in their own way.
What are some of your favourite up-and-coming DJs/producers/musicians bubbling up in Sydney right now?
Mike Who: Setwun, Mohi, Freda & Jackson, Lauren Hansom & Taridas
Tom Studdy: Echoing what Mike has said with the above it’s also worth keeping an eye on The Goods, Is That Fair? and Nik Thorup.
Could you tell us about the mix you’ve made for us? Where and how did you record it, what was the idea behind it and are there?
The mix is a snapshot into the sounds that are being made in Sydney right now. We recorded it on a sunny afternoon in Mike’s studio. We went through tunes from local producers and labels that have been staples in our crates over the last year. We then reached out to some extended crew who are sitting on unreleased jams and stuff that is forthcoming on local labels.
Musically the mix moves around from hip hop to mid tempo burners, house, broken beat and odd ball cuts like the recently re issued tune by Left Ear from Sydney’s Shahara –Ja – I’m An Arabian Night from 89. We wanted to put together and compress a nice balance of older things, newer things and forthcoming things. It starts off slower before moving through various tempos, genres and styles. There’s so much we could have included that didn’t make it in so we might need to do a part 2 or 3 at a later date. Big shouts to everyone in Sydney doing their thing and keeping us inspired.
And finally, what’s on the horizon for you in terms of live dates or releases we should look out for?
Mike Who: Party wise we put on a Monthly together with Glen Cassidy called World Records – As part of the Vivid programming we will be throwing a party on on June 3rd with one of our favourite DJs Ge- Ology on headline duties + live sets from Melbourne’s 30/70 & local dons Freda & Jackson. We’ll be filling in the gaps on the day. Apart from that one heaps of regular parties to catch us both and I have a new mix dropping soon for a local series called Suburban Oasis. It’s a great series of diverse mixes curated by two younger heads Jimmy & Christian who both dig deep and have great taste.
Tom Studdy: Lots on this year with new music on my label Midnight Swim with projects in the works from local artists Ross Ferraro, The Posse, Cardboard Heroes, Mohi, Setwun, Inkswel, Freda & Jackson and Peret Mako. On the party front the above mentioned World Records Vivid session along with a Midnight Swim label showcase also for Vivid on June 16th featuring Steve Spacek (Live), Peret Mako (Live), Cardboard Heroes (Live) and myself Mike Who and Edseven on selections along with a big party for Afrobrasiliana featuring a soon to be announced special international guest at a secret location. I’m also moments away from opening my own record store which has been in the works for a while now and will be so good to finally get up. Stay tuned.
Mohi – Jupiter Holiday (Low Key Source)
Setwun – Cellar (Unreleased)
Lowflung – Coastal Garden (Ken Oath)
Sam Weston – Control
The Posse – Happy Accidents (Plastic World)
Jon & Hugh – Stillness – (Forthcoming on Otis)
Freda & Jackson – 20together (Moonshoe)
Underground City Loop- Systems (Ken Oath)
Hubert Clarke Jr – No Look for Trouble ( Wolf Music)
Shahara-Jah – I’m An Arabian Knight (Extended Funky Arabian Mix) ( Left Ear Records)
Canyons – Apples and Pears (Hole In The Sky)
Edseven – Broadside (Midnight Swim)
Inkswel – Outer Space Connection feat Steve Spacek (Edseven remix) (Forthcoming on BBE)
Steve Spacek – Been Looking At U – (Forthcoming SPA Music)
Setwun – SA -1 (Unreleased)
Organiqq – Velvet&Rainbows ( Post Pluto)