SCOTT & RAF of REBECCA.
Late last year, I got to chatting with two DJs about a party they were launching - one dedicated to real house music. It was exactly the sort of thing I had been needing in my life. After a couple quippy convos, I soon got the opportunity to start working with them on a Sunday evening get together known as UltraMaroon. I had known DJ Raf through ShareGurl previously and had heard DJ Scott Martin spin at some events I loved, but now came a time to be able to work with them both, aiming to deliver something not necessarily different, but somehow missing, from the NYC scene.
Soulful house music had become lacking in Manhattan, save the efforts to keep up the good word by Scott & Raf alongside standouts like DJs Corey Craig, Dawson, Aaron Aanenson, Peter & Dan (BRUT) and others, as well as Eagle NYC ( as I say, you can always count on the Eagle.) The only problem is that DJs no longer have regular events and spaces in the city from which to deliver their Gospel of House.
And that's where Scott & Raf, known together as Rebecca. come into the mix. Their goal is not only to be able to play the kind of music they love for people, but to also seek out those diamond in the rough venues of the city (and beyond,) and bring together the right people to create a vibe that just makes you feel right.
I checked in with the guys to better understand what makes them work so well together, how the Pines plays a part in their progression, and what's to come as the fall season of UltraMaroon begins.
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DXD: First things first. You are DJ Scott Martin and DJ Raf. But also Rebecca. What is ShareGurl? What all is going on here? Who are you people?
RAF: I am Raf, that is Scott, and we DJ together as Rebecca!
ShareGurl started about 7 years ago as a project to make the Fire Island Pines more accessible to people who don't own homes out there. One of the main ways we went about marketing our business, and the island, was by throwing pool parties. As part of that, we opened up a production company called ShareGurl Productions, invested in some speakers and digital turntables, and things took off from there. At some point during that process I became roommates with Scott by chance. We quickly realized that we shared a love for house music, and an agreement that queer NYC was missing out on the sounds that we can dance to current and classic house on both on Fire Island and in NYC.
DXD: How did you both get your start in the NYC nightlife scene?
SCOTT: I moved to NY in 2013. This was really the first time that I got a glimpse of just how deep nightlife could get – and that there was something every single night of the week (quite different for this Oregon grown guy) – and that was for gay and/or straight crowds. I knew I wanted to get my hands dirty and start playing in this magic, so I tried to go out and meet as many people as I could, and share as much music as I could.
I ended up getting my start at the late, great G Lounge in Chelsea. I remember going there during one of my first trips to New York and being blown away by how many people were packed into that place in the dead of winter. G Lounge was amazing because they let me do my thing and play the kind of house music I wanted. Five hours of house music during the middle of the week was pure happiness for me. I played there during their Paradiso parties on Thursday nights, as well as their Gruff parties on Wednesdays, and a few other special occasions. From there I was able to play for NYC Pride on a few occasions, out in Fire Island, at Cielo – opening for some pretty amazing and special people.
Once Raf and I teamed up in 2015, we’ve really created our own spaces and parties. We’ve forged our own path out here, and it’s worked really well. We like being disruptors in the space.
RAF: I remember a time in my 20’s when we would go out every night; Mondays was for watching Bianca Del Rio make drunk straight girls play name that tune at the Ritz, Tuesdays was Beige and the Box, Wednesdays was Citrine, Thursdays was Room Service, Fridays and Saturdays would be out in Hells Kitchen or Chelsea, and Sunday would be Greenhouse. It was a time post mega-club when some of the city’s long-running bar parties were still going, and manhunt.net wasn’t efficient enough to discourage people from actually intermingling at parties. I had a crew that I bopped along with and managed to build a pretty solid network of party acquaintances. It might have been the golden age of bar culture in NYC, and I may have had people to drink with, but eventually I got tired of it and stepped out of the daily grind. Looking back, I realize that I absolutely conformed myself to what I thought people in the scene wanted to see from me.
Around that time I started going out to Fire Island. More on the importance of Fire Island later, but in a nutshell, the Pines developed into my safe space: a place where I felt like i could be my weird, nerdy self without judgement. It also became a pretty amazing canvas for me: it’s there that I started my journey into the depths of underground house music, where I taught myself to DJ, where I started throwing weekly pool parties, where I developed and executed Spray Fire Island and (despite my denying it for years) where I and my team threw the most epic surprise Meatrack Parties (vintage 2015 through 2017) that the dunes had ever seen. Through all these experiences, I realized what motivated me: I like creating engaging queer spaces where people feel enabled to be themselves and play with one another. I also found my sound.
In 2015, Scott and I started to collaborate on parties in NYC. For me, it’s always been about staying true to the vibes that made the Pines so special to me. I still feel like an outsider in the NYC nightlife scene, but with UltraMaroon we have created a space where insiders and outsiders alike feel comfortable, let their guard down, and smile/drink/dancing out the end of their weekend.
DXD: Scott, could you give me the short scoop on your time in DJ booth and your influences?
SCOTT: I started my podcast is 2009, but didn’t actually start playing regularly until I moved to New York in 2013. I tried to play circuit-esque music, tried to play pop remixes, but it just doesn’t resonate with me. I need thumping tech and straightforward house music to get me going, and that’s what I want to share with the world through my sets and podcasts. I’m as uncompromising in that as I can be now. From G Lounge, to Rebecca, Cielo, The Out 100 party, Spray and Pines Party, the Pier Dance – it’s been a fun ride so far.
My influences are pretty wide-ranging, but you can hear all of them in what I select. Miguel Migs, early Kaskade before he became an EDM DJ, Groove Junkies, Grant Nelson, Colette, Jon Cutler. Soulful and Jackin House was and is my shit – that’s what hooked me into house. Once I started going out regularly though, the people and sounds that started to command my attention are acts like Hot Since 82, Carl Cox, Franky Rizardo, Rafa Barrios, Mark Knight, Jamie Jones, Max Muller – they can all command a dancefloor with a seamless mix of deep, tech and techno. I like to consider what I play Bright-Tech. It hits, but it’s still pretty happy. And if you can give me a 90’s R&B sample in any form I’m happy.
DXD: Raf, same.
RAF: Unlike most DJs who play their first gigs at night, mine were all during the day and poolside. People are typically a bit more lucid during the daylight than in a club, so making a pool party crowd dance is a different sort of challenge than a club set. I think that experience explains why my sound is very vocal-heavy, as well as why you’ll often hear me cross sub-genres of house over the course of a given night. In terms of influences, I follow a few record labels with a high degree of intensity, the most popular of which are Toolroom and Defected. When scouring for new tracks, I’m typically looking for beats that move me and an effective use of vocals, whether sung or spoken. I loves me a good vocal sample…
DXD: So what brought you guys together?
SCOTT: Happenstance, actually. There was an open room in my apartment and Raf ended up moving in. We quickly discovered that we both liked the same kinds of house music, and that there was an open space in the Queer NY nightlife scene for our style. Raf picked up DJing and from there we started Becky, which turned into Rebecca, which has turned into many other musical and nightlife adventures over the past couple years.
DXD: Working in Fire Island is a big part of what you do. Tell us more of your involvement in our little gay getaway over the years.
RAF: I’ve gotten into this a bit already, but Fire Island is where a lot of this started for us. In 2013, after renting in the Pines for a year, I created the ShareGurl App with Nathan Pinsley as a project to streamline the experience of planning trips to and renting in the Pines. Two years later we were renovating and rebranding the Botel in to the Hotel by ShareGurl. A year later we were also running the Madison and the Pines Club; things had escalated quickly. Today, while we no longer operate the properties ourselves, ShareGurl continues to serve as a gateway to renting rooms for a night or two, or homes for any period of time.
ShareGurl was a passion project for us. When we started the company, property values in the Pines were declining, there was no Pavilion, and younger renters were losing interest in and/or didn’t have the means to book shares. We hoped that by introducing an inexpensive nightly rate and by adding our own programing to the social rotation, we would encourage more people to come out and show them why we love the Pines as much as we do. The Pines is in a great place right now, and I can only hope that our project helped make a difference.
DXD: And for that we thank you! Your latest offering, UltraMaroon, started in Dec 2018. How was this concept created and where did you get this name?
SCOTT: We knew we wanted to start a Sunday party that focused around soulful, jackin’ and tech house music specifically. This was missing in the event line up in the city – a no frills, no attitude space where music was the centerpiece. We found a great venue to collaborate with, The Lately, and the name actually came from a drink that was on their menu. It felt very on-brand for us, as well.
What started as a post-brunch twirl, quickly turned into an evening swing, and each week it just got better and better. People caught on to our vibe pretty quickly and we think it resonated with them as something fresh.
This season, we’re in a new venue with a much more danceable layout, but still has that funky little twist that we like, and we are BEYOND excited to get started at Blue Midtown.
DXD: I can't wait to see this new space in action! What are all the right ingredients to make UltraMaroon what it is?
RAF: Our brew consists of five key components:
The space - we need a room that feels intimate and warm, that lives somewhere between club and lounge
The music - UltraMaroon is about house music. You’ll hear us cycle through sub-genres, but we usually hit all of soulful, classic, jackin’ and tech in a night.
The crew - I like to think of our staff and hosts as bar mitzvah dancers…and I think they like to as well! Everyone is happy to see each other, and we’re all there to make sure our guests have a good time.
It’s free - Our house is open to everyone, as we enter our second season we are re-committing to not charging a cover for anyone who takes the time to RSVP on our website or via one of our hosts. This does mean that our ability to pay our team relies almost entirely on our guests buying drinks at the bar…so I’d highly recommend y’all ordering pitchers and pitchers of margaritas!
It’s fun - our guests come in, drop all pretense, dance happy, and leave happy. It’s really beautiful to watch from the DJ booth.
DXD: Any highlights from the spring season?
SCOTT: Whoever that dude was that randomly showed up with a trumpet and started blowing – that was fucking amazing. It was so organic. It just elevated the entire night and was exactly what we’re all about. We were also able to bring in some of favorite guests and collaborators like Lupe Fuentes and Steven Redant.
DXD: And what can we expect from this fall season, starting Sun, Oct 6th?
RAF: The first thing everyone will notice is a major venue upgrade. Blue Midtown is a pretty awesome, centrally located space, with a lot of architecture that we’re excited to play with. In addition to an expanded happy hour from 5pm to 6pm, we’ll be offering a rotating cocktail special all evening. DJ-wise, Scott and I have invited some of our favorite NYC and international DJs to swing through for guest sets, and it’s shaping up to be a fun season.
DXD: What’s one thing you wish you could say to every guest before they arrive to your party?
SCOTT: Welcome to our house. You’re family here.
DXD: Top 3 Three Things you love seeing at your parties?
DXD: Top 3 Things you loathe seeing at your parties?
Fans. Fans are for keeping you cool, you do not need to clack it to the beat. Please act accordingly.
Did we mention fans?
DXD: Last question: Ultra Naté or Maroon 5
SCOTT & RAF: The answer is totally automatic. Ultra. (Adam can come though.)
There you have it kids. They are DJs Scott & Raf, whom together form the DJ duo Rebecca. You can join in their UltraMaroon shenanigans again starting this Sunday, Oct. 6, at Blue Midtown. Entry is free with RSVP on the RebeccaRSVP site, or $10 at the door without.
I must again extend my heartfelt appreciation to Scott & Raf for having me part of what they offer our scene. UltraMaroon is more special to me than you all can know, and I hope it gives you what it gives me every time we fire up the smoke machine and put on our heels.
David X Daisy