What’s the juice? Becky Tong and Adam Callan bring east to west with Notting Hill Arts Club’s Juicebox

Sure, it might seem that east London has it covered when it comes to new music, but we say it’s high-time the east sat down and paid attention to the west. Thanks to Adam Callan and Becky Tong, there is a weekly influx of new sounds making their way west courtesy of Juicebox, hosted every Thursday at Notting Hill Arts Club.  The pair met four years ago whilst they were working within artist management before moving on to become a radio plugger at Media Village and an A&R Manager at Relentless Records respectively. Fabian Castellani meets the duo at the Electric Diner to discuss what makes Juicebox so special and their favourite west London haunts… 


Juicebox is quite an American-esque name for a night. Where did it come from?


Adam: The name originally came from the blog Becky and I started a few years back. We were looking for a way to put out new music and felt that was the right idea at the time. We began bouncing names between each other, all of which were ridiculous and just didn’t work. I was down the pub one day and came up with about 50 different names. I emailed them over to Becky, who then lovingly told me that they were all so dumb, except for ‘Juicebox’. That just kind of worked.


Becky: We lived with [the name] for a bit, and then started playing around with the idea of how we could design the logo. We just thought it was a name that wasn’t too serious, but it made sense in the way that the blog was a ‘box’ full of something nice; the nice being the juice. You can squeeze the juice everywhere… so many innuendos! In fact, the first night we did, one of the DJs turned up and asked if we had seen the Urban Dictionary definition of Juicebox, which ended up being something quite obscene. I’m not even going to go into that one.


What made you want to start your own night?


A: When we first started working together, we were across so many different fields; Becky was focused upon radio and I was managing a few different acts. Just working within the music industry, as well as Becky DJing in fashion, it was clear that there were so many opportunities to bring people together who weren’t already doing things, especially in west London. A lot of the events we were involved in were happening in east, but no one was doing it west. ‘YoYo!’ was going on, but that was much more urban than what we were doing. There was no one really focused upon House or interesting electronic music at the time, which encouraged us to create something for west London.


B: I think what happened after we started the blog was that it created some good interest, especially amongst our friends and people we were working with. Carnival came around and one of my friends decided to throw a carnival party and asked if we would join in. We did it, it went really well, and that was pretty much how the night was born. That particular night was at a pub on Portobello, everyone was f****d and it was madness; carnival madness.


What was it that drew you to Notting Hill Arts Club as the venue for Juicebox? Obviously at that point in time there was the weekly YoYo! event, which was on its way out. Was it a conscious choice or something you fell into?


A: I guess it was the fact of me having done events and the like there before, a kind of loyalty in some respects. Plus, Becky and I go there quite a lot to see bands and DJs, as well as going to ‘YoYo!’ when it was running. We knew all the people who worked there were really sick and we thought it could be fun having our own night within the Arts Club.


B: The style of the venue is perfect for us; it’s not too big, but it’s not too small. It’s not too clean, such a pretty way to explain it! It’s a bit hipster but not overly cool; its not trying to be something that it’s not.


A: We could make it whatever we wanted it to be. Other venues, such as Shoreditch House for example, come with their own background story and already tell you something about their history, but the Arts Club is just an empty space; a blank canvas.


The act choices are always quite eclectic and you’ve had some brilliant performers come down such as SLK, Kaleida & Raleigh Ritchie. How do you go about selecting people to get involved?


A: Becky tends to find most of it. It’s all based on our own personal taste; if we both like them, then we’ll try to get them involved. We’ve got to stay true to our taste and that is always what we’ll try to do. I reckon if you played all the acts and DJs we’ve had over the past two years at Juicebox, it’d be very eclectic, although I’d say there is a strong electronic element to our choices, with a focus on soulful and indie vocals.


With that diverse mix of music, what sort of crowd do you attract?


B: Its quite interesting to see who comes to Juicebox. From January this year, we changed things so it now happens on a weekly basis. As the weekly nights are bedding in, we’re beginning to see who our audience is. They’re generally people aged around 20-25 who have got some sort of interest in what they’re wearing. You do see a lot of interesting clothing choices. I’d say a lot of them are probably a part of the creative industry, but also people who like to dance. They aren’t worried about looking cool, they just want to let their hair down. It’s a Thursday, not the weekend, although Thursday is basically the new Friday.


A: We don’t want it to be exclusive in any way that people feel they can’t come. We just want it to be fun and for people to become more aware of the music that is out there. It’s a really friendly vibe with a cool crowd. It’s not that ‘staring each other out cool’, its like a relaxed nice cool. Like a social club for cool people.


B: I like to think you can come on your own and meet people because everyone is so nice. It takes a lot of balls to do that, but there are some people who have come on their own and end up making friends with random people. I think that’s quite a nice thing about it.


You both have a lot fingers in different pies, how do you balance everything so that it doesn’t overwhelm you?


B: We find it quite difficult, but we’re trying to get other people involved. Because a lot of the things we do crossover, it sort of helps us to manage our time. We’re looking for people to help us as it’s growing to help with bookings and promotion. The next step is expanding.


The biggest part of Juicebox is its focus on new music. You somehow manage to stay on the ball at every event. Do you feel that there is pressure to deliver within a time in music where everything is consumed so fast?


B: Keeping the quality is hard as a lot of artists are weary of playing London shows at the moment, because the spotlight is pushed upon them. The music industry is down the road from us, so there is some pressure. Its not very secretive.


A: We’ve had people pull out a day before the show, saying that the pressure is too much, or that the night is full of too many industry people. We’ve just had to calm them down and be like ‘it’s gonna be fine, chill’. You have to relax people a bit. Sedate them.


B: ‘No one’s coming to see you, don’t worry! We’ll take you off the flyer!’ tends to work.


A: It’s only happened once.Thankfully it doesn’t happen every night! The weird thing is that I guess there is a certain pressure for us, but we have to find new music within our jobs as it is. Its just a general part of life now. It just so happens that finding amazing new things is just what we do. When [the night] comes off, it feels brilliant. A couple weeks ago we had A/T/O/S come down, and that was a particularly amazing night. There are just those nights where the live acts and the DJs come together and mesh really well. You just feel proud of it.


You spoke about expanding your team but what’s the dream for Juicebox?


A: Its a secret. We don’t have a definitive plan for it. We make a living doing our jobs and Juicebox is all about having fun and having a platform to enjoy the great parts of what we do. There will be ways to grow that, but for the time being, we’re having fun with what we’re doing.


Finally, where are your favourite places to eat, relax and socialise in west London?


B: To eat? I’d say each other’s houses as Adam is a brilliant cook. Although we’re not open to the public, sorry. For lunch, Kensington Square Kitchen near our office is a bit of a personal favourite. I also like it here [at The Electric Diner]. Then there’s Eat Tokyo, which is kind of our top secret place I guess, but we love it.


A: And Thai Break which is just around the corner [from Eat Tokyo], both just off Hillgate Street. Eat Tokyo is always busy. In Thai Break on the other hand, there’s only ever a couple in there who are probably breaking up or something like that. It’s so quiet but the food in both places is amazing.


Every Thursday, 7pm – 2am; free before 8pm, £5 after
Juicebox, Notting Hill Arts Club, 21 Notting Hill Gate, W11 3JQ;

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