Despite being the new kid on the block, SILO has already made a name for itself. With a successful opening month, there’s plenty of buzz surrounding this unique venue. What used to be a hangar is now a new nightlife hot spot. What’s even more impressive is that they even got to host Fred Again.. for a night during his New York takeover.
We got the opportunity to talk to and interview the founders, Lilly and Alex. Their passion for SILO shines through in the interview, and all their hard work and effort is what makes the place so special.
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Could you provide a brief background on your connection with dance music and how you found yourself organizing/throwing events?
Lilly: Alex and I started throwing parties a long time ago, in 2012. He lived in Williamsburg in a converted auto garage, and we had events there first, then in the McKibbin Lofts for a while. Those lofts were crazy, we’d host events, and half the neighbors would come by, a bunch of artists and poets and burnouts. That’s where we met our muralist, Yoshi. The parties were usually open format and people would sing or rap or dance or do some other performance art, like leap out of a cake or a hula hoop act or something. It was a lot of fun.
Founders Alex Neuhausen and Lilly Wolfson
I believe that every venue has character and a story to it, what did you envision for SILO?
Lilly: I go to a lot of dance music events and sometimes it can be hard to find space. I’m a smallish woman and I really wanted to make something that gives people their own space to dance. And I wanted a room that felt sort of aspirational, the type of space where it’d be possible to do creative or ambitious production, or that would fit a large-scale installation. I like building things and someday hope to create some custom installations for our room.
Could you run us through the genesis of SILO and the creation process? Where did the idea and name come from, and how did you stumble upon the abandoned hangar?
Lilly: After five-ish years of throwing these parties, Alex and I started talking about finding a legal space. It was hard and took a couple more years to actually do, because most of the time when you look at an available commercial spot it’s got some sort of problem, like being in a residential area where you can’t make noise, or some issue with zoning, or a wacky landlord with a criminal record.
Alex would go around looking at these spots in the mornings before he had to go to his day job, which by year two was starting to feel really pointless. I give him a lot of credit for that. When he texted me about the hangar, I was at my own day job. He said there were two bids on it already and I saw the pictures and I said, “outbid them!” And he did.
What do you think SILO uniquely brings to the NY/Brooklyn live music/nightlife scene?
Lilly: We want to be serious about music and sound and the artistry of DJing without having that turn into something inaccessible and exclusive. We want what we’re doing to reach different types of people and cultures, to be diverse, to be imaginative. We want it to be visually interesting.
Alex: We both have a background in engineering and we designed the lighting, sound, and projection system for the space. We spent a lot of time researching other nightclubs, projection art spaces like ZeroSpace and Artechouse, and the software and hardware used in those systems. We fully projection mapped the entire 24-foot-high back wall behind the stage and the full 60’ wide expanse of ceiling and walls in our main showroom, and we can turn the space into anything we want, from a rainforest to a futuristic factory to a night sky filled with stars. On top of that, we use the same GrandMA lighting board as clubs that are ten times our size. So I think the visual production we’re doing in our 500 cap venue, coupled with world-class sound from our 40,000 watt Danley sound system, is really unique, especially for a space as intimate as ours.
How is SILO different from any of your previous projects?
Alex: We’ve never done anything of this scale before, SILO is 5000 sq. ft. and our previous space, Secret Loft, was like 600. We also got to build the space from the ground up because it started as a giant garage with no insulation or plumbing. Instead of adapting an existing commercial or residential space to make it work as a performing arts venue, we planned everything around large-scale concerts with electronic music, so we have enough bathrooms, an efficient bar and kitchen layout, a 15-foot-high mezzanine for our tech crew, even additional high voltage circuits in the ceiling to power the fourteen 400-watt beam lights.
One thing that is similar is the staff, which is really cool. Secret Loft’s bartender is now SILO’s bar manager. Our door/security guy is now the security director. Our resident aerialist is still our resident aerialist and also the director of performances and live productions. Everyone got an upgraded position along with an upgraded venue.
There was an aerial performer at the opening event- how much performance art will be incorporated into the space?
Lilly: I think that performance is an important facet of an immersive experience – we want the people who come to our space to feel the energy of the room and the right performers can bring that out. A lot of this will depend on the kind of artist we’re bringing in – some nights we’ll have lots of performers and a more coordinated aesthetic, other nights we may not have any. We do have an opportunity to do some really elevated things with performance, both because of the literal height and technical capabilities of the space and also because we’ve got some solid engineers and builders on the team. So, I think you’ll see it evolve a lot as we figure out how to creatively introduce new concepts.
What was the thought process behind the curation of DJs and artists behind the announced events so far? Will SILO be housing specific genres and artists of a certain level?
Alex: The core of our sound is house and techno music – electronic music that with black artists and took over urban nightclubs decades before anyone played it on commercial radio. We want a mixture of both old and new. So, we have strong ties to some well-established promoters and labels like Nervous Records and we’re excited to be a new home for house music DJs who have been playing since the Limelight era or earlier, like François K, who played recently, or acid house pioneer Josh Wink. We want to reintroduce their tracks and style to a new generation.
We also love artists who are doing something new and interesting. We’re booking groundbreaking artists like Hiroko Yamamura who spins sci-fi and dark anime inspired techno, and the duo AceMoMA, who are mixing breakbeats into techno.
Finally, NYC is home to dozens of burner and burner-adjacent collectives and communities (ie. Burning Man camps) and we’re excited to be a new home for them. Burner parties are always fun and challenging because they want to decorate and do ambitious art projects as part of the party, and we’re here for it.
There are many incredible venues in NY, and especially in Brooklyn. How do you hope for SILO to leave its own mark and create a legacy in the long run?
Alex: There are two things I really want to do.
One, we want to do ambitious experiments with lighting and sound and production. The entire room is built for a high-energy dance music experience. We’ve been putting the DJ booth in the middle of the floor, and with our surround 4-point sound system and immersive projections, we want it to be like a waking dream or a shared seance. No nightclub close to our size has our production capabilities, and venues that do are huge and impersonal and you watch the DJ on a video monitor most of the time. We do all this while not having a dress code, not clogging up the dance floor with bottle service, and having accessible drink and ticket prices.
Two, I want to be a hub for music creators. We’re behind on this because we’ve been nailing down the tech and production for the last few months and we just opened, but we’re going to host DJ and producer workshops and community events and meetups. For example, we’ve started a monthly meet-up with Sisters in Sound, an organization dedicated to connecting and advancing women DJ’s. Look for a lot more of that on our calendar in the future.
The story behind SILO and its founder is inspirational, and we hope that the venue becomes a popular landmark in Brooklyn. You can learn more about SILO and keep up with all the events they’re organizing via their Instagram or website.