Bonar Bradberry and Tom Thorpe are lifers. The pair have each been completely submerged in the world of club music their entire adult life: they’ve watched scenes and sounds come and go and seen how the underground itself keeps on keeping on regardless of the vagaries of outside interest and the names people choose to give to it. They’ve been releasing as PBR Streetgang for over a decade, and DJing together for rather longer than that.
But that’s precisely how it should be. Since they met on the never-ending cavalcade of the party scene in their hometown of Leeds, the duo have been focused on dance music’s core values – which until now has meant a succession of beautiful, genre-agnostic 12” releases on some of the best labels in the world: Futureboogie, Throne Of Blood, 20:20 Vision, Toy Tonics, Futurism, Wolf Music, Crosstown Rebels and Skint. “It’s all about disco, and our love affair with it,” says Tom, but he’s referring not to one specific sound palette, but to the radical anything-goes eclecticism that first went into the birth of disco way back when. From the start their tracks and sets have been about ever-present funk, psychedelic stimulation, body-shaking bass and emotional richness, without ever toeing any genre line.
Their craft was honed as residents at Leeds’s notorious Asylum, where the demanding regulars were very serious both about their music and their hedonism. But just as important has been their more recent experiences as touring DJs: as Bonar says “a residency is brilliant for getting to know your crowd really intimately, but there’s a lot to be said to playing to very different crowds one day to the next… it definitely stops you getting complacent.” Again, the spirit that keeps the duo fresh: after all this time, they’re still interested in the mechanics of the dance and how to keep delivering the musical sensations they believe the crowds deserve.
PBR remain as absolutely committed to the dance floor as they ever have, but they also want their music to unfold in other ways. That’s PBR Streetgang all over. No big manifestos, no grand plan, just reacting to the opportunities that come before them – yet in doing so they have consistently managed to find new ways to express profound and beautiful things. Everything they do is a new beginning, with new ideas a constant – and there is clearly much, much more to come.