Up and down the East Coast is a host of vibrant nightlife scenes, from Atlanta's rap breeding grounds to New York's everything-and-the-kitchen-sink melting pot of genres to New Jersey and Baltimore's characteristic club bounce to Miami's tropical glitz and glam. Washington, DC remains one of the few metropolises that's still finding its own nightlife identity. While Go-Go and DMZ rap have a foothold in the city's musical landscape, DC's nightlife has, for the most part, remained relatively status quo. Until Nü Androids came around to shake things up, that is.
The brainchild of Nayef Issa, Nü Androids is a new hybrid promoter/art collective/nightlife crew pushing the needle forward in the DC club scene. Having previously thrown pop-up parties at events like Art Basel, Nü Androids' immersive multi-sensory events have quickly earned them renown — whether that means converting a 50,000-square-foot abandoned Macy’s into a party space or taking over a warehouse on Watts in Philadelphia — generating a cult-like following in their wake.
With the addition of their own venue as a new home base, the future of Nü Androids has never looked brighter. With a modular stage setup with a variety of artist installations scattered throughout the converted warehouse space, featuring everything from a mirrorball bathtub to a video piece from the late Virgil Abloh, Nü Androids' flagship venue strikes an exciting blend of both nightclub and gallery that's vibrant and accessible. Tailoring the space to each artist that headlines the venue, Nü Androids has welcomed everyone from Black Coffee to Channel Tres to Hot Since 82 to The Knocks.
We caught up with Nayef Issa to learn more about Nü Androids' origins, approach to curation and where Issa sees the group fitting into the overall landscape of DC nightlife.
How did Nü Androids originally start out?
I was always into more forward-thinking music (I am the go-to Spotify playlist plug for my friends) and after a few years of running these commercial parties, I began to transition into producing live music events and booking touring artists who I thought were pushing industry and genre boundaries. This move would ultimately lead me to launch Nü Androids.
It started with an idea between my homies Brad and Julian. I booked Brad for a DJ gig at one of my events, and we instantly hit it off in terms of our music taste. Julian was always like a little brother, I met him through various circles in DC nightlife and I booked him to do some DJ gigs. We approached Flash together (which at that point had only been open for a year) and asked them to let us program a once-a-month party on Wednesday nights. Wednesdays were definitely an interesting day for events, because we would attract a very specific type of crowd: the true music lovers, these individuals craved a space where they could come together with other like-minded individuals who didn't necessarily care about a buzzy scene. We booked Wax Motif as our first booking and sold it out. Then we programmed the next four events from September to December and sold these out as well.
In January of 2015, I approached the owner of Flash and asked him to give us every Wednesday from February and on. "#wedisnuthefriday" was born then and for the next two to three years that party was wild, and we introduced so many debut sets in the market. Fast forward to today, Julian is in LA still making some music but also doing design work and has since left Nü Androids in 2018. Brad is now a father and working on his golf. He became a silent partner in the summer of 2020.
What is your team's approach to curating the space?
Sometimes it depends on the artist's original aesthetic and sometimes we just go with something we prefer or feel would be a great vibe. For instance, we booked one of our go-to guys Mall Grab and Sydney Gonsalves designed a whole psychedelic trippy Alice in Wonderland-themed event with a sign that read “down the rabbit whole” right above the DJ booth. We also hung up small chairs, mushrooms and a huge dining table in the middle of the dance floor flipped upside down. Further playing up the theme, we created a keyhole as an entrance to the party with a custom curtain. We also set up a retro TV on stage flanking the DJ. This was by our friend Smooth Canoe who runs a retro TV installation company.
What artists and lineups do you typically look to curate?
We really try to identify artists that work hand-in-hand with the vision we want to bring to life. We are always looking for artists that are forward thinkers in their music and attract a niche audience of die-hard fans that we know will come out and support their art. Sometimes we book artists that are super tight but aren't super well-known. We always try to make an effort to introduce people to new sounds and artists because you can't be a true music curator unless you are introducing people to new music.
What would you describe as the overall ethos of Nü Androids?
We are first and foremost a community of music enthusiasts who push the boundaries of electronic dance music and are looking to constantly re-cultivate the nightlife scene.
Where do you see Nü Androids fitting in the overall landscape of DC nightlife?
I see Nü Androids constantly forcing the DC nightlife scene to evolve and get more creative with how individuals choose to market these one-of-a-kind events. Nü Androids will be that pillar of the DC nightlife that continues to search for different ways to bring memorable experiences and people together. For example, a distinct trademark of the Nü Androids brand is merging interactive art installations and live music at our pop-up events. I remember thinking to myself, how can I attract and entertain people who don’t know the headlining artist, but are still thinking of attending with their friends? This is why I blended the music and arts worlds together.
Photos courtesy of Nü Androids