Plur Project: Modern day parties, old school rave values

8 Mins read

 “It’s about preserving something while making something new.”

What is a modern-day party? Two guys who could answer this are the creators and contributors of the Plur Project: Leo Priestly and Matthew Newman-Grainger.

The Plur Project is a moving space for music lovers and those who actually dance at the function; it’s the party of today that has not forgotten about its old-school rave values.

After attending a number of dance events in my youth, Plur Project proved itself to be one of the most freeing yet safest environments I’d ever seen.

With many dance spaces and music events continuously changing, feeling constrained and boundary-ridden along with a lack of safety and security in the community that surrounds it.

The Plur Project shows how to do a party right by focusing on the safety and enjoyment of the community and a great focus on the music and settings of the parties.

Image of two creators of Plur Project taken at a basement party
Creators Leo Priestly (left) and Matthew Newman-Grainger (right) after their set

The creative duo Leo and Matty have definitely put their own twist on electro and house styles to bring back the late-night dance scene that existed in the 90s.

With a different location for every event, a crazy range of DJs including the musical duo themselves and the great community, Plur Project is bringing new meaning to the parties of today.

It has been three years since the duo introduced their new way of organising and throwing their mostly self-funded parties. 

In my discussion with them, Leo and Matty go into the history of Plur, the production’s inspiration, the incredible memories of the Plur nights and the musical artistry behind it and where they want the Plur Project to go next.

Leo Priestly, the initial creator of the project, is a 21-year-old DJ, graphic designer, musician and rave enthusiast from Guildford. Starting off as a clothing brand and later becoming a party towards the end of the pandemic, Plur had an anniversary party for the brand, which was the start of Plur Project as a dance destination. 

“It was a one-year anniversary of the thing as a whole so we tried to do a party, not even in London, near Guildford actually. I didn’t know what I was doing, I bought a generator that was way too heavy and a massive sound system then set up in a field,” Leo recalled.

Plur definitely has some interesting locations, ranging from abandoned paintball parks to boats on a canal, but it started in a field. “It was a pretty bad attempt but it was the first one. It’d be like the year where we actually started parties.” 

This was the first event Leo had set up before the arrival of Matty. Despite Leo being the initial creator of the Plur Project, it is hard to imagine the party production without both members.

Matty is a 21-year-old graphic designer, DJ and musician, originally from Nottingham. Through a common interest and love for the music they now play, the two connected to further build this space for the community and music they both love.

“So we’d literally just met that day, and had common interests so I invited Leo back for a mix. Literally, the next time that I met him, he came to me and said ‘Hey, look, I’m doing this great thing’, I was like, ‘Yeah!’ yet had no idea what to expect at all,” Matty told us.

Image of people on the dancefloor of the Plur Party on their 3rd year anniversary
The atmosphere at the third year anniversary of Plur Project

“At some point in the night the music stopped and they said, ‘has anyone seen a tall guy called Matt in the crowd?’ So I just walked round and hopped on the decks.”

Everything after these few meetings accumulated to what Plur Project is now: two creative minds brought together by music to create more with their combined knowledge.

Leo, boat party

When it comes to something as sacred as raves and the community that makes them, it is important to remember where the traditions of rave started.

“It was about preserving what my mum was going to when she was our age, the sort of 90s thing.” Plur Project began as a college project about 1980s and 1990s rave culture, before becoming a clothing brand and later the event production it is today.

“It was always just more about preserving a feeling. Now, since Matt joined it has also become about the craft of music as well,” Leo said.

You can sense how important the history of rave and dance culture was to them, as well as the music that is so heavily involved in the culture. 

There is value in remembering the past and what has been done before, but also in bringing in new energy to the scene.

“You got to push something new. When you go out, the night shouldn’t be held to any expectations or boundaries,” Matty explained.

You may be asking at this point, “So what music will I hear at a typical Plur night?” If anyone has attended a Plur party, they would most likely answer, “what do you mean typical Plur Night?”

One thing I truly admire about the nights curated by these two twenty-somethings is the diversity in everything, whether it is the music, location or atmosphere.

Matty, boat party

Plur doesn’t conform to regularity the same way other events might do.  This is the same for their music choices. Plur Project can play Electro and House music; however, it would be crazy to leave it at that.

Leo, Matty and their collaborators who play on the nights definitely put their own touch on the sound, which makes the Plur Project sound so unique.

Matty describes Plur’s sound as “dystopian, it’s a punch in the face, steazy, sleazy, it just gives you that emotion.” Leo adds: “It’s a lot of genres but more the feeling of things.”

This definitely struck me as accurate after attending a number of their events. There is a general shared feeling in the crowd at a Plur party: similar expressions at certain points in songs and the audience looking at each other in pleasant disbelief of what they just heard.

The duo’s influences and musical exploration play a big part in what they put on, drawing inspiration from the range of music they listen to as well as nights held by other musical creatives they have attended.

Matty emphasised the greatness of going deeper into your musical curiosity: “you just got to take everything that you hear, everything that you see from all parts of life and just kind of find out what you like a bit more each time. Sometimes music is just like a mistake isn’t it?”

In regards to his influences musically, his hometown Nottingham plays a big contribution. Spending his youth attending Wigflex parties, a Nottingham-based dance music party, and having a friendly competitiveness amongst close friends on who could score the best tracks enabled the growth in his own personal sound and the sound he brings to Plur Project.

Kian Ok and Bowyer at ‘Okay, Plur’ set in Woolwich

As crowd controllers, Matty and Leo know how important it is to truly move the crowd with you. As Matty put it: “You want to create a consistent vibe, but with changes. It’s important you’re crafting it.”

“On the night, we’ll have the room to make those changes. Depending on what you prepare, probably isn’t going to be exactly what the night is like,” Leo added.

Returning to those pleasant surprised expressions on the faces of dancing music lovers, Plur knows how to prepare a set where you know what to expect, and not know, all at the same time.

The duo is comfortable with change and comfortable with the unknown; they are most definitely organised but allow space for magic in the sound to occur.

Will, good friend of the Plur family, wearing Plur Project merch at the anniversary party

This is something I often find missing in many present-day parties: the element of surprise in the comfort of the music you know. In some sets the element of surprise doesn’t exist or feels off, inconsistent to say the least.

Matty discusses how great sets should feel: “you know when you hear those sets and you’re so sucked in, because everything’s so consistent and tight. It’s that feeling. You just can’t help but get sucked in.”

That’s what Plur Project have, the feeling of being sucked into a musical trance you don’t want to get out of. Even for those familiar with the tracks or the sound, it can still feel like a whole new feeling.

At a Plur Party in East London, one dance music fanatic told me: “I have enjoyed this type of music for years now; there is just something about these parties that just keeps it refreshing and new for me. Can’t get bored of it even at 5:00 am.”

Like any underground art space, community and the values that community holds are crucial to keeping the space lifted. I can say this is the case for Plur Project and why the duo take care in their community and the space they provide for others, not only as artists and creators but as humans.

Whether that community resides in the friendship and workmanship of Matty and Leo, them and their collaborators or every single individual who attends a Plur night, the community is always needed.

Leo elaborated on the mantra behind Plur and where it had originated: “Plur is peace, love, unity and respect. It’s an old mantra about the values of raving. A big part of the movement in the 80s was all about respecting each other and having peace at the rave.” Matty followed up: “Respect the party, have a good time, it’s all love.”

I thought this was beautiful. Having attended quite a number of raves and dance parties, I can say I truly see this mantra lived out in every Plur party.

Like most young people in the UK, you may have found yourself as a teenager at a Drum and Bass rave and you may have felt disrespected or unsafe at one point. It happens, but it shouldn’t.

  • Plur x Sticky Plastic
    Matty ( Plur Project) and Marcelina (Sticky Plastic) playing at Boat Live in October 2022

It amazes me that these two young rave creators were my first understanding of how to have a good party without people getting hurt or feeling unsafe.

They don’t only accomplish the mantra by keeping everyone safe but in several ways, like making tickets a bit cheaper to ensure everyone can come, covering each other’s weaknesses in the making of a night, ensuring the girls and women who attend are safe and promoting their fellow DJs and their crew to give them full confidence in the night ahead.

Ed and Matty backstage at Brixton party

So what do Matty and Leo want it to become and what they want to bring to the genre they love, they simply expressed: “We just want to provide a cool party for people. I think it’ll get fixed and things will change. Maybe in a year, we’ll do something a little bit different.”

One thing that is admirable about this team is how they embrace the unknown and potential change. “Change is good, change keeps you interested,” claims the duo who knows how to keep things alive while staying true to their values and their sound consistently.

Now having played sets in both Portugal and Poland, alongside their regular nights all over London, the sky is truly the limit for this dance music duo. Their drive may just lead Plur Project to “outer space,” the duo’s answer to where they want to see Plur Project end up.

For those who have not yet attended a Plur party, be sure to find yourself dancing in one of the most unique venues with amazing tunes and a welcoming community.

All images by Lena Teshome.

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