Q&A: COALCHELLA CREATORS
Written by: Zebrina Garcia
We've all heard of Coachella but have you heard of COALCHELLA? Built on the sandbox video game, Minecraft, the spontaneous group of individuals who brought you the iconic Minecraft Birthday Party, presents a new innovated way of bringing live DJ sets to a bigger audience. Composed of dynamically built stages, the event exhibits a wide variety of monuments and interactive structures for hundreds of visitors who want to experience what an online show is truly like. You can expect to catch sets from a brilliant selection of artists such as IRL festival headliners Electric Mantis, ANAMANAGUCHI, and Y2K to recognizable SoundCloud natives like quickly, quickly, warpstr, or William Crooks. The roster is just as insane as the realm itself. But to take this URL fest a step further, visual artists OM_NEB, Elena Fortune, mushbuh, and kikkujo are doing merch items for the players' to rep while roaming the land of Coalchella! Taking action this Sunday, music and visual artists, SLEEPYCATT, umru, yoku, and NOTACTUALLYROBIN, openly talk to us about their experience in coming together to create this genius-ly designed virtual festival. Take a read below!
Date: Sunday, September 23rd
Time: 5pm (EST)
Attend Here: https://minecraft.xxx/
Can you tell us about how Coalchella started?
SLEEPYCATT: I think all of us wanted to do another party, and there was a lot of public interest expressed in the reception of MCBP. I think there was some concern that the lack of spontaneity would take the charm away, but in August we decided on a date and realized that with MCBP as a proven trial and the large radius of connections and friends we had this event was going to be amazing.
Umru handled most of the artist contact, yoku is a tech god and set us up with a server and that entire side of things, and Robin set up the discord and has been constantly keeping everything on track. We decided to purchase the domain "http://minecraft.xxx" because it was the only "Minecraft" domain that didn't cost thousands of dollars, and is hilarious.
There's also been a lot of help from the rest of Thwip Gang, and other great friends from the scene!
umru: Who else have been major players with setting the server stuff up? I think Valentine and Nebita.
yoku: DEF Val. Ben is gonna do *all* the perms so definitely.
umru: Can’t shout everybody out in the article but Val did a ton of visual command block stuff and the boss fights and Ben is doing all the role perm stuff.
Why in Minecraft?
SLEEPYCATT: Minecraft is the second most sold game ever, next to Tetris. Most of this generation of producers grew up playing Minecraft and for many, it introduced us to our first online communities. Of course, all of this started when I joked about having my 21st birthday in Minecraft but it honestly is the perfect platform for these events. It's a virtual sandbox that any computer with an internet connection can hook into, mixed with the nostalgia of the game and the ridiculous things we've managed to build for people to interact with. There's unlimited possibilities using it as a platform, and it's surprising that these events haven't been done before. Also, the fact we are having a DIY festival in Minecraft with some really big names is hilarious.
yoku: Why not.
Where did the name Coalchella come from?
umru: Sam (@vitacocoa) came up with the name Coalchella sometime around Minecraft Birthday Party and as soon as she said it we knew we had to use it for a new event.
Would you say Coalchella is different from the Minecraft Birthday Party? If so how?
SLEEPYCATT: Coalchella is definitely very different. Minecraft Birthday Party was a joke-turned-reality in a 2-week frenzy of building and organizing. I don't think any of us expected it to be so iconic, and that meant there was a lot of technical difficulties that we worked through. It was pretty off the cuff. For Coalchella, there's been more rigorous planning with a larger team that is able to apply what we learned from MCBP. None of this would be possible without yoku coordinating the technical side, umru with the artist curation, and Robin as sort of an all-around organizer. I personally didn't play as big of a role in Coalchella as I've been busy with school and moving to NYC, but the amount of effort that the entire team has put in is ridiculous. While the scale is much larger and there have been more coordination, Coalchella definitely still will have the same charm and humor as MCBP.
Who did the art for the event? What is the concept behind its direction?
umru: Me and Max (SLEEPYCATT) spent almost a whole day working on the art in a cafe because Max had just moved to New York and didn’t have WiFi yet. The concept is obviously supposed to look like Coachella, but we wanted to make it different enough from the real one so people would actually think this is a real event and not just a joke. I also edited the teaser video using footage from yoku and from gothstepdad who filmed the entire last event.
With so many artists on the lineup, what was the curation process like?
umru: What’s always going to happen with an event like this is people feeling left out, I think that comes from the idea that we carefully thought out this lineup and picked who to include and who not to. But in reality, it was a very random process of just asking whatever friends came to mind or saying “this person would be cool” and checking if anyone was mutuals with them. It really wasn’t a careful selective process at all and we’re sorry that not everyone is able to play, but we’re certainly going to keep doing these events and getting new people!
yoku: I think it's super cool that this event is literally just a bunch of friends getting together and doing something awesome.
What’s one challenge you guys encountered when organizing the event?
yoku: The biggest challenge is probably planning for an event we have absolutely no idea the size of. Unlike ticketed events, there's absolutely no solid indication of what to play for, and one of the issues last time was being overwhelmed with a massive amount of users nobody was prepared for. I remember when we were planning for A Society a few months back, only gaining 100 likes on the announcement post was something I was worried about initially, but it ended up being well over double that in attendance. If a low-key, LA exclusive, 18+, paid event can do that, who knows what type of attendance we're working with for a free, online, all ages event.
We're hosting the server AND audio streams this time around it's been one of the more difficult projects for what to plan for, but it's also been the most fun by far.
umru: Yeah Braden’s (yoku) been a massive help setting that up and it’s given us a lot more control and flexibility than if we paid a Minecraft hosting service.
yoku: Shoutout Amazon.
umru: Fuck Jeff Bezos but yeah Amazon’s been great for this.
SLEEPYCATT: When me and umru were designing the poster we decided to put in some blurred out names to help even out the layout. Unfortunately, SoundCloud producers are professional forensic investigators and somehow managed to unblur the filler names and we were attacked all over the timeline and DMs with people demanding who "POO MAN" is. That was definitely unexpected. Surprisingly, no one cared that we put "William Crooks of Brockhampton" even though that wasn't blurred.
What do you hope an event like Coalchella will do for the music/art communities?
NOTACTUALLYROBIN: I think what's always been our main goal for these events is just to create a unique and fun experience that's accessible to as many people as possible. Another big thing that we've already seen starting to happen is more and more communities starting to do similar events, which is great to see because it means that more people are going to have the chance to have these experiences and that communities are growing closer together. As a smaller artist, it's also great to see representation not only in the setlist but also for many visual artists as well, it's a great platform for anybody to put themselves out there to a very diverse audience. In the future, I can only hope that our events will continue to grow and influence other communities while maintaining the vision of being open to everyone and supporting as many people as possible.
yoku: I remember back in 2013/4, some of my fondest memories of the SoundCloud community were things like Tinychat DJ sets and URL "shows", seeing things like Language Fest, Assfest, and Coalchella happening all really close together makes me super excited that URL shows are a thing again and I'm super excited to see what else becomes of it.
Also, a few IRL meetups are happening around Coalchella.. both in NY and LA, and I think that this online event being able to permeate into a physical one is wild.
SLEEPYCATT: Minecraft Birthday Party brought a good part of the SoundCloud scene together in the same place, which was previously impossible due to the cost of flights and how to spread out everyone is. While I don't think IRL shows are next in this series of events, I hope we bring more of the scene together in the future.
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