Yeti Out's Arthur Bray Bridges the Gap With Hong Kong Sounds, Parties, and Representation
October 21, 2022
A sickly party bug first infected Arthur Bray at 13 years old in his hometown of Hong Kong. The part-Cantonese, part-Brit teenager would spend nights pirating British dance tunes on LimeWire, sneaking into dance clubs, and earning pocket money handing out promotional flyers for hip-hop nights.
Ill with a salivating urge to party and jam, it was only a decade before the creative director and DJ co-founded Yeti Out, a multimedia platform of DJs, promoters, producers, stylists, fashion designers, and artists.
Birthed in 2014, the Hong Kong-, Shanghai-, London-based collective has branched out from strictly partying and promoting latterly, to encasing a collective of creatives heading Hong Kong’s hottest art shows, spotlighting local artists with a record label, armed with an in-house creative agency, and birthing the city’s newest recording studio.
The passage of Arthur Bray’s dominance on the Hong Kong party scene – flexing rhythmic waves with Yeti Out, label Silk Road Sounds, and creative space-cum-studio FM Belowground – began in 2010 at his alma mater in Brighton, U.K.
Alongside twin brother Tom and London-born best friend Erisen Ali, Arthur created the pre-Tumblr, pre-Instagram online predecessor of Arthur’s Yeti Out, YetiInTheBasement, a music blog that enabled the trio in Manchester (where Tom studied), Brighton, and London to muse about the evolving British music scene, whilst hijacking free entries into parties.
“The idea [behind YetiInTheBasement] was to release content that we were passionate about; deep dives into exclusive techno parties, reviews of DJs and artists, covering festivals and events, rating new albums. It was entrepreneurial as it was free-spirited. We loved going to music nights, events, and parties. How could we continue to go to them as much as possible? We were punk kids that didn't want to pay for entry, working as quasi-journalists,” Arthur says in an interview with The Beat Asia.
The trio posted parties, event fliers, and festivals on the site, and in return, got onto guest lists for hot local events. Readers would become familiar with the popular blog after reading about parties on the site and meeting the twins and Ali at the spots. Arthur and Tom would score gigs and guest DJs set at London- and Brighton-based clubs for free if they soft-promoted parties on their blog. Soon enough, the team hosted parties in East London, “cutting our teeth and getting out onto the streets,” under their eponymous brand.
Arthur worked for a record label to host music events in London for two years, building Yeti Out on the side with Eri, before he relocated to Hong Kong and Tom to Shanghai after a few years cutting their teeth as promoters. “What I learned from promoting events in London, reaching out to music communities, building bridges came a long way later [with Yeti Out].”
Their brand took to new heights with their Asia homecoming, promoting events and parties and managing new artists region-wide, whilst maintaining professional commitments to his hip role as managing editor at Hypebeast. “Getting an editorial gig at Hypebeast, leading a global team, from writing gibberish blog posts to running the streetwear bible, was interesting,” he jokes.
On its Hong Kong return, Yeti Out, manned by Arthur in Hong Kong and Tom in Shanghai, threw parties for Virgil Abloh, toured with ASAP Mob’s Cozy Boys, opened Boiler Room’s first event in Hong Kong, released branded shoes with Vans and Nike, collaborated with Coach for their pre-fall 2019 collection, threw parties for Sonar Festival and Art Basel, released an exclusive Tsui Wah X Yeti Out collab t-shirt, collaborated with Under Armour for sports paraphernalia, and celebrated the 10th anniversary of Michelin-starred yakitori Yardbird with merchandise.
Yeti Out evolved from its London days of promoting events and hosting raves, to a music and arts collective: pop-up events, collaborations with international fashion brands, art shows, live performances.
“We wanted to connect with a youth culture existing between 9 PM and 5 AM.”
"We organised tours between Hong Kong and Shanghai and brought artists around Asia. At home, we created the club nights and music events that we missed throwing in London and wanted in Hong Kong."
In early 2018, a revelation came to Arthur off the back of touring and DJing in Lisbon, Portugal, years after breaking it independently on international music spaces. “We need to start putting music out from ourselves, for our label. It was a natural transition to begin putting out music, because we had this community around us already and many friends who make amazing music, and we were just partying with them.”
Under Silk Road Sounds, a title paying homage to the ancient Chinese global trade route, the trio’s record label “celebrated the confusion and this idea of multiple identities, bringing it all together and presenting our label and brand as a melange of different Asian sounds.”
Their new and refreshing creative entity sought to export Asia-based artists beyond the continent. Silk Road Sounds recently teamed up with N.Y.P.D, a local Hong Kong-based post-punk band, to release a mix tape to an international market, and Shanghai-based vocalist Charity SsB, debuting on radio stations across the globe.
Arthur is set to debut Silk Road Sounds’ 10th release, reviving Brit-pop-electronic artist James “The Magus Project” Banbury’s 1992 rave moniker in an EP release titled “THEN / NOW.” The cover art of the two-part EP is shot by Hong Kong fashion photographer and creative director Kary Kwok, capturing a couple of the 1995 “Alternative Miss World” competition in London.
Part one of the EP features two new releases, hardcore symphonic “Don’t Do It” mixed by broken beat revivalist WheelUp, and The Magus Project 1991 anthems “High Counters” and “Agnostalgic,” curated by experimental Hong Kong project Absurd Trax. Part two opens with hedonistic synthesiser-boosted “No Guest List” and “Absolute Unit,” jungle and drum and bass-inspired “Shoss” produced by DJ Bryan Gee, with Hong Kong-Dutch hardware specialist Rec Mirage finishing the EP with a remix to “High Counters.”
With any project Arthur narrows his sights onto, it must function cyclically, engage a local community, and boost Hong Kong’s music scene. In January 2021, Yeti Out debuted the year with the opening of FM BELOWGROUND, a 24-hour alternative radio station in the basement of Landmark Atrium’s retail and cultural hub, BELOWGROUND.
The store-cum-radio station was designed to bridge the creative communities of Hong Kong, London, and Shanghai, hosting a series of defining pop-up exhibitions and live performances in 2021. Since its founding, more than 200 DJs and artists have mixed soul, funk, drum and bass, jungle, techno, house, electronic rock, hip-hop, rap, and UKG.
To the trio, opening FM BELOWGROUND (FM) was to serve an eager demand absent in the city. “In Hong Kong, there are always places where people can hang out.” Emulating from the strong radio culture present in London and New York, Arthur sought to birth a place that “accumulated local DJs and artists to play, hang, use the equipment, and create a music community.”
“FM launched in a weird but crucial time [during the COVID-19 pandemic], allowing people to tune in and listen online. We wanted to connect with different communities worldwide and spread Hong Kong music, echoing what’s been done with London's NTS Radio and Milan Relativa Radio.”
Interviewing with The Beat Asia on an international Yeti Out tour that brought the trio and touring artists to Bangkok, Cairo, Stockholm, and London in June, July, and August, Arthur spoke of envy of London’s soft power, defined with its cool music and art space, and Hong Kong’s space to innovate on the global scene. “We want to put local Hong Kong artists on the map.”
“When we talk about Hong Kong, we think about directors like Wong Kar Wai or the obvious, like Bruce Lee, but we need to create new narratives. Who's the next person? What's synonymous with Hong Kong?”
To bring Hong Kong’s nightlife and music scene to new heights, Arthur wishes to host more venues and forge close relationships with government institutions to create more places where artists can present their work.
The work that Arthur, Tom, and Erisen do to engender change in the city’s music space can be seen in the trio's lifestyle. “A big part of Yeti Out, our brand, work ethic, the way we create and connect is due to us being from fast-paced cities. We are doing four million projects at once. So much of what we do as kids here [are] embedded in the city and the hustle that comes with it.”
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