Techno Frat: A Conversation with Chippy Nonstop on Disrupting Fraternity Culture

By Dora Boras, Featured Photo by Stacey Leigh via audibletreats.com

This past week, DJ collective and workshop series, Intersessions, brought their line-up to a local University of Toronto fraternity, the Kappa Alpha Society. I called up Intersessions founder and contributor, Chippy Nonstop, to talk about what it meant to host a show series committed to elevating music by marginalized artists in a space founded upon the values and interests of predominantly white, male upper class. We had the chance to talk about transparency in creating safe spaces, and the possible logistical benefits of renting fraternities as venues, as Toronto’s DIY spaces become fewer and far between.  

D: Were you aware of frats in Toronto, or on the University of Toronto campus?

C: So me and my friend were walking around, and we were drunk. This was a few, I think it was… yeah, it was a few months ago. It was wintertime, and we just kind of stumbled into this building, and partied. The next day I get a DM on Twitter saying, “Thank you for coming to our frat,” and I was like, “What? What frat did we go to?” I literally had no idea what frat they were talking about. Then I said, “What did we go to?” Then one of the guys from the frat asked me to go on a date to their frat dinner.

Oh my gosh.

And I was like, “Yeah, sure whatever! That’d be funny.” Then he messaged me saying, “The girl I actually like just agreed to go with me, so…sorry.” I said, “What?” He responded, “I just thought it’d be funny if you went with me.” And I was like, “Uh, okay.”

No way!

Then I said, “Okay, well I still want to go. I got all excited for this frat dinner.” He responded, “Okay, well let me find you another date.” So he got me another date, and I show up there, and everyone’s wearing literal ball gowns, and I’m not in a ball gown. And I’m confused about this situation. I’m vegetarian, and the food for vegetarians is so disgusting, like boiled carrots. And then they were going around saying fake intellectual quotes, and singing frat-type songs about drinking alcohol and fucking girls and I’m like, “This is terrible. This is the worst thing ever.” Then I start chugging alcohol because of it. I was live-tweeting the whole situation, saying things like,  “I can’t believe I’m here. What did I get myself into.” Then I left. The guy that asked me on the date originally was the curator of the Sidedoor party. He came to a few of my shows, to a few of my friend Stacey’s shows, and asked me if i’d be down to curate a night at the frat. I agreed, but was like, “You know, a lot of the people that come to our workshops are queer folk, and people of colour, and that’s not what your frat encompasses at all. We just want to make the message super clear, so that you can you sit the dudes down and have a conversation with them about making the venue a safe space for everyone. Especially for a lot of the artists we have playing, as well as the people that are coming and bringing their USBs.” It’s a no-pressure environment to play, like a house party. So it’s cool that they would give us that space. It’s a good place to go practice, and no one’s really judging you.

See that’s such an awesome thing, because I was super interested in that contrast, to have a collective like Intersessions be so committed to things that frats are known for being against.

Yeah, so for me not about making it like, “Oh, we’re the freaks and the weirdos, and we don’t inform anyone because we stay in our own world.” It’s more that I wouldn’t necessarily hang out with a dude who is in a frat, but for them to understand where we’re coming from will make the world a smaller, better place. Maybe if they see that our differences aren’t that different at all, and we see and accept the frat boys for certain things we would judge them for, we can inform them and make them knowledgeable about us. For example, when I did go to that dinner, my date was kind of ignorant about feminism. He said, “I heard you’re an activist, I heard you’re a feminist.” I responded, “Yeah I am, but I don’t think you understand what that entails. I just literally want to be able to do the same things as you and get paid the same amount, and get treated well.” He didn’t realize that feminism wasn’t as extreme as he thought it was. He thought I was trying to burn his head off. So it’s a better thing to help people understand others than to shun them because they don’t.  They’re ignorant at first because they don’t chill with us, and they don’t see us – we’re just in different places.

That’s definitely a really good way to put it. Funny side note, my friend was kind of dating the guy from that frat, and he did the same thing to her.  At the time we were both in this sorority, and he took this girl from another sorority, and it was a huge thing. All the frats on the UofT campus are different. Some are woke, and have queer members, but it all still boils down to a very binarized version of, “queer.”

I’m from California and I’m used to the UCLA frats, which are ridiculous. It’s the epitome of what you think a frat is from a movie – literally a Zac Efron movie. I played at a frat house at UCLA, and it’s definitely not a safe space. But they [the UofT frat brothers] were understanding, and because they were Canadian, nicer people, they’re not going to make us feel uncomfortable, or at least intentionally.

Also, why a lot of, let’s say non-straight people, feel uncomfortable rushing or pledging a frat or sorority is because those organizations don’t do enough to communicate that they want to encourage a more diverse community, and that they are accepting. Again, there are complications there, but I think it’s super interesting that you went to this event to show up and participate, and it’s great that you are able to be vocal.

I felt like I had to be really stern with them. I’m a professional, and I’ve been in the music industry for a long time. The way they were talking to me, I was like, “You’re being really condescending. This is not how you deal.” They came to me and asked me to curate it and certain things they were saying, I was like, “Yo. This is condescending.” I was about to cancel it last week. They were telling me what the artists can play, and I was like, “We’re booking these people, and this is the music they will play. You don’t tell someone what to play.” But also, I feel like those things, like not being condescending, can come with age and experience.

The very nature of an organization like a frat is that they can be very echo-chamber-y, since it’s very much people with a similar background, as it takes time and money to be involved. The definition of what it means to be a fraternity member is definitely changing, but it’s happening at a rate so slow that I don’t know what to make of it. And it’s hard to mediate that, especially with an event that is so unique, like this one.

I really like that you said echo-chamber, because everyone there has had a similar upbringing, and similar stories, so they don’t have different stories to relate to. Which is weird because in something like a brotherhood or sisterhood, there should be different people from different paths and backgrounds in order find more about yourself, grow as a person, and accept different types of people. That’s what I really don’t get about frats. The types of people that are in them are very similar.

That is definitely very true. I guess in some ways, that can help with cohesion – to be in an agreeable group. When you originally booked this venue, did you feel the need to immediately disclose to your friends and fans that the event would be taking place at a frat?

Yes. Transparency is very important in throwing events. There are always a lot of people of colour and queer people, so you want to be transparent about the accessibility of the venue they’re walking into. You want people to be aware and comfortable, and know what the situation is.

Yeah! You want them to feel safe.

When having a safe-space type party, that transparency is so important. Say what the accessibility is at the event with wheelchairs, bathrooms, if there are gender neutral bathrooms, and if anyone is going to be aggressive if a trans person is in their gendered bathroom. All of that shit needs to be transparent. I like to put all of that on the Facebook events. This is what there is right now, this is what the situation is. Be aware of it before you walk into it.

Absolutely. Did you have any awareness, or a sentiment in going forward and booking that space, that it was an opportunity to physically reclaim it?

Yeah, and also, I just picked up a flyer at a cassette shop about all these DIY spaces getting shut down. People are like, “I need a space to play in front of an audience, but I don’t want to feel the pressure, and I don’t want to play in like, a big venue or something.” I wanted it to be a house party vibe, so you can practice. It’s not like I’m making money on this event, this is mostly just to give a space to people who maybe don’t get to play as much. People can come practice, which is why we said to bring your own USB.

That’s awesome. That’s the next question I wanted to get into. Are there logistical benefits to hosting at a frat in terms of location and price? Frats are pretty central to a lot of UofT students. Also regarding price, I’m not sure if you had to pay, but I know that frats can be inexpensive to rent.

I mean, they’re hooking us up, so it’s free. They’re providing all the stuff for us, and I mean, yeah, it’s super central. Also, I think a lot of the time college students don’t intermingle with the actual music scene very much. I was talking about this, a lot of college students stay in their own college life. They don’t really step out. Maybe they’re too scared to, or they don’t know what’s good. So it was another thing to meet some college kids, and some people who DJ who don’t know how to get gigs. I can meet them, and get them out of the college scene. Once you graduate, you’re not in that scene at all.

Right, right.

So I think that’s a good way to help – I don’t know if this sounds mean or factitious, but to tell college kids not to just stay in the college life, because you’re not always going to be there.

A lot of college students do live in a bubble that UofT’s demands help to create, perhaps more than other campuses. I remember going to university and thinking, “Oh my god, I’m living in Toronto. I wanted to go here because of the city, but I’m not even doing anything.” I didn’t get involved in the scene until maybe the end of my second year. But I wanted to say that our DIY spaces are evaporating under our feet, and they’re turning into condos, grocery stores, and this, that, and the other thing. I was thinking, maybe having DIY techno shows in frats could become a trend since they are cheap, and you don’t have to really worry about damages. Do you think that this could catch on?

I mean, I hope so. That’d be sick. It’s a good thing, and if frats are willing to have us, fuck it! You know what I mean? I would do it again if this goes well.

I could definitely see the potential.

And I could see promoters that I know – like I’m not actually a promoter, so I wouldn’t actually pay for a venue, but I could see promoters actually paying to throw a party there. And they [the fraternity brothers] live there and could make a little money if they wanted, or give it to a charity.

Part of me feels that at the end of the day, both the DIY community and the frat community just want to party. So why not recognize those differences and make it inclusive? Why not make something out of it? You definitely have had some really interesting ideas, and made some good points. I was actually wondering how you got started with Intersessions, because I know you were based in California before, and then returned to Canada.

Well I didn’t return to Canada, but I came back to Canada. I was living in Vancouver right after I was deported [from California], and me and my friend Ree were talking. We realized that all the people who were DJing there were old men. We were like, “Why is the scene so boring?” There was no vision or range, and every time we’d go out, it’d be the same music, with a different old guy playing each night, but the same kind of old. And we were like, “Fuck this,” so we stopped going out. Then our friend Chase asked me to run a DJ lesson, and they didn’t DJ, so they asked me to help curate for them. I hit up a few other friends, including my friend D. Tiffany (who’s actually playing Bambi’s this Saturday), and Shy Daughter, and we did a DIY workshop. We got a bunch of gear from some homies and stuff, and it went really well, but I was so over Vancouver. The week I moved to Toronto, I did the workshop here, with Cindy Li, Bambii, Peach and Internet Daughter. It went really well. It all just kind of just started, and I’m doing the eighth workshop on Sunday. Then I’m going to London to do one there – London, UK.

Oh wow!

Well, I did it across Europe, and across Canada.

It’s a really awesome concept, so I’m not surprised it blew up. Thank you so much for sitting down with me. See you!

Bye!

        We must continue look at the spaces Greek-letter organizations on our college campuses provide. Historically, fraternity organizations marketed themselves as building gentlemen by teaching young men values like companionship and resiliency, however, the rigid definitions of masculinity upheld by them prevented inclusivity. In the present, many of these organizations have now welcomed LGBTQ+ members, however, they do not necessarily provide these individuals with the same protection that cisgender and heterosexual members automatically have. As Chippy pointed out, “It’s a better thing to help people understand others than to shun them because they don’t,” and she uses this outlook to bring these issues to light, and spread awareness. Assessing the accessibility of one-gendered organizations is therefore essential in order to foster acceptance and create an environment where everyone feels comfortable.

      The resilience, patience and dedication to their community that Chippy and the contributors at Intersessions show are an incredible example of the boldness and leadership that fraternity members have valued for decades. “Maybe if they see that our differences aren’t that different at all, and we see and accept the frat boys for certain things we would judge them for, we can inform them and make them knowledgeable about us,” Nonstop says earlier. As she notes, the Canadian DJ community is homogenized, much like a fraternity, and collectives like, Intersessions will continue to address and diversify the scene through promoting this inclusivity. Though the August 11th Intersessions show is now over, what that event symbolized is much greater than that one localized moment in time – that women and queer communities will rely upon each other to continue to disrupt the status quo maintained by heteronormative structures, and will redefine these spaces to create an equitable, inclusive music scene for fans and frats alike.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: