Talking Club Princi with host & organiser, Princi

New club nights are plentiful in Sydney, but it takes more than hiring a venue and putting some acts on to really make a club night. Lack of intentionality and intersectionality is rife within the Australian cultural sector, and so it’s always refreshing to see people doing something with a lot more thought and care, particularly for marginalised communities.

Gina Karlikoff AKA PRINCI has been operating in Sydney, and Australia more broadly, for a few years now. Pairing intricate lyricism with futuristic soundscapes and visuals, – productions care of Atro and CORIN, amongst others- she’s more than familiar with the concept of world building.

Having toured extensively both nationally and internationally, including recent trips to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, Princi now turns her attention to curating and organising CLUB PRINCI—a club night which celebrates queers artists and artists of colour.

I spoke with Princi about the thinking behind the club night, the importance of safer spaces, and the eclectic line-up for this Saturday’s Club Princi at the Red Rattler in Marrickville, Sydney.

First of all, in your own words, what’s Club Princi about?

As a night, Club Princi is for queer artists and artists of colour to step onto a stage in an environment that’s made for them. I designed it so that all aspects of the night are catered towards people who would normally feel isolated or a bit uncomfortable in white, masc, hetero places. As a performer myself, when you go from venue to venue, it’s so nice when you have people who really get you in terms of all aspects of the performance. So that’s where it comes from: to create that space and firmly say as a performer that this is how I want to be presented, and inviting people onto a stage who I think are also into that.

When the performers are having a good time, it really comes through. And I think that amongst that atmosphere and energy, artists and audiences can come closer together. When performers feel super secure they are able to fully, freely express themselves. And this way, I hope the audience can too.

I think that’s a great point you’re making in terms of artist safety being the key to a great performance. Oftentimes what prevents people from really giving their art the fullness it can have is the fact they don’t feel like they’re safe, or that the audience isn’t going to receive what they’re doing properly.

Yeah totally, and I’ve also been in situations myself where people try to grab my tits on stage, for instance. And if that happens, the rest of my performance is going to be altered, no matter what.

That’s fucking awful that that’s happened, and so common too. Most, if not all of my femme-identifying mates who are performers have been sexually assaulted on stage. I’ve personally been sexually assaulted in clubs both as a patron and performer. Some of that’s been in queer spaces too! So, you really ask “where am I safe?”

Yeah, well you know I don’t think there really is necessarily such a thing as a “safe space”, but I think there is such a thing as putting energy behind creating a respectful space.

Yeah, a safer space.

I guess I’m trying to put artists on a stage that creates that. The result of that for me is another part of what the night is about. It’s about the audience receiving that energy and then feeling free to express themselves as well.

How did Club Princi come about as a concept?

I asked myself “how would I want to do a dream performance?” It was a way for me to ask: how would I have the stage? How would I have the lighting, so that it’s really thought about for the performers? How do I want the stage to look, so it’s not just any regular thing? I might as well just create the space that I’m seeking, and then invite people into that.

Yeah, to make it their own. That kind of proactive energy is always so needed in the club scene. Can you tell us a little bit about each of the acts and why you chose them for this particular iteration? 

This Club Princi is in collaboration with Red Rattler, with a QPOC grant, which enabled me to really select acts I love. I chose Rebecca Hatch because I think she’s a star. I chose her before I had met/played with her, but she’s just the sweetest. She’s an Indigenous-Samoan RnB/Soul singer, super new wave and super fresh.

Srisha I met at Paramatta I.C.E.’s All Girl Electronic program – she really stood out to me. She’s a rapper and has only recently released her early stuff. The other live act is Stelly G and Sharman, who are cultural icons of Sydney.

Jhassic actually messaged me on Instagram when I did an AMA and he said he was keen to play the next Club Princi, and then I went to one of his sets, which was so sick. I was so glad he got in touch! DJ Punky Fish is so good too. I tried to book Ayebatonye before but couldn’t, so this is their time!

It’s bringing all different parts of Sydney and also all different parts of diaspora together.

It feels eclectic yet consistent, it makes sense. That’s a balance that’s hard to strike.

I feel like everyone has their lanes and together it will work really well.

It’s a goddamn highway! I note that you’re not actually performing at the event, but organising and hosting instead. I wanted to ask, was it always in your head that organising events would be part of the Princi identity, or is this a new extension of what you’ve been doing? 

I’d love to host and organise more often. The grant means I was able to book more acts without feeling super at risk of anything myself (since it’s just me who organises it). I don’t want to overbook, and then not be able to deliver. So yeah, organising and curating and designing the whole thing, and hosting, I love to do it. It’ll be my first time [hosting] so we’ll see how it goes.

It’s exciting to be open to going in new directions and finding new facets of a creative identity.

Yeah, that being said I’m the ultimate fan haha, which I think people know. Putting these events on is also a big way of me expressing my fandom for these people.

I mean, that’s where club culture comes from right? Not necessarily this clout-ish thing, but it’s about “my friends are doing such amazing work, we all love dancing and seeing each other perform, let’s put on a fucking night huh.” It’s not based on this more social capital thing, it’s coming from the place you’re talking about. This isn’t the first Club Princi this month. A week ago you also launched Corin’s incredible record ‘Manifest’ at Sideway in Canberra. I wanted to ask, is there a common through-line connecting each Club Princi or is each one independent from the rest?

There’s definitely a through-line, and what I didn’t mention before is Club Princi is about artists who push their forms to new places. People who are look to the future and bring what they can to the present. I believe the artists I’ve talked about and Corin fully represent that.

Why do you think people should come to Club Princi next Saturday?

To see the future of Australian music.

CLUB PRINCI
Saturday, August 17
Red Rattler Theatre
Marrickville, Sydney
FB Event/Tix: here

Photo by Kristina Yenko

Words by MICHAEL STRATFORD HUTCH

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About:

One-time cellist, ballroom dance champion, youth cult leader, Cocteau Twins superfan, and karate kid, now bringing you the best in new Australian music (at least until I get into clown school).