Werk it Out: Working Women is a DJ collective with women who amplify other women

by Jasmine Bourgeois
Photo by Neil Aline

Working Women is four-piece collaboration by New York DJs Nina BC, Ashlyn Behrndt, Kristin Malossi, and Tanya Lyon. Self-described as “a project rooted in elaboration, uncertainty, and persistence,” the four perform as a collective, making sets that build on each other and grow in conjunction. The harmony between the four is mesmerizing. Their performances balance acknowledging each of their individual artistry and the power of group performance. You never know where one of their shows will go. Nina BC says of their support of each other, “Sometimes it looks like the person mixing in a track has three back up dancers, because we always stay in the booth together for our whole set.”

At its core, this is a project about women amplifying other women. The four women spoke with us about the emotional labor of womanhood and the ways they elevate each other through collaboration.


Tom Tom: How would you introduce each other?

Ashlyn Behrndt: Kristin is the most dedicated DJ I know. Immensely skilled and thoughtful. Her knowledge is incomparable and her style is so wistful, deep, and fun. I can count on her for anything and everything, especially when it comes to making sure Working Women thrives and holds true. She’s a serious-ass DJ, yet generous and dedicated to uplifting everyone.

Kristin Malossi: Nina is the calming presence in the group; the one who helps us take a collective deep breath, and remains chill even under tense conditions. She keeps us so dang steady! She’s also a wonderfully fun and stylish selector—someone who always has her finger on the pulse of the best new musical transmissions.

Nina BC: Tanya is a passionate educator and stylish selector, the visual guide of WW, designing with the sweetest and smartest attention to detail and vision. Her taste is as deep as her mind.

Tanya Lyon: A co-founder of Wut Magazine, Ashlyn is a social media enchantress and low-key genius producer. She blesses our sets with surprises; mixing broken beat into trip-hop and acid house into unheard dub from British Columbia. Sensual and wise, she keeps us honest, and she speaks her truth.

How did this project get started?  

Ashlyn Behrndt: We met to play records and hang out before really getting to know one another. I think we all felt the need to share experiences we’ve had surrounding the industry. I think the premise was that we all understood we had a lot to learn from one another and that also we could embrace and protect one another from the difficult social realities and pressures that usually lead into straying away from the point. That’s proven to be quite difficult, but we try.

How did you come up with the name Working Women?

Kristin Malossi: Honestly, it was a bit of a joke at first! It came out of a conversation the first night we all got together to play, drawing on experiences of us feeling overworked, but the name itself is in direct reference to our experiences as women in the music industry; acknowledging that we are and probably always will be a work in progress! The first half of our bio reads: “Working Women is a project rooted in elaboration, uncertainty, and persistence.” We constantly have to work on our skills as DJs, but also as members of a community. It’s also an allusion to emotional labor which I think is the more interesting and relevant explanation of the name.

The second half of our bio is: “We believe all women are working women. This music is for them.” This belief comes from an understanding of how emotional labor tends to work in our experience as it related to many of the men in our lives. There’s obviously a lot of nuance to the way emotional labor occurs, and sometimes even we don’t do enough, but typically women shoulder this responsibility, and that’s something we like to acknowledge.


We believe all women are working women. This music is for them.


Is there anything different when performing as a collective than when you perform as individual artists?

Tanya Lyon: So much! We always perform one for one. Some of the most meaningful feedback we get is from crowds who say our track-to-track mixing rotation contributes to their engagement; keeps them hyped to see what the next person will put on. For us, when we mix, that surprise element is very much at play. It keeps us listening and makes us get creative when the set goes in directions we didn’t anticipate. I think collaborating so closely with one another has been transformative for us each as selectors. I also love how having four DJs allows three of us to always be dancers in the booh while the other brings in a tune. I think the collective performance style—both visually and sonically—stimulates the club and helps overturn the compulsory patriarchal idea of the remote DJ as sole commander of the ship. We also have way more stamina, because we perform as a collective. Fingers crossed for more six-plus hour sets this year!

Behind the scenes, being a DJ collective is really hard but really wonderful. Since we’re a group of four very alive and feeling people, we are in constant conversation. Our discourse pushes us to think deeply about what we’re doing, what we want, and what we deserve.

What’s been the best experience for you all since starting Working Women?

Nina BC: Doing our weekly residency with guests at Black Flamingo last July, ending with Panorama Festival, where we opened the dance-music stage each day—I can best describe that experience as ecstatic. Playing at our friend Nikki’s festival, Shaker Mountain, in the Adirondacks in an open marquee at sunset with nature all around. That felt incredibly free.

Kristin Malossi: Sharing many surreal experiences with best friends. Making something bigger than myself. Learning how to be a better listener and collaborator!


Keep Up With Working Women
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This piece was featured in our DIY issue. Purchase a copy in our shop here.


 

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