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Fresh Kicks 183: Effy Mai

Effy Mai in the woods

Norwich-based DJ and Gonzo's Two Room resident Effy Mai drops a decades-spanning mix of electro, chuggy bangers and abstract club tracks for the Fresh Kicks series, and chats to Amy Fielding about Gonzo's' sense of community, early gig nightmares and her first set of Technic 1210s

Earlier this year, DJ Mag spent some time in Norwich at Gonzo’s Two Room: a 200-capacity venue reigniting club culture on the UK’s east coast. With line-ups boasting Tarsza, Overmono, HAAi, Maribou State, Anu, Lukas Wigflex, Tim Reaper and Dr. Banana, the club is at the forefront of East Anglia’s underground dance scene. As well as the headline names, there’s a roster of regular residents at the club. 

Alongside the likes of Range, Levi Fruits and LU, one of those residents is 30-year-old DJ Effy Mai Hughes, a Norfolk native who's supported the likes of Denis Sulta and SHERELLE in recent months, and frequently primes the Gonzo’s dancefloor with trippy, progressive sets — as well as hosting all night takeovers. “It's my spiritual home, for sure,” Effy says of the club, and of Norwich. “There's a sense of community, everyone is striving for one common goal which is to bring good music to the city. We have a rich history in socialism which I think still runs deep.”

Effy grew up in Gorleston-on-Sea, a seaside town near Great Yarmouth. Norwich has been her home since 2016, and although club culture is now ingrained in Effy’s day-to-day, her first brushes with music were a far cry from the dancefloor driven sounds she delivers now. “I started dancing ballet, tap and modern when I was three years old, so there was lots of classical and jazz growing up,” she says. “But my dad had a record player which was always on at home. He’d play Prince, Kool & The Gang, Johnny Guitar Watson, Donna Summer, Cher, Chairman Of The Board...”. 

A typical Effy set today spans a carefully-selected and deeply-dug array of largely vinyl cuts, and she traverses tempo and genre in a way similar to the likes of Optimo, Horse Meat Disco and Ambient Babestation Meltdown. Feeling her way through the records in an intuitive, pic’n’mix manner, Effy builds momentum in her warm up sets with tracks plucked from eras and her own experiences past, inspired by the scenes playing out on the dancefloor in the present. Her style has even seen her tipped by Gilles Peterson's We Out Here festival, where she'll be performing this weekend. “I'm pretty open and tend to play whatever the crowd and I are feeling,” she affirms. “I don't plan and only really think three tunes ahead - so anything goes!”

When she turned 18, while still dancing and pursuing acting, Effy began "driving up and down the country" to seek out clubbing experiences. Subconsciously noting a lack of gender-diverse talent at the parties she attended, it was at Off Sonar that Effy began to consider herself as less of a dancer, and more of a DJ. "It hadn't crossed my mind that I could learn how to DJ," Effy says. "After I saw Maayan Nidam at Off Sonar one year, I thought it was possible, which in turn led me to dabbling on peoples decks at after parties." She also recounts seeing Berghain resident Lakuti on the decks as one of her formative experiences, describing the Uzuri Recordings curator as "sonic magic".

Connecting with the talent she’d seen delivering those rare tracks and deeper sounds, Effy began mixing on CDJs at the parties in her house share’s basement, formerly known as the “Dungeon”. It wasn’t long before she played her first set at Bermuda Bobs — another venture from the team behind Gonzo’s. “I was absolutely bricking it, and messed up by pulling out the wrong USB,” she laughs. “Safe to say I haven’t done the same thing, and soon after I bought myself a pair of  Technic 1210’s. I started to take DJing and promoting seriously when my good friend Kieran, who ran a night called Parish, asked me to team up with him.” 

While Effy has played at a string of the Gonzo’s Parish parties, supporting the likes of Shy One, Anu and OK Williams, as well as Denis Sulta, Peach and Shanti Celeste at the city’s Our House events, the end of the summer will see one of Effy’s biggest performances to date. On the line-up for Norwich’s Sundown Festival, she’ll be taking to the stage alongside the likes of Barry Can’t Swim, Ewan McVicar, Meg Ward and Sarah Story in September, it’s another opportunity to put herself, and the city she loves, on the map. “I'm chuffed that we are receiving the recognition now as so many people have been working hard to get the scene on its feet,” Effy says. 

“You have to have a reason to come to Norwich. It's not somewhere that you just pass through, which gives us the opportunity to create an eclectic & diverse scene to enable & encourage people from different walks of life to come - It's rare to be dancing with ages ranging from 18 to 60 in the club, but it happens here.”

Ahead of her performances at Sundown in September, and We Out Here festival this weekend, check out Effy’s decades-spanning Fresh Kicks mix of electro, chuggy bangers and abstract club tracks below.


The Pump Girls ‘Get On It (Pump Boys Edit)’
Theus Mago ‘Bum Bum Bum’
Bliss inc. ‘Offensive Username’
Etbonz ‘Curtainbox Space World’
Emkay ‘Roguery’
Theus Mago ‘Monte Domani’
Sons Of Abudhabi ‘Sheik Ahmed AlJafar(RFX Dark Edit)’
Luis Radio ‘Eye of the Drums’
Ani-Roy ‘Fari 116’
Computerjockeys ‘Baby Blue’
Shahara-Ja ‘I'm An Arabian Knight (Egyptian Lover Dub Mix)’
Phillipi & Rodrigo ‘Barbarella’
Scott Grooves ‘Hotel Costes 4’
Tyree ‘Acid Over (Piano Mix)’
Don Carlos ‘Play It Again (Underground)’
Computerjockeys ‘Inshallah’

Want more? Check out Gramrcy's Fresh Kicks mix here

Amy Fielding is DJ Mag's digital staff writer and fashion editor. Follow her on Twitter @amybfielding