Autumn has arrived in Berlin, all bright and crisp. Eris Drew opens her windows and the air cuts through the scent of lavender inside. There’s a bunch of it dried and wrapped in black paper: she was gifted it with her partner, DJ and producer Octo Octa, at Amsterdam club De School.
They have been igniting dancefloors across the world together lately, and will see out the year with shows in Australia, Taiwan, Japan and China. It’s all happening under the banner of T4T LUV NRG, their label and collaborative outlet, celebrating their love for each other as trans women and for house music. Last year, they released the joint ‘Devotion’ EP on similarly celebratory label Naive — five tracks of uplifting house grooves and breaks which, much like themselves, are tinged with acid and romance.
Few DJs have had a rise to prominence quite like Eris Drew in the past couple of years. A queer trans woman in her early 40s, she came up as a DJ in the mid-’90s in her home city of Chicago, and in the underground house and techno scene in the American Midwest. By 2017, Eris had been DJing and raving for over 20 years, but outside of her network — including her own party, Hugo Ball, at Chicago club Smartbar — few knew who she was. At that year’s Movement festival in Detroit, an annual pilgrimage for American house and techno diehards, her DJ set at queer party Club Toilet changed all of that.
When we meet her, Eris is relaxed in a hoodie, denim shorts, and personalised jewellery: she wears a beaded bracelet that spells out PLUR, the classic rave affirmation of Peace Love Unity Respect. Tumbles of wavy dark hair frame her deep, bright eyes, which flicker over her desk. There are little objects arranged next to her turntables — a loose jacket patch of a psychedelic mushroom here, a pink crystal there — and each has its own story, which she tells us in her gentle way, weighted with affection. These mementos give Eris a sense of the familiar in a life of constant motion. She’s been on the road for the last two years. Now, it’s time to reflect, and she wants to go back to Club Toilet.
In that dark room, filled with just a couple of hundred people, she spliced soulful R&B harmonies and jungle breaks into ’90s UK garage basslines and deep house grooves; all amplified by the drama of her gestures, pumping out breaks with full-body twists and singing each vocal hook as if it were her own. Those in the crowd who didn’t know her were stunned, and those who did know her just listened to the praise and mirrored it. We knew that Eris Drew had become our new favourite DJ. She met her now-manager soon after that party and several months later, she travelled to Europe for the first time.