Birmingham. We put on a good night, don’t we? Sure, we’re often overlooked by those who think a night on the town starts and ends on Broad Street. But really, we’re all about the niche upstarts, the bubbling under, the pull yourself up by your bootstraps and open a bar kind of people.
Ollie Lloyd is one of those people, and we had the absolute pleasure of sitting down for a drink with him for this month’s Schooner.
Q: Evening, Ollie. Let’s park up by the window. What are you drinking?
A: Thanks Marcus, very kind. I’ll have a pilsner to start, but will move onto the dark rum and ginger beers in bit.
Q: Now that is a plan of action if we ever saw one. Are you from around here?
A: I grew up in High Wycombe but my family moved to Birmingham in my early years. In my twenties I moved to Cornwall for the sea, then Brighton and London for the music scenes. I studied a degree in bar management in Dublin with the mind to open a venue in Birmingham on my return. I’d always noticed a gap in the live music scene every time I’d visit family and friends back in Brum and realised my calling.
Q: Who needs the sea when you’ve got more canals then Venice? *ahem* Yardbird wasn’t your first venture was it?
A: I set up my first night in a bar called Quo Vadis on Corporation Street called Home Cookin’. It was a mash up of me and a close friend playing funk and breaks vinyl with a band jamming alongside us, the players who would eventually form Munchbreak. It was a buzzy night and always considered a pre-club to the events at the Que Club. It was popular with breakers, had a very relaxed vibe and there wasn’t anything else going on at the time in the city that compared. In hindsight, it planted the seed in my mind that would eventually grow into The Yardbird.
Q: You’re getting the hang of this narrative storytelling thing. With that seed planted, when did it start to grow?
A: After returning from Dublin, I started looking for licensed properties around Birmingham that would be suitable to put my concept into action – an unpretentious live and DJ venue geared around funk, jazz and beats. We opened at Paradise Place in 2007. It was a slow and steady first year but in year two it all kicked into place. With live music taking place six nights a week and regular weekend DJ sessions, it became a home for Brummie musicians, artists and just good creative people with the right attitude. We never looked back.
Q: We know how this one goes. Maybe its time for the dark rum.
A: Unfortunately it had to close it’s doors in December 2014 due to the Paradise Development. I tried to find a replacement venue for a year after it’s closure but nothing suitable came along and family commitments pushed the search to the side.
Q: Has DJ’ing always been this big part of your life, or do you go about the waking hours as what some might call a ‘normal person’?
A: I’ve set up an aerial filming company with a close friend as well as creating event artwork for local venues, and still do a weekly slot on Brum Radio late Monday nights. Lots of creative bits and pieces going on but nothing that captures my heart like the bar business did, and gradually I’m steering towards setting up a venue again now my children have grown up a little.
Q: In any DJ career as long as yours, there’s got to be some stand out moments – well, those that you can remember.
A: Two that stand out. I was invited to play for a friend’s club night in Barcelona which was a really magical setting, and the Spanish know how to have a good time! Slight challenge as things don’t really get started until 1am, so playing vinyl 45s all the way until 6am was an experience I won’t forget – a hot, sweaty and very funky night. The other gig that stands out was playing a four hour set on a cruising boat party in Bristol, another city where the people know how to get down.
Q: From Barcelona to Frederick Street. Tell us more about your night at ours.
A: The Yardbird Sessions runs monthly and it’s a real opportunity for me to play all my hidden gems that I wouldn’t otherwise play to a dancefloor. I love the vibe there, a real regular neighbourhood crowd and because it has a lovely flow of people coming and going, there are always fresh ears to play for. It’s about creating the perfect atmosphere, uplifting grooves and beats, lots of rare Brazilian stuff and occasional obscurities that prick up people’s ears.
Q: And finally the question that we’re contractually obliged to ask you. Birmingham is a city of a thousand trades, if you could pick one besides what you do now, what would it be?
A: I think I’d become a jewellery maker and create bespoke pieces with a jazz twist. Jazz jewellery, is there such a thing…
Maybe we should have stopped at the pilsner. Catch Ollie and the Yardbird Sessions at 1000 Trades on a Saturday night of his choosing. Keep an eye on our listings to see when he’s back.