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Herb Sundays 42: Barbie Bertisch / Herb Sundays 43: Paul Raffaele
NYC's Love Injection label and fanzine runners, Lot Radio residents, and music fanatics with a double Herb selection. Art by Cina.
One wintry Saturday last year I was milling about in Brooklyn and realized I was near The Lot Radio during Barbie and Paul’s weekly Saturday AM show. Their consistency is comforting, there they are, posted up with new discoveries. I usually just leave annoying comments on their IG when they post their show info but I figured I’d say hi in person and pick up the new issue of Love Injection, the printed music fanzine (and related record label) they have written, designed and self-distributed since 2015. They proceeded to invite me over to theirs and we spent hours looking at records and artifacts of NYC's past. This is just how they roll.
Barbie Bertisch and Paul Raffaele live “the music life” which I define as a steadfast dedication to the discovery and dissemination of the good stuff. As writers, curators, DJs, party throwers, and archivists, they are exceedingly generous in spirit and reverent of a certain strain of music, namely Disco and Soul adjacent dance music. The code they live by evokes the inclusionary and sacred practices of the Paradise Garage or David Mancuso’s The Loft. Music is serious stuff and should be treated as such, on heavy Klipsch speakers of course.
I tried to remember when I met them for the first time and recalled that I had heard of them long before I sheepishly reached out. Looking at my inbox, there’s been over a decade of events and happenings there all along. Love Injection really forced me to pay attention. As an invocation of a lost past of music zines, they carry on a tradition we thought was long gone. While some of the contents are rooted in their archival work, like long-form interviews with aging legends, Love Injection is effectively what is happening now. A time capsule of this moment.
I knew I wanted to have them in the series, but how? I favor the idea that each playlist is one person and one perspective. So here’s a Double Album / Double Herb from two of NYC’s best. Barbie’s is unexpected, all angles and arches but the HS staples are there (EBTG, Sade, Minnie, Withers). Paul’s is more on-brand, with lots of big strings and riffs (and Edgar Winter melters) from sure shot Disco greats, Detroit’s Brainstorm, and enough Patrick Adams productions to re-map your mind.
It’s yet another flickering transmission borne from the countless nights, the deep digs, the heavy speakers lugged. The music life is cruel but rewarding if you have a true north. Any given week you’ll find Barbie and Paul making something happen, compass bobbing on something good.
Barbie’s story (I asked):
Born in Buenos Aires, moved to Miami at 14 when Argentina underwent a turbulent crisis. Grew up naturally attracted to dancing, making mixtapes and coordinating dance routines throughout elementary school. Lived in Miami another 8 years before moving to NY in early 2011. In Miami, I had my first nightclub experience at 16 and went out every night between 2007 and 2010, pretty much. Got heavily into punk, post punk, new wave and inevitably, 00s dance music until one night around '09 hearing Louie Vega at the now defunct club Vagabond changed my life. Upon graduating with a degree in fashion design in early 2011, I moved to NY. I wound up disillusioned with the endless stream of sketchy internships that was the norm at the time. Switched careers around 2014, when DJing found me via friends and extended Loft family members. I threw myself fully into learning more about this music, New York music, and it led me down a path of self-discovery. I began to DJ, stringing Salsoul singles together at (the also defunct) Kinfolk 90 on Thursday nights. 10,000 hours. In early 2015 I met Paul who mentioned he was starting a fanzine dedicated to NY dance music past and present. I told him we should throw a release party. The rest unfolded quickly and beautifully. In 2018 I lost my remote tech job and rode off into the unemployment sunset to learn to play bass. Joined a band. Wrote some songs. Discovered I had a lot more music in me than I first imagined. In 2019, after another short job stint, quit and decided to fulfill my dream of working at a record store. I ran the place for two years and broadened my horizons greatly. Covid happened, first band kinda fizzled. Then, life got hectic so that ended. Started a new band and gathered enough courage to embrace music I made on my own. Here we are today. I run a label with the aforementioned Paul, have a solo album out June 17th on our label, zine is 65 issues in, we have a weekly radio show on Brooklyn's finest, I write a lot of words (obviously), still DJ and am finishing another album. Curiosity is a powerful thing.
On the mix:
I'm a very introspective person. Like over-thinker, abnormal levels of analyzing things from 100 angles and talking in circles about them for 10 hours. I tend to get lost in my own thoughts and music is a big tangent-driver. I usually find myself in heavy introspection on Sundays, split between wanting to indulge in songs that bring great pleasure while also creating opportunities for introspection. I don't know that I believe in a god but when trying to explain it, I'd say something like "songs/moments that make you believe there is a god" I tend to willingly dwell in sadness, sad songs, but also euphoric ones to lift you from the deepest shit. Dancing, for example, is deeply spiritual and Sundays sometimes are very church-like if I go out dancing. Music: the stuff that moves you, that sucks the air out of the room, that alters the atmosphere. There are certain songs that are just Sunday songs, with various herb-levels represented: Dire Straits, The The, Bill Withers, Sade, Steely Dan (but particularly Do It Again and anything Aja). My dad used to play loads of Michael and Blondie and sing around the house when I was little.
The playlist started with Life's What You Make It after I wrapped my first run in years. I sat at McGolrick park feeling kinda sad at the state of the world and wanting to find a moment of hope. Then I realized I want whoever listens to this to make it a journey starting with the moment they wake up. Set the crossfaders on the streaming platform of preference to 12 sec fade. I mean the waking up part. There are some songs that I wanted to include but for the sake of redundancy, I cut (Tears For Fears "Pale Shelter" and Air "Moon Safari"—and it hurt but they also are well represented already). I thought of the freedoms of the current 'mixtape' format while in the era of cassettes and CDs, you had a limited amount of time to convey what you needed to get across. So I tried to straddle both worlds, yesterday and today, and landed at 25 tunes, 2 hs. I definitely labored over the order of the openers and the closers. The transitions and palette cleansers. It lives very much outside the realm of what I may play as a DJ in a particular setting, whether club or radio. This one is filled with songs from my teen years, my twenties, and the deepest parts of my thirties so far. One hyper-emotional, moody SOB. I don't believe in genres and this is clearly represented here. Music is the universal language and all that.
On Paul (and Barbie):
Paul Raffaele was born and raised in Staten Island and began DJing at a young age, learning the craft from mobile DJs in his area and eventually throwing parties of his own locally. Upon graduating from college he turned his focus to graphic design, working at a New York City megaclub where he experienced the last chapter of an era of Manhattan clubbing before much of old downtown nightlife’s wider migration to Brooklyn. Taken under the wing of his mentors, DJ Danny Krivit and promoter Benny Soto, Paul became a regular at their 718 Sessions party, which served as a gateway to an immersion in all things classic New York City club and party heritage-related.
In January 2015, Barbie and Paul met at Academy Records’ Oak Street location. Not long after Paul asked Barbie if she’d be interested in contributing to a new project he’d decided to embark on. Barbie quickly signed on to help run the operation, and Love Injection Fanzine’s first issue was published in February 2015. By the following year they’d begun co-presenting the weekly Love Injection broadcasts on The Lot Radio, and DJing together, inspired by their shared study of NYC club history and influenced by such parties, venues and hosts as David Mancuso and The Loft, Larry Levan and Paradise Garage, Judy Weinstein, Francois K, Danny Krivit, and Joe Clausell’s Body & Soul, the aforementioned 718 Sessions, Better Days, The Saint, Giant Step, APT, Deep Space, Roots et al.
Counter to the modern trend of increasingly short DJ sets that leave little room for texture and nuance, Barbie and Paul’s preferred mode of DJing is the all-nighter – an extended journey/narrative with a beginning, middle, and end. Or in the parlance of David Mancuso’s philosophy in unfurling the musical arc of The Loft: calm, circus, and re-entry. Dedication to this ethos would come to full fruition through their Universal Love parties – which began as fundraising events for the fanzine, taking place quarterly at a local DIY space in Barbie and Paul’s neighborhood. With the indispensable help of a group of volunteers to get each party off the ground, every detail – from speaker placement to balloons and décor to food and refreshments to merch to how guests are greeted at the door – is attended to in order to foster a warm and welcoming environment in the tradition of Joy and The Loft, the parties that continue to inspire them. Music is provided by Barbie and Paul from the first tune to the last, with no predetermined end time. Having steadily grown in popularity pre-pandemic, the parties are presently on hiatus until a new, larger space may be secured, when hopefully it also feels safer to congregate.
On The Mix:
For as long as I can remember, Sundays for me is for 718 Sessions. I'm sorry that I'm always on my soap box about this. My full musical self is more varied, complex, I swear – but you said it was about what we listen to on Sundays and I've learned everything I know today about dance music history on Sundays. 718 Sessions hours are early, from 6pm following in Fire Island's Tea Dance tradition. Thinking about the written history of Fire Island, and my history with 718 on Sundays mixed with the idea that this playlist shouldn't be posturing as "cool" – I decided to corral songs together that touch all of these points, lean to the campy side. They're all big and beautiful with strings and horns abound. In the 00s there was this trend where disco editors would erase the flamboyance from songs like this – this is a protest to that. They're all in one way or another "New York Classics" whether they were played at the Pines, the Garage, the Loft, Better Days, Body & Soul, 718. Everyone knows them, they were all "chosen" by other tastemakers, but they make me really happy, and I hope my excitement for these transfers to you.