For the love of the underground: In conversation with DR3 Sounds
The city of Manchester has long been known for its rich and eclectic music culture. For most, the legendary bands of the 80s and 90s, such as Oasis, The Stone Roses, and Happy Mondays spring to mind. As such, the iconic nickname ‘Madchester’ was coined in reference to the city’s epochal rave culture, one of the most notable youth movements of the late 20th century.
Now home to the Warehouse Project and Parklife festival, it is indisputable that Manchester is a melting pot of musical creativity. Whilst the older generations may think our underground dance scene doesn’t measure up to the days of acid house, a new generation of DJs and producers is emerging; redefining rave culture, and embracing the diversity of influences we have at our disposal.
One of the new names we should be familiarising ourselves with is DR3 Sounds (@dr3sounds). The student-led collective was only established in 2021, yet already boasts having presented events at illustrious venues across the city such as Hidden, Soup Kitchen, Gorilla and more. Having attended a fair few of their events myself, I was eager to sit down with the trio for an intimate chat in order to learn more.
I was able to slot in just before their weekly radio show at the Student Union with Fuse Radio, on a Monday night, in the authentic setting of the Main Library Lobby.
DR3 formed in late 2021 as an events company initially, their main endeavour being a platform to spotlight new talent. However, they state that, as they grow and evolve, they are open to whatever the music industry throws their way.
The trio consists of UOM third-year students: George and Raniak are the two DJs (George Howard and RSP) who are grappling with the stresses of their final year, and ‘Retired DJ’, Indy, who is dealing with the unique pressures of a placement year.
All three share equal responsibility with regard to admin and promotion. The boys assert that this way of working creates an organic working relationship where all ideas are amalgamated- each free to chip in wherever they see necessary.
The three were brought together by the grace of the restrictive nature of life in university halls, following the pandemic. Clubs and bars were not open, however many students were determined to have the traditional university experience, thus they resorted to throwing and attending overcrowded but memorable flat parties. Following their first year, the boys all coincidentally had the same idea.
“We had spent the year partying, fully embracing the Manchester music scene. Because we were confined to halls, partying and music was our only outlet. We were exposed to so many different people, and different kinds of music, and we wanted to do something to provide for this base audience of students,” Raniak tells me.
And thus came their initial inspiration: for students, by students. The ethos of their early days reflects their passion for promoting up-and-coming creators, showcasing all the new music they were hearing. Some of the acts they have presented include Neffa-T, Diagnostix, Syntax, KISA, and Pangea.
In a short year and a half, their audience has expanded outside of their student friend group, however they affirm that they have the students of Manchester to thank for mobilising their success.
I was interested to learn that their name originated from something quite mundane but significant. It’s an acronym for their first ‘hub’ 3 Danes Road, where Indy lived in second year. “I think it’s important not to overthink something like a name. We wanted something catchy and memorable that rolled off the tongue. I was thinking of DC10 Ibiza,” Indy says, laughing.
Early on the trio looked to similar collectives such as Hessle Radio. However as they have grown confident in their own brand, this year they take most inspiration from the parties and nights out they attend.
“We all have such different interests and music tastes actually, and so we work on merging this which allows us to see things from different perspectives,” George adds. “We want our lineups to be as representative as possible of this, and that’s why we draw a lot of inspiration from the parties we are at because we can benefit a lot from outside influences.”
Working alongside your closest friends whilst studying demanding courses at a top university cannot come without its challenges. I asked the boys about the reality of the job.
After being locked up for so long, students were eager to get back into a club setting, so selling out venues to start with was not difficult. However, the group found the real challenge came in maintaining that same level of enthusiasm, gaining trust and a consistent fan base.
“We were lucky to have such a core bubble of people supporting us who we had met in first year,” says Indy. “But we had to be honest with ourselves that a lot of other people were doing the same thing, especially here in the North West. We’ve had to work to prove how we stand out from the rest.”
By actively streamlining their work through a variety of avenues, such as Fuse FM and Subtle Radio, they are able to keep things creative. Moreover, the variation of venues they utilise means they are standing out to all kinds of audiences.
More fundamental challenges lie within the marketing side of things. They were honest in saying they don’t have an entrepreneurial background, so it’s still a learning process. Obstacles include finding a graphic designer, navigating Instagram’s algorithms, correctly pricing tickets, understanding the impact of external pressures like football games. And of course, maintaining a clear conscience.
“You really can’t be getting too battered when it’s your event. We would be lying if we said we haven’t made that mistake before,” Ranaik admits.
Individually the boys face common struggles like looming deadlines, and Indy at times feels detached from the student scene, whilst on placement. However, the trio maintain a positive outlook, expressing that they are fortunate to have such a good support system between them.
Despite these challenges, their hard work has not gone unnoticed. The group recently collaborated with the big brand Kickers, which has helped them gain traction on social media. Moreover, they have demonstrated the reach they are beginning to have by expanding out to venues in Liverpool.
All three study degrees with a heavy focus in economics and would like to combine the skills they have gained in the collective with their economics backgrounds to widen job prospects. George confessed that, prior to university, he was really unsure about what he wanted to do with his future, and said DR3 has enabled him to gain a greater sense of purpose.
They hope to expand to bigger cities like London and secure opportunities with festivals. They acknowledge that their passion is a “hard graft”, but speaking to the boys, it is clear that they have huge ambition.
Given the reputation Manchester holds for being home to such a vibrant music scene, I asked the boys if they think they would have engaged in similar projects had they attended different universities.
Ranaik was quick to answer, saying could have easily taken a different path as he was considering UCIL and LSE. He joked that if this had been the case he would’ve been a “proper finance bro.” This DJ is grateful to the city, for its unique identity and culture which has helped him grow as a person. Gesturing to the other two boys, he shows a subtle moment of affection, telling me how grateful he is to have them.
If you are interested in what DR3 are doing next, get yourself down to Soup Kitchen where they are starting a residency from March 9.
At the start of March, they released their first ever VA, DR3-001, assembling the finest, upcoming underground electronic DJs in the North West, such as Adomas, Kalani, Dextrah & vCOVEv. As this is their first release, downloads will be free. Listen here!