After a casual gig DJing a friend’s rooftop party just this past spring, Luis Fernando’s career exploded overnight. He’s since become one of the city’s busiest and most prolific beat-droppers. [Cover photo: @llbarone]
Thotyssey: Hello Luis, thanks so much for chatting with us today! So we’re already in late August, which means summer is almost over! How did the season treat you this year?
Luis Fernando: Honestly, it has been one of the best summers of my life. This was the summer when I had the chance to share my joy and passion for music with the world!
You’ve certainly been doing your thing on nearly every dancefloor in the city, it seems! Did people seem a bit more in need of music and relief this summer than in years prior, from what you’ve seen?
For sure. After what we all suffered together during this past year and a half, all of us really appreciated–in a different way–the music and the community that we build around the dance floor and stage more than ever before.
It might be imperfect to have it that way, but the reality is that the queer community lives in queer bars and clubs. Those are our sacred spaces, our places of worship, our places of communion.
So, where are you from originally?
I will be honest–I don’t love being asked that question. It’s not a question that white people get asked often, and I always struggled with how to answer it.
I will tell you something that is important about my background: I fled my home country because I was almost murdered for being gay. I became a refugee here in the US about 12 years ago, and I am now literally achieving the wildest of my dreams in this country I love (although that is extremely complicated). To be at the DJ booth playing music for my queer family is a privilege that I would have never imagined I would get to have. I am just so thankful to everyone who helped me along the way, and thankful that I get to share my joy and love for music with my chosen family.
You have a very inspiring story! Where were the first places you DJed here?
The first time I made my DJing public was in May of this year, at my friend’s rooftop in Brooklyn. It started as a sunset party at 5pm… and suddenly it was 5am, and there was still hundreds of people there! That’s when I realized that people loved what I did.
There were so many people that day, and things were so crazy that a photographer from the New York Times stopped by and a picture from it was published in a recent story about the summer of “young love” where they mentioned the party as a “Rager on a rooftop in Brooklyn.” I honestly think that describes perfectly my short and amazing DJ career–literally a rager, where my community and I have been raving to each other’s joy as it has continued to grow, as my career and DJ skills have.
How in that process did you come to meet your Judys of queer NYC nightlife?
I’ve been going out (a lot) for a very long time, so I knew a lot of bar owners, bartenders, queens, dolls, kings, and other babies of the night. So when I started sharing my music. it was very wonderful that so many of them reached out and asked me to collaborate with them. I am so thankful with everybody who trusted me and gave me a chance. Like everything in life, this is not a one person deal; I have literally an entire village behind me, supporting me, saying “go Luis,” encouraging me. I’ve never felt as loved and supported as I I’ve felt this summer. It makes me teary, in fact!
What a wonderful family! What would a DJ Luis Fernando night sound like, if you had complete creative freedom? In other words, what do you really like to play now?
I started playing tropical house, but I very fast realized that I am a pop / disco / dance queen. That’s the music I love, that’s the music I know, that’s the music I play. If you give me a night, I would start with some nu disco–something not so loud, so I can get the night going and allow for some conversation to happen. Then I will pick it up with some disco / dance / pop bangers to pick up the pace, get people sweating and have hands up, and people singing choruses of the songs. And then I either sort of take it a little groovy, and make you dance and sing to classic disco. Or go the 90s Europop route, and make you jump up and down in a full pop rave.
My signature mixing really is that I keep things going up at all times. That’s why I depend on the energy and communication I have with the crowd; I cannot DJ to an empty place. I need my crowd to figure out what my best song will be; as cliche as it sounds, it’s about the journey we take together.
I observe that it’s already evident in these post-lockdown months that queer partygoers are starting to really respect DJs again, and putting them back on top of the nightlife hierarchy where they belong!
You know, I think that the queer community has always had a respect for DJs, which is not something you find in straight, cisgender spaces–a realization that the DJ will be the person who will transport you through the night.
You’ve been DJing at The Q in Manhattan a lot, which is of course the super hot new venue of 2021. How do you like spinning there?
I think the project and space that Frankie Sharp created is fantastic and ambitious. I love that the producers have been very intentional about bringing a diverse cast of DJs and performers, to make sure that the crowd and the parties hosted there are diverse. That, I really love! Also, the space is just very cunt: three levels, four floors, and of course it was a dream come true to play in the main floor with a huge screen with my name on it. I mean, I literally cried as I was DJing.
Oh it was wonderful, I mean, when Alaska shared a flier with my name on it… I mean, that’s everything! And the crowd was so fun to DJ for. I gave them a fast set by Luis Fernando, where I played all of my big hits and kept the energy soooo high the entire time.
But I tell you that the thing I am most proud about is my party “HER” at 3DB.
Yes let’s talk about that now! How did HER come about?
For years now, I’ve intended to created spaces where everyone in my community feel accepted, seen, celebrated, and desired. And when Brenda at 3DB asked me if I wanted to put together a party there, I said yes immediately.
So I put together everything I love from a party–which is bringing people from all the spectrums of the queer community, bringing my dolls and queens to give us shows and lewks, and having the best music to dance to. It is very important that people know that my parties are very intentionally inclusive; they are very diverse, have all sorts of people, and they’re places where people can have fun at in any way they want.
HER returns to 3DB on Saturday, August 28th. What can we expect from this latest installment?
Well, it will take place in space. We have the best DJ sets for a very fun, sweaty party, where we will all be singing at music (with lyrics) all night long. My hosts cannot be more fabulous (they all love to dress up and be fully queer), and the dolls that will be giving shows are just so incredible: Zavaleta, Rify Royalty and Magenta… literally drag legends. And Mel Incarnate, our newest pop star, will be doing a number live from her EP about to be released this coming Friday. She is so fantastic, and I cannot wait to see her perform at the next HER. Also, Kim Petras’ new single comes out the night before… so you will hear that, too. In short, there will be a little something for everyone; the decour will be out of this world as it always is, and the talent that we will show you that night is unmatchable.
I do have to do a pitch to the community to continue to support this party. It is an inclusive space, unique in the sense of its proportion, likely the biggest party in New York (after Bushwig) that is as diverse in terms of the people it encompasses. It is an incredibly ambitious project, and I am so happy that so far I’ve been able to maintain.
I am also really proud to be one of the producers who pays their dolls, talent and DJs one of the highest rates in the market. And no matter what happens during the party, everyone is always paid (if payment was agreed when we agreed to work together) within 24 hours of the party. I am really proud of it. You see, this party is about everyone, and I want to make sure that my nightlife dolls and queens are adequately paid for the labor and talent that they devote to this space. Like I tell everyone I work with: if I rise, I want everyone to rise with me. I take my village with me!
What else is coming up for you?
Well, I have other iterations of “HER” coming up on September 25, November 6 (my birthday) and our big Halloween one on October 22! I would love if people continue to come and support and have the most fun. But also, I would encourage people to follow me on Insta to figure out other things going on. For example I will be DJing [at The Q Saturday party this weekend and] at the Bushwig Invasion of the Q on August 24.
And I’m at the official Bushwig afterparty at Sultan Room on September 12. I also have a monthly party at the Phoenix, which is always so much fun. That bar is so fun, and always bring unexpected things and memories. Originally it was called “Hi, Gay!” Right now, I am deciding a new name for it. The next one is on September 17. I usually theme the party around a pop star; next one I think I am picking ABBA, though.
We will keep our eyes and ears open! Okay, let’s close with: what’s a song, new or old, that is giving you your whole life on this day?
“McArthur Park” by Donna Summer. I know, I know… it has been played for literally years. But there is a sense in me that when I play it, I am connecting to the queers who came before me, to the people who danced to it again and again. Also, one of my signature DJ moves is to have a slow-down and then a buildup that literally makes you explode, and that’s exactly what this song does. I play the best remix of it, the one by Rosabel. Also, without a fail, it’s a song that make my dancefloor go nuts. And that’s my fuel. Seeing other people having joy is what makes me the happiest.
Thank you and enjoy the rest of your amazing summer, Luis!