Nightlife collective Honey Soundsystem was founded in 2006 with the mission of paying homage to underground queer nightlife’s storied past, while simultaneously putting a fresh spin on it for contemporary partiers. Its four members—Jacob Sperber, Jason Kendig, Robert Yang, and Josh Cheon—are known for their adept skills as DJs and producers with a penchant for disco, house, and techno, as well as for commissioning elaborate site-specific installations and artworks to accompany their raucous, lively events. Sperber, who comes from a fine art background, studied at the San Francisco Arts Institute. His interest in design developed from a desire to create a holistic clubbing experience that would stick out from the “tacky, gaudy, and obvious design happening in gay culture at the time,” Sperber explains. “We wanted to create campaigns that didn’t stop at the door of the club—the themes on the handbill extend to the walls and ceilings and music at the night.”
This objective has resulted in countless parties involving collaborations with visual artists plucked straight from their dancefloor, which is always packed with like-minded creatives. Most frequently (and notably), they’ve worked with CoreCult, a group of multimedia artists. Formed in part around the Honey boys’ commissions, CoreCult builds larger-than-life sculptures made entirely out of foam. Whimsical structures like palm trees, prisms, and Roman columns can hang from warehouse ceilings, and are also durable enough to withstand the at times harsh conditions of a dark nightclub.
When the group was asked to do a DJ residency at the renowned Smart Bar in Chicago in 2015, Sperber decided they should approach it like a fine-art residency. Dubbing the project Generators, they wove together a story over the course of six parties about the history of queer nightlife and gay liberation; they worked with writers, performers, and artists, tapped into local talent for help decorating the space, and turned each event into a podcast available online. “Parties, especially the good kind, take a little village to produce,” Sperber says. “When properly curated, they can have the sensory impact of a great film or multimedia installation.”