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LYZZA B2Beats DJ Serene: No Holding Back

The future is femme, queer, and ready to rave.

Words by Caroline Whiteley
Published on July 23, 2020 18:05 Berlin Time

“This might just be one of the best summer mixes ever,” LYZZA announces to me. She glances over at her best friend DJ Serene (AKA Nocturnal Femme), with whom she recorded her B2Beats entry just a few days ago, and adds, “when you played [Robot by] t.A.T.u. and then I came in with some crazy underground hardstyle shit, I think that was a fusion of literally both sides of us coming together so perfectly.” The track she’s referring to is Rapala700’s sublimely deranged “roto,” freshly released on the Berlin label OXYORANGE. The blend appears halfway through their high-voltage mix, a journey through breakbeat, ballroom, pop edits, trance, hard dance, and Brooklyn drill. Peep the tracklist and you’ll see pop greats like Rosalía, Gwen Stefani, M.I.A., and the aforementioned t.A.T.u. nestled alongside the underground’s finest (LSDXOXO, Born in Flames, Swisha, Schacke, and Bored Lord, to name only a few.) It’s an hour-long distillation of the queer rave utopia they’ve built with their club night, X3 (read: Triple X).

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  • Protest Anthem (Excerpt) – LYZZA

  • Neurontin – Bored Lored

  • LSD X GWEN HELLA GUDDA W UPEKKHA

  • Sunlight (Martin Eyerer Remix) – DJ Sammy

  • Talking To The White Noise (Quest_onmarc Remix) – Born in Flames

  • Senzu – Ase Manual

  • Crystal Castro II – AGGROMANCE

  • Sudan Sedan – D.Dan

  • In My Brain (Original Mix) – Mark NRG

  • Робот (Robot) – t.A.T.u.

  • bloto – Rapala700

  • Ready4rosalia – DJ Mantis

  • Skin – Falseboi

  • Don’t Waste My Time (Sentiment Edit) – Krept & Konan

  • Зацени (Check It) – Шакке (Schacke)

  • Terra – Nara

  • East On West – G-HADD

  • BAD GIRL CYCLE (MIA X DOUBT X TENSION) – Estoc

  • Stardawg – DJ SWISHA

  • Big Drip – Five Foreign

Much has been said about the power of friendships in DJing, but few of those unions go back to as early as adolescence. Growing up in Amsterdam, LYZZA and Serene banded together as two social pariahs among “a lot of people who didn’t really look like us or dress like us.” LYZZA remembers sneaking out during class breaks, going on rogue trips, “—and laughing a lot,” Serene adds. “We were crazy,” LYZZA states proudly, recalling late night underage club excursions, fangirling with ABRA after her show in their hometown Amsterdam, and a fateful meeting with Englesia, co-founder of London’s UNITI collective, at a festival in 2015.

LYZZA’s own career would soon pick up steam with steady DJ gigs, a string of viral Soundcloud releases, and her forceful Powerplay EP in 2017, which married forward-thinking club rhythms with irresistible vocal hooks. Over the years, she leaned further into her affinity for anthemic pop with EPs IMPOSTER and DEFIANCE, the latter featuring none other than Greco-Roman’s Joe Goddard of Hot Chip fame. Though LYZZA was barely even legal at that time, Powerplay already displayed the kind of poise and precocity of someone who had spent years as a rave disciple.

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Through it all, Serene was by her side. Then, when an opportunity arose to host their first party in an empty squatted office building in the city center, the two decided to launch their own venture, X3. The inaugural edition was such a success, LYZZA says, that they decided to “turn this into a thing.’” Named after the three crosses in Amsterdam’s coat of arms, X3’s focus is to create one-of-a-kind, safer clubbing experiences for marginalized identities. “We already live such a weighed down version of [life compared to] people who don’t have to walk through life thinking about certain things, like what they look like or if they can walk hand-in-hand with the person they’re in love with.”

Serene tells me they’ve opted for unconventional venues, such as gallery-warehouse hybrids like W139 and ISO, to set their rave apart from the rest of Amsterdam’s nightlife landscape. By creating unexpected environments each time, they’ve also been able to dodge any unwanted categorizations of X3’s party ethos. Where one event took on a haunted house theme, another explored the resurgence of Gabber. Each offbeat setting, LYZZA explains, acts as a metaphor for the type of unbounded expression she hopes to facilitate on her dancefloors. “One of the things that Serene made me realize was that we can live in a world where we constantly want to fit into other people’s expectations—or, we can create our own.” Their artist bookings—much like their mix submission for B2Beats—highlights and celebrates the community of queer, femme artists of color that they themselves are a part of. In its three years of existence, X3 has hosted sets by Juliana Huxtable, LSDXOXO, Joey LaBeija, Hannah Diamond, DJ Gigola, among others, and collaborated with like-minded collectives like UNITI, Garage Noord, Spielraum, and The Hague’s LASER CLUB

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By nature of the crowds they attract, X3 is highly attuned to the issue of accessibility. If someone is unable to afford the cover, feels unsafe, or asks for a cab ride home, LYZZA emphasizes that they’re always willing to help. “People want a more community-based night life,” Serene comments, to which LYZZA adds, “There’s an aspect of festivals and club culture that go so institutionalized, but, when you think about it, clubbing has always been political, it’s always been all these things that we do.” In their eyes, a safe space doesn’t just include freedom of expression, but also a freedom from financial stress, particularly in a city as expensive as Amsterdam. “It’s supposed to be a place where you don’t have to think ‘either I could have fun now or I can’t have food for the rest of the week,’” LYZZA tells me. “It’s not supposed to be like that.” Community-building, to them, has an incalculable value. “There are certain moments on dance floors and at X3 nights that are just priceless.”

These days, their collaborative efforts are focused on the anti-racism movement, such as a recent live-streamed fundraiser through which they were able to collect over €14k for the Freedom Fund, the National Bail Fund Network, the Black Archives, and the Audre Lorde Project. In the past, LYZZA says she’s shied away from saying anything too political, partially because of the reactions she’s received, but also because “it’s simply tiring to have your entire identity be political, always. Sometimes I just want to make art, you know?”

With their club night, they’ve found a way to do both. LYZZA and Serene say the most fulfilling aspect is the ability to cultivate their DJ and organizing skills while also enacting positive political change. “With X3,” LYZZA says, “we can actually put money back into marginalized communities, which, at the end of the day, is the most important thing.”

Buy LYZZA’s music on Bandcamp and listen to DJ Serene’s “Ruminations” via her Soundcloud.

Caroline Whiteley is an editor for Electronic Beats.