Michele Chinichian knows a thing or three about throwing a boffo birthday bash. For proof, look no further than the magically delicious affair she threw in honor of her own b-day in January, which overflowed with unicorns, balloons, rainbow-colored party favors, and other playful revelry.
Chinichian, who performs as DJ Roya, will attempt to one-up herself with another birthday blowout, this time in honor of Tongue Tied's One-Year Anniversary (subtitled "A Night of Love") on Saturday at Apollo's.
We recently spoke with Chinichian about her experiences at Tongue Tied over the last year, why both the night and Saturday's anniversary party feature an air of amorousness (including some of the many hookups that have occurred there) and what they have planned for the party.
Name: Michele Chinichian
AKA: DJ Roya
Preferred genres: I focus on indie, '80s and '90s music and then throw in whatever else is fun to dance to. So it's not unusual for me to add a Motown, pop or old-school hip-hop track in my sets to mix things up. I have pretty eclectic taste but indie music is my first love.
Current gig: Tounge Tied, every first Saturday at Apollo's Lounge
Briefly, how did you get started as a DJ? It was a fluke. My roommate at the time was a resident for Hot Pink! and asked me to help her with the music one night. I had a blast! I've always been a huge music nerd and loved making playlists. Shortly after that, another friend asked me to help her with a night she was starting at the Rogue.
I didn't have any expectations going into it, but it wasn't long before I became hooked. I'm an extrovert who loves music and dancing probably more than anything, so it makes sense that DJing would be something I would really enjoy. Whenever I have a house party, I spend hours on the playlist.
What's the explanation behind your DJ name? It's my middle name. I felt awkward coming up with a random word that would represent me. So I decided to go with something that was still part of my name, but it's at least more unique sounding than Michele. It's Persian and means "fantasy" or "dream" in Farsi. I have a friend who used to tease me relentlessly about that.
What's your mantra as a DJ? Jay and I had two criteria if we were to start a new night: one, it has to be fun, and two, we didn't want to feel limited. If I don't have fun dancing to a song, than I am reluctant to play it. When in doubt, I practice dancing to the songs in my bedroom. DJs that don't like to dance I think are weird. You got to experience the music from your patrons standpoint to know how fun it is to dance to.
So what other sort of music do you dig? As far as 80s and 90s music, I did New Wave nights for a long time but am a little burned out on that genre. While I still enjoy and play those artists quite a bit, recently I've been playing more popular tracks from those eras. Basically, I've been basically scaling back the Joy Division and pumping up the Bell Biv Devoe. It's just more fun to dance to. Mostly, I respond to the crowd. I play for others more than myself. Seeing our patrons have fun, is what's most fun for me. Their energy and joy is super contagious.
What's your favorite track of the moment? A friend and regular of Tongue Tied just sent this to me the other day and I am kind of obsessed. [It's] a mashup by pomDeter of NIN's "Head Like a Hole" and Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe." [It's] creepy how well they work together. I can't wait to play it.
What's one stereotype about DJs that you can't stand? That they are [all] party girls/boys. Jay and I are both drug free business owners. I am reluctant to tell people who I want to respect or take me seriously that I DJ because I don't want them to presume I'm some drunk club kid. Main reason why I prefer everything to go under DJ Roya than my real name whenever possible.
What's the craziest thing you've seen during Tongue Tied's first year? Probably when Dry River Yacht Club agreed to turn into a marching band for us and bombed [onto] our dance floor with "When the Saints Go Marching In" and then lead everyone into a Mardi Gras parade (think: conga line) while a Rio De Janeiro-style drag queen and a court jester threw beads from our DJ booth "balcony." Meanwhile, we had fire breathers and fire dancing outside. It was just a great moment that I couldn't believe actually happened.
[And] the funniest moments were at our Olympics party. We had an Olympic dance-off where people danced for gold medals. The swimmer in the Speedo who did push ups won.
So what's with the whole love theme for the anniversary party? Basically, we have really felt the love from our patrons this past year and we want them to know the feeling is mutual. We've had an awesome year of dancing and romancing together and we want to celebrate and honor this milestone by giving them a traditional anniversary party. Plus, we kind of have a soft spot for all things corny.
Such as? Such as we had a Lisa Frank-inspired magical unicorn and rainbow party, and it was amazing. We had a face painter, caricature artist, cupcakes, Lisa Frank coloring books and puzzles and everyone -- including goths and hipsters -- totally got into it and it was awesome. I'm not sure it gets cornier than that. Tongue Tied is kind of a spoof of a traditional hipster night.
Explain. I guess in the sense that no one worries about how they look or what they wear to our parties (clearly). We also focus on playing music that we think is fun to dance to, versus proving how cool or underground we are when it comes to our song selections. So while we love and definitely play indie bands such as Daft Punk, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Arcade Fire, we also love Bell Biv DeVoe and Ace of Base and so we also throw that in the mix. The night is more about having fun than being cool, which I think is lacking at a lot of hipster parties.
And yet, tons of hipsters come out to Tongue Tied. Yeah, totally. It is such a great and diverse mix of people who come! I have a lot of friends that have said things to me like "I liked your past events but I often didn't feel cool enough, but here me and my friends feel cool enough." I love hearing stuff like that.
There seems to be a lot 's also a lot of love in the air at Tongue Tied, correct? I have never felt more love or enthusiasm for a night from patrons than this one -- it really touches my heart. Or do you mean drunken hookups?
Sorta. We've both seen and heard about them. I think I know what you may be referring to. I know a lot of people have met a love interest at Tongue Tied. I'm actually responsible for three marriages (that I know of). One couple recently asked me to DJ their wedding. I guess they locked eyes and started dancing during one of my sets. We are changing lives!
Guess the phrase "tounge tied" takes on an entirely different meaning sometimes. Absolutely. We have so many regulars and interactive activities that it's fun to see people befriend one another on Facebook after one of our events. There is a welcoming sense of community and camaraderie that is developing at our nights that I think is kind of special. I guess what I was trying to express is that the night feels more down to earth, sillier and accessible than a lot of the other indie nights I've been to.
Do you think the booze has also helped all the amorousness? I've never thought about that. I would presume it has helped loosen up people's inhibitions quite a bit. Apollo's has the strongest and cheapest drinks of any bar I've been to.
So how did Dave Driscoll Dance Machine become involved? Abe [Gil] of Treasure Mammal is a good friend of mine. I asked if he could come down with his crew in their full-bodied leotards because we were shooting a promo commercial at our launch party and wanted Tongue Tied to have more of an eclectic "anything goes" feel from our previous events. When Dave Driscoll Dance Machine got on stage with us and started dancing in our booth there was no going back. Once you DJ with him, you never want to DJ without him.
His cheeky energy helps us set the tone for the night. We don't take ourselves too seriously as DJs...and we just want to throw a ridiculously fun and unpretentious party where everyone feels welcome. Dave does a great job of conveying all that with his awesome moves.
What's the strangest move you've seen him do? I love it when he does his "warm up" stretches before he gets started on stage. I also loved the time he danced with the keytar he brought from home.
He's sort of a force unto himself, right? For sure. He's amazing. It's so fun having him and the crowd just goes crazy for him. He's totally irreplaceable.
And his outfits go beyond the pale. I know. No one ever has to worry about being the most over the top when choosing to participate in our costume contests -- they can always count on Dave.
Tongue Tied's Anniversary Party takes place at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 3. Admission is free before 9:30 p.m., $5 thereafter.
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