Industry Insiders: Harley and Cassie, The Inseperable DJ Duo
Harley Viera-Newton and Cassie Coane have been deemed New York nightlife “It” girls more than they care to get into. Both NYU students, originally from Los Angeles, they’ve somewhat surprisingly secured nights at the hottest, hipster-esque venues in town. They started DJing as a side gig at recently-shuttered Beatrice Inn, which led to nights at Lit Lounge and Avenue in addition to working private events. The longtime best friends are known for their absolutely comical bickering, and have an East Village Radio show, Teenage Kicks — where they dispute freely and jam out to obscure punk. BlackBook talks to the sensible nightlife duo about the balance of being successful girl DJ’s and having a damn good time while doin’ it.
How’d the duo form? CC: We met in high school. We actually didn’t like each other. HVN: We went to different high schools. CC: Why won’t you let me finish my sentences? I’m gonna fucking get there. Basically, we had different friend groups. There was one guy group and two girl groups, and the two girl groups didn’t get along. We were eventually brought together and forced to become friends.
And when did you both make the move to New York? HVN: 3 years ago for college at NYU. CC: After high school, it was the mass exodus of all our friends. Coming to ruin New York and destroy everything that’s left.
Future plans after college? CC: Very unclear. Get married. HVN: Cassie wants to get married and move to the South and I don’t know what I want to do. CC: No, we decided you want to work for the Discovery Channel. HVN: Oh yeah, I want to do an internship outside anything I’ve ever done. CC: And get out of nightlife forever. HVN: Forever…we’re over it.
What was the catalyst to start DJing? HVN: I DJed a couple birthday parties in L.A. for my little sister’s friends. That was my first job. It was so cool ’cause I was the really hip DJ for the younger kids. I was just doing it off my iTunes, and then I started throwing this party in the East Village with a boy named Harley who was a real DJ. I’d watch over his shoulder. From that party, I somehow got a night at Beatrice on Tuesdays and that’s where she jumped on. CC: She needed me because she played such bad music. HVN: No, she just made a good thing bad. But yeah she literally was like, ‘You play the worst music.’
Do you have similar taste in music? HVN: There are certain songs that one of us will play and the other will want to kill themselves. Cassie will play a really slow Fleetwood Mac song at prime time, just when I want a rager. CC: Harley kills it with the people pleasers and I like ruining that. HVN: I entertain, and she educates.
How’d you end up with a night at Lit Lounge? CC: We started hanging out at Lit, and it became our favorite bar. We wanted to get a night there, so Harley wrote this super long email to the owner with our proposal, and he wrote back saying no. HVN: He wrote back with ‘I’m really sorry. I respect your taste, but that’s just not gonna bring a crowd.’ Which was ironic because at the time, there was happening on Wednesday nights. CC: They just so badly didn’t want us. HVN: So we’re totally bummed that we were stuck at Beatrice where we couldn’t play our music, and then a friend came to see us DJ on Tuesday nights and was like, ‘You guys are great. You really should do something at Lit.’ He’s friends with the owner, and tricked him into hiring us. At first it was just us and a couple of our friends hanging out, and we could play really good music because it was empty. Then slowly it became more and more crowded and the good music sort of faded out. CC: We gave in.
How long ago was that? HVN & CC: That was two years ago.
How would you describe Lit? HVN: Gross. It gets really hot and packed and it’s like a blackout. Everyone comes to get fucking wasted, rave and dance. We’ve probably taken ten years off of our life by working there. CC: There’s no other bar like Lit. We’ve tried to find one.
And now you’re spinning at Avenue? CC: It’s way different. HVN: It’s cool because they split it up between a bunch of different DJs, and its relatively easy because it’s a big super club but the DJ booth is elevated. So, we’re completely disconnected from the crowd, so… CC: So we can play the guiltiest pleasures…like Lady Gaga. . HVN: We can play bangers, top 40’s, no problem. The whole thing about this Tuesday night at Avenue is that it’s like a Beatrice night at Avenue. Last night, the owner came up to us and said, ‘Don’t play to the crowd.’ Because that’s the point of this. We’re supposed to agitate them.
Lit or Avenue? HVN: Well obviously we’re fish out of water at Avenue. That’s also why it’s fun because it’s so different. CC: It’s fun to drag our dirtbag friends down there to drink Belvedere.
Are you close with other NY DJs? CC: All of them. We run in a really weird pack where we all hang out and none of us are out to get each other.
Do you share music in with other DJ’s? HVN & CC: we steal CC: We all steal from each other, but it’s all in good fun. We all have our signature songs and bangers that no one would steal. HVN: Some DJ’s are super threatened and pissed off that two girls who aren’t using records and aren’t super technical are getting jobs. They’re DJing with super clubs all over and their like, ‘How are these girls getting this?’ CC: The DJ game isn’t how it used to be. We have a friend who has been DJing for a really long time and plays records and makes mixtapes and he’s told us, ‘You guys have made me want to be a worse DJ.’ We go in with our fucking laptops and get jobs. HVN: It’s so much more about song selection these days. No one wants to go into a club and hear some “wicka-wicka” for an hour. CC: I think that’s a good thing. It’s not the end of DJing or anything.
How do you pick playlists for the radio show? HVN: That’s a good question. We don’t. We literally go in so hung over because we DJed the night before and we try to find music and think of things to say. CC: We really should plan it. We play all the weird music. HVN: We can play anything. It’s our radio show.
Who listens to your show? HVN: We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from it online. People do listen to East Village Radio. Mark Ronson has a show too. We get e-mails that are like, ‘Loved your show today,’ and I’m can’t believe someone’s listening to us. It’s so bizarre. CC: We literally thought it was just going to be our parents and our two friends who don’t live in New York. HVN: Every week we get in there and we’re like, ‘Fuck we need to plan next week.’ The guy before us has sheets typed out and he’s always reading. CC: I don’t mind that we don’t do that. Its cooler to have it that way. East Village Radio obviously hired us for a reason. We’re fucked up. That’s literally 100% why they hired us, because we fight all the time. HVN: People are also stoked that it’s interactive. You can instant message the station while we’re there.
What defines “It” girls? HVN: I think being nice is really important. We don’t have very many enemies. I mean, we have a few. CC: Everyone is a fucking “It” girl. Literally any girl who is doing anything. Why can’t we just be DJs? They just have to throw a name on it. It’s certainly like a phenomenon. Girls are killing it right now. Girl bands, and girl DJs, and girl designers. It’s not fucking 1923 it’s not that big of a deal that girls are killing it. People are really still stoked on girls and I think that is where the term comes from. Look as us. We’re blacking out every night for free and we’re “It” girls.
How do you get the word out about parties? CC: We used to do mass invites on Facebook. They were like really on-point and funny. Then we got mad lazy and we’d fight about who would have to do the invite. It was technically my job, because Harley does fucking everything. HVN: At one point, it was just us and our friends Lit. All of the sudden, we don’t know anyone at our parties or where they’re coming from.
What are your broader goals for DJing? HVN: Milk it as much as possible. CC: We like to be realistic. This isn’t a real life; being sent to Paris to DJ and getting free shit. We’re aware of what’s going on. And we’ve seen friends of ours be the biggest thing and then suddenly, no one gives a fuck. We travel as much as we can. HVN: We really wanted a radio show and thought East Village radio was awesome. CC: And we thought there was literally no way that they would hire us. HVN: And we made it happen. Now is a good time to start with anything we want to do. And when our time is up, which might be soon, it will be nice to get out of nightlife. ‘Milk it’ is our philosophy. We don’t want to DJ forever. We don’t want to be 40 and still doing it. Girls have a really short life in this business. There are cuter, younger girls, and we’ll just have to step aside and give it to them. CC: They’re probably way cooler than us too.
The next Harley and Cassie? HVN: I don’t know, Miley Cyrus?
Any reality shows in the future? HVN: We’ve been offered so many. It’s funny how desperate people are for anything. We’ll basically do things that brings us into the musical world, but if it comes into our personal lives, then we say no. CC: We do so many naughty things that we don’t want out there. Our parents already hate us. Why would we do reality TV? HVN: Anything you do in the future is uncool after you’ve been on a reality show. CC: Our long term goals are to be real people and not drinking until 5am. [Reality TV] isn’t conducive to that behavior.
Where do you hang out and shop? HVN: The Smile. The Jane. CC: Arrow Bar. HVN: That’s like our second home besides Lit. CC: Also, the Natural History Museum. I drag Harley on adventures a lot. I dragged her to the Bronx Zoo and Coney Island recently. HVN: People think it’s weird that they see us during the day and realize that we actually hang out all the time. Someone once caught us walking down the street holding hands, and we’ll never recover. CC: We shop at No. 6, Opening Ceremony, Screaming Mimi’s, Tom Binns Megastore. HVN: Freemans. Lil’ Frankies. We keep it random.