Girls Don’t Sync | The All Female DJ Collective Breaking Boundaries

For International Women’s Day 2023 and this years theme of #EmbraceEquity which looks to all to challenge gender stereotypes, call out discrimination and draw attention to bias, Noctis sits down Girls Don’t Sync, an award-winning ensemble of female DJs looking to make a difference. Gender equality within the electronic music scene has had a spotlight shone on it within the past few years, but there’s still a long way to go. While female acts equate for around a third of electronic music acts, a 2022 report from Jaguar Foundation found that just 5% of dance songs in the charts were made exclusively by female and non-binary artists, while less than 1% of dance or electronic tracks played on radio were made exclusively by female and non-binary artists. Statistics from 2022 also highlighted that only “13% of UK festival headliners are female” and although that number is on the rise with the help of initiatives such as KeyChange, summer 2023 line ups still only account for only around 25-30%, with many being booked at smaller stages or quieter slots.

Making waves over the past few years, Girls Don’t Sync, a group consisting of Matty Chiabi, Sophia Violet, Hannah Lynch and Gaia aka G33 launched in 2021 are challenging stereotypes and breaking boundaries for female DJs, further looking to inspire future generations. The response to their sets is a clear indicator for more female artists within the scene and momentous moments such as their set at Glastonbury through to winning the Best Breakthrough DJ at the DJ Mag Awards 2022. With a push for continuing the conversation of inclusivity in the industry, it was only right we sat down with the group to to discuss their journey, their proudest moments and what they feel needs to be done within the scene to support and promote equality.

Thanks for speaking with us for International Women’s Day, so what does this day mean to you? 

Being a group of 4 women who regularly experience gender stereotypes within our every day work, we understand the importance of addressing gender inequality. We see International Women’s Day as an opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the achievements and empowerment of women from all over the world.

What were the biggest barriers you faced when first getting booked and doing shows?

Sometimes we can feel the need to work a lot harder and to a higher standard than male DJs because there’s a higher expectation. When our Mixmag live stream was released in December 2021 – which we would all agree was an event that basically changed our lives and brought so many amazing opportunities our way – however, as we were under a high level of exposure, we were faced with some horrible negative comments towards us. There were negative sexist comments like “they only get booked because they’re pretty girls, it’s only cos of the way they look” and “what happened to real DJs, this is just a bunch of girls jumping around for fun”.

What one piece of advice would you tell your younger selves?

The biggest advice we would give our younger selves would be that no dream is too big – if you have passion and love for what you do there is nothing you cannot accomplish in this life.

“We can feel the need to work a lot harder and to a higher standard than male DJs because there’s a higher expectation”

What have been your proudest moments with Girls Don’t Sync to date?

There are so many moments that make us want to cry but we can mention a few big ones! We wrapped up last year with a big win – we won DJ Mag Best Of British Breakthrough DJ award which is definitely one of the biggest achievements ever for us – we were so emotional! It just made us feel so grateful to be a part of such a special community surrounded by so much love and support. 

We also did a set at Twickenham stadium with an audience of like 80,000 people. When we were walking around, we saw groups of young kids, around 8-10 years old and we thought they were shouting and cheering for the rugby players but when we came closer we realised they were screaming and waving and they were actually shouting “DJ’s”. It was super emotional and nice to see that younger kids are praising and recognising the talent of female DJs.

We would say Glastonbury festival has to be up there with our biggest played set yet – we managed to do 3 huge sets throughout the festival and it’s funny when we look back because minutes before we were about to get on that huge stage we were all shaking with nerves and mixed emotions. There were thousands of people in the crowd and we were all just looking at each other like “is this real?” 

Definitely a massive pinch me moment for GDS!

The theme for IWD this year is #EmbraceEquity, looking for all to challenge gender stereotypes, call out discrimination and draw attention to bias, and seek out inclusion. What more do you think needs to be done on a wider scale to support collectives such as your own?

Luckily for us, we are all able to share knowledge between us from working as individual DJs as well as being part of a group. We all come from different backgrounds which we would all agree contributes towards making our DJ sets so powerful, whether that’s taking musical influences from within our families or from the cultural environments in which we have grown up in. 

Although saying this, we do think industry support is still extremely valid and the likes of discussion panels for support should be more accessible. We need spaces where creatives can meet, discuss music, share knowledge , get advice on funding and more importantly address equality issues that are still happening in the industry today.

“We want to encourage women to pursue their dreams in what feels like a male dominated industry”.

I’d love to hear more about your tutoring and mentoring DJ scheme – what does this look like in practice and what are your hopes for the future?

In terms of tutoring and mentoring we have been aware that there are very few places where females can be taught how to DJ and have access to equipment so  because of this we have created our own safe spaces where we can share our knowledge and skills through teaching. We always say that we aim to ‘create an army of female DJs’, and we want to encourage women to pursue their dreams in what feels like a male dominated industry.

In terms of encouraging others, what more do you think needs to be done to encourage more young female-identifying DJs into the industry?

We feel that promoters, events and clubs play a huge part in this – line ups need to be more gender balanced and there needs to be more woman headliners. Sometimes we feel that we can be put on a line-up to balance out gender just because we’re 4 women. For example, we could be booked on a stage at a festival along with 10 other acts, 9 of which are male DJs. There are so many amazingly talented women in the DJ world and we find this unacceptable and we have declined offers in the past because of this.

What would you like to say Girls Don’t Sync have achieved by the end of 2023?

So we have managed to kick things off this year by having a completely sold out UK tour!! This goes to show how strong and supportive our fan base is – to sell out 7 shows in 7 different cities is just a dream to us and we’re obviously beyond grateful! A big goal for us by the end of 2023 is to expand our fan base even more and to be able to announce GDS tour dates more internationally – we would love to do a sold out European tour!

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Words: Nathan Tuft
Photography: Az Captures