- 21 Mar 22
In February, Belters Only became the first Irish dance act to top the Official Irish Singles Chart in almost 22 years, with their hit single ‘Make Me Feel Good’. We caught up with the Dublin collective’s Bissett and RobbieG to discuss ambitions, TikTok, and signing to Polydor.
Pre-pandemic, Belters Only was a name known primarily to Dublin’s house music heads, as a recurring club night in The Grand Social. Now, after two years of shuttered nightclubs and empty dancefloors, it’s suddenly being mentioned in the same breath as some of the biggest stars in international music – following major chart success for the collective behind the club night, who dramatically reinvented their approach over lockdown.
Featuring vocals from their friend Jazzy, their debut single, ‘Make Me Feel Good’, worked its way up to No.1 in Ireland – making Belters Only the first Irish dance act to top the Official Irish Singles Chart in over two decades. They’re also the first Irish act to claim the No.1 spot as a lead artist since Dermot Kennedy, with ‘Giants’, in December 2020.
‘Make Me Feel Good’ has made a serious splash on the other side of the Irish Sea, too – breaking into the Top 5 there, and clocking up impressive airplay on some of the UK’s biggest radio stations. In many respects, Belters Only’s success is indicative of a thriving dance music scene in Ireland, which has been threatening to bubble over onto the world stage for years now.
Sitting down over Zoom, the collective’s central DJ duo Bissett and RobbieG’s strong work ethic and passion is palpable – even if Robbie, clad in a dressing gown, admits he’s still slightly hungover from their show in Athlone the night before.
Although the pair are currently the face of the operation, there’s more to Belters Only – with support DJs like Byron Dunne, social media masterminds, and a manager all rounding off the collective. As Bissett explains, despite the major disruptions to live events, his vision for Belters Only continued to grow over lockdown.
“I wanted Belters Only to be more than a club night,” he says. “I wanted to branch it out – and produce music under it, or sign artists to it and make it into a music label. We’re trying to make a blueprint for people. Because I don’t see anybody doing what we’re doing right now for people around the area.”
“There’s a lot more to it, for us,” Robbie nods. “We’re trying to create a pathway, so young producers and young DJs can look at what we did, and how we did it, and learn from what we’ve done. We want to inspire kids, and show them that if you’re from Dublin, or from Ireland, you can still get up off your arse and do it. There’s no excuse there.”
Community is clearly at the heart of Belters Only’s mission – with the pair enlisting the vocals of fellow Dubliner Jazzy, a member of Crumlin hip-hop group Powerful Creative Minds, on ‘Make Me Feel Good’, as well as another upcoming track.
“I’ve known Jazzy for years, and I’ve known her boyfriend even longer,” Bissett remarks. “So it’s all nearly in-house. For the community where we’re from, it’s a big boost for people’s confidence to see that – especially for people that want to come up, and start singing or producing. It’s a win-win all round.”
Their approach has clearly served them well – with ‘Make Me Feel Good’ currently weighing in at almost 20 million streams on Spotify alone
“When we first made it, three years ago, we knew it was a big track,” says Bissett. “But we held off on putting it out, and we got sidetracked on other projects. We knew, eventually, that we’d come back around and release it at some point. I think we released it at the perfect time, because we were coming out of lockdown, and people were starting to get back out onto the dancefloor.”
Although part of the success certainly came down to the reopening of nightclubs, TikTok also had a major part to play. On New Year’s Eve, ‘Make Me Feel Good’ suddenly became the chosen soundtrack for girls posting ‘glow-up’ videos on the platform. TikTok, the pair reckon, has served as a powerful democratising force in the modern music industry.
“Before a couple of years ago, the media chose who to promote, and who not to promote,” Robbie reflects. “But now, TikTok is basically based on the people – if the people like it, it goes viral. It’s at the point where TikTok actually dictates the charts now, no matter what type of music it is.
“We’ve always been good at house music,” he continues. “But now we can post our music to a viral network, and it can be shared all over the world, without people knowing where we’re from. They’re just liking the song. And when they find out we’re Irish – it’s just a bonus! It’s a good time to be releasing music. We’re very happy to be a part of that era. So we’re just gonna grab it by the balls and keep going.”
The track was released by London-based label Polydor, who’ve also signed fellow Dublin DJ and producer Shane Codd. Although Robbie says the collective were excited to hear about the label’s interest in them, they also had their guards up initially.
“That’s just who we are,” he elaborates. “It’s because we know what we can achieve ourselves. We needed to make that message clear to any label that was coming in, and luckily Polydor have been so good to us. They’ve really shown that they support our vision, and they support what we want going forward.”
While the pressure to repeat the chart magic of their debut single would be lingering over many up-and-coming acts, Belters Only assure me they have it under control.
“Since November, we’ve made 40 songs,” Robbie grins. “And we believe any one of those songs could be put out next. Polydor have had to come to us, and be like, ‘Alright lads, youse need to slow down!’ We already have our next track lined up, with Jazzy again. We’re going to be as active as possible this year.”
Clearly, given the success of both Belters Only and Shane Codd, Polydor have tapped into what appears to be a golden age for dance music in Ireland.
“Ireland has such good taste in dance music, and in music in general,” Bissett nods. “I knew it was only a matter of time until labels would come knocking on the door. And I feel like Ireland has a lot more to show. There’s a lot of good young producers out there that are coming up, who are going to do amazing in the next couple of years. We’re just glad to be at the front of it all.”
“Me and Bissett have been in the scene for over 10 years,” Robbie adds. “Since the moment we started making house music, we believed there was something there. Back then, there weren’t many producers in Dublin or in Ireland making house music. So to see it now, and to see people getting recognised overseas, is so good.”
Before the success of Belters Only, Bissett had already released a string of solo singles through Polydor, over the course of 2021 – the first of which, ‘Every Single Time’, has clocked over 10 million Spotify streams.
“It was great for me to see that, and to see everyone else blowing up,” Robbie reflects. “And I knew, eventually, they were going to come to me – because I’ve worked hard for it. I’ve been here a long time, and it’s finally come to fruition, with Bissett beside me. It’s an unstoppable force now. The whole Irish scene is absolutely flying.”
Despite their success on the charts, however, Belters Only are also well aware of the struggles of living as a full-time artist in Dublin – particularly over the course of the pandemic.
“I only went self-employed full-time in music back in 2019,” Bissett notes. “Before that, I was working in pubs and cafés for years. It was good to go full-time but it was also bad, because we went straight into lockdown! But we got through it.”
“During the pandemic was the only time I’ve had to work,” Robbie reveals. “Other than that, I’ve worked as a DJ from the time that I was 16. But working for the first time last year humbled me a little bit – it kept my feet on the ground. From the time I was 16 and up, it was manic. Being in a normal job made me appreciate time, money, and how good it is to be able to have a career as a producer and a musician.
“For anybody that’s out there working, and having to do a side job to make music – just know that eventually, if you believe in it, you will get to where you want to go. There’s people that are in our collective now who are still working, but they know the end goal. Eventually, they’ll be able to walk out of those jobs that they don’t want to be in. That’s what believing in music can do. It is hard to do stuff in Ireland but if you really want to do it, you can. And that goes for anything.”
Right now, as they juggle their ever-growing platform as Belters Only with their own solo work, the pair reckon it’s “all about balance.”
“I’ve an eight-year-old kid, so I’ve to balance him, as well,” Bissett smiles.
“And I’m like an eight-year-old kid!” Robbie interjects.
“Yeah,” Bissett laughs. “So I’ve to look after him too!”
And as they prepare to follow up on the success of ‘Make Me Feel Good’ with their next single, the pair’s drive and ambition is stronger than ever – with some major milestones to tick off their bucket lists over the years ahead.
“We want to go to the BRITs, and we want to go to the Grammys,” Bissett grins. “So hopefully you’ll see us there!”
‘Make Me Feel Good’ is out now. Take a look a the video for the remix of the track, featuring Tion Wayne and Bru-C, below: