In the pantheon of great rock and roll bands, only a handful of acts compare to Fleetwood Mac in terms of influence and sheer staying power. It’s been fifty years this month since Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood, John Mcvie and John Mayall came together to form the first lineup (of many) of what would become one of the most influential groups in the history of modern recorded music.
Through multiple personnel changes, interpersonal drama, and off-and-on-again relationships, the band have crafted some of the most compelling and iconic rock and pop songs in history. Arguably, Fleetwood Mac’s “classic” lineup, which replaced Green and Mayall with Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, and Christine McVie, led to their artistic apex. 1977’s Rumours – an album which arguably propelled the band to global superstardom, and which still remains at the root of their popularity, even 40 years since its release.
Lisa Jeliffe and Alex Oxley are producers, DJs and artists in their own right, who share a mutual love for Fleetwood Mac, and decided to pay homage to the band in the best way they could think of: by hosting parties where fellow fans could revel in the music of, and inspired by, their favorite British-American rockers.
“Audiences weren’t used to hearing Fleetwood Mac in a club setting – and they were quite elated and excited,” Jeliffe says, her Australian-English accent bubbling with enthusiasm. “It’s always fun as a DJ to play something a little bit risky.”
The duo recognized they were onto something after the success of that first party in London. And they decided to take “Fleetmac Wood” global. In the past five years, they’ve played sets and curated experiences to audiences from the UK, to Colombia, to Burning Man, and this week to DC’s own U Street Music Hall. And while it’s been quite a journey, both parties are pretty happy with the way it has all worked out. As Oxley puts it:
“It came together in a fluid, easy way. And it was really just like that.”
Brightest Young Things: I know you guys have been doing the Fleetmac Wood nights for about five years. And this year is the 40th anniversary of Rumours – but this is bigger than that. Where does your shared love for Fleetwood Mac and their deep catalog come from? What was your impetus behind putting together this night, that you call “a love letter to the band”?
Lisa Jeliffe: Well, we both DJ’d a lot and played different music. But it was always an obsession – I was throwing more and more Fleetwood Mac in my sets and it was often getting a big reaction from people. And they have so many tracks that cover so many genres!
There’s also three – well, more than three – singers, if you consider the whole family tree of Fleetwood Mac. So in the back of my mind, I always had this crazy idea that I’d do a whole night of Fleetwood Mac. Finally, the timing was right. We’ve been DJing together for years and had done a lot of parties, and I think Alex was eventually tired of hearing me talking about it. [Laughs] He was like “alright, alright, let’s do it!”
Alex Oxley: It’s quite an interesting story. As Lisa said, we’ve both done this a long time and have organized parties by ourselves and together. We hosted a party in London and the guy who put that on – a wonderful chap – asked us if we’d consider doing something else, so I said, why don’t we try that Fleetwood Mac thing you’ve been going on about? Let’s do it. It’ll be a laugh.
Jeliffe: It was a remix project for quite a few years, because we didn’t want to play just the greatest hits. We wanted to have a creative spin on it. We were getting into remixing and a lot of our friends were playing in that space as well. It suddenly became very clear that we should make the party a deadline for all of our producer friends to submit their takes. The atmosphere was so great, and it felt like a secret society – a basement full of happy people. It went six hours long, and then people went home and listened to more Fleetwood Mac, apparently. [Laughs] So we thought to ourselves “Oh. Maybe we’ll do this again!” [Laughs] It’s more of a special event; a feast on Fleetwood Mac. But now we’re doing it almost every weekend, all around the UK, Canada, Australia. We have a great time with the music, and the more you listen and dig into the back catalog, the more you find that Fleetwood Mac is this incredible source of creativity.
BYT: I saw you posted on your Facebook page about going to see Buckingham McVie in Phoenix last week. Did you make it to the show? How was it?
Jeliffe: Yeah, it was great! That was a fun little road trip. They did a lot of songs you don’t normally get to hear at a Fleetwood Mac gig. Lindsey Buckingham did this amazing version of “Trouble” – really slowed down, and sexy. [Laughs] I don’t know if you’ve ever heard his version of “Never Going Back Again” but he slows it down and really draws it out. [Talking to Alex Oxley, laughing] It’s quite sexual, isn’t it?
Oxley: Oh man. [Laughs]
Jeliffe: There’s a lot of energy inside that man! [Laughs]
BYT: He’s obviously such an incredible guitarist. It’s really fascinating to see how the different members of this band have such remarkable staying power throughout the decades.
Jeliffe: And Christine McVie is in great form. She’s seventy-four and she’s rocking up on stage doing a great job. It’s very inspiring to see people continue doing what they love to do and doing it very well. I think rock and roll used to be this thing for young people, but it’s great that you’ve got all these musicians like the Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac who are challenging what we think old age is.
BYT: I read this article last week that for the first time in the history of modern recorded music, rap and EDM have officially surpassed rock and roll in terms of sales. What are your thoughts on that? Where have all the good rock and roll bands gone nowadays?
Jeliffe: Oh, that’s interesting. Especially when you listen to radio, you don’t hear a lot of rock and roll on commercial stations. It is that sort of pop, EDM, hip hop genre dominating.
I think good music is good music though, regardless of genres. People are always going to want to hear something new – music is a constant cycle. It feels like we’re almost ready to get back into a punk aesthetic. Taste is a movable thing, it’s fluid. I guess our night is definitely an example of cross-pollination of rock and roll meeting dance music, and we come from the dance music background. We try not to stick to a particular genre – it’s dance music that we like, more kind of disco, balearic, house-techno – but we also love good rock and roll, pop music, blues. I think it’s kind of a culmination of influences.
Oxley: There’s the thing – kind of what Lisa is saying is that music is very much like food and fashion. You wouldn’t want to eat the same food every day, and you wouldn’t necessarily wear the same underpants every day. [Laughs] You generally wouldn’t do that! But there’s good music in all genres – you’ve just gotta find it. It’s really exciting when you see a DJ and they really are playing a lot of different stuff. You create a feeling when you play like that, and it’s genre-less. Someone who takes you on a real journey when you seem playing.
BYT: What is your favorite Fleetwood Mac song, and why?
Jeliffe: Well, what’s yours?
BYT: Personally, it’s “Need Your Love So Bad” by Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac.
Jeliffe: True fan!
Oxley: We like to play different stuff, and that one does feature pretty often when the vibe is right. That’s a great choice.
BYT: Yeah, I love the guitar tone and the roiling emotion in that song.
Jeliffe: Peter Green was amazing, and he’s a very interesting character. The fact that he named the band after the rhythm section and not himself is pretty neat, and such a great story of how the band started. It’s actually going to be the 50th anniversary of Fleetwood Mac this August – that’s something to write about.
Oh, we haven’t answered your question yet, have we? [Laughs] My favorite would be “Silver Springs“, actually. That’s another interesting story – Rumours had too many great songs, and it wouldn’t fit on the vinyl cut, so it got sidelined to the B-side to “Go Your Own Way”. And it has a real slow build to it, but then it gets really intense. That’s definitely my favorite.
Oxley: I’d say that “Gypsy” is easily mine. Everything about it – the way it pushes the arrangement, weaving the different elements for the vocals and instrumentation; it’s just perfect. I love playing it for our shows. We have this amazing edit that our friend’s Twin Son did – that just goes off. We used to play the original as well.
Jeliffe: [Interjects] It’s the perfect pop song, isn’t it?
BYT: Have either of you ever had a chance to meet or interact with any of the band members?
Jeliffe: I was lucky in that I got to interview Mick Fleetwood a few years ago for TimeOut London, and that was a real pleasure. But apart from that, no we haven’t – though we very much welcome them to come to one of our shows! [Laughs] I think it would be fabulous for them to see how many young people are going nuts to their music. Some people bring their parents along, which is great. It’s all types of people who come to our show, with different backgrounds, but it’s all a great vibe. People are happy to be there and they’re there for the music, which is always wonderful to see.