Full Moon Festival Founders MATTE Projects Talk Two-Day Expansion, Controlled Growth, And Return To Governor's Island

MATTE founders Max Pollack and Brett Kincaid
Luis Ruiz

MATTE founders Max Pollack and Brett Kincaid.

This year, New York's Full Moon Festival makes its return to Governor's Island for its sixth spin (Aug. 20-21), produced by creative production agency MATTE Projects. Inspired by Thailand's all-night full moon beach parties, the event has earned its reputation as an artistically-inspired and highly curated festival, featuring buzzy rising talent alongside well known indie acts, all paired with ultra hip local culinary offerings. And in past years, attendees have included music, fashion, and art tastemakers like Alexander Wang, Dev Hynes, Mr. Brainwash, and Charli XCX.

But this year, for the first time, the fest expands to two days, with 10,000 attendees expected and its most stacked line-up yet, featuring acts including Santigold, Pusha TSBTRKT, Allah-Las, Escort, Kali Uchis, and more! 

Billboard caught up with festival founders -- MATTE Projects' Brett Kincaid, Max Pollack, and Matt Rowan -- about this years' expansion, the return to Governor's Island, and how they've been able to grow the event while retaining its curated reputation.

Full Moon Fest has earned a reputation as a curated and artistically-inspired festival. Looking back at year one, how do you think it’s evolved?

Max Pollack: Full Moon year one was really just a party. It was meant for this downtown NY world looking for something outside the normal club or city venue to capture a sort of escapist aspiration while still being in New York City. I think these tenets are still really core to Full Moon Fest, but it’s evolved as we have evolved as people and as a company. It’s music taste is more sophisticated and diverse. It’s aesthetic and production is more refined while still feeling natural, light, and fun.

Brett Kincaid: The festival has evolved along with our tastes. Everything we do has become a direct reflection of MATTE as a brand and I think that all of the things that we’re involved with have cultural relevance to the growth and identity of the festival.

With the festival boom in recent years, most event companies seem to choose maximizing growth over quality – how have you balanced that desire with also wanting to control and guard its image?

MP: Quality has always been more important than growth. There’s something really unique about a small festival; as we grow we want to give the experience of a large event in terms of production and line up, but in a location that’s not overwhelming and has a cohesive vibe. Full Moon is a long term property. We have and want to continue to create a stronger brand identity, more than just names on the bill. We don’t have a need to oversaturate and sell out the brand.

In the crowded festival market, what niche do you think Full Moon fills?

MP: Some big festivals promote themselves as New York’s festival for the world. We position ourselves as an international festival for New York and we spend a lot of energy and time crafting that aesthetic. Our crowd is typically a little older, a little more within New York’s music, art, fashion, cultural world. I hope it feels authentic to the reality of our city. 

MR: There’s a nice threshold to sit below the larger festivals.  When you start going into 25,000 + people it becomes much harder to curate the individual experience to the level we do.

BK: I think that some heads are turning with the increased line up, but I wouldn’t put us in the same conversation as Panorama or Gov Ball. We’re a boutique hotel to the giant resort of music festivals.

How and why did you expand to two days this year?

MP: We always saw Full Moon’s ultimate destiny as a two-day festival spanning day and night. Two days would allow us to do more interesting production, art installations, and hospitality, as well as a more diverse lineup. By going back to Governors Island, a space we’ve been before, we actually lowered the capacity per day, but grew it by expanding to the second day. It was a good time to experiment, but not take such a drastic leap. 

You took inspiration from Thailand’s all-night full moon parties – why did they inspire you initially and what about that spirit has continued to stimulate the event as its developed?

MP: I think we’ve always looked to the energy of the full moon - people are down to just get a little weirder on a full moon. The bacchanalia and freedom of the Thai Full Moon parties was inspiring, as was the idea of doing a festival on a beach. To do that in New York City, and to infuse it with its aesthetic, fashion, and curation… how cool would that be. That party spirit is really important to Full Moon still and that vibe is contagious. At this point, we’re much more inspired by international parties and festivals in general - from Calvi on the Rocks to the beach parties in Bahia and the Mediterranean.

What was your goal for the level of talent this year and were there challenges in attracting and booking such big names?

MP: This year we wanted to push it further, we only had one stage and throughout the day we tried to curate a flow that moved between genres but still move people’s feet, building them up to all out jumping, bumping wildness. Artists and their agents and managers are starting to see the value we’ve been pitching for the last five.

You always aim for NY’s hippest culinary trends and offerings – what can we expect this year?

MP: Clean Shaved Ice has been a great partner, offering a chic twist on the classic New York shaved iced cart. Mile End has always been our guys. Pokito is one of my favorite new spots in Williamsburg and given that Iced Matcha is the hit of Summer ‘16 - it’s great to have the originators, our friends at Matcha Bar.

Looking to the future, where do you see Full Moon Fest going and any plans to branch off for a West Coast or European spin of the event?

BK: There have been countless conversations about where we’re going to take the brand. Ultimately what’s most important is that we’re at our strongest here in New York. What makes Full Moon special is the people, to be successful in other markets we’d would want to align with partners who have similar cultural sensibilities to what we have here in New York City.

MP: Internationally would be of interest -- also something more seamlessly located in nature.

Catch this year's Full Moon Fest on August 20-21, on Governor's Island in New York City.