Thuli Weerasena Pol Boy

So, tell us a little about yourself

My name’s Thuli – founder of Pol Boy. Pol Boy is a pop-up restaurant that uses my British-Sri Lankan upbringing as inspiration. I put on a monthly supper club at Brixton Pound Cafe so that I can share my food memories growing up and the flavours of Sri Lanka with Londoners.

What’s your go-to album to get the day started?

At the moment it’s 21 Savage’s latest album – I Am > I Was. In the first line of his verse on the opening track, A Lot, 21 Savage casually blurts out ‘How much money you got? (A lot).’ You think it’s just going to be another braggadocios rap song but in the lines that follow he uses the same one line flow to admit a whole host of issues going on in his life – ‘How many problems you got? (A lot), How many times you got shot? (A lot), How many times did you cheat? (A lot), How many times did you lie? (A lot), How many times did she leave? (A lot).’

Getting crushed on the tube in the morning rush-hour has the potential to put a dampener on the whole day so listening to 21 talk candidly about his problems helps me to get some perspective in the morning. It’s not all doom and gloom though. A lot of the tracks, like Out for the Night, will have you dancing, so the album is guaranteed to wake you up and get you ready for the day ahead.

What genres / bands don’t you mess with?

I’m not too fussed about genre in music. I’ll listen to anything, from jazz, grime, disco, house, techno, reggae, psychedelic rock. I don’t really listen to heavy metal but I like certain songs by Kiss, Guns ‘N’ Roses, and AC/DC. I think if you focus too much on genre then you’ll miss out on a whole host of amazing music. Although having said that, you probably won’t see me at any psytrance or gabba nights anytime soon.

Any guilty musical pleasures?

I’m partial to a bit of Robbie Williams. I remember when I was about five or six, you could get a Robbie Williams CD in exchange for 25 ring-pulls from Pepsi cans. I took me ages to collect enough ring-pulls but when I did, my dad took me to HMV to collect the CD. It was the first CD that I ever owned and it was my prized possession at the time, so Robbie will always have a place in my heart. Angels and Feel are certified bangers anyway so I don’t even feel that guilty admitting it.

Have you ever dabbled in any bands / music projects?

I had a short-lived career as grime DJ when I was a student in Leeds under the moniker Seriuz Black. Everyone knew someone who was DJ, so I had a go at learning to mix. I started playing grime sets at my mate’s house parties and eventually got to play at Beaverworks – a big warehouse venue. I also got booked to play at show that had Chip on the line-up but he never turned up and the night flopped. When I moved out of Leeds, I didn’t have my own decks and there wasn’t the same opportunity to play at house parties in London so I haven’t DJ’d in a while.

What song amps you up for a long dinner service?

Party Here by Octavian. I had never heard a track like it when it first came out. The beat has an almost house-like sound and bubbles along with Octavian’s gruff rap vocals over the top and then suddenly it explodes into life in the chorus. I saw him perform live and his set had so much energy. When this song dropped, it was chaos in the best way possible. Everyone in the crowd was singing along and bouncing about. Get ready for a long dinner service often involves a lot of tedious tasks like peeling and dicing a massive bag of onions, so you need a song like Party Here to sing along to and smash out the prep.

What would we find on the current Pol Boy playlist?

I made the current Pol Boy playlist for my pop up – Serendip Supper Club. The playlist reflects my own music taste so it’s a bit of a mish-mash of sounds. You’ll find songs from Nightmares On Wax, Chaos In The CBD, HNNY, Ezra Collective, Steve Lacy, Khruangbin, Mac De Marco, Kali Uchis, Erykah Badu, Cosmo Pyke, Peggy Gou, Bakar, Jamiroquai, Kaytranda, Sade, Ross From Friends, Tom Misch, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Hiatus Kayote, and Fredwave to name a few.

What’s the most memorable show you’ve ever attended?

It would probably have to be when I saw A$AP Rocky at the 02 Academy in my hometown of Birmingham in 2012. He was touring Europe for the first time after his first mixtape Live. Love. ASAP blew up online. I was 17 at the time and I was so hyped to see him perform. He wasn’t that well known in the UK at the time so it was quite an intimate performance. All the gigs I’d been to before were definitely tame in comparison with A$AP Rocky’s so it was a complete eye-opener for me as to how amazing a live performance could be. Now that he’s become one of the biggest rap artists in the world, it makes the experience even more special as you wouldn’t be able to see him play such a small venue these days.

Growing up in a Sri Lankan household, was music a prominent part of family life?

My family isn’t massively musical but there was always music on in the house. I used to watch Top of the Pops, Popworld and MTV with my sister on TV so that’s where I got my early music taste from. My mum used to drive me to and from primary school and she would always have Heart FM on in the car. In the afternoons, it was the Club Classics show and I have good memories of listening to the likes of Sister Sledge and Earth, Wind & Fire with her. She also had a gold ABBA Greatest Hits CD in the car that was saved for long trips on the motorway. My dad is quite the music-head but has the weirdest taste. He loves Bob Marley but is also really into Katie Melua. His biggest love is Sri Lankan music from the 70’s and 80’s. When he discovered that MP3s were a thing, he downloaded about 5000 Sri Lankan songs from that era onto his iPod. Whenever we went to a family friend’s house, he would always ask if he could play his tunes. I guess I get my obsession with music from him but I’m not really into old-school Sri Lankan music though. I have bad memories of drunk uncles and my dad singing terribly to those tunes at parties.

Hypothetical question, you’re hosting a supper club – you can pick any musician to soundtrack the evening. Who is your top choice?

This is a tricky one but I would have to go with BADBADNOTGOOD. They’re not boxed in by genre and mix jazz, hip-hop, and electronic sounds in a really fresh way. You don’t want the music to be intrusive in a dining situation. At the same time you don’t want totally inoffensive elevator music either. For a dinner playlist you want to create a vibe that makes people not want to leave even after all the food is cleared off the table and BADBADNOTGOOD fit the bill perfectly. They’re amazing live too, check out their Tiny Desk Concert on NPR.

How do you think music has shaped your cooking style, and the Pol Boy story as a whole?

I think music has definitely shaped the Pol Boy story. Growing up, like a lot of immigrant kids, I discarded my heritage in order to fit in. I was quite disconnected from Sri Lankan culture when I was in my late teens. Around that time Afrobeats/Afrotrap began to blow up. Artists like J-Hus were using African sounds and dialects, where before it was only cool to be Caribbean, American or from London. Seeing them embrace their Africanness helped me to embrace my Sri Lankan heritage. I started to cook Sri Lankan food to get back in touch with my culture and that’s when Pol Boy began.

Serendip Supper Club by Pol Boy will be celebrating Sri Lankan New Year with a BYOB vegan Dinner at Brixton Pound Cafe on Saturday 13th April from 8:00pm onwards. Tickets available here.

About The Author

David Farrer

David Farrer

David is the founder of EAT HEAR and co-founder of food and drink communications agency Fourteen Ten. Previous to launching a food and drink agency David spent a decade working in music publicity and had the idea for EAT HEAR in the notion that music and food, arguably the most important things in life, should be explored together.

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