Sofar Sounds calls itself a “global community” of artists and music lovers. With an impressive network of 242 cities, Sofar organizes secret, live music shows in interesting, klein aber fein locations featuring up-and-coming, eclectic talent.
Most of Sofar Berlin’s shows are hosted in people’s apartments and are difficult to get into. But if you are lucky enough to snag a spot, a Sofar concert is an unforgettable, intimate way to experience music, an alternative in a city where clubs and techno reign supreme, and at the top of Bpigs’ list of recommendations for this coming summer. Sofar's next show is May 19.
We had the chance to sit down with the head of Sofar's Berlin branch, David Müller-Markus, to learn more.
When did Sofar start?
David: It was started in London in 2009. Sofar Berlin started three years ago. I’ve been with Sofar for one and a half years.
How did you end up getting involved?
David: Hm, I don’t remember (laughs). I remember it being right after the Bon Iver concert in Berlin--
What’s up with Bon Iver? Where has he been?
David: I don’t know, but I hope he’s recording...
He’s probably in a forest somewhere meditating…
David: (laughs) I read about Sofar Sounds Berlin online. I applied a couple times to be a guest. Eventually, I was allowed in, went to a show, and asked if they needed extra help.
Who is part of the Sofar team?
David: Mostly students. People studying music or audio-visuals. I think I am the only one with a full-time job. We’re all volunteers; we do this on the side.
What do you think about the live-music scene in Berlin?
David: It’s great. It attracts a lot of bands and artists. It's diverse and international.
Do you feel like there’s been any challenges in Berlin, because people know it to be club-driven or techno-driven?
David: No. Berlin is big enough that there are so many sounds here. But actually a challenge maybe in Berlin is that people are so used to having live music and culture for free that they might not understand why they want to donate to something they are enjoying.
Sofar is running on donations?
David: Yeah, completely.
So what makes Sofar special compared to other concerts?
David: The location, absolutely. You feel like you’re in someone’s home, someone’s living room. Sometimes you literally are. You can talk to the host, the guests, the band. That’s not possible in a club.
Sofar is known for having secret line-ups, along with locations. What’s the reason behind that?
David: I think not knowing the line-up of a show makes you appreciate the music even more when you’re there. If you have a line-up announced beforehand then sometimes people think they know what’s going to happen, or they think, yeah this is not my style. But when it’s secret, people arrive more openly, and then the intimate setting usually convinces them.
And the concerts are deliberately capped?
David: Yeah, we stick with small spaces. If the space is too big, then the feeling is lost somehow...then all of a sudden, people stop interacting with each other in the same way.
How do you find the artists that play at your shows?
David: Usually artists reach out to SoFar and ask if they can play. They either contact the headquarters in London or contact us directly.
What do you look for in an artist? Do you get any serious amateurs?
David: Yeah, of course, all the time. We are looking for people that are up-and-coming. So you gotta find someone that’s good but also not signed. Sometimes we find someone that’s really just starting...but there’s something about his passion and how much he’s into it, and so we say hey, let’s give him a chance. And if the guests are having a good time, then really, nothing else matters; that’s the most important thing.
Any kinds of music you want Sofar to cover more?
David: It’s weird because we’re in Berlin but most of the bands that play for Sofar are from outside of Germany. So I’d like to feature more German artists and bands. I love German hip hop. That’s not easy to have at a Sofar concert because we do acoustic shows so we would have to figure out the sound. Maybe we gotta find someone that has a great voice and good flow. Yeah, I would love to introduce German hip hop to SoFar.
Are there any famous artists who started with Sofar?
David: Bastille, actually. He played for Sofar when he wasn’t signed, I think for Sofar Manchester. It would be great for something like that to happen in Berlin.
What’s on the horizon for Sofar Berlin?
David: Better bands, better locations. Our next show is May 19. We’ll reveal the location to the guests only on the day of the show.
And lastly, for our readers, what are your favorite music venues in Berlin?
David: Here’s a shortlist: Nussbreite. Prachtwerk. Kallasch.
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