Once, I was spending boring and quite cold evening in London. I was lazily checking out dozens of blank websites. Even though all of them stated that it is creative, it would not convince me… As always, my friend Aleksander luckily succeeded to find something really fascinating on the Web first! Well, today it is always about filtering, so either you learn to do it yourself, or you know the right person. I was lucky enough to find pasted Sofar Sounds link on my screen. I got into it from the first second I read about initiative. Secret gigs, live music in the living room, independent, young bands — that is what I needed! It made my happy even more when I remembered not so long ago attended Red Hot Chilli Peppers concert (crush of my teenage years). It actually was sad to watch your favourite band from far away in this huge O2 Arena, being guarded by this tired security — no dance, do not leave your place, please, do not walk, stand still! Like an army, really.. So, bringing music back to people? Yes, please!
I was curious, so I registered for a first gig. It is not so easy to get a place, as the number of quests is limited and there are a lot of people willing to get in. Yes, it is secret, but the word of mouth has done its bit. While registering you get on a waiting list and if you are accepted (usually organizers ask you some questions before), one or two days in advance you will get a secret address! Tempting, right? But wait, enough of my talk, lets listen for Rafe Offer, who started all this secret affair and agreed to give me an interview. Thank you Rafe!
It was a pleasure to attend a secret gig organized by Sofar in London, firstly it is really interesting how this, I even would call a movement of bringing people together to enjoy music started? What was your very beginning, who was behind all of this?
I was at a London gig and talking to a musician named Dave Alexander about the state of new music today. It really bothered us that people were talking at the gig. And we wanted to do what we could to help new musicians succeed – especially online – where it’s so easy to get lost. We both thought hey why don’t we do this somewhere we can invite our friends and where everyone would respect the music? That turned out to be Dave’s house, where he played some new songs to 8 friends. Everyone was quiet – it was magic.
Another question would be how did you spread this idea? Was it the word of mouth, did you get the attention from the press, or maybe the secrecy of events, the idea that not everyone can attend?
For a few months all word of mouth. Then Reuters did a story on what we were doing and it took off more. Once that happened, we had many more people want to come than we could fit. This kept it special – the size of the living room keeping it intimate – and us only able to fit in around 80 people.
As the secret gig always happens in a home environment and you always have the host, how do you actually find people who would want to host the event? How many places you have visited so far in London?
People who come love it so much they ask us to host a future one. We have been to 45 different London homes!
I would like to ask what the ambitions of this social initiative are, do you see yourself in the future as a label or maybe social enterprise, or is it more an inspirational social movement, which main aim is to stay nonprofit?
We are not sure. It’s growing so quickly – it’s now hard to keep up! It has been a hobby to date – now we are spending some much time on it that we have to look for ways to earn money – to keep it growing and some day pay ourselves a bit. We are starting to work out the details now.
Sofar organizes events in different cities around the world, how did you expand? What if somebody would like to start this concept in his city, can he contact you and collaborate?
I have a friend in Paris who heard what we were doing and loved the idea – so I went over there and with her, we put on a show. Soon after, Dave was in New York city and brought his guitar. When we found out musician Marcus Foster was also there – they found a living room and played it (along with 2 other musicians). Both experiences had the same magic as the London events. So we knew it was a concept that could go anywhere.
If someone wants to bring Sofar to their city, just contact me and we’ll take it from there. The main thing is we need people who know their local music scene well – ideally they would be friends with some talented musicians.
How would you describe the genre of music you present? Do you have criteria for certain style of music? What about more experimental, sound art – could such musicians apply to play in your gig?
We are open to all music! We have had indie to folk to hip-hop to electronic looping to spoken word, even opera. The living room tends to push us towards things that word acoustically but we are open to anything – especially if it’s fresh and edgy in some way. And yes, ANY musician can apply.
What do you think about the tradition of salon, which already started in 17th century? Do you relate your events to this tradition; could we even call you contemporary music salon?
We know that our idea is not a new one. In fact, the Salon was an inspiration for us inviting a lot of creative people to be in the audience. We want great music – but just as important are having fun, warm and fascinating people there too. So the conversations in between the music and the new friends made are life affirming.
I wish Rafe and Sofar Sounds all the best luck! It is great initiative, I loved the feeling being there, I believe it will grow even more!