Inspiring, brilliant and innovative — Sofar Sounds

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!

Gintarė Žitkevičiūtė
About author:
Gintarė Žitkevičiūtė
Gintare Zitkeviciute is Art Pit’s thinker and doer. In her work practise, she values lean approach, creativity and quick decisions. She doesn't like working with random people and thinks that a team is a heart of successful project. For that reason, she carefully picks people she works with on everyday basis. She is mostly interested in innovatio... Read further >
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  • Rob Frische
    June 13, 2012
    8:03 am

    Rocky is a good friend of mine and he def­in­itely has the vis­ion and ambi­tion to turn this into a world wide phe­nomenon, I can’t wait to see how it grows from here!