What is Sofar Sounds?
Sofar Sounds (http://www.sofarsounds.com/) a.k.a. Songs From a Room, takes place in more than 30 cities and bring music lovers together in an intimate living room setting where the most innovative new music is showcased. During the acts, nobody talks and everyone listens—creating the most welcoming and spellbinding atmosphere. The concept started in a living room in North London in March of 2009 and since then, this grassroots movement of alternative gigging has expanded to the point where there are now hosted gigs in London, NYC, LA, Austin, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Mumbai, Sydney, Melbourne, Mexico City, Buenos Aires and many more. In May 2013, Mashable also listed Sofar Sounds in the “Top 20 Hot London Startups to Watch.”
Sofar Sounds LA, which has produced 22 shows to date, has showcased a diversity of musical acts from all parts of the world. Featured genres can include anything from indie folk pop, acoustic rock to blues, rap, soul, jazz and more. Past buzz-worthy groups that have performed at the LA shows include: DeVotchKa, NO, BOY, Run River North (formerly Monsters Calling Home), Family of the Year, Hunter Hunted, Jamestown Revival, Allah-Las, Chasing Kings, Reeps One and Jenny O. Sofar Sounds also hosted showcases at SXSW in 2012 and 2013, and NXNE and CMJ in 2012.
The Sofar YouTube Channel (http://www.youtube.com/sofarsounds) further supports the continued growth of the organization by recapping shows from all satellite cities. Since the gigs are private and space is limited, YouTube is a great alternative for those who are still waiting to get invited to these secret events and experience them in person.
My Sofar LA Experience:
When I heard of Sofar Sounds and researched the organization a bit, I knew it was an organization that was after my own heart. Intimate shows featuring indie bands with built in, respectful audiences? Win. Put on by amazing volunteers who are just passionate about music and want to help bands and fans connect? Win again.
First off, to even attempt to get into a Sofar gig, you sign up via email. It’s a quick and painless process and when it comes to be your turn on the guest list, you get notification a couple of days before the event. You go not knowing who is playing, and you have no idea where it is until that initial email. This exemplifies that pure music lovers in search of the ultimate secret show are the people that attend Sofar gigs. The hosts are friendly and offer up amazing, intimate locales for the event. This definitely creates a community atmosphere as soon as you walk in the door. You are not made to feel isolated or like an outsider.
Recently, I attended a Sofar LA gig that took place in Sun Valley. When I showed up it happened to be that a band I was already a fan of, but had never seen live, was on the bill, Max and the Moon. I was ecstatic. Knowing that the Sofar folks have good taste, I couldn’t wait to experience the other three bands, The Bones of J.R. Jones, The Ceremonies, and Life with Irene. As everyone gathered around for the first act, you could feel the excitement build.
The Bones of J.R. Jones (J.R. Linaberry) from New York took the ‘stage’ and started playing his twangy, punchy guitar and belted out classic rootsy blues tunes in his muddy, unique voice. It was like he transported us to the south in the early 1900’s. Each song was a classic, solid tune. I was floored.
Next up were The Ceremonies out of Encino. The three brothers’ (Matthew Cook, Mark Cook and Michael Cook) harmonies could easily mesmerize the toughest music critic within seconds. The vocal range was absolutely astounding. You couldn’t stop listening to these guys even if you tried.
Then Irene Diaz took the spotlight. Armed with keys and a friend on ukulele, Irene commanded the room with her deep melodies, intense lyrics and a voice that I can only describe as the dark version of Colbie Caillat.
Finishing off the night was Max and The Moon out of Orange County. I had no idea what to expect out of an acoustic show with these guys, but it was phenomenal. They fired up the audience, had a solid rhythm section, and their vocal harmonies roused the crowd into truly feeling their sophisticated lyrics.
All in all Sofar Sounds offers up a multitude of unique experiences for anyone that is a part of it. As a fan, they offer you a place to be up close and personal with bands, where no one is yelling in your ear or being belligerent. As a band, they offer you up the most captive audience you will likely ever have and an insane amount of promotion via the encouragement that everyone Tweet, Instagram and Facebook photos from the event. They also broadcast the recap of the event to a worldwide audience via Youtube.
So if you are the ULTIMATE music fan, Sofar Sounds is an experience that you want to have. It will be unparalleled, and I can guarantee you will leave their event a fan of at least one new band, if not all four.
Get to know the Sofar LA Team:
So after attending a Sofar event, I was curious about the team and how they came to be involved in setting up these amazing experiences. Karla Hernandez, Jaime Bernberg and Casey Oliver were the main three who spearheaded the beginnings of the Sofar Sounds LA effort and over time, other volunteers joined. (Currently, Sofar has enough volunteers folks, if that changes, you will know). The whole Sofar LA team was extremely welcoming to me and they were kind enough to discuss their involvement with Sofar Sounds and their personal musical tastes.
The Sofar LA Team, from left to right: Marissa Latini, Karla Hernandez, Elli Papayanopoulos, Monina Castillo, Jaime Bernberg and Robin Westlund. Others who are not in the photo, but do volunteer are: Casey Oliver, Andrew Ros and Ryan Meyer.
What do the volunteers do?
Monina Castillo- Sofar volunteers review music submissions, do the booking, research, logistics, location scouting, marketing, PR, photography, graphic design, videography/editing of performances at gigs, audio engineering and guest list organization.
How did you get involved in Sofar LA?
Karla Hernandez- A friend of mine (Hyperpotamus) was a performer at the first SofarLA gig and invited me to attend. The funny thing is that he is actually from Spain (based in London), had played a few Sofar gigs in London and was coincedentally in LA the night of the first gig because he was taking part in an international loop station competition. The finals were in Anahiem. Anyway, one of the Sofar founders (Rocky Start) flew out for that first LA gig and he said that he was looking for LA-based volunteers to keep the movement going here. I had hosted a house show before when I lived in San Francisco so I thought it’d be fun to volunteer for Sofar.
Jaime Bernberg- I was searching YouTube for videos of one of my favorite musicians (Marcus Foster) and I stumbled upon a video of him performing at one of the early Sofar London gigs. I followed the link to the website, fell in love with the entire concept, and a couple of months later I wrote Rafe, one of our founders, to recommend a few bands and share my enthusiasm for the movement. He in turn wrote back and invited me to the very first Sofar Los Angeles gig. After that gig I was good and properly hooked. I spent the first year as just a regular attendee, all the while sending recommendations and offering to help out however I could, until Karla and Casey invited me to be part of the team at the start of our second year.
Marissa Latini- I went to my first Sofar Sounds LA in September 2012. The night was awesome and I knew it was something I had to get involved with- I emailed Karla the next morning with an offer to help in any way. We immediately clicked and by the next gig, I felt like I had really found a group working together towards the same end goal. It’s been an awesome ride and a really good way to flex some creative muscles in a way I don’t always get to at my day job.
Elli Papayanopoulos- My friend (Solo) played Sofar back in the fall 2011 and invited me to this “show in someone’s living room somewhere in LA”. This intrigued me but I had no idea how cool it would end up being. I immediately signed up for the next gig and continued to help more and more each month.
Monina Castillo- I heard about it through a friend, and then signed up for the newsletter. After getting invited and going to my first gig, I introduced myself to Karla, who happened to be looking for someone to do the Sofar LA press releases. Being in PR, I raised my hand. Ever since then I’ve been helping with the local media outreach efforts in LA. You can say I fell in love at first gig! LOL…As a volunteer, I also help to set up whatever is needed at the actual show, including greeting, putting up signage, and other miscellaneous stuff.
Robin Westlund- After trying a few times I was invited to my first gig. It was such a cool experience that I wanted to go every month and be involved in some way. Luckily just a couple days after the show I went to I saw on the SofarLA Facebook page they were looking for volunteers to help out so I jumped in.
Marissa Harrington- I reached out to SOFAR LA via email about volunteering. Karla and Jaime invited me to a show for a meet and greet. I ended up going solo which I rarely do LA (if you live here you know why) and was greeted with so much love. Everyone was excited to share in the unique experience, you could feel the positive energy. I fell in love immediately and from there I’ve been working on the poster designs.
Andrew Ros (Videographer/Editor)- I was taking an internship course at the University of Southern California. At the time, SoFar Sounds Los Angeles was looking for a videographer. I had no previous knowledge of SoFar Sounds, however, I was immediately captivated by what SoFar Sounds offered. After experiencing my first gig, I realized it was a culmination of people from all walks of life, coming together to experience music in a raw and intimate setting. Since then, I have shot and edited four shows in the Los Angeles area.
Suzy Flores (Sofar LA House Host)- A friend of mine from New York sent me a link to sign up. The list was full so I asked to be put on the waiting list and thankfully got in. At the first show I instantly recognized the genuineness of not only the organizers but the performers and guest. I immediately decided to offer to host a Sofar night at my house.
Doug Campbell (Sofar LA House Host) – I heard about Sofar through the ususual source: The Internet! All through the 80-90s I managed bands and helped produce over 500 shows, I thought this would be fun, and in a small way, enable me to give back to and industry I love so much.
What kind of music are you into? Or what bands would you like to see play a Sofar gig in the future?
Karla Hernandez- I like having an open mind with music and give everything a chance. Though top genres would be: indie rock, Latin alternative, electronic, folk, punk, hip hop. I feel so fortunate to already have had many of my favorite bands play Sofar, but others that are still on my wish list are: Local Natives, Superhumanoids, Aloe Blaac, Chelsea Wolfe, Nick Waterhouse, Miguel, Sea Wolf, The Growlers, Yellow Alex. And just in general, other bands outside of the indie rock genre that be a good representation of LA’s diverse music scene. We’ve had acts like Las Cafeteras and Ceci Bastida, who both sing in Spanish, in the past. So having artists of different cutural backgrounds would be wonderful.
Jaime Bernberg- I try to be open-minded and appreciate all kinds of music, but I lean heavily toward folk, indie rock, alternative, electronic, and classical. I especially love when these genres play mix and match and create dynamic new sounds. Also, a perk of working with Sofar is that we often get treated to wonderfully inspired, stripped down versions of otherwise complicated, equipment heavy songs. In the future I’d love to see these bands play Sofar: Daughter, Ben Howard, STRFKR, Lord Huron, Typhoon, Active Child, Laura Marling, etc.
Marissa Latini- As I’m sure everyone answered, there’s lots of different genres I’m into and still a long list of bands on my bucket list. One of the best parts of being a part of Sofar Sounds is that you are constantly reminded how much amazing talent exists in every pocket of the world. That said, favorites are always Jenny Lewis, Ryan Adams, Arctic Monkeys, Girls, Avett Brothers and lots and lots of embarrassing cheesy pop and show tunes. I’m changing this to the best local band experience I had- Elli and I went to see Hey Marseilles at the Satellite this year and the band convened on the stage in a strange, tense pow wow. Once they addressed the audience, it turned out their singer had come down with laryngitis and they had decided to move forward with an all instrumental set. The whole audience stuck it out to support them and it was actually one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had in a small venue. I felt like I could totally connect with the music in a new, different way.
Elli Papayanopoulos-I tend to lean towards indie rock, female vocals, and generally music from the pacific northwest. I’m open to lots of genres though and most recently have been listening to a lot of old blues like Big Bill Broonzy, Mississippi John Hurt, and Lonnie Johnson. I would love to see Chvrches, Sea Wolf, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Haim…. to name a few.
Monina Castillo- I love everything from jazz, pop, dance, electronic, rock, alternative, reggae, rap to all the other hyper-fused genres out in the scene. I’ve already seen so many great acts including BOY and NO and others. But – I’d love to see Rhye, MS MR and Haim, and see how they would re-interpret or deconstruct their songs to more stripped down versions.
Robin Westlund- I seem to gravitate towards different combinations of indie, rock, electro and punk. I especially love supporting the local music scene. Bands I would love to see in the living room setting would be St. Lucia, The Neighborhood, The 1975 or The Coup. Also would like to see a band with some horns.
Marissa Harrington- I’ll give any music a chance but my top favorites are indie, rock, acid jazz and old school hairbands. SOFAR introduced me to Las Cafeteras, whom I’m now obsessed with. Future bands I would love to see: MS MR, Bat for Lashes, Alpine, Foxygen, Holy Ghost! and Electric Valentine. Oh, and since this is a wish list I’ll toss in David Bowie.
Andrew Ros- My family is rooted in Jazz, so I’ve grown up with live performance. Having no siblings, I was greatly influenced by the music of my cousins. I would listen to them spinning records of De La Soul, ATCQ, and Jamiroquai. My parents listened to Brazilian Bossa Nova, Sergio Mendes, Jobim, and Gilberto. I think these genres have shifted me to a sound that is an amalgamation of soulful trip-hop jazz. I think it’s important to be open with all sorts of music and my experience with SoFar Sounds has allowed me to appreciate all new genres of music. My involvement with music is continuously evolving and I welcome the new sounds that are coming from artists in Los Angeles. I think it would be cool to do some experimental Flying Lotus or Low End Theory style acts from Eagle Rock.
Suzy Flores (Sofar LA House Host): I usually listen to some kind of live performance at least twice a week and .try not to get too hung up on genres. If there is a band that interests me, I’ll make the extra effort to see them live . Im into any type of music that inspires me stop, take a moment, smile and move. The movement can happen in my body, in my mind or in my heart. Its exciting to be part of a time and space that can never be repeated in quite the same way ever again. Sofar as a whole does that for me. As far as who I would like to see, Im lucky. In LA we have some of the worlds best performers from every single type of music come through to play. The vast quality and quantity is mind blowing. Honestly, I’ve seen all my idols perform and am now excited to find new musicians to embrace.
Doug Campbell (Sofar LA House Host) – What band would I love to see play Sofar? CRAKER!But I think an even better idea, would be to have one famous act perform secretly every now and then…
FIND SOFAR SOUNDS HERE:
Sofar Sounds L.A. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SofarSoundsLosAngeles
Sofar Sounds Global Site: http://sofarsounds.com
Sofar Sounds Global Twitter Site: https://twitter.com/Sofarsounds
Sofar Sounds Global Tumblr Site: http://sofarsounds.com/#!/stream
Got a house to offer up for a Sofar Gig? Although Sofar Sounds is not currently looking for any volunteers for Sofar LA, they are always accepting suggestions and offers from people who want to volunteer their house for one of their gigs. In fact, they are currently looking for someone who has a house in Echo Park for the next gig. See this link: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=670598046287147&set=a.480537175293236.124114.480497118630575&type=1&theater