I moved into this big, old place, this massive apartment and my housemate said, 'We should do a concert in here...'
Indoors, rainy Sunday afternoon: A bartender places a bottle of imported liquor on his head as a photographer frames the shot. A mini army of personnel wearing T-shirts emblazoned CREW fan through cramped, crowded living room. Is this a book club meeting for alcoholics gone awry? A religious service for hipsters? Musicians are positioned near the back of the room. The tom-toms of a drum kit are tapped and guitars are tuned meticulously. Nearby last minute adjustments are made... turning knobs, examining cables. A tall thirty-something steps to the mic. A voice fills the room. 'Thank you!' Introductions! Show time! It's not a book club meeting but another episode of Sofar Sounds BKK.
- Diary of the Rock Philosopher
I'm sitting in the spacious living room of a condo on Sukhumvit Soi 11 with Sofar Sounds' director, Adam Sharpe; talent manager, Pakarn "Bai" Kiatpinyo and videographer, Pablo Ramirez. After missing the first four events, I finally made it to the fifth. I am no stranger to Pablo as we met at Stone Free 3 Music Fest 2014 and have collaborated on a number of projects including afternoons downing beer. Appearing on my radar when he produced Nest's 27 Club party a few years back, Adam has made a name for himself as a musician, consultant and event producer. I have only recently met Bai, but he laughs easily and handles Inquisition-level interrogation quite well. On a recent midweek national holiday, we had a leisurely time for shop talk with a few bottles of whiskey. They are keen, very keen.
It's a well-organized, ambitious group of volunteer professionals. Not too young and not too old, Sofar Sounds BKK operates with startup principles and technology. With an insatiable appetite to be the best, there is still time for fun - these are rock and roll workaholics that will discuss marketing strategy over pints of lager in the pub. It's now been over a year since the Bangkok branch of Sofar Sounds was hatched from the ashes of a charismatic Londoner's life. “I did not expect to do anything like this really," recalls Adam, "I had just broken up with my girlfriend and lost my job, I was in a shitty place really- broke, starting my own company and I moved into this big, old place, this massive apartment and my housemate said, 'We should do a concert in here – have you heard of Sofar Sounds? '
After watching some Sofar videos, Adam had found a new mission. Founded in 2009 by fellow music loving Londoners, Sofar Sounds unique events have spread quickly. “They just wanted to experience music in an intimate meaningful way. It's modeled on secret gigs, you don't know who's gonna , you don't know where it's gonna be. You sign up, you get an email, it tells you the address. Free live events in secret intimate locations - a music community around the world. You can find Sofar Sounds in Manila, Seoul, Santiago, New York, London – it's in about a 150 cities.”
The fact the bands are kept secret influences the audience Sofar attracts. It's an event for pure music lovers. “You need to be open-minded to discover new music," says Pablo. “Most of the time you will go there and you will not know any of the bands playing."
It's a true pleasure to have such a beautiful audience and have people who will actually listen to us.” - Gabriel Lynch
The all volunteer organization has quickly cultivated an atmosphere that is respectful to musicians, but the selection process is very mysterious. This is what every band wants to know. The responsibility falls on talent manager, Bai. While all the members can make suggestions, it is Bai's final decision. Still, he says modestly,” I do try to bring a lot of democracy” and speaks highly of the caliber of local bands performing at Sofar events. “We've been blessed with really good bands and we've got a load of bands that want to be with us now. Shout out to all the bands that wanna be with Sofar Sounds!”
I teased Bai about his position of influence over programming, but it's still a grassroot organization of volunteers serving a community. “I still think when bands really wanna play for us it's amazing," says Adam. "We're still very, very grateful when bands actually wanna play and the bands who contact us and reach out – they are at the forefront of our minds.”
Bai adds, “Surprisingly, the bands who approach us before we approach them are the bands that play the best shows. Like Jinta...."
The latest one definitely... the latest Sofar Sounds the week before the show we just had so many deaths from various causes in the music industry – that show really shined because it gave all the artists that just encountered all the losses a platform of release of what they want to give homage to their lost loved ones... the people that were directly connected to the bands that played our last Sofar Sounds were Tung of this shoegaze band Assajan Jakgawan and Singha of Sqweez Animal who were really close to Yellow Fang. It was like three days before [the Sunday Sofar show] that they passed away and we were trying to deal with our shit... and I think Sofar Sounds platform, the intimacy, the openness of the scene where people really respect and embrace the music really gave the artist the platform to remind them what they stand for you know – the losses do matter but they don't really matter when the music – to quote Led Zeppelin,”The song remains the same....”
At Spacetime. It was great because I had friends visiting from Germany... One of them I had actually created a video production company with... I hadn't seen him in three years so it was really cool to have him and the four of them - they just loved the show. And he's like 'Dude you guys are creating something unique.' For me it was great! The place was amazing, the bands just killed it and we had a great sunset behind the musicians so I fucking loved that afternoon.
I remember gad's performance in the first show and I was like My god! When gad – gad's just an amazing electronic band that play live – it was edgy, it was messy, but it was just -- and I remember being slightly nervous because my neighbors were starting to complain about the noise – but I just saw that everyone was in a trance. Because it was the first show ... you know man, this is a really special thing. But also none of us expected that to come from gad. When you see gad – they're like two unassuming quiet Thai guys... and then they just rocked up with this amazing electronic setup. They brought this giant table and filled it up with gadgets...just geekery if you will. And they just performed this extraordinary electronic set. And everyone was completely blown away. That I would say – the first show in my own living room – that was pretty memorable. Just the start.
For the production crew of Sofar Sounds, the heat is on. They've got a massive October birthday bash in production and they need to match and then exceed the enthusiasm generated from all of their previous shows. They each have fond memories stored away in a treasure chest and they need to live up to their own expectations. Time will tell.
If you are interested in attending the next Sofar Sounds event in Bangkok and seeing videos of past performances click here.