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Musical Intimacy

If you haven't heard of Sofar Sounds, we don't blame you. It's a community that keeps things on the downlow. Nevertheless, this community is a global one, and it holds gigs in cities like London, Cuba, and New Orleans, amongst many other cities. One of those cities is none other than Bangkok itself, and Guru was able to talk to one of its city leaders, Tom Hetrakul, about Sofar Sounds' recent relaunch.

For those who are not familiar with Sofar Sounds, can you explain the concept and how it works?

Sofar Sounds is basically a small, secret concert platform in a unique space where the audience lives in the moment and listens closely to the music. The venue isn't announced until a few days before the show, which can be any place ranging from someone's living room, local neighbourhood stores or fancy furniture showrooms. The audience will never know the band line up until the show starts.

Where did it originate from?

In London, back in 2009. Sofar Sounds began as a side hobby for founders Rafe Offer, Dave Alexander, and Rocky Start. They felt disheartened by recent concert experiences: people texting on phones, chatting, and not focusing on the music. They then decided to invite some musician friends over to their flat for a low-key intimate show. It turned out to be a gathering of like-minded music lovers. Then the community spread to other places.

What's the difference between Sofar Sounds gigs and regular shows?

The biggest difference is that the lineup and venue are kept secret to make sure that people don't just come based on what they've heard. You can expect to be among an audience that is there because of the love of music and ready to have fun. And even though they don't know the lineup beforehand, you will normally find that the audience stays for the entire show.

The atmosphere during the show will be very immersive. The audience gives full attention to the band with no one texting, talking or taking selfies. There are breaks, though, and it's also an interesting opportunity to get to know the audience who has the same interest as you.

Why is it so important to make the gigs intimate?

Because it establishes a true connection between the artist and the audience. The artist has a chance to be truly heard on what they want to communicate and by that, they will give a very personal reflection of the song that sometimes cannot be heard elsewhere. Audiences also have an opportunity to experience what's lacking in a big concert hall set-up. This unique experience is what keeps people coming back.

What kind of artists perform at the gigs? Are you looking for a specific genre?

There is no limitation on the genre. We are trying to make the show as diverse as we can to be able to support a large variety of artists.

With the relaunch of Sofar Sounds here in Bangkok, what's different this time around?

We are trying to push for more international artists playing at Bangkok's session, as well as having more local audiences and contributors.

What do you do as a "city leader" for Sofar Sounds?

Basically create a reliable team. Sofar Sounds is run by voluntary basis, so everybody has other priorities in life. Gathering a passionate, fully committed team together and setting up a system where they can express their love of music is the key.

What do you think of the indie music scene in Bangkok?

We DO have great bands here. Some of them even got recognition at international music festivals, but sadly not in their own country. What's not here is the ecosystem -- ranging from audience size, the number of indie music venues and government support. Aside from that, Bangkok has everything ready to be a great so-called music city.

How does Sofar Sounds plan to support Bangkok's indie music?

The platform is starting to be familiar to music influencers. I see Sofar Sounds as a great platform that will help small upcoming bands get discovered easier, especially since every band who performs will have their live video up on the global Sofar Sounds YouTube channel which has international subscribers. Therefore, the band can get recognised by international audiences as well.

How can people attend the upcoming gig on Aug 19? What can they expect?

The audience needs to register and get selected through www.sofarsounds.com/bangkok. And since it's the relaunch after almost 2 years, the energy will be crazy. We also plan that the gig will turn into a party at some level since the venue is perfect for it.

Go to sofarsounds.com or http://fb.com/sofarsoundsbkk for more details.

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