Good local music can be hard to come across in Barcelona unless you know where to look. The city is a little bit fragmented as there’s a bigger draw to drunken discotheques, heavy metal bars or jazz and flamenco. “Indie rock” bands can be hard to find, because there aren’t too many of them and there are even fewer places to go see them play. There are only a handful of places where bands can get gigs or afford to get gigs, as most venues are reserved for acts passing through on an international tour. Luckily, there are a few independent labels that are helping to cultivate a music community, like Sones.
The record label and management company released records from a bunch of bands THE BOMBER JACKET has covered in previous issues, including Mujeres, Manos de Topo and Za!. As for international artists, they even released Dirty Beaches’ Badlands, an excellent dank and dusty, lo-fi, cinematic album from last year. They’ve also helped book and promote acts like Wavves, Bill Callahan, Dan Deacon and more. Sones even has a partnership with Minimúsica, which is an organization backed by the government that is dedicated to making the live music experience available for kids. A lot of Sones artists play these kinds of shows, tailoring their sets to a younger audience.
Listen to a Sones sampler below:
THE BOMBER JACKET spoke with Víctor Velasco, founder and manager of Sones, about the label, the artists, and the scene in Barcelona, as well as Spain in general.
TBJ: How and when did Sones get started?
Victor Velasco: I suppose that Sones started when I was sixteen, almost 14 years ago! I started doing a fanzine called Strange Ones at school. Then the fanzine became a record label and Sones is just a contraction of “Strange” and “Ones.” But being serious, Sones as a company has been running since 2007, when me and two more people started working here as a full-time job.
Do you have a mission statement?
In fact, inspiration is our way of doing things and we really trust our noses. If something smells good, it could work for us. Talking about A&R policy, we try to sign bands that don’t sound like the one next door. Personality is our favorite artistic behaviour.
Is anyone working for the company also in a band?
Yes, Alfons Serra plays drums in Mishima, that is a fantastic band that sings in Catalan. We have three releases of Mishima in our catalogue, and Alfons is our head of production.
Are there any Sones releases that you’d like to highlight right now?
I would like to recommend Mujeres’ Soft Gems that we’ve just released this past spring. It’s all about sweating and dancing while singing and jumping. Their live shows are so hot and they have done their best work on this record. [Read TBJ’s interview with Mujeres here.]
Dirty Beaches stands out as what I think is the only non-Spanish band on the label, right? How did releasing that record come about?
We discovered Alex [Zhang Hungtai] in Austin’s SXSW in 2011 and had a crush on him. That’s why we decided to put out Badlands in Spain, as the album was not released here yet.
Any other plans for branching out with international artists?
We are not focused in licensing deals from foreign artists with our label, but things like that one could happen again in the future.
What sorts of things do you do with Minimúsica?
Minimúsica is about making the music and artists we like available to the children. There are several young parents that are looking for nice shows and places to go with their kids, but overall, our goal is to show them that you don’t need to study classical music or practice hours and hours to have a band. You could rehearse in your bedroom with your classmates after school and start a band that way.
To accomplish this, we have live shows, release albums, and have just published a website where they can play while learning with games for composing stuff that are really simple for little young ones.
What are your thoughts on the music industry in Spain?
I think it’s the same as in other parts of the world. About 80% is music without interest, made for people that don’t care about anything but sports. And the other 20% is quite good. Not as healthy as in the U.K. or the U.S. for example, but not bad. Spanish artists (and the industry too) need to look more at where they come from, to do something real and special, instead of trying to be the “next big thing” year after year. Learning about how El Guincho did it would be very helpful for so many bands.
How does the “indie” music industry in other parts of the world (like the one in overdrive in the US) affect Spain or Sones?
Well, the reality of the U.S. and Spain is so different. We have a festival called Primavera Sound, and more than 100 amazing bands play there every year. More than 100 gigs in 3 days. That’s our idea about the U.S. scene.
What do you think about the state of the music industry and dying formats and all of that? Is it the same in Spain as it is in the US?
The music industry has always been so slow. That’s why in a digital era the companies that are not into music are the ones that have built the future: iTunes, Spotify, etc. But I think that these business models are not indeed good for labels and artists. I really believe that the future will be about ways of truly fan based support, such as firstclap.com.
What about the bands and music scene that’s happening in Barcelona right now?
Are you fans of any other Barcelona labels or companies?
What about venues?
What upcoming records from anywhere do you have your eye on?
Are there any upcoming albums from Sones that you are excited about releasing?
Lorena Álvarez is the most exciting artist I’ve found in years. She’s so talented and real that her debut is gonna be a classic very quick. Take a listen to it in September!