Taking place from 12 – 23 March across six venues in Leeds, Sounds Like THIS is an eclectic, diverse festival, offering cutting edge music, sound art and visual installations by leading artists and emerging talent working across a broad range of disciplines. We catch up with the festival to discuss this year’s edition.
A: Sounds Like THIS is a festival that offers “ground-breaking music, sound art and visual installations by leading artists and emerging talent.” Where did the idea originate and when was it founded?
SLT: Sounds Like THIS launched in 2017, and was borne out of the International Festival Innovation Music Production and composition conference (IFIMPaC), which took place at Leeds College of Music. Whilst the conference was a success, we felt that we needed to refresh our approach to keep pace with our audience and make the content more accessible to a wider audience. We felt that moving forwards into Sounds Like THIS festival was more relevant to the music industry and to the general public by taking it out of a solely academic sphere.
In terms of choosing a name, the festival is all about what’s exciting, what’s new and what’s fresh in the realm of music and visual art. It’s a festival which is bold in its programming – showcasing artists who are confidently changing the artistic world we inhabit, and we feel that the name really reflects that!
A: How do you think the festival has helped students within Leeds College of Music to learn more about the industry, as well as becoming more engaged with the community?
SLT: Our students are involved right across the festival and are an intrinsic part of both the programming and the ethos of giving a platform to new and relevant voices in the industry.
In particular, The Paradise Club is an opera scenes project with a solely student cast under professional direction; Electric Saturday consists of forward-thinking electronic and acousmatic work and will see our students featured on the bill alongside professional artists from all over the world; and the festival finale Gala Concert – our annual celebration of LCoM’s distinctive approach to the training of performers, composers and producers. We can’t think of a better way to end the festival than with a showcase of our students’ work – they are the leading artists of the future of music.
A: How do you think the festival has developed?
SLT: Since our inaugural outing last year, we have expanded from three to six independent venues across Leeds and significantly increased the number of artists we have programmed, thanks to additional funding from Arts Council England. We have broadened the scope of our programming and we’re so excited to have the opportunity to invite an increased number of international artists too.
We have worked really hard to put together a programme which is diverse and appealing to a broad audience, whilst still showcasing innovation in music and visual art – we really hope to share these unique events with as many people as possible!
A: What is your mission statement?
SLT: Sounds Like THIS is an eclectic, diverse and boundary-pushing festival. We present cutting edge music, sound art and visual installations by leading artists and emerging talent working across a broad range of disciplines. The festival gives a voice to new and exciting music which is traditionally under-represented in the mainstream, presenting work which is intriguing, engaging and challenging. Featured works are predominantly new or created in last five years. Through the Sounds Human conference, we will celebrate and evaluate the personal and social benefits of musical engagement, and explore how this forms a vital part of what it means to be human. Sounds Like THIS looks to the future of new music and visual art, and celebrates artists who take risks and push boundaries.
A: This year you will expand to six venues across Leeds – how do you think this will affect the wider reach of the festival, and how has this allowed you to include more artists?
SLT: We’re aiming to reach out further this year, taking the festival out into the city’s arts and music venues where the people of Leeds love to go. All the venues are completely different, with diverse programmes and varied audiences – which has really helped us to broaden the scope of the programming for 2018.
Each venue has its own unique charm too – Hyde Park Picture House is a beloved local independent cinema with a fantastic heritage and bold approach to programming – and is the perfect setting for Vicki Bennett’s audio-visual collage, working under the name People Like Us. The Royal Armouries is a prestigious museum and we hope that presenting Stone Flowers in this space will not only prove to be a perfect pairing, but also help us reach a new audience that we haven’t necessarily had the opportunity to engage with before. Mabgate’s Studio 24 provides an edgy, industrial space to offer a contextual contrast to The Paradise Club, and also brings opera out of its traditional setting and in front of a new audience. We’re thrilled to be working with the Brudenell Social Club and Belgrave Music Hall; two of the city’s finest music venues, and we will, of course, be making full use of our own first rate concert hall, The Venue which will see a range of performances across the festival from Shiva Feshareki, AGF and Decibel Ensemble as well as a host of aousmatic and experimental electronic artists on Electric Saturday.
A: How have you selected the artists for 2018?
SLT: Quality and innovation is at the forefront of our programming – we scoured the cultural landscape for artists who were producing work that is interesting, different and challenging, whilst also paying close attention to what are audiences interested in.
The festival is not genre-specific and you don’t necessarily tend to see this mix of artists brought together in one event, but what unites these artists are the fact that they are producing work that is new and exciting. We’ve tried to reflect the boundary-pushing approach of modern artists who don’t conform to genre by making the festival about celebrating what is genuinely ground-breaking and new.
A: What are the highlights for this year?
SLT: We’re thrilled to present 25 Years of People Like Us on Tuesday 20th March – an audiovisual show from Vicki Bennett, who specialises in the manipulation and reworking of original sources from both the experimental and popular worlds of music, film and radio, which will be spectacular in the setting of Hyde Park Picture House.
We have a very exciting double-bill on Friday 16th March at Brudenell Social Club, which will see Gazelle Twin present their acclaimed audiovisual live show, Kingdom Come, which explores tribalism, social conditioning and fascism in the contemporary suburban and consumer landscape. The performance features two vocalists on treadmills silhouetted against a series of mesmerising short films.
Alongside Gazelle Twin on the bill are Ambrose Field & Sammy Chien, who present new commission Quelque chose pour le weekend. The duo will take the audience on a journey through industrial wasteland, noisy factories and sprawling urban environments accompanied by thrusting gritty guitars, driving rhythms and high, floating vocal lines. Both shows promise to look and sound…. And we can’t wait to see them brought together on one bill!
We open the festival with experimental classical composer and turntablist Shiva Feshareki, who will present work created collaboratively during artists residency for the impressive Both Sides Now – an initiative to inspire, support and showcase female artists form the North. The performance takes place on Monday 12th March at The Venue at Leeds College of Music.
Stone Flowers is a refugee torture survivor music collective who have fled war, conflict and violence from countries including Iran, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Syria, Afghanistan, Cameroon and the DR Congo. Performing at the Royal Armouries on Tuesday 13th March, this is music of real humanity – music of hope. It is an extraordinary experience, and they open our ears to special things.
Stairwell 81 is an installation by Scott Hewitt, Oscar Abela and Teresa Winter, which explores subtle gamification methods with a complex sonic space. Making use of the multistory stairwell setting at The Venue, Leeds College of Music, Stairwell 81 presents fixed game controllers at various stairwell levels through which users may articulate controls to vary the sonic materials. Manipulations are mediated through unexplained relationships between controllers, gamification processes and compositional intent. These relationships decline from initially rewarding, to then more complex and finally almost ignorant acknowledgement of the human interaction.
Sounds like THIS runs 12-23 March. For more information click here.
1. Decibel Ensemble. Courtesy of Sounds like THIS.