Sounds Crazy Collective: Diversifying line-ups since 2022
“The electronic scene needs more diversity.”
That’s what friends Gaby and Sophie thought, and that’s how their Sounds Crazy Collective was born. Both active in the Southampton music scene, they noticed that a lot of line-ups were very male heavy. Deciding to take matters into their own hands, they have now established their own hub in the South and are now focussing on building a collective and a platform for new and upcoming DJs.
There’s more: Next to throwing inclusive events showcasing drum & bass, techno, garage, you name it… Gaby and Sophie are also working on making the DJ scene more accessible for new talent. “In Southampton there’s nowhere to start and learn how to DJ unless you know someone who’s already doing it. And starting out, it can also be really expensive,” says Sophie. That’s why they are looking to offer DJ lessons starting from the end of this year.
We had a chat with Gaby and Sophie, and talked about the reason behind Sounds Crazy, their future plans, and their own personal journey into the music scene.
You started Sounds Crazy Collective in April 2022 for new up and coming DJs and female talent, with the goal to diversify the scene a bit more. Why do you feel this is necessary?
Sophie: From a personal point of view, when I first started DJing the scene was very male dominated, and I felt very out of place. Pretty much all the line-ups where we are based, in Southampton, weren’t at all equal. I see line-ups still that are male heavy, mainly the same people on the same line-ups, and it’s a bit boring? Some people literally book the same people every time, and I guess that’s why we started it. We need more women and variety on line-ups, so we decided to switch things up.
Gaby: For me one of the biggest things I noticed when I moved to Southampton was how many female DJs I was meeting but who weren’t on consistent lineups in our area and like Sophie said a lot of the line ups we did see, and still are seeing, are the same people over and over again. It seems necessary to be a part of making a change within the music scene we have.
Sophie: From the beginning we never really wanted to make our events women only though, because we felt we would feel even more separated then. We wanted to make all line-ups as equal as possible. We don’t just get women on to make it all equal either, we get DJs who are passionate and want to pursue a career.
Gaby: Sophie being a female DJ and me being a female musician, if we are deciding to run events then we wanted to make space for something different, to make things a bit more fair and equal. There is so much undiscovered talent around that simply just doesn’t get the opportunity to showcase so we wanted to create a space for that.
Was it only in Southampton you felt this was necessary?
Sophie: In the beginning of Sounds Crazy we were very focussed on our own small area, but we noticed quickly that it’s a bigger issue, it’s everywhere. We thought it was best to start small first, but we’re probably going to try to expand in the future. For now we’re trying to make it known in Southampton. We want to build a hub and make it known in the South, get more people on, and build a community. With a lot of events, especially in my area, I didn’t feel like there was a sense of community.
Gaby: It’s definitely something that needs to change around the UK, and the entire scene really, but starting small and in our own area seemed the best way to begin. If we try to do too much at once then I worry we might not achieve what we want to achieve. Creating that community and following first is so important so that we have something behind us as we grow. The community we have built up in Southampton in the last year has been quite beautiful to see.
What do you think you’ve already been able to change in this short time?
Sophie: It’s slow progression. We do feel like events are becoming more inclusive, and promoters are starting to pay more attention and understanding that they can’t just put the same people on all the line-ups, but it’s not all the time yet, it’s very rare.
Gaby: There’s very few groups in Southampton at the moment who I think actually take the time to think whether they are being as inclusive as they could be in the same way Sounds Crazy does. However slowly we are starting to see a bit more variety around us and more groups reaching out to other groups to try and get that new talent on a line up.
So you are changing something with Sounds Crazy.
Gaby: Oh absolutely we are. Even in the last year we went from having a collection of DJs we all knew of to now having an actual community built up from this. It’s almost like we all kind of came together to form a community who back each other up along the way. Some of the female DJs we’ve worked with in the very beginning have gone on to host their own events too. I think a lot of people needed it in Southampton. It makes life so much better knowing you’ve got a strong community around you and no one is on their own.
Sophie: We always listen to feedback, and how we can make the events better, safer, all of that. A lot of people say that what we are doing is good, they want more of it. We helped a lot of DJs who are up and coming, and that’s what we want to do. We want to give opportunities to up and coming people.
In what other ways do you help these new DJs?
Sophie: We’ve had this in the works for a while, but we want to try and start doing workshops in the area. Especially in Southampton there’s nowhere to start and learn how to DJ unless you know someone who’s already doing it. And starting out, it can also be really expensive. When I first started out I spent hundreds upon hundreds, I spent a lot on the equipment alone. Someone who’s just starting doesn’t always want to spend that money, and as well, not everyone can spend that money. That’s what me and Gabby are trying to work towards. We also want to keep doing events, and maybe expanding our area, like Portsmouth and Bournemouth.
Gaby: Yeah, it can be so expensive to learn. Without Sophie and her decks I never would’ve gotten the chance to even try learning to mix, so we want to be able to give other people the chance to have a go too. It’s also just a safe space to learn. It took me two years to actually pick up the courage to start learning. When I had had the chance before, the environment was either really really male dominated which intimidated me a bit, or I just didn’t want to ‘embarrass’ myself in front of all these DJs. I think the thing with me and Sophie is we take the time to get to know everyone who comes along to our events so people feel comfortable around us. I think this would create a healthy learning environment.
Sophie: Another thing we did to give opportunities to new DJs was organising a DJ competition. We weren’t originally going to do it, but it worked out quite well in the end. We had quite a few people sending in their mix and we really listened to each one. Sometimes it’s really hard to pick one winner, so we usually keep the other DJs in mind and put them on other line-ups later on if they did really well.
Gaby: Like I mentioned before there is so so much undiscovered talent out there that sometimes never gets the chance to be seen. I find new music and DJs almost every day or everywhere I go. A lot of them say they haven’t had the chance to even play a set live. We want to be able to give new up and coming talent sets at our events so they get the chance to play live. There’s a huge difference between playing in your room and playing live and it’s important to have the chance to do both.
You talked about doing events outside Southampton, organising DJ workshops… All sounds amazing! What else is next for Sounds Crazy?
Sophie: We actually had a festival take-over with Sounds Crazy on the 29th of July at Branch Out! It’s the first time they organised it, and it’s a community festival. Loads of different brands and businesses all forming together to bring this one day festival. It’s all about community and being together. When they first approached us, I couldn’t believe it, because especially in Southampton I feel like we lost that bit of community.
Sophie: I’m speaking drum & bass now, but over the years it’s gone down a little bit, with a few peaks, but the scene is not as big as it used to be. We had so much, and covid made a lot of places close down, a lot of changes happened. Southampton has lost that spark, and we want to bring it back. The brand Sounds Crazy isn’t all drum & bass, but I’m a D&B DJ, so obviously I’m going to bring a bit of that genre to my sets and the collective. I feel like drum & bass is on the rise again, but there are still some challenges, and things that could be better. That’s what we are trying to do, we want to bring something to the community.
Where does your passion for diversity come from?
Sophie: For the longest time there just hasn’t been diversity. Women in music, there’s not enough, and we wanted to change that. It’s a difficult one, we both felt that the music scene in our area needed to change. We thought ‘Why don’t we try it?’, and I’m one of those people who doesn’t want to regret not trying something, so we thought we’d give it a go, and see where we’d end up. It’s been the best thing ever for us. We’re passionate about music, and we need some more girls in here.
Gaby: I wholeheartedly agree.
What was the moment where you both were like ‘Let’s do it’?
Sophie: We did a trial event last year and it went pretty well, we could make this a thing. A lot of people turned up and they wanted it, so we could actually make it happen. The more events we are doing, the more people want it.
Gaby: We had a groupchat initially where me and Sophie just kept bouncing ideas off each other! It was awesome because we came together and just thought “let’s actually do it”. With both of us having connections we were able to actually bring an event together way earlier than we had imagined. It was so amazing when we hosted that first event, seeing people coming together for the music and enjoying their time with us.
That must’ve been such a good feeling!
Sophie: It was so weird, it was cool but it was weird. We thought “people actually turned up for this”! It was nice to put in perspective that people wanted it, so why stop now. We love putting up the events. It can be stressful because sometimes it doesn’t go our way, but we pull through and people have the best time. That’s what we want. People are sick of normal clubbing and we are switching it up.
Gaby: It was quite a surreal moment that first event. When people started coming in we were so happy we’d made something happen.
Working on Sounds Crazy, how do you two complement each other?
Sophie: This was a thing I was really scared about, how we would work, because we’re very different. She is very organised and she plans everything out, meanwhile I’m there just winging it. We do a fair share together, I definitely would say I do more of the creative side, looking for the DJs, the set times, content… Gabby does a lot of admin side, the tickets, the venue hire, that kind of stuff. She could talk for England and she would get what we need, I adore her for that.
Gaby: We do have our differences but I think that’s what makes us work so well, we compliment each other’s styles. We each have our strong characteristics and together we bring what the other person doesn’t have all the time. We’re both very creative people and that definitely helps as we always think outside of the box. I have some experience as an event manager previously so I probably think of things differently because I’ve been in a job role where I had to think of everything.
Remaining calm under pressure is definitely something that’s so important and I am able to do that. I also bring Sophie up to speed on something quickly should something not have gone to plan, which naturally does happen to us sometimes. It is no easy process running an event so you have to really come together. We’re not afraid to tell each other if we don’t like something.
Sophie: We are both there throughout the whole process and making sure things are going well, it’s a nice dynamic. Sometimes it can get stressful, but we power through it together always. I don’t know how, but we make it work. It’s pretty special, but I must say we get a lot of help from other people. I want to shout out everyone that helped us with all the events. We had friends helping us, promoters giving us advice. We really appreciate that.
It’s amazing to have that kind of trust in each other. One last question: how do you actually build up your events, how do you build that vibe?
Sophie: Every time we have an event, we have a debrief: what went well, what can we do better, etc. When thinking about the next event I can just say ‘I’ve been listening to a lot of garage/ house/ … lately’, and that’s kind of how the genre gets decided. We try to go with the flow, but for the next run of events we do want to plan more. You can only go so far with going with the flow, and we really want to get to the next level.
Gaby: It’s always looking back at what we did last time, what worked well, what maybe didn’t work so well and then building on that. Individually we travel around a lot, see venues, go to events, speak to people and then come back together to speak of what we’ve seen that we like and then in turn what we can bring to our own events. With two people doing the thinking you can get a lot more out of it than just doing everything on your own.
So you have a few events coming up?
Sophie: There are a few things in the works, but nothing specific yet. We’ll let you know!