Scene: Berlin’s music scene with Eilis Frawley

Scene: Berlin’s music scene with Eilis Frawley

Berlin has long been associated with musical experimentation – from Bowie to Iggy Pop, to the Techno scene the city’s music history is interwoven with its social one. 

Australian Eilis Frawley has been living in Berlin for the last few years and has made it her home while working on her solo material, as well as playing with bands Party Fears and I Drew Blank.

She’s found connection to the city’s scene through co-founding Bang On and in the first of our Scene guides gives us the low-down on the music scene, cultural hangouts and must-hear bands in Berlin. 

Eilis Frawley

Berlin music scene

Berlin has endless possibilities, the music landscape is broad where any genre goes.  

There are so many scenes, I feel like after three years I’m still surprised by the amounts of bands in Berlin. There’s a good DIY indie scene, punk scene, emo scene, loads of electro pop and a healthy heavier rock and shoegaze scene. The anti-folk and singer songwriter communities are also thriving. So many scenes!

Co-founding Bang On, I met and put on bands from various scenes, I guess when there’s a DIY element the possibility to see people/bands across various genres increases. Lots of bands don’t particularly fit into any of the scenes but play across various communities. 

One of the greatest things about Berlin is that so many bands pass through Berlin, so the chance to a) see a bunch of cool acts and b) support a lot of great acts is pretty high.

It seems very few people in Berlin are actually from Berlin, and this makes for a pretty diverse music scene, the unifying element is that we all live in Berlin. I define myself as a Berlin musician, but I’m also very much Australian.

My personal approach is to focus on the music and having a good time, it’s so easy to get caught up in ‘the industry’ and i’m not sure if it helps. People in Berlin will never buy your merch, it’s a fact. You’ll feel insecure and then you’ll go somewhere else and sell 15 tapes in one show, and everything will be ok again.

I think the days of crazy cheap rent and a pretty laid back lifestyle are gone, which I can imagine back in the day lead to a nice foundation for music makers. But still there are so many bands in this city, the over all music scene is so large. If you dig under the surface there are also a lot of opportunities, but getting started can be a daunting process. The DIY ethos is certainly very strong within bands and venues and people really show up for events which is forever a plus.

I think people (me included) still move here for the possibility of what it was, and despite the climate of the city having changed the music scene is still very healthy. There’s a freedom to living in Berlin I don’t feel elsewhere, people follow their passions and your job doesn’t define you. Although I’ll never get my head around the seemingly impossible bureaucracy and outside of music I find Berlin at times a tough place to live. 

Potsdammer Platz in Berlin by Sarah Lay

Berlin music venues

Loophole, Zukunft am Ostkreuz, internet Explorer, Schokoladen

Berlin rehearsal spaces and recording studios

Ohhh tough question, when I moved here I looked straight away for a rehearsal space on a monthly basis, most bands I know function in this way. But per hour the team at super-sessions and noisy rooms are nice and pretty affordable.

Likewise for recording studios I have only recorded in the studio of a friend, but there’s a bunch – particularly in Lichtenberg, this city seems to be full of producers/ sound engineers! 

Berlin independent record shops

I almost never go there because it’s all too tempting but there’s the forever popular ‘Bis Aufs Messer’ which keeps a lot of local artists in stock along with the occasional event.

Berlin record labels

Späti Palace ( <3 ), Mansions & Millions, Kitchen Leg records.

  • Späti Palace has released music by I Drew Blank, Girlie, Voodoo Beach, and Fun Fare among others
  • Mansions & Millions has released music by Better Person, Jack Chosef, and Magic Island among others
  • And Kitchen Leg Records has released music by Brabrabra, Hit Gib, Mumbles, and The Fingers among others. 

Berlin Wall in 2017 by Sarah Lay

Berlin bands to check out

Please please listen to all of these!

Berlin music festivals

Oh there are loads! Miss the Stars, Down by the River Festival, Synästhesie Festival, Torstrassen Festival, Bang On Fest, No Kiddin’, Puschen Fest, 48 Stunden Nuekolln, People Festival. 

Berlin music scene hero

Melissa Perales does a pretty outstanding job in supporting emerging artists across all genres. She works at Musicpool which offer workshops and career stepping stone services, she’s genuinely interested in what your doing and easy to talk to. She’s helped me on more than a few occasions!

Sebastian Hoffmann (from SmartDe and Touring Artists) also gets a sing out for knowing more than I could ever imagine possible when it comes to being a musician and bureaucracy, he’s a world of knowledge and can easily be seen at various events. 

Berlin hang-outs and outdoor spaces

We’re pretty spoilt for parks and outdoor spaces but Tempelhof Feld is probably the coolest outdoor space. A decommissioned airport turned into a park, they even have mini golf (it’s rad) and there’s rumours wild pigs run around in the night.

We’re also pretty spoilt with lakes on the edge of the city, Krumme Lanke, Schlachtensee for an easy commute but this year I hit up Lietzensee and oh my it was beautiful. 

My favourite hang-out spots are K-fetisch, Tennis, das kapital, Isla, and two planets. 

Eilis Frawley and Party Fears

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Images of Berlin by Sarah Lay.

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Sarah Lay

Sarah Lay is editor of Popoptica.
A long-standing music journalist she's also co-founder of independent record label Reckless Yes, an author of novels, and when not messing around with words and music, a digital strategist.
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