Energy can neither be created or destroyed, but an award from YouTube can be completely annihilated with an electric table saw, generating a sort of electricity in the room. When I arrived at Live From Earth’s new Berlin headquarters for a photoshoot with the crew, we weren’t sure how to get started. Thankfully after wrapping up a humble group dinner of pasta and salad, one of Live From Earth’s founders unearthed a framed award they received from YouTube – for achieving 100,000 subscribers on their channel – and subsequently decided to smash it to smithereens.
The chaotic good that ensued was not only a delight to witness, but also a microcosm of planet Live From Earth (LFE). The collective was founded by born and raised Berliners Elias, Max, and Lorenz in 2015 when they met at an anti-fascist demonstration in East Germany. They soon began producing music videos and welcoming local talent into their fold. From the start, LFE was inherently DIY and political with a keen interest in dismantling existing systems without taking things too seriously. Nowadays, the operation has expanded to a small team of new and old friends from the city, encompassing a 360 degree record label, events across Europe, a crew of in-demand DJs, a merch line that has achieved cult status, and more.
Although the crew has been forced to professionalize in the past year or so due to their success, the collective remains inherently interdisciplinary and a little bit anarchic; all over the place in a good way. “Because we’re all friends, it’s lots of people thinking about lots of things at the same time,” says Paulina aka DJ Gigola, who’s mainly in charge of PR and creative co-direction along with being one of LFE’s core DJs. Co-founder Max explains that things like “corporate identity” only really had to be considered once different brands started to approach them to collaborate. “From the beginning everything came out of the same pencil. All the design, the artwork, the letters, the videos, the sound and stuff. And we have to keep on focusing the same way,” he says.
“We want to grow organically and authentically,” emphasizes Paulina. For her and the rest of the collective, a big part of growth has come down to saying no. “It’s about choosing wisely who you work with and what projects you want to do. Don’t do every advertisement only because there’s money. It’s so hard, because I think mainly our content is seen as cool, and cool is so easily sold out. It’s so easy to sell cool content but it’s so hard to maintain doing it naturally. And that’s where we start thinking about what our brand stands for. But it was never the main focus,” she explains.
A major factor in Live From Earth’s growth is Yung Hurn, an Austrian rapper brought into the fold early on. With his tongue-in-cheek, multi-genre commentary on app-mediated social life and love, his endlessly meta and entertaining Instagram account, and strong aesthetics from his early 2000s personal style to his music videos, Yung Hurn has captured the attention of a plethora of music enthusiasts in German-speaking countries and beyond. With songs like “OK Cool” and “MHM”, he’s able to effectively capture the attention of anyone who’s ever used emoji, regardless of what language they speak. And personally, I have probably watched the nostalgia-laden video for “Diamant” from his Love Hotel EP dozens of times.
When I first met up with the collective early this year, they were deep in album mode, gearing up for Yung Hurn’s big 1220 album, organizing an extensive tour and exclusive bundle for the release. The deluxe album package, which quickly sold out, included a vinyl LP, a CD, an SD card version of the album, the previously-released Love Hotel EP on 12” and a special Yung Hurn magazine all in a 1220 transparent shopping bag. The collective also recently introduced a LFE Klub imprint in April 2018, with the first vinyl record called Kraft by MCR-T. In the golden age of streaming, where the amount of royalties artists earn on platforms like Spotify is downright pathetic, Live From Earth choose to place an importance on the physical format, whether it’s releasing music from their artists or their merch line.
The collective is equally as obsessed with creating music and art as they are with creating products. While continuing to play the game of social media and streaming, owing a lot of their success to their YouTube channel, they manage to put out covetable merch that is ethically made in Europe. Beginning with the screenprinted “Döner Kebab” and Arabic logo shirts in 2014, LFE decided to step up their game in 2016, designing the fit of garments and sourcing production every step of the way, using a factory in Portugal.
Since then, they’ve released an “FDP” collection, strengthened by the release of Yung Hurn’s “Fick Die Polizei” video, with delicately embroidered burning cop cars on velvet crewneck sweaters, crisp white polos, and dad caps, as well as T-shirts and sweaters with their classic “gang” logo written in Arabic, collaborating with other collectives like Sucuk & Bratwurst and Sports Club. They also dropped some trend-setting crystal-studded logo tees last year, harkening back to the excess of the early aughts before many other brands. With burning cop cars, a sold-out “Read More Books” pin, and committing to creating products made in fair conditions, Live From Earth choose to contribute to streetwear with overtly political statements that don’t detract from how cool and easy to wear their clothing is.
With their new office in Berlin’s Tempelhof-Schoeneberg, a recent casino-themed collection debuting in Frankfurt, a buzzed-about Paris Fashion Week gabber-themed party, and new sounds from the crew being generated as we speak, Live From Earth’s universe continues to expand. They helped introduce the drop culture embedded in streetwear for decades to the German market, while subtly educating their fans about consuming responsibly and dropping not-so-subtle hints that they aren’t a huge fan of cops. With an approach that successfully spans both pop and subculture, Live From Earth are a prime example of local creativity permeating the global consciousness.
If you’re in Berlin this week, check out Live From Earth’s new party series en-core making its debut this Saturday, May 12, featuring krampf from their Paris gabber party, and local legends DJ Gigola, DJ Creep, and Risiko.
For more of our features, read how Beach House became one of hip-hop’s favorite indie bands right here.
- Thumbnail Image Photographer: Maidje Meergans