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CRACK

Live From Earth are expanding in space

01.02.21
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Since 1985, the Nike Dunk has been a symbol of teamwork and collaboration. Through sport, music and art, the trainers storied legacy is founded on dynamic crews who work without compromise. In 2021, this story is told through the multi-hyphenate Berlin collective Live From Earth.

Live From Earth are on the move.

Negotiating pandemic restrictions – and their substantial vinyl and clothing stocks – the Berlin-based collective have spent the past month gradually relocating to a larger studio. It’s a move that’s long overdue, and their entire family of producers, videographers, designers and artists have been involved. “It was nice for the DJs to finally have something to do again,” longtime crew member Paulina, (DJ Gigola) jokes, when we catch up with the crew over Zoom. “I haven’t felt that useful in the past 12 months.”

The new studio provides space for their creative department to work in the same room, plus a showroom for new clothing lines, more storage, a new meeting room; there’s even talk of a skate ramp. But this moment of growth is nothing new – it’s Live From Earth’s constant state. “We started in a shared office space in 2015, in 2016 we moved to a real office,” LFE CEO and co-founder Lorenz explains, “then we were like, ‘Let’s do screen printing’, but we needed space for that. With the ideas expanding the space has to expand too. We always manage to fill the room.”

Today, Live From Earth are synonymous with a very contemporary concept of creativity: multidisciplinary, adaptable, co-operative. A music and fashion label now well established in Berlin, and far beyond. But movement has always been in their nature. As Lorenz recounts, he met the collective’s other founders Max and Elias (who have both since moved on from LFE) at an antifascist demonstration in Dresden, East Germany, in 2010. They immediately connected over their shared desire to make things happen. “We were all active people, you know? We weren’t sitting on a couch, smoking weed, getting bored. We wanted to do something.” They went to more demonstrations together – this time with GoPro cameras – and began producing gonzo insider accounts of the political unrest. The videos were popular. Their YouTube channel boomed. “And then some of our friends asked, ‘Hey, do you want to do some music videos for us?’,” Lorenz explains.

This incidental drift towards music provided a defining moment for the crew: a collaboration with Austrian rapper Yung Hurn. Producing his videos (which regularly surpassed millions of views) and releasing his music, cemented LFE’s status as a tastemaking powerhouse within the German internet rap scene. This being Live From Earth, however, one scene was never going to be big enough.

During their hip-hop boom, they also were leaving their mark on Berlin’s clubs – throwing parties in informal, unusual locations that joined the dots between hip-hop and their passion for the harder sounds of techno and gabber. As Paulina (DJ Gigola), who joined the crew in 2016, recalls, the collective’s association with hip-hop became limiting. “We always threw electronic music parties,” she says, “then there came a point, as an electronic DJ, when everybody was like, ‘Hey, when are you gonna play cloud rap?’. They were associating the label with just hip-hop music, whereas we’ve always been very diverse.”

So came the next move. As the crew’s A&R man Jacob explains: “We decided to start a sub-label called Live From Earth Klub, to release more club focused music.” It’s here that the collective now expresses its musical identity – LFEK010 was their most recent vinyl release, and they have plans for at least two more in 2021. Despite being nominally in charge of the imprint, Jacob keen to brush off any suggestion of ownership. As he sees it, the label is another product of their intuitive, collective approach to development. “We all inspire each-other, everybody brings their skills into every project… All of these things sort of fall into place and grow organically.”

Paulina agrees, and adds that the growth of LFEK was a catalyst for growing the team. “When the label increased in popularity, we had to expand in people working with the label. You know, I’m a DJ! I don’t know how to produce a shirt!”

Enter Moritz, who three years ago was working for a trouser manufacturer in Bavaria. A chance meeting with Lorenz, Max and the crew saw him brought on as the crew’s fashion director: leveling LFE up from printing their own t-shirts to becoming an in-demand streetwear label. “It was very DIY, and very punk, but I actually totally fell in love with the people behind it. And I was welcomed with open arms.”

Moritz’s work best embodies their need for ever-expanding space as a natural byproduct of their dedication to independence. As he explains, the group are always looking for ways to manage every stage of the garment design and manufacturing process themselves. “We always have the urge to get behind stuff, to get to know how it really works, to do it better… If you’re working on a smaller, independent scale for projects, doing stuff yourself or eliminating parts of the process which are industrialised gives you more freedom.”

Working within this limitless freedom, it falls to Tim, the crew’s in-house graphic designer, to create a coherent visual identity from their ever-expanding output. Having started as an LFE fan, who then worked on event posters and illustrations for Yung Hurn releases, it’s a task he’s relished since he joined the crew full-time in 2019. “As the others said, it’s DIY. We do everything, beginning to end,” he adds.

As a more recent addition to the team, he reflects on the importance of returning to the collective’s core values when producing new work – authentic, political, irreverent, DIY. “If we always try and get back to that, it’s nearly impossible to do something that doesn’t fit within Live From Earth,” he adds. “That’s the reason everything sticks together.”

Despite having adapted to work and support each-other through a difficult year for artists, Live From Earth are itching to get back to the freedom of the pre-pandemic world. After all, connection is what fuels their creativity. “Before Coronavirus, we didn’t work together and then go home,” Paulina laugs. “You work and then end up at somebody’s house or a shitty bar, and it carries on. We’re missing that.” 

Jacob agrees: “I think what excites me the most about the future is getting out again and meeting people. Meeting the artists that I haven’t met yet.” It’s  a suitably optimistic note to end on. LFE remain optimistic and energised – excitedly talking over each-other, breaking into spontaneous flights of laughter from distanced corners of their studio – they are looking forward to the next big move, still filling the room.

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