BIMM University Berlin student works alongside The Strokes and Florence + The Machine at Tempelhof Sounds
After seeing the opportunity advertised in WhatsOn – our exclusive weekly term-time newsletter packed with job/internship opportunities, events and much more – Music Production student Bernardo Villar was hired to work as a Personal Assistant for headliners The Strokes and Florence + The Machine at Tempelhof Sounds in Berlin.
We sat down with Bernardo to find out more about rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s biggest musicians, his most memorable experiences and what he learned from working the festival.
Hey Bernardo! For those reading, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Absolutely! Originally from Lisbon and Cascais, I began my music journey in Portugal at the age of 18 after I was involved in a life-threatening road accident that kept me in bed for months.
As a consequence of my accident, I started producing music. What started as a hobby soon became an addiction, and at age 20, I moved alone to The Netherlands at 20 years old to hopefully create a career under the artist name of Unallome, from dusk.
By taking a professional DJ course at DJ School Amsterdam, I shared energetic top performances through my sets in different countries. I then took a course in Electronic Music Production at SAE Institute Amsterdam, where I brought my production skills to professional standards. I later signed with GOONS music for record label release.
Now I live in Germany, and I am currently studying the BA (Hons) Music Production at BIMM University Berlin, creating House music, Electro, Techno, Jazz and funky grooves. I’m working on developing my personal sound of mixing different genres together, combining acoustic instruments with electronic sounds. I’ve got big ambitions and I’m working to achieve bigger record label releases and perform more often.
How did you find out about the opportunity to work at Tempelhof Sounds?
For many years now, since I decided to move my life to Amsterdam to begin an education in music, I have been working many different jobs to afford both my living as well as my studies.
This time, I wanted to do something close to the music industry, so, after reading about the opportunity in the WhatsOn newsletter, I reached out to Nora and Peter from the Careers, Events, Guests and Promotion team at BIMM University Berlin to find out more. I then sent my CV off to FKP, who were hiring for backstage positions at Tempelhof Sounds.
Shortly after my application, the company got back to me to let me know that all positions were unfortunately filled… But then about two hours later, I got a phone call from them asking if I would like to take the position of personal assistant for Florence + The Machine and The Strokes. Of course, I very gladly accepted!
What was your role during the festival?
During my time at Tempelhof Sounds festival my function was to assist both the artists – as well as the team behind them – with any requests they had before, during and after the performance.
Most of the time I hung out backstage with all other bands and artists or on the stage itself!
I was the go-to contact for the artists and their management team so I had to be always close by, which I was very happy to do.
I was part of checking that everything backstage was ready, making sure artists had food for before and after their show, printing the bands’ schedules and distributing in the artist rooms, as well as supervising the delivery of their necessary materials and equipment for backstage and stage, for example.
What was the most memorable moment?
I would say the most memorable moment while working at the festival was when the lead vocalist of The Strokes, Julian Casablancas, personally called me up to the stage to watch the band’s show from backstage, the best seat in the house!
As I was climbing up the stairs to the stage for the last time, I personally thanked the band for the opportunity of working with them as I wished them a killer show with a smile from ear to ear.
As the band’s hardworking runner, I took this action as a personal thank you from the group for helping and supporting them, and doing everything I could to for the artists and their team throughout the whole day – from morning until late evening.
You’re never too important to appreciate those who support you. Without even realising it you’re impacting their life, their mentality and their spirits with simple acts of kindness.
I got to watch the show with other bands that performed at the festival that day. We were all together as if I was part of their crew. We didn’t know each other, but for that time we were all best mates having the time of our lives!
Every time I was backstage watching shows, my problems would go away, and for small moments, I felt like I was free, truly free. A bliss took over in my soul and my mind. I wasn’t working anymore, I was just lucky to be in the moment.
Was there anything that surprised you about being behind the scenes?
I was absolutely mind-blown by how simple everything is backstage. Social media, articles and magazines make you think how glamorous an artist’s / band’s life is, but really it’s like being back in the school cafeteria – just with much, much better-quality food!
All artists and their teams speak about how tired they are from all their travels. They all know each other and see each other frequently as they perform at the same music festivals all around the world, which I found fascinating.
I thought to myself: “one day I want to travel the world performing and see good friends travelling to the same places as me around the globe.”
I felt like one of them, in a way that, no one really cared if Florence + The Machine, The Strokes, Alt J, Idles, Interpol, or Muse walked right passed you. No one was special or more important than the cleaning guy or myself… Those moments truly inspired me to work harder every day!
People definitely get overexcited by music artists, treating them as if they are a god or some mythical force, but when you get to know them personally, they’re just people who like to have a good chat, throw some cheeky jokes around and have a laugh. You’ve just got to treat them as if you have no idea who they are!
That perspective made me feel like if they became successful in life, living their dream job every day, then I can do it too. I know I’ll get there, it’s just a matter of time.
What kind of insights did working at the festival give you?
Working at the festival really gave me an idea of the dimension of all the work and planning behind it, as well as how lucky I was to be in the position I was assigned for.
I personally loved the characteristics of the staff, especially the ones with backstage access. No matter whether they were working as security, stagehands, a cook or a personal assistant, everyone had a smile on their face. We all felt like VIPs ourselves because of the opportunity of working so close to such amazing music creators and experiencing what it’s like to be on the side that the audience doesn’t see.
And here’s what it looks like:
It’s massive trucks filled with bands and artists’ personal belongings. Firefighters, medics, stagehands everywhere. Food trailers with loads of young people/students working. It’s backstage staff running around with their phones, as if they had them taped to their hand (such was my case).
The amount of people needed to make this festival work was mind-blowing! As someone who is usually part of the crowd at music festivals, the first-hand experience of working backstage was, without doubt, eye-opening.
Tempelhof Sounds certainly made sure any scenario was covered.
What kind of advice would you give other people applying for these kind of opportunities? Any advice for what to do/not do when you’re on the job?
If you ever have the opportunity of working first-hand with big artists and their teams, the most important thing is to control your behaviour around your favourite musicians at all times: no chasing the artists like groupies would do, or constantly asking for something from them, such as photos or autographs. And definitely don’t take any photos without their permission!
Being backstage, it’s important to be civilised and calm, almost as if you were not part of the festival at all.
Also, don’t blast everybody with endless questions. Most of them, if not all, are extremely tired from all the travelling and shows. They just want to relax before their performances.
Having a professional attitude is the most appreciated quality you can show your employer or whoever you’re working for / with. Be ready to take on a request at any moment and always be willing to go the extra mile.
You should always treat everybody with the exact same level of respect whether it’s a musician, the security or the cook who prepares meals for the artists and for the staff. Definitely get to know the people working at the festival, they might be more well-connected than you think! Intrapreneurship is vital when given the appropriate chance.
Most importantly, enjoy your time and the experience, as you never know if or when these kinds of opportunities might come up again.
What kind of lessons did you learn from working at the festival and how will these impact your future career?
Working close to the artists and their teams really gave me a perspective of how exhausting an artist’s life can be, as well as being able to see all the necessary things required for a 90-minute performance or even a shorter show.
In the end, all the hard work and sleepless nights seem to be more than worth it, because you’re doing what you love. And when you love what you do, work is hardly working – it’s mostly enjoying the moment together with your team and those who help you get to the good places in life.
A lonely path for a music artist can be heart-breaking, although when you have people beside you, it’s one of the best things you can ask possibly for.
I know this for a fact because even without them telling me, I could see how exhausted everyone was – whether that be the artists themselves or their supporting team. But most importantly, I could see in their expression how incredibly happy and proud the team was to be representing the band, and how proud the artists were for completing yet another amazing and memorable show.
Finally, keep your friends and family beside you throughout your life and your musical path, they’re the ones who make it all worth it.
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