Friday, February 03, 2006

Truely Tweevil: K Records @ Evergreen and how to do interviews

I may backpost, may add photos, but for now, lets just look at the state of my indierockpoplife in Washington State. Or at least the last week of it. Actually, I'm tired after just writing about three events....soooo....

A week ago, Thursday January 26
Calvin Johnson/Mt. Eerie/Kimya Dawson
Evergreen Housing Community Center, Olympia WA
I drove out to Yelm to pick up S so we got there toward the end of Calvin's set. He's doing a wonderful country crooner kinda thing now. There was a period not too long ago where he was trying to experiment with his live performances, but since his tour with Tender Forever I've seen him play twice with just straight up singing and a bit of storytelling in between.
(paraphrased) Calvin said:
"I went to Evergreen in the early 90s and I see something here tonight that I never saw back then. Right there, someone is studying."

Second up was Mt. Eerie. Okay, I try. I've seen Phil play about once every six months for the past few years, and in 98-00 I think I saw him play almost once a month as the Microphones. Having seen basically the entire evolution of his career as a musician, and being completely in love with the early Microphones recordings, I still had to make the snarky comment to S that almost every song he plays as Mt. Eerie sounds like a soundcheck. He's deconstructing our notions of what songs are. He's singing about nature. The structure of verse chorus verse is completely gone. This makes me feel anxious. I never know if a song is ending or beginning. My hands freeze midair as I go to clap a the wrong moment. I just don't like it.

Now Kimya Dawson on the other hand, I find to be beautiful and graceful and wonderous. I'm a little uncomfortable tonight as she's just announced her pregnancy to the world and, well, I'm childfree and spend a lot of energy making fun of breeders. While she's working her merch booth during Calvin's set I smile at her, pat my stomach and give her the thumbs up anyway. But her set is a nice mix of just intriguing and insightful songs, sometimes punctuated by awkwardness at really personal stuff coming through like songs about babies and parenting.
But she told a cute story, and I paraphrase:
"I went to Evergreen. Mirah and I used to work here when it was the Greenery Cafe. After hours we would dance on the tables and sing DeLites "The Groove is in the Heart. She would say "You have such a cool voice, you should sing!" and I would say "No, you have such a cool voice, you should sing!" but neither of us were writing music back then."

January 31st
Of Montreal @ Chop Suey, Seattle WA
So I did a zine ages ago and people were always writing to me asking for advice on how to make a zine. My friend J and I had a perfect lesson at the Of Montreal here is "How to interview awesome bands for your zine."
1. Come up with some questions, and a bunch of topics you're interested in and can have an intelligent conversation about (ie books, radio, recording equipment etc. are generally safe bets)
2. Make phone calls to management/record label etc. to set up an interview
3. If you can't set up an interview, or if things fall through at some step of the process, bring your recording equipment to the show anyway
4. At the show, find the tour manager. Assuming this is an indie rock thing, ask the person selling merch if s/he is touring with the band.
5. Okay, now, any of the above steps can and should be skipped if you can properly identify the person in the band you want to interview. When you see her/him, go up and say "I'm supposed to interview you for (whatever). Can we do it tonight?" See, the general chaos of a tour coupled with a desire for publicity and/or a general sense of niceness means you will very rarely get a "no" (I have NEVER heard a no, but being female may help) . If you must namedrop the people you talked to (ie the manager at my radio station, your tour manager, your label etc.) IF THEY EXIST (if you are really desperate, you don't even really need to have talked to these people, when I was younger, I bullshitted plenty of major labels by saying they had send me publicity materials for bands I liked...I loved it "did we send you a press kit?" "oh yes, that's where I got your number" bullshit I got the number by having multiple secretaries pass me along until I got to the important people.)
6. Once you sit down with your recorder, it's really hard to go wrong. Oh I could talk about interview etiquitte but you may as well read Writers Digest for that. You're going to act nervous and ramble on and interrupt your interview subject etc. but they know you're a college radio dj or zine writer and this isn't NPR or Harper's. Either they're in a well known band and have been through this before, or they're just starting out and are too excited to be interviewed that you have nothing to worry about. That said, the best interview technique I have ever learned is to shut up and wait for the interviewee to talk. Seriously. Don't fill in silences because they feel awkward, let the other person feel awkward and fill in those silences. Okay, now I should remind myself of this every day with every person I talk to, but it comes out when I'm giving expert advice that I can't really take.

Now, the best part about this ,and I don't want to get into a indie vs. non debate, the general idea is if the band only has a handful of screaming high school girls in the front row and you are not one of them, you can probably get an interview...then again, as a screaming high school girl, I got interviews from plenty of bands desperate for publicity either by showing up or via phone, which is a whole nother story.

February 1, after returning home from Damien Jurardo @ the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, OR
So I sent an e-mail to Teenbeat to update my e-mail address, but in an impulse I added: MARK ROBINSON PLEASE COME BACK TO OLYMPIA! (That is what I'm really thinking).

So I fell out of my chair last night when he wrote back and said maybe someday. Okay, I knew he's probably the only person who works there. Does anyone else remember getting Teenbeat records in the early-mid 90s with the catalog inserts that said they were always looking for help in the office? Sigh, or the time I thought my head would explode because Calvin did not kick me out of Dub Narcotic when I had no other reason to be there but to listen to him and Mark play back recordings so I could gloat while they worked on the finer points of production (honestly, I was wondering WHY he was recording at Dub Narcotic, because he gave such an awesome sound to everything he produced that I thought was far superior to the fidelity of D.N. studio....I mean, even Cold Cold Hearts sounded jangly when Mark Robinson was at the dials.)

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