People ask me about my hobby every time I bring it up. “Job” sounds too much like a seventeen year old trying to tell you she’s one of the major music journalists of the time. “Hobby” sounds like I’m belittling the hours of work I put into my site, so take your pick as to what my whole gig is called.
I interview bands… if you didn’t know already. I’ve been doing it for about two years now, starting with another online magazine, local magazines, underground punk publications writing under my stripper name and then branching out to start my own website where I could post when I wanted to about people who deserved to be heard. I didn’t do it for the clout, and you can look at my Instagram for that, seeing as though girls from my high school alone have much higher follower counts than I do. I didn’t do it because I wanted to sleep with guys in bands (although this is certainly a factor in a few cases ((I don’t follow up on this, dad))). I did it because I had questions to ask.
Curiosity is a hunger that I can never seem to appease. I’m the cat that hasn’t been killed (yet). I’ve always wanted to know the “what”s and how things worked, but more so, I wanted to now the “why”s. I think as a writer, I examine everything until I have the roots of it in my hand and dirt underneath my fingernails. I have crushes just so that I can figure out why that one kid in my calculus class is so damn rude and why every “nice guy” ends up being a creep. I talk to girls with fun hair because I want to know why they choose to bleach their hair every other Tuesday. I force relationships with authority because I always want to level the playing field. I want to know why people do the things they do.
Musicians are the perfect subjects for me. They do the job that everyone dreams of, that has “very little money in it unless you’re Ariana Grande” (in the words of Izzie Jinx), and one that family members roll their eyes at while simultaneously sharing projects on their Facebook feed. The struggling artists. The high school friends in their parents basement. The men who found no satisfaction in getting a 9-5 job, or ones who choose to spend their non-working hours in makeshift recording studios set up in bedroom corners.
There are a lot of phonies. A lot of guys who use the musician card to unzip some flies and slither their way into the pants of girls who are mesmerized by three chords on a guitar. There are girls who pierce their septum and make howling noises into a microphone, trying to prove to you that they are somehow “deeper” and more “sophisticated” than “other girls”, meanwhile sounding like every other bedroom pop, over-synthesized indie band.
I write for the ‘real‘ ones. The people who are willing to talk to a teenager in her bedroom and pour their hearts out to strangers. To me, that’s the art. That is real music to me. I’m not invalidating any popular music, either. In fact, music is meant to be enjoyed. That’s why there’s so much money in the music industry that the Bigwigs of most record labels could probably pay for most millennial’s college debts with a flick of the wand. It’s okay to listen to the Top 40. It’s okay to like country music. Music should be an experience unique to the listener. Who cares if that’s Charlie Puth in the 5pm rush to get home?
I won’t bore you with commentary on consumerism or how our culture, specifically in the past few decades, is drowning in the over-sexualization of literally everything. Sure, the Romans loved sex, a lot of the time with children, but it was not to the extent that we seem to live and breathe it. Back to my point.
On the fly interviews are my favorite because that is when the artists are at their most vulnerable. The Shakes, one of my favorite groups to work with in my extensive two year career, called me in the back of a van on their way home from a show. There was no script, no time to think, and every answer was said through a lens of ecstasy after performing just minutes before. Their shaky voices and eager tones answered every question with as much depth as possible, making my job as a journalist easier than ever. I didn’t have to provide any artistic element in a desperate attempt to make boring, unsuccessful musicians sound interesting like I’ve had to before. I just had to tell their story as honestly as I could. There was an excitement and a raw element that thus far, has not been matched.
I know that part of the criteria for journalism is being objective, but frankly when it comes to art I think that’s nearly impossible. Art assumes some sort of connection with the subject, and separating from that takes away from the experience itself. I try to write from a “this is my perspective and how this artist influenced my life” maybe because it’s the inner fangirl in me, but mostly because that is the only way I can truly tell people to listen. I could write articles where I spill the facts in a mildly interesting sequence and find some new word combination of “up and coming”. I do, sometimes. At the end of the day, I just want to tell stories. The pages behind the covers.
A few months after my interview with The Shakes, I found myself at a concert up in a shady side of Denver. The venue was hugging a small, rundown bar with a few regulars confused at the sudden influx of teenage girls who were crowding the floor, furrowed brows and space buns. The band is a bigger one, so I won’t mention their actual name. I’ve seen them three times now not because I’m particularly in love with their music, but mostly out of habit. Their gigs are always cheap, the band has a fun aesthetic, and the songs are catchy. I even had an interview with them about a year ago after meeting the bassist while trying to tip a massive Gatorade cooler in order to get water. That, my friends, is another story.
Do I think they’re the next thought-provoking, anti-mainstream prophets of my generation? No. They’re just fun to listen to. They are my Charlie Puth at 5pm on the way home from work.
Before the concert began, I saw the lead singer slumped over the bar with his hood up, clinging to a glass of whiskey. The other members were mingling with the fans and dipping in and out of the door that led to the stage.
He seemed unimpressed by the tens of people who showed up to see his band and completely detatched from reality. I watched him drink two more glasses before pulling his hood up farther and awkwardly cutting through the crowd to the stage. The fans were too afraid to ask for a picture or say hi and before we all knew it, he disappeared from his spot at the counter.
When the opening act was playing, I looked around and saw that directly to my left, he was leaning against the wall with his hood still up. I kept staring because there was something so odd about his demeanor. He looked like the kid in high school who ran the Dungeons & Dragons club and hated jocks, not this indie pop star who danced on stage in pastel colors and feather earrings. Our eyes met and I shyly raised half a hand with a small smile that spread across my face hesitantly. As if grateful for some sort of non-screaming, non-Instagrammable interaction, he smiled and bowed his head in my direction. He had another glass in his hand.
The next time I looked over, he was gone again. A half an hour later, a microphone had replaced the whiskey and he was his upbeat, melodramatic stage persona. His eyes were fixated on the back wall for the entirety of the set, though. As if acknowledging that he had spent his life writing and performing for underage girls was too much to bear. I understand that I am one of those girls and I also understand our power in music culture, but I can see how that would feel unsatisfying. I’ve seen groups of girls eagerly run up to bands like them, Juuls in hands like swords, and suggest sexual favors (that’s the most clean way of putting it). They’re not there for the music at the end of the night, and I can’t imagine how not only annoying, but also how defeating that must feel. Crowds of girls at their knees probably sounds like a dream to most, but not when you have a message to send and no one is listening.
A bunch of untouchable fangirls bowed to him at that stage like peasants to an altar, only I don’t think he liked the feeling all too much. Most musicians I know don’t need to drink half a bottle to sing the songs they poured their lives into. But what do I know?
The juxtaposition between how we present ourselves and how we actually are is why I write. The different ways bands I talk to present themselves is far more revealing than they understand. The truth, however, is in the music. Most listeners can tell the difference between the shallow end of the pool and the deep end.
Why I love music is another conversation and is certainly a factor in my writing, but breaking the boundary between ignorant fan and part of the scene itself comes at a price. The curiosity of who these artists really are behind a Spotify streaming number and a perfectly curated color scheme on Instagram is too much for me to bear. I want to know the grit. I want to know why guys chose to talk to me in the back of a van. I want to know the guy who needs liquored lips to sing.