Did an interview about the label with Made of Chalk. It’s one of the more in-depth ones I can recall ever doing.
Usually stressed and overcome with crippling doubt, but having a rare moment of “I totally rule”. Gonna go eat some cookies and play Smash Brothers on “Very Hard” mode.
Keep Doing What You’re Doing
There are benefits to being a member of a tight-knit music community. As a fan, you’re able to truly experience the exhilarating highs of a raucous live show, the deafening lows of a disappointing album and everything in between. Especially in the punk scene, fans often follow bands from their humble basement show beginnings to when (or if) they begin to receive more recognition, and stay close throughout those highs and lows. The natural course of a band’s career is at once unpredictable and fascinating, a parallel for the lives of many of their fans. When a band you love does something great, you feel great, not just for them but in a weird way, for yourself, too. And when that same band lets you down you wonder, either to yourself or aloud, what went wrong and how it could have been done differently, not unlike how you might react to an adverse event in your own life.
Though this phenomenon isn’t unique to the punk scene, it’s far more common here. In punk, the division between artist and audience member is often minimal; most of our favorite bands release albums on small labels, play venues with low or no stage, and will hang out at the bar or in the back of the house after their set. They’re regular people with hopes, dreams, fears and regrets; with shitty jobs, empty bank accounts, relationship problems, annoying allergies and other common problems that plague the rest of us. They just happen to be a little better at singing and playing guitar than we are (well, sometimes) and can portray those hopes, dreams, fears and regrets in a way that a lot of us can’t. We are them and they are us. Their music simultaneously reminds us of our own problems and assures us that we’re not alone in having them. That yeah, things might suck now but eventually everything will probably be alright. Beyonce can do a lot of things, but she decidedly cannot do that. Ten bucks says Beyonce has a perfect credit score.
That intimate connection. That’s why punk endures through exhausting cynicism, endless scene politics and counterproductive cliquishness. It’s why you should laugh at anyone who suggests punk is dead, and remind them that it’s only dead to them because they stopped paying attention.
A few months ago I saw my friends in the Swellers play a west Philadelphia basement as part of their initial tour supporting their new album on No Sleep Records, The Light Under Closed Doors. Although they’re from Michigan and I’m from Florida, I feel like I’ve grown up with these guys. The tour, which was mostly house shows, was something of a return to the band’s roots; I have great memories of driving from the no-name town of Melbourne, FL where I grew up to other no-name central Florida towns like Deltona and Poinciana to see them play in houses and backyards to very few people, and even fewer genuinely interested people, in the mid-2000s. They’ve gained a lot of fans since then, most of them much younger than me and with no prior concept of what house shows are. They might have discovered the Swellers while attending Warped Tour one year, or saw them open for Paramore or Motion City Soundtrack, or read about them in Alternative Press or AbsolutePunk. The idea that one of their favorite bands would be playing a show in someone’s basement and would be just hanging out at the house before and after their set, something that you and I completely take for granted, blows their minds.
When I gingerly walked down the narrow, rickety staircase into that west Philly basement, there were kids already claiming their spots up front, saying things to each other like, “We’re about to see the Swellers play in a basement and we’re in the front row!” How fucking cool is that? How can you possibly witness that and still feel old and jaded?
The show was incredibly fun, because everyone from the band to the crowd were having a blast forging a connection that would otherwise be broken by a stage or barricade. The band played songs about the difficulties in their own lives that spoke to the audience, and likely mirrored their own experiences. There was no posturing, just a bunch of really excited kids bobbing their heads, dancing and singing along to their favorite band with incalculable exuberance. I couldn’t help but see my former self in them just a little bit.
Remember when that used to be us? Let’s bring it back.
New Single: “Oh Whitney”
We are incredibly excited to premiere “Oh Whitney,” the first new single from our upcoming LP, “Everything/Nothing.”
A limited edition cassette single of “Oh Whitney” will be available 1/14. Only 50 copies. Stay tuned for links to preorder.
good job, Matt!
Sunday night coding soundtrack.
People Dreamed of a Portable Library of Congress in 1936
In this 1936 Modern Mechanix article, a fantasy about shrinking the Library of Congress to fit “in a few small filing cabinets” on microfiche/film. Once this is done, copies of the great library will be distributed to worthy institutions all over the world.
This is one of the Ur-dreams of librarianship, what Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive calls “universal access to all human knowledge.” Today’s Internet was shaped by people who share the dream. It’s a beautiful one.
Design projects and writing by Frank Chimero.
So I’m mere days away from launching Topshelf’s new site — which I’ve spent a large majority of 2013 ignoring my social life for. Feeling oddly content with my work for a few fleeting moments, I decided to go perusing through my Twitter timeline. Remembering the brilliant article by Frank Chimero that I read yesterday, I decided to click through to his account and delve a little deeper into his stuff (which is great). I came across this visual essay which is so soul crushingly good it has reinstilled why it’s only safe to feel content with your work for but a few fleeting moments.
Back to work.
Van Utrecht’s picture takes us back four centuries, to a time when abundance was new and not to be taken for granted. He knew it was hard to get that lobster. Europeans of his era were amazed (as we still should be) that human beings can arrange the world in such a way as to make possible so bounteous a feast. They knew that marshes had to be drained and cattle fed through the winter, and they were impressed that lemons could reach a northern table. Perhaps these very fruits were carried by donkey from the Neapolitan hills down to the harbor, onto leaky wooden ships that braved storms and struggled with unreliable winds.
People of that day felt the beauty of trade and understood how easily it could be disrupted by blockades or war. Every pleasure of the table was sending money around Europe—a force for peace and prosperity. The picture remembers all this effort and celebrates it.
Today we are so afraid of greed that we forget how honorable the love of material things can be. In the 17th century, homage was still paid to the nobility of commerce—a concept that boredom and guilt have made less accessible to us. Perhaps we can learn from this picture. A good response to consumerism might be not to sacrifice these pleasures and live without lobster and lemons but to appreciate what really goes into providing them.
Our desire to have luxury cheaply is the real problem. If the route to your table were dignified and ethical at every stage, a lemon would cost more, of course. But maybe then we’d stop taking lemons for granted and find their zest all the keener.
Art for Life’s Sake — Alain de Botton, Wall Street Jounal