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FAQ: Being A Music Blogger

After The Show has been bringing you new music, exclusive interviews and song premieres, and concert reviews for the past 5.5 years!

Over the years, I’ve received tons of questions about what goes into running a music blog. Here are my answers to the 5 most frequently asked questions that I’ve received:

After The Show Banner

1. What does running a music blog entail? How much work goes into it and what are your responsibilities?

I have a dedicated After The Show email account that receives hundreds of unsolicited (and solicited) emails every day from artists, music publicists, band managers, and record labels. So managing emails is a big component of running an established music blog. I’ve discovered a lot of great songs just because unsigned bands reached out to me. Other responsibilities include going to concerts and writing reviews, discovering new music to feature on the blog, doing Twitter/YouTube social media promotion, and maintaining a website.

2. I want to start my own music blog. What advice do you have for someone in my shoes?

Make sure that running your own music blog is really something you want to do. It’s a ton of fun, but you have to truly LOVE music to keep a music blog running over the years. When I first started, I got so excited every time I made a new post, and I’d be ecstatic when I posted a new interview. Eventually, you get less excited as the novelty wears off, but something else (ideally your unquenchable thirst to discover and share music) has to drive you.

Be consistently reliable and professional — especially if you’re a new blogger, you’ll need to prove yourself to music publicists, bands, and managers with whom you work. Also, make a wish list of artists and bands you want to interview — it gives you something to strive for.

Finally, getting nervous before interviewing one of your favorite artists is definitely normal, but you have to learn to control your nerves. A deep curiosity to uncover new information about my favorite songs, for example, has really helped me quell any nerves because I just really want to know the answers to my questions. If I don’t ask, I won’t know. Interviews also get easier as you do them more.

Ex Cops Troubadour

3. You have so many amazing interviews with bands! How does that happen..what’s the process?

Thank you! The interviews are my favorite part of After The Show. I’ve learned that timing matters (you’re more likely to get a Q&A with an artist who has new music to promote, for example), and sometimes all you have to do is ask.

I got tired of reading interviews with bands because the same 3-5 questions were repeatedly asked in every interview — it’s boring for readers and it’s boring for the bands. My goal is to delve deeper: on a micro level, I try to ask artists specific questions that they’ve never been asked before, and on a macro level, I try to make connections between albums/songs/broader themes in an artist’s work.

Crafting the questions for an interview is just like making a record. You start with everything on a huge canvas (i.e. Word document): you write down ideas, questions about lyrics, huge chunks of text that you copy/paste from online (you need to research by reading other interviews with the artist). Then, you group together similar ideas, making connections and organizing the information. You hone and narrow the text down, cutting the weakest/least interesting things.

Next comes sequencing. Put the questions in an order that flows and makes sense to you, and then you’ll have your final 10 questions. Removing your ego can be hard – you want to convey that you’ve done your research and have thought about this artist’s music, but you also want to ask what they want to be asked, and ask questions that will elicit strong answers. I hate when interviewers make the interview about themselves!

Listening to music is consuming rather than creating, so it can be incredibly fulfilling to ‘create’ something – an interview, a sneak-peek, a feature – with a creator you really respect. Someone gets to interview your favorite singers and songwriters, so why not you? It’s not always possible (if your favorite artist is dead or reclusive), but I think it’s so important to tell the creators/writers/composers of your favorite works that they’re meaningful to you and that you connected with the work.

Interviews typically happen over email, on the phone, in person, or over Skype. Email is least personal, but you may get better answers from your subject if they have time to think before they respond. Skype is my least favorite because you can’t predict how the internet connection will be.

Pianos Vic and Gab

4. What are your favorite and least favorite interviews you’ve ever done?

Luckily I haven’t had any interviews that were egregiously, memorably horrible. A few things make interviews successful — connecting to your subject, discovering new information that doesn’t exist anywhere else, and not having high expectations.

If the artist’s answers are intelligent, generous, and insightful, then I’m happy. If I had to pick my top favorite interview ever, I’d have to stay it’s a tie between Lynn Truell and Leslie Stevens.

Other favorites so far are (in roughly chronological order): Maria Taylor, Ben Lee, Lexi Valentine, Evan Lowenstein, Christy Romano, Mally Harpaz, Lara Meyerratken, Roddy Bottum, and Rachel Warren.

5. What do you envision for the future of After The Show?

I’ve considered getting more active, like Eric at The Wild Honey Pie, by booking shows, getting brand sponsors, and managing bands. But After The Show has always been a (relevant) side project to my work in music data. I’ve gotten to connect with artists whose music I love, make networking contacts with people who work in the music industry, and get into tons of shows. I’m looking forward to many years of listening to music and discovering new music to feature on After The Show.

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Interview: Des Ark

I spoke to Aimée Argote of Des Ark yesterday about her new record Everything Dies, knowing when a song is done, and touring as a vegan.

People in Los Angeles, catch Des Ark play next week (7/24) at Origami Vinyl in Echo Park.

Des Ark Interview

After The Show: Your lyrics seem carefully constructed, like the alliteration in “My Saddle Is Waitin.” How much of a drawn out/thoughtful process is songwriting for you vs. just capturing the words as they freely flow out?

Des Ark: I didn’t actually know there was any alliteration in that song – I never really thought about it, so not very much [laughs]. The songs I try to write, I always end up throwing them away…unlike the ones where I wake up in the middle of the night, or I’m at a dinner party & I tell people “I got a call, my cat’s sick” but really I run home and write it and it’s done. Maybe it takes me a couple of weeks to write it but I don’t remember. Songs that like that one I just remember being there and waiting to come.

You’ve lived and recorded music in a bunch of places like Durham, Philadelphia, and Austin…Do you mentally differentiate your songs based on geography?

Yeah definitely. I grew up in Durham — it’s where the band started/the first 5 years of the band, so the first record we put out reminds me of Durham so much…I always loved Philadelphia so I moved there and stopped writing music because I didn’t understand city life. I enjoyed living there but realized that the things I write about in my music have to do about kind of how I was raised, which was in the woods, or in a really small town, and about the dynamic that exists between communities when those communities are really small.

And something I experienced a lot in Philadelphia is when someone messes up they just disappear and find a different community to be a part of. In the south that’s impossible because people really keep up with each other. After two years of being gone it was interesting to come back home. The environment inspired me to express things that I saw and understood. I did understand Philly in a lifestyle kind of way, but I didn’t identify with it personally.

With the new record Everything Dies, you created a quieter sound to be more conducive to touring outside the constraints of a full band. But doesn’t approaching the creative process with future logistics in mind hold you back or change the actual music you’re creating?

As an accidental habit the quiet songs that I record in the studio are, across the board, impossible to pull off live. I actually don’t think about that at all…I think what I meant is the challenge of figuring out how to do that is really fun. The songs all start as tiny little acoustic things on a guitar, then I go to the studio and build on that with 20 vocal layers or 18 guitars and that’s what’s interesting…to go on tour and say ‘how are we going to pull this off’?

Then it’s really fun again because that’s your challenge, that’s your project. With this band what I’ve realized over the years is I’ll always be on the tour…Recording is a very different thing than touring – on a stage it’s a physical thing. I need to feel like my body is really engaged rather than my intellect.

You’ve got a booking agent but you’re DIY and do pretty much everything else. How do you balance the artistic act of creating with the process of promoting the product of that creation?

I don’t – [laughs] I don’t promote it! It was funny when we got the booking agent, he said “you’d be really surprised -for as long as you’ve been [touring] how not many people know who you are.” The one thing I’ve always done is be on tour. I sort of refuse to do anything aside from that…like I don’t need to actively use my gender to get a magazine cover. I’m just not interested in doing that for myself…and it hasn’t really made sense to do that with the band. I’m not that person – it’s not in my nature to do that.

I hate playing local shows, I just don’t want to know anybody. I always want it to feel like it’s an accident when anyone shows up because when I think about that stuff I get really nervous and start picking the songs apart, and if I know that anyone else is paying attention I stop doing it.

You said that while recording you struggle with second guessing things – how do you finally figure out when a song is done or when to change some lyrics or add a guitar part?

I drive people nuts with that so I think that’s why I ended up playing so many of the instruments myself…The songs just let you know when they’re done. Until they’re done you’re miserable and it’s awful and you feel like a terrible person and then something clicks and it’s a relief that it’s all over, it’s all done.

Is there a connection for you between being a musician and living a vegan, simple, minimalist, health-oriented life? 

Huh…yeah I think to some degree. I’m mostly raw vegan – the connection is that I want to play music forever and want to figure out how to be on tour without it killing me. I think it’s totally possible and I’m on the verge of figuring it out. We go to co-ops every single day on tour in Des Ark. We wake up, we go to the co-op, that’s just how we operate.

For the new record are you staying consistent with not playing any guitars in standard tuning?

Let me think….yes!

Thanks for sharing Aimée! Catch Des Ark on tour in July, August, and September (dates below):

7/23 PHOENIX AZ @ YUCCA TAPROOM

7/24 LOS ANGELES CA @ ORIGAMI VINYL *6PM*

7/27 SANTA ROSA CA @ THE FRONTIER ROOM

7/28 SANTA BARBARA CA @ BIKO INFOSHOP

7/29 SAN DIEGO CA @ SODA BAR

7/31 TUCSON AZ @ HOTEL CONGRESS *7 PM*

8/01 ALBUQUERQUE NM @ THE TANNEX

8/02 AMARILLO TX @ THE 806

8/03 AUSTIN TX @ UNICORNICOPIA

9/19 CHAPEL HILL NC @ LOCAL 506

9/20 ATLANTA GA @ MAMMAL GALLERY

9/21 JACKSONVILLE FL @ 1904 MUSIC HALL

9/22 TALLAHASSEE FL @ CLUB DOWNUNDER

9/23 ORLANDO FL @ BACKBOOTH

9/24 TAMPA FL @ EPIC PROBLEM

9/25 SAVANNAH GA @ GRAVEFACE RECORDS

9/26 COLUMBIA SC @ TBA

9/27 ASHEVILLE NC @ ODDITORIUM

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