Monday, May 24, 2010

Music Monday - FensePost

Welcome the first edition of Music Monday. Each Monday we will feature a Q&A with the bloggers, critics, writers and taste-makers behind music websites, blogs, magazines and other publications that keep us all in touch with the latest in new music. First up...

Music Monday with FensePost - The Indie Music Blog

"Based in the fertile lands between Seattle, WA and Vancouver, BC," is truly about supporting independent music. With live concert reviews, music news, CD reviews, videos and so much more, FensePost is more of a fan blog that has turned into a site worth checking out daily to learn about new bands. We were fortunate to get FensePost's very busy Andrew Fenstermaker to take a second from checking his other 982 unread messages in his inbox to tell us about how it his love of undiscovered music and fondness of Swedish bands that keeps him going every day. The staff may be small at FensePost, but they are mighty and mighty busy. Fenstermaker is the main writer for the site, but is a champion of new music writers, giving unknown critics a chance to be published. He also makes a point on how being a blogger can be a daily stress, trying to fit enough into the blog while maintaining a life outside of the Internet.

Music Monday Q&A

1. How long has FensePost been operating?

FensePost launched in June of 2006 after I finished my MBA. I started it to keep up with my passion in music as I left my college radio station, KZUU. We started with two to three posts per week and have grown to two posts per weekday on average. It's primarily just me, but I have a few loyal writers to toss stuff my way on a fairly frequent basis. I probably write about 2/3 of the posts under the guise "Fense" which was my DJ name in college (a rendition of my last name, Fenstermaker).

2. What makes FensePost different from other websites?

We don't really follow the trends or hype. Sure, we'll cover the hot bands on occasion, but we like to place a great emphasis on covering truly unknown bands that we think are great. Of course, I recently posted a live review of a James Taylor / Carole King concert I went to with my parents, but that's a rarity. Most music is independent. I also write about a lot of Swedish bands.

Another thing that's different about FensePost is that anyone can write for the site. Part of the reason I started it was to give young music fans an outlet from which to write if they so desired without the need to create an entire site on their own.

3. Do you feel FensePost has a specific musical niche?

Not really, outside of independent music. As writers, we each have our preferences. I love indie pop and have had a huge thing for garage since The Legends' Up Against The Legends (Labrador Records, 2004). Ron, who is my most consistent contributor likes pop, rock, folk and even covers an occasional hip hop artist. Cyndi, a new contributor from Oregon, has passed along a lot of great folk. I even cover jazz on occasion (I have a fairly extensive classic jazz LP collection).

4. What contemporary albums are you looking forward to coming out?

I wrote a piece recently listing a few reasons why Sub Pop could very well dominate my 2010 best of list. They've passed along some really great albums this year so far, and I think they've got some amazing stuff lined up. I'm SUPER excited that Hardly Art will be reissuing the old Carissa's Wierd [sic] albums, although that's not really contemporary. I'm also looking forward to seeing what Slumberland (Records) has in store for us in the second half of 2010. And I'm pretty excited to hear new stuff on Woodsist (Records), which dominated my "10 Bands I Should Have Checked Out in 2009" list from a month or two ago.

5. How does FensePost support independent music and what is important about doing so?

I think it's important as a blogger to not only support bands that you (the writer) feel are good and worthy of promoting, but that you also do your part to support the artists you love. I receive a lot of albums in the mail and digitally for free by bands and labels and promotion companies that want me to write about their band. If the group has a single or released an album on vinyl and I really like it, I'll do my part and pick it up on vinyl. It supports the band, and I have the means to do so (from time to time). In today's digital world, I don't think a lot of young people who grew up with readily available free music (albeit not necessarily legal) understand the importance of what that type of support means.

I try my best to only post songs that have been cleared by a band to be posted, and I do my best to link to labels and band websites where readers can order an album directly from the artist or label. I think both of those elements are an important part of supporting independent music.

6. Do you think online publications are taking precedence over print magazines? What kind of effect do you think that has on bands?

I'm kind of immersed in the social media world, so I would have to say yes. But I don't think print magazines will go away. They just need to change in a way that makes sense. People will always buy magazines, but these publications will need to find new ways to reach their audience. I think there's a great opportunity for them using devices like the Kindle and iPad.

As for the second half of the question, there's a big shift that's occurring. It doesn't matter if you're in a band, own a small business, or are part of a large organization, you have to think of this stuff differently these days. What's put out there today is public in a way that's completely different than yesterday. If I told my friends of a great band in the 90s, it only went so far. It mattered, but it was different. That type of "word of mouth" still exists, but due to the dominance of blogs and social networking, it's now global.

7. What blogs/publications do you read other than your own?

As much as people hate Pitchfork, I like to visit the site once every few weeks and check out their Forkcast. I think it's really relevant and they cover some really great bands. I'm also a huge fan of Daytrotter and have been since their seventh session (Drakkarsauna). Locally in the Pacific Northwest, we have a few really great blogs. There's IndiePages, which is occasionally updated with some very super underground pop from around the world (Chris Mac recently opened a record shop and mail order in Seattle; you all should go buy stuff from My favorite these days is Finest Kiss.

8. What has been your most definitive moment since you started FensePost?

I think a good definitive moment came about two months ago. I was getting a bit overwhelmed with everything... work, personal life, home ownership, turning 30 (soon), and I had an epiphany: the world won't end if FensePost isn't updated. As a blogger, we set strict regimens for ourselves that are sometimes unrealistic. I would love to post three times a day, but I also want to keep my house clean, have a nice looking yard, and watch Arrested Development for the 67th time. You can't do everything. You can't listen to every band that sends something your way. It sucks, but that's just a part of life. What you can do is this: do what you can, and have fun doing it. It's kind of a recurring definitive moment... I have the same epiphany about once every six to nine months.

9. If there is any musician/band you could interview (dead or alive) who would it be?

I'm not much of an interviewer, but I'm trying to get into it a bit more. I'm pretty stoked -- I'm just about to send off a few questions to the band that released my favorite album of 2009, Venice is Sinking. I think it would be great to pick the brain of a master like (Brian) Eno or (David) Bowie or even Tom Verlaine (guitarist for Television). Maybe even Morrissey, although he'd probably just get pissed at me 'cause I'm a huge Smiths fan and I'd want to know all about what his beef is with his former band mates and why they won't get back together.

10. If you could be in any band (of all time), who would you rock with?

The Smiths or Television. Maybe Sweden's best pop band, Acid House Kings. I have a huge thing for Swedish pop.

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