Monday, November 5, 2007

Round #2 of Field-Notes

Here are three interviews/conversations I had with several friends who are roughly 18 years old and identify with indie rock in one way or the other. None are vinyl enthusiasts or specialists in any way, but all three guys have an awareness of vinyl in their generation. I asked all of my interviewees roughly the same set of questions, and my questions are in bold, with answers in regular font.


Can you briefly describe what sort of music you are interested in?

It’s what most people describe as “indie rock.” I would define that as sort of intelligent rock or folk that tries to be original and artistic.

What types of music do you end up buying.

Buying? Well I buy pretty much all of my music. I use a subscription service: emusic. Because I feel like you should pay for music—I’m definitely in the minority in regards to that. I’ll definitely buy stuff if I hear it’s good from a friend, or listen to it and like it, or read some good reviews of it.

So you end up buying most of your indie-rock, no matter how easy or difficult it is to come across?


What about vinyl? Do you ever consider buying any of these records on vinyl?

I usually go through a phase once every six months where I think it would be really cool if I had stuff on vinyl, but then I realize that I’d have to buy a record player, and that’s an investment, and then I’d have to buy stuff on vinyl, and that’s also expensive.

Well then why is it cool to have music on vinyl?

Part of it is just this sort of cultural belief—I don’t know whether it’s true or not—that vinyl means that you have more discerning musical tastes—that you like the sound of it more. Plus I think it’s cool that you have that more analog thing where you know the needle is sliding over those dots and that’s what’s making the music. I’m like… I have no idea what’s going on in my computer when it makes sounds.

So it’s more about being focused on the music? You can sit down and focus on the physical manifestation of sound?

Yeah, it’s so much more tangible. You’re holding a record. You’re putting it on this thing that you sort of understand.

Do you think it’s good that artists and record labels are making sure to manufacture vinyls for most of their releases?

Yeah, I think it’s cool. I think a lot of people use it if they really like a CD, so when I know people who have record collections, it’s cool to go through that and see what records they have. It’s usually something that they purchased again or if somebody used a free digital download to purchase the music for the first time. It’s like why they go back to the vinyl to focus on the record.

What about deals around today where record companies bundle vinyl records with coupons for a free digital download of the record? Would you buy more records if all vinyls were packaged that way?

Wow, I didn’t even know that was a format (laughs). Well it’s still much more expensive. What, and average LP costs maybe $20? Um, and then with my subscription service, I’m getting usually 4 CDs for 15 dollars (in digital download format). So that price comparison is just so huge that I feel that the vinyl doesn’t really make up for it.



Can you briefly describe what kind of music like to listen to/associate yourself with?

Um, I guess classic rock type stuff… singer songwriters… some newer rock. I think melody is important.

So what kind of music do you end up buying?

I never buy music (laughs)… that’s probably not true. I actually like to buy the classic, solid kind of stuff. Occassionally if I’m at a show, you know, I’ll buy something there. You know, I’ll hear one of the bands that I like, but that’s really not the bulk of the CDs that I have.

What about vinyl? Do you ever think about purchasing an album on vinyl if it’s out on CD?

Once in a while. I think I literally own one vinyl record, so not too much. My record player was broken for a long time, so like…. I like vinyl a lot. I think I prefer listening to it, and my parents have a bunch of old vinyl albums that I like to listen to… I guess I haven’t really bought many vinyl records of my own favorite bands. But I think on some level, I prefer listening to it—the sound—it’s a little more like you’re there. You can scratch records somewhat easily and you have to be really careful when you’re setting it up to play. I guess they’re also kind of bigger than CDs… but I guess that’s not really the issue.

Do you think it’s a good thing for artists and record companies to make sure that they get most of their releases out on vinyl?

I’m not sure… I don’t know if I respect artists more if they do (put their record out on vinyl), but I like it when they do. As far as record sales go, I don’t know if it would help them, but I think it’s kind of cool.



So can you describe what kind of music you like to listen to and associate yourself with?

I guess I would consider myself, you know, an indie kid, but I’m from Austin, TX and we have a lot of our own little indie sub scenes, and I guess the one that I feel the most associated with is the rockabilly indie scene. Okkervil River, Wilco… any of that business. I’m obviously not constrained by that. There are definitely other groups I’m interested in. I like the freak folk—Animal Collective and Devendra Banhart.

What kind of music do you end up buying?

I’m one of those people who generally borrows CDs from everyone else. Generally I’ll buy CDs from band that I feel some moral obligation to support—like if they have some hometown connection. Voxtrot, Virgin of the Birds—that sort of thing. My friend’s bands, basically. Other than that, I can usually find somebody with the CD and I can borrow it.

What about the format?


Have you ever considered buying vinyl?

I mean, I never have… I just think that… this is the digital age and we have moved beyond. I understand that a lot of people—their argument is about the sound quality, but I’m just not informed enough to be an authority on. I think that a lot of people just purchase vinyl for the nostalgic value. I just don’t have the money for a big LP player and typically I feel that vinyl LPs are more expensive than CDs

So do you think it is a good thing?

I think that it ends up being whatever the market for vinyl can tolerate… I generally view it as a cutesy diversion. If that’s what people want, that’s what they should get.

So are artists making some sort of statement by putting their record out on vinyl, or is it just to fill the niche in the market?

I think they are definitely appealing to a certain segment of the indie scene that appreciates the outdated technology and has a record player… I think there’s some identification with vinyl to some degree within those scenes.

More will follow soon, including an interview with a small, indie-DIY band from Tampa who is releasing their first 45...