Friday, August 29, 2014

James on James: James Damion gets the 411 on CoolDad Music from James Appio.

It's hard to fathom that CoolDad Music has only been around for two years. With the amount of content and consistency of which it's delivered. You would think that CDM was a state institution with a history as long as New Jersey treasures Jersey Beat and the Aquarian. After months of getting familiar with CoolDad Music and engaging James in Facebook discussions. I decided to reach out to its creator to talk about the site, staying busy and just what I've been missing on the south side of things.

JD: How did the inspiration for Cool Dad Music come about? Had you written about music before that? Maybe had a fanzine or contributed to someone else's?

JA: I’d never done anything like this before. I just spent a lot of time sharing favorite songs, album recommendations, grainy phone pictures from shows on social media. My friends used to say to me, “You should start a blog.” So I did.
     I’d kind of gotten to the point in my professional life where I wasn’t deriving much fulfillment from work, and CoolDad Music turned into an extremely rewarding second job. I joke that I’ve put more work into and gotten more out of running the blog than I ever did from 20-odd years at “real jobs.”

JD: Did you know what you wanted to cover from the get go? What's your focus?

JA: My focus has really evolved. I’ve got the tagline at the top of the blog that says
“Thoughts on mainstream indie music from a cooldad on the Jersey Shore.” At the beginning, I was just writing mostly about the music I was listening to on something like SiriusXMU.
The “Big Indie” like Arcade Fire and The Walkmen and Vampire Weekend. I was also reviewing shows by national touring acts either in Asbury or NYC.
     In the search for other stuff to write about, though, I started to open my eyes to things happening locally. I like to say that the half-full can of PBR that King Khan threw from the stage at Asbury Lanes knocked some sense into me when it landed on my head. It was that, plus hooking up with and contributing to a great local webzine here --
Speak Into My Good Eye -- that shifted my focus a bit. Things changed when I realized that there was this whole world of local music right in my backyard. I started to try and make it a point to let people know that, “Hey. You can go out almost every night of the week around here and see something really great.”

Alex Rosen at Asbury Park's Wonder Bar. Photo; James Appio
I’ve also gotten more and more into taking pictures at shows, so there’s a lot of pics at the blog as well.
     I’ve done a couple of book reviews. A few movie reviews.
 So focus? I’m not sure I’m really that focused. But I’m much more locally tuned in than when I started. Maybe I should change that tagline.

JD: Can you pinpoint something that might set you apart from the other catrillion blog and web slingers covering music in our area?

JA: I think my point of view and my approach set me apart a bit. I like to say that CoolDad Music is a blog not a webzine. What I mean by that is that it’s still really my personal observations on what’s going on. I’m not a journalist or a critic. I would love to have as many people as possible read the blog and let me know what they think, but I’m not trying to “monetize pageviews” or produce “clickable content” or whatever. I just try to write about the way a show or a song or a record makes me feel. What it makes me think about.
How it relates to my experience. And my experience is that of a middle-aged, suburban husband and father of two who has the most wonderful amazing wife in the world. She can tell what makes me happy and encourages me to go for it. So I go out a few nights a week to see bands that I know, or to catch something new; and I try to write about it in a way that’s interesting even if you don’t know or care about the actual music. Sometimes I’m probably guilty of using the music I listen to as an excuse to write about something entirely different with the show or the album as just a stepping stone.

JD: How long before you went from a blog to a .com?

JA: I’ve been from the beginning. I went and got the domain, figured out how to make it point to Blogger, and went live. I still use Blogger which is both beautiful and frustrating in its simplicity. It doesn’t really take any technical knowledge to get a post on the site, but it’s also limiting in some ways. For example, I’ve developed this whole convoluted workflow to get HTML5 slideshows into my posts so that people can see the pics on their phones. I’ve thought about moving to Wordpress, but I’m a creature of habit and fear change.
     Wow. That was kind of a boring answer. Sorry.

JD: No worries, we're old.

JD: Do you feel being a .com makes you come off looking more legit. Get you more review submissions and traffic?

JA: Like I said, I’ve been a .com since the beginning, so I’m not sure how being a .com vs a affects traffic. But, for me, the biggest positive influencer of traffic and readership is actually getting out and meeting people in real life. It’s funny. We’re so plugged into social media and the Internet. And I have some hermit-like, anti-social tendencies that could really be exacerbated by our disconnected electronic world. But it’s the real connections with real people that make the most difference, at least on the scale that I’m operating at now.

JD: I'm currently wracking my brain trying to remember who put me on to the term
"Dad Rock". When I picture the term, I can't help but picture fat, balding men wearing
Dad jeans. Would that be an accurate description of Dad Rock and does it relate to the term "Cool Dad Music"?

JA: Dad Rock to me is guitar-based rock music played, mostly, by men over the age of about 35. It’s pretty conventional and usually based on “classic rock.” I think of bands like
The National, The Walkmen, The Hold Steady, and Wilco as Dad Rock. I know it’s used as a negative and a joke, but I like a lot of those bands. But I am a dad.
     CoolDad Music is more about my being a cooldad -- a guy who’s reached a point in life where many people think you kind of stop evolving your tastes. Instead, I do stuff like go to FYF Fest in LA to traipse around in the dirt and dust with a bunch of twentysomethings. It’s kind of a dig at myself, like a joke about how all those kids must see me when I’m out there with them. Funny thing is, though, most of them don’t care and have just welcomed me and accepted me like any other music lover. Also, in the old days when I was just posting stuff to Twitter and Facebook, I would hashtag it #cooldad to kind of say, “Yeah. I’m a dad and I like hipster music.”
     I’ve expanded CoolDad Music from a purely one-man operation by adding fellow cooldad Scotch LaRock as another columnist. We met through the blog, and it turns out he’s just like me when it comes to his love of music. It’s nice to know there are more of us out there.

JD: I often kid myself about going to more shows at places like The Saint, Brighton Bar, Asbury Lanes and the Stone Pony. Truth is, I can rarely deal with driving both ways and I hate public transportation. Aside from that. I'm flat out lazy. Tell me a little bit about what's happening on your side of the tracks.

JA: It seems like so much. Like I said, it’s possible to see some quality show just about every single night of the week.
     Asbury Lanes is just a unique and wonderful place with one of the friendliest, most welcoming staffs around. Jenn, Mike, Sam, and everybody there really care about what they’re doing. Same goes for Scott and Meg over at The Saint. Plus, The Saint may be my favorite place to take pictures. The Brighton gets lots of interesting and venerable bands through, almost always paired with some local acts. I saw Jonathan Richman at The Brighton this year, and it may have been my favorite live experience all year. The Stone Pony is the big name venue in the area, but it’s still small enough that it’s great when you can see one of your heroes there. Ensuring that you end up with a good spot can take some planning and preparation, though.
     In addition to those places, there are some new-ish things happening. There are a bunch of free shows every week. Christine Feola who runs Dark City Entertainment down here puts on a free show at The Wonder Bar every, single Monday. “Happy Mondays” has grown into one of the major events of the week. Thursday through Saturday see a bunch of free shows on the boardwalk at the Langosta Lounge / Asbury Park Yacht Club complex. And there’s also a growing DIY scene at places like the Wunderloft, Red Bank Rehearsal Studios, and dens and basements all around the area.

Asbury’s Little Dickman Records is a great rock and roll label run by two of the coolest people around, Chris Yaniak and Amy Earixson.
The Battery Electric, Hot Blood, Corrina Corrina, T.V. Tramps, Inspecter 7, Wolfcock are all on the label; and they all care about fostering music here in the area.
     You may not have to travel too far to see some of the bands from down here. I think Hot Blood and The Vansaders are going to stop at
The Lamp Post in Jersey City and The Gutter in Brooklyn on their current tour. You should definitely go see them.

JD: I think it's safe to say that we are an aging breed. We're past our high school, college and mid to continually late 20's. What is it that still motivates you to leave the house, cover live music and buy records?

JA: It’s just my favorite thing to do in the world, it turns out. I was having just a crappy day at work earlier this year. I managed to wrangle myself an invite to a Sharon Van Etten lunchtime taping for the A.V. Club at the Stone Pony. I got off of my conference call and went inside to hear her do Springsteen’s “Drive All Night,” and I was transported. Everything for the rest of the day was better.
     I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been up front at a show and just stopped to close my eyes and let everything wash over me. Or how many times, confronted with some situation or moment, I’ve thought of a song that plays over it like a movie soundtrack.
     People tell me that it’s kind of funny the way I always manage to bring every conversation back to music or relate everything to an experience at a show or to an album I like, but that’s me. My wife recognized that music is what makes me happy, so she has encouraged me every step of the way.
     Sometimes I wish I had found all this out sooner -- or acted on it, anyway. But I am having a blast now.

Dentist (The Band) performing at Asbury Park's The Saint. Photo; James Appio
JD: I recall you mentioning Dentist as your current favorites. What is it about them that you love so much. Any other favorites that can't go without mention?
(past and present)

JA: Dentist are definitely one of my local favorites around here. They just hit on a lot of things that I really like. Reverb, fuzz, surf, hooks, pop. And no other Asbury-based bands are really doing what they do now, so there’s a freshness to them.

I mentioned the Little Dickman bands. Hot Blood and The Battery Electric, especially, do a lot to try and grow the local music scene. Not only are they really good bands in their own right, but they also try to bring bands from other areas to Asbury. Corrina, Corrina are a band of under-20-somethings that I can see going onto bigger things if they stick with it.
     Smalltalk is a relatively new band made up of Zak Kaplan, Jamie Goldfarb, Tara Jones, John Chladniček, and Pete Steinkopf of The Bouncing Souls.
They do late 80s, British-sounding stuff like The Jesus and Mary Chain or
The Wedding Present. Black Wine are one of a couple of bands maybe associated a little more with New Brunswick that I think of as local. They’re a great band (they call themselves no-core) who are based down here now. Brick Mower are another New Brunswick via Monmouth County pop punky band I like.
     Then there’s the eclectic prog of Accidental Seabirds or the drone-y noise of Wreaths. There’s garage rock from The Von Mons and Ba Babes. Bob Paulos and Nick Cucci of GayGuy / StraightGuy are one of the loudest, hardest rocking two-pieces around.
River City Extension have a new album coming next year. Oh, and Dollys. Another indie pop band. They’re from New Brunswick, too; but they’ve kind of made Asbury a second home.
     I’m not trying to name drop. These are all good bands. There are more that I’m forgetting, but that’s why you’ve got to get down here and see for yourself or keep on the lookout for them in case they show up closer to you.
     My all-time favorites are artists like Bob Mould, The Replacements, Yo La Tengo, Dinosaur Jr., My Bloody Valentine, Billy Bragg, The Clash, Neutral Milk Hotel, Built to Spill, Pavement. For the last few years, I’ve loved Titus Andronicus, Screaming Females,
The Men, Shellshag, Waxahatchee, Swearin’. I’ve also been kind of into some of these 90s revival bands like California X, Milk Music, Diarrhea Planet. And I just heard this band, Further, who are actually a 90s band that never really made it big. I’ve been loving the compilation they’re putting out in a few weeks.

Thanks for all of the questions. Get yourself down here and tell some of the bands you like to come down here and play. I’m always up for something new, and I don’t like driving much either.

CoolDad Music

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