Unless you’ve been living in an isolated, internetless location for the last four years, you’re likely aware of Daytrotter. The site started in 2006 and, in the four years since, has provided listeners with nearly ten million free, live tunes from their favorite bands. I will say that again for dramatic effect and because I enjoy repeating myself: ten million tunes. Free. As important as providing music lovers with access to all of those sessions, Daytrotter offers a reminder of just how pure and rewarding it is to really love, and really appreciate, music is. Stripped of pretense, not allowing for the indulgence of that impulse to over-arrange, and entirely life, Daytrotter offers its listeners their favorite, and soon-to-be favorite, artists completely in their element. That’s something we should all be very grateful for.
Sean Moeller, the head of the Daytrotter family and the man responsible for the fantastic “liner notes” that accompany each session, took time out to answer a few questions and talk a bit about how the site started, where it might be headed, and BBQ. Enjoy.
How long had the idea for Daytrotter been in your head before you started up in 2006? Was there a moment you can pinpoint where you said, “I have to do this…”?
About two weeks. I don’t think I really felt like “I have to do this,” but it just felt like a situation of “why don’t I just do this?” It just felt like something that we could pull off and turn into something really memorable. I hoped that it could be something interesting and rare, but I don’t think I envisioned what it was actually going to become.
As much as I dig the sessions, I enjoy your writing. How difficult is it to find another angle when you have an artist back for an encore? Theoretically, if they’re doing their job, you’ve got plenty to say, but have you ever hit that point where you’re drawing a blank? No need to name names but, if so, how do you handle it?
Thanks man. It’s always kind to hear that. I majored in journalism and minored in English and have been a lifelong reader so it’s something I spend a lot of time on. I always try to make these essays something different and sometimes it works better than other times. I’m proud of everything that we post though and it’s hard some days, but I would say 90-percent of the time, I get an e-mail from a band the day the session posts saying that it was their favorite piece that they’ve ever had written about them and even if my drivel and ramblings only made sense to them, it’s better than I could ever ask for. It’s never easy writing about anything. It’s hard, but I find joy in the challenge.
Speaking of multiple sessions, you’ve got a pretty unique vantage point in that, while the audience gets to hear an artist’s maturation or progression through their records, or through their sessions, when you have an artist back, you can see their growth by the way they handle themselves in the studio. Is there a particular artist, or a few, where you could see how far they had come, just from one session to the next?
This is a tough one, only because, really, we’ve only been doing this four years and so I’d say that even when we’re talking about a band like Blitzen Trapper – which has been here four times – they’ve done all of those sessions over the course of two albums and three years. I don’t know that that’s a suitable enough time to see a huge change. I think they’ve been a solid band over that entire period. I’ve seen fantastic changes in The Dodos, but I can’t really put my finger of exactly how. But I feel that they’re so together now and it’s thrilling. I think this question becomes much easier to answer in four more years, after a single band has been back 6-7 times. I think the biggest thing that I see is the ease in session, where dudes know the studio, know us and know how to get the most out of the taping and the room. They know what worked best and what they want it to be. I think that comfort alone makes for a better session. When they know they can come in and just shoot the shit with us, know the limitations of the room and the charms of the room that can be exploited to enhance their energy and sound, it’s a good couple of hours.
Can you recall when music started to matter to you? Was there a moment or a song that just hit you and made an immediate impact or was it a gradual thing?
When I was growing up, I remember getting into Alabama big time. Singing along to their records in the family room with my sisters. Then in middle school, I started buying rap cassette singles – Heavy D, Young MC, that era. When it really hit was with Weezer and the Canadian band Chixdiggit in high school. I fell hard for all the Lookout! Records bands – Squirtgun, Groovie Ghoulies, Mr. T Experience, etc. Then when I got to Iowa City and the University of Iowa for college, it just took over. I would be at the record store every day after class and discovering Of Montreal, all the Kindercore Records bands and getting out to the bars every night – it seemed – catching all of that great stuff coming out of Lawrence, Kansas (Get Up Kids, The Anniversary, Ultimate Fakebook, Creature Comforts) that was coming through town all the time. It got ridiculous. And that’s how it started.
The way music is distributed, marketed and promoted has changed immensely, and Daytrotter has been an integral part of that – of introducing new bands to a broad audience. In a way, the playing field is more level now than it ever was for artists. How do you see things continuing to change in the next few year?
I see it getting more and more like that. It’s finally gotten to the point where bands don’t need labels for all that much – unless they really want a label, or the label is more of a partner and not just a standard “putting the record out” thing. Bands are seeing that their hard work is really their greatest wild card and I think it’s exciting as hell. I think bands and music lovers have it better than they ever had and soon enough, the Internet will officially pay off for these bands – getting money directly to their pockets, not through anyone else’s fingers.
Completely unrelated: Best BBQ joint you’ve ever been to?
Man, there’s this great place in Austin that we go to every year at SXSW, but I can’t remember the name. It’s a filthy little joint and it’s amazing. We dined in an empty diner last year except for us, Eugene Mirman, Todd Barry and a gaggle of other New York comics at like 9 pm. It was fun. The other place that I just went to in Nashville last week with Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes was Mary’s. We got a bunch of shoulder sandwiches and they were delicious.
Back on topic. Have you all ever been approached by an artist wanting to cut an entire record at Rock Island? Is that something you’d be open to or would it run contrary to what you’re doing?
We have been a couple of times, but we’re always so busy that it just never works. Sunset Rubdown wanted to cut their last record here, but it was kind of last minute and we just weren’t able to move things around enough to make it happen.
I’ve gotta ask the obligatory “What are some of your favorite sessions” question so, do you have a few that really stick out, feither or the performance, the people involved, or both?
The people who have been back more than once are always so much fun to have in. It’s just family at that point – the Delta Spirits, the Cold War Kids, the Dawes, the Snowblinks, the Paleos, the Blitzen Trappers, the Casiotones, on and on. Always greatness. I have a soft spot for the Raphael Saadiq session and having the Blind Boys of Alabama at the Horseshack was pretty special too. I love all the sessions we do though, I really do.
Aside from the sessions, what are you listening to lately?
I’ve been buying a lot of out country stuff — Kristofferson, Hank Williams, The Del McCoury Band, the Louisville Hayride box set, Willie Nelson box set. That sort of stuff.
Alright, so you’ve got the t-shirts, and now you’ve got a mascot, just how far can the Daytrotter empire spread? Where would you like to see it go from here?
I just want to keep letting it be dope in whatever ways it wants to be dope. Who knows that that means.
A Few of Ninebullets favorite Sessions
Dawn Landes – “Goodnight Lover” (from Daytrotter Session September 10, 2008)
Raphael Saadiq – “Sure Hope You Mean It” (from Daytrotter Session April 14, 2009)
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – “The Last Song I Will Write” (from Daytrotter Session July 10, 2009)
Blitzen Trapper – “Black River Killer” (from Daytrotter Session July 13, 2009)
Lucero – “That Much Further West” (from Daytrotter Session November 12, 2009)