Probably one of the top questions many (most?) SXSW attendees ask themselves upon looking at the (frankly overwhelming) festival schedule is (to be very frank) “Who ARE all of these bands? I’ve never heard of half of them.” (No, you’re not alone!)
One thing for sure about SXSW—but you can say this about music in general in 2012—is that there are a lot of great acts around, but how do you find out about them?
We asked Sean Moeller, Daytrotter’s man with the golden ear how he discovers emerging bands and lures them to his Rock Island, IL studio for a session.
Since a large part of Daytrotter’s appeal is the “filter” of your ear—you’re kind of like the Internet generation’s John Peel—I’m curious about what filters Sean Moeller himself employs to find out about new music before anybody else (or is that a closely guarded trade secret?)
I kinda just have one filter and it’s if I like it or not. A song or a band hits me rightly or wrongly, pretty quickly. It doesn’t take much. The ear “guts” just get it or they don’t. As far as outside filters, some of the greatest things that I hear about are from bands that we’ve worked with in the past and have become friends with. As everyone knows, great writers and musicians gravitate to other great writers and musicians and everyone’s always excited to talk about something great that they just heard. I learn a lot about different scenes and what’s happening there through friends like that. Sometimes they’re dead wrong and I’m not hot on something, but the majority of the time, it’s interesting.
What was the original impetus behind starting Daytrotter?
The original impetus was really just wanting to have some kind of platform—however big or small it was going to wind up being—to showcase artists that I really believed in or thought were incredible. I was that guy in college who was always listening to and recommending things to friends that were so foreign to them. I hardly had anyone listen to me. I was writing for a number of music magazines and even there—my pitches would fall on deaf ears, so I just started my own thing. And the idea of taping the sessions—and doing it the way we do them, live to tape—was something that me and our original engineer thought would be best. The sessions were just supposed to be something different. A new way to hear someone.
Which performers have produced the most magical Daytrotter sessions?
That list would be a long one. I think there are a bunch of different kinds of magic. There are the ones where the mere presence on tape and who they were was so special—Kris Kristofferson, Charlie Louvin or Raphael Saadiq. But then there are SO many who just surprise you. Even bands that you’re sure will be great, come in and we’re able to/they’re able to capture a truly inspired performance. It’s why anyone goes to see a live performance. It’s that chance that everyone hopes for. It’s the essence of what we try to do every day.
What sessions are you looking forward to recording this year at SXSW?
I’m really excited to tape Eric Burdon of The Animals, Jimmy Cliff, Built To Spill, PAPA, Counting Crows, Of Montreal, Spoek Mathambo, Diamond Rugs, Father John Misty, Youngblood Hawke, Harriet and a bunch of others. We’re gonna tape a good handful of old friends and that’s always a good time down there too, people like Barnstormer alums Hellogoodbye, Miss America (which is all of Nathaniel Rateliff’s band), Delta Spirit and Madi Diaz. Good times!
Who would your “dream” act be to record a Daytrotter session with if you could get into a time machine and travel back to their heyday?
I think Hank Williams or the Beach Boys during the “Pet Sounds” years would be the cream for me.
Check out the Daytrotter app at the iTunes store.
More SXSW 2012 coverage at Tap Into Austin 2012