Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Get off the Internet (I'll Meet You in the Street)

I'd like to add an ammendment to this entry: I am, in no way adverse to the idea that blogs/downloading help spread music in a grass-roots style. Obviously, without this kind of exposure our band would be pretty much nowhere. I support many of the blogs and bloggers existing in the world today. My main problem comes from the kind of disposable attitude encouraged in such a culture, which is discussed below.

Le Tigre - Get Off The Internet (Remy Mac Totally Botched Mix)
MIA - Sister (Remy Mac Mix)

Before the entry, here are two remixes I made when I first got Ableton Live, three or four years ago. Coincidentally, they're pretty much the only remixes I ever made. The sound quality is completely horrendous and the beginning of the Le tigre one is totally fucked. But hey, they're kind of fun.

And now, the entry:

I have really mixed feelings about the internet. The last few days, I've received a lot of phone calls from people telling me that I should either check out the internet or avoid checking out the internet, and of course in an act of inevitable vanity I have read pretty much everything Voxtrot-related that I can find online. It's pretty bizarre being a band that exists almost entirely outside of print media, but instead resides in the ether of ones and zeros, that omnipotent force whose presence we trust in the absence of any real physical guarantee. Regarding the concept of internet bands, I recently did an interview with Pitchfork Media, a segment of which reads as follows (PS. I understand that quoting myself is a bit over the top, but the sake of time and efficiency, it's probably best):

"Because Voxtrot, quite early in their careers, found an eager audience among bloggers, the band has often been called a "blog band"-- a tag that doesn't much concern Ramesh, a blogger himself. "It's a label I'm proud of, I guess," the Voxtrot Kid told Pitchfork, "because that's the new, subversive media, right? So it's cool, it's really cool."

"But then it has a people have emotional loyalty to a band when music comes so fast? With blog bands, the shelf life of a song in people's minds is a lot shorter. Sometimes I think maybe that's good, because it puts less emphasis on the record industry half of things, but then maybe it's bad because it's hard to cultivate any kind of scene anywhere or any history, because everything is exposed so immediately."

He continued, "I remember when I was little, going to a record store and buying a record that you'd heard about, and then because you bought it you really labor over it for a long time-- the whole thing of becoming connected with it and sacrificing yourself to it. I don't think people do that anymore."

Let me talk about this in regard to our upcoming record, which is to be released on May 22nd. I guess when you make an album, as opposed to an EP, it's more likely to carry some sort of theme, or topical continuity, and the themes that characterize this record are struggle, conflict, death, loss of identity, and an unstable concept of the future (global warming included). Pretty dramatic, huh? The combination of leaving Glasgow, changing my life significantly to accommodate my career, losing my grandmother, and working under extreme constant pressure sent me into some kind of crazy mode in which I have been unable to relax or take anything lightly. The whole thing has been pretty work intensive, and I often find myself, at the most inopportune times, staring at nothing, wondering, "what happens when you die?" and what sort of artistic imprint will I leave behind?

Recently, during ye old SXSW, I was in the Emos dressing room talking to Zach Condon (Beirut) just after our show, and we were discussing the last time we'd met (just before his reported collapse, if that is indeed the correct vocabulary). I told him that I often get so worked up about everything to do with the band that I have the sensation that the ground is moving underneath me and my feet begin to feel unstable. If I remember correctly, he responded that this was the feeling he had had just before his incident, only in his case these "illusions" of instability came to pass. At this point I became kind of worried, as I realized how far I'd come from my previous light-hearted existence.

When I was writing/recording the Mothers, Sisters, Daughters and Wives EP, for example, my life was really easy. Most of it was written in Glasgow, during which time the majority of my responsibilities included going to Optimo and observing/absorbing culture. Oh, and being a waiter/student. When I listen to that EP, I get this wonderful image of heading to LA for the first time, traversing that remarkable bit of landscape where you can actually see the flat desert end and the mountains begin. I've always thought it was incredible that the change is so sudden and visible. During that tour I would listen to those recordings and feel really happy that I had this little secret, a secret I couldn't wait to share with whomever was willing to listen.

This new album, for all of the reasons listed in previous paragraphs, is very different from our previous output. Depite the fact that I'm quite pleased with the album, musically, it's almost difficult for me to listen to, and I imagine that, as a listener (or, a listener who is not me), it's something you have to kind of live with for a bit before it feels right. The album focuses on conflict and struggle, and on trying to do the right thing in light of the multiple forces that are beating down against you (sounds ridiculous in light of the present state of the world at large, but it's the truth). After a while, I found that the best way for me to find inspiration was to digest all of these negative feelings and reinterpret them in song form. I'm not sure if I can expect listeners to follow me through a journey of struggle, but I think that if anybody's willing, the eventually pay off might be worth it. However, I'm clearly biased.

So, how does this all relate to the internet? The internet is fickle. Everything is disposable. Everything is fleeting. The internet is a very dark place to be. Everybody's a fucking authority and everybody knows better than everybody else. You (I am now going to use "you" in a general sense, though I realize that it does not necessarily apply to the reader) may think that you deserve to be able to download an album at no cost, store it in your iPod, pass your particular judgement, and then immediately dispose of it or hype it at will, but you actually don't deserve that. Sorry if I sound a bit critical, but I guess that, at this point, I'm not talking so much about Voxtrot specifically as I am about the relationship that every band is forced to maintain with the internet. The other day I logged onto (well, the other day probably meaning 6 months ago) and saw a bulletin from a friend of mine that read, "New Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem, I think they're pretty good," followed by a link to a shareware site. I think that's shameful, not just in terms of ridiculously lax filesharing, but also in terms of inviting that kind of internet-informed snap criticism: I've made my judgement, so now you download it for free and make yours. Either way, nobody loses out because no money was exchanged. I'm just as guilty as the next person. "Immediacy" is a word that gets thrown around a lot in music industry and I think that now more than ever that word holds significant weight- I often find that, when presented with so much music I tend to have a very disposable attitude towards anything that doesn't set me on fire in the first five seconds, as it is instantly forgotten. It goes without saying that I take other peoples' art for granted. Big time.

So, why am I writing this? I'm not really sure anymore. It sounds as though I'm selling myself short, but that's not the case- I guess it's just an outlet for me to say that I'm reactionary and it's bizarre to see the thing you're labored over up for instant open-forum debate, but I'm pretty certain that these are universal human experiences, and sometimes it feels good just to say it out-loud. At the end of the day, I am proud of the things that I've created and just have to trust that I'm making something honest and actually representative for the people who believe in me. And I do.

Plus, it is, after all, only music.

Remy Mac


Blogger Bryan said...

Well, for one, I want to say that MySpace is not really the place to go good musical criticism or respect for art in the first place :)

But anyway, I understand what you're saying. The internet is indeed a double-edged sword; yes, your (I use "your" in the way that you used "you") gets heard by a larger audience, but it also becomes something of a fleeting sensation. I think, however, that it's ultimately good, because for every kid that downloads an album and then immediately discards it because it doesn't hold his/her attention, there's another kid who is willing to invest time (and if it's good enough, money) into the digesting and absorbing of a really good album.

Also, I just wanted to say, don't let the pressure get to you. You're doing a great thing; making music is something to be treasured. You've got a lot of fans who will stick with you no matter what. Me included.

8:47 AM  
Blogger Redsauce said...

Long time lurker, first time poster--great blog, amazing band.
I very much understand the connection with the music and poring over it for a while. I think it's changed some with internet music, I know I don't pore over music I get on the internet as much as an actual physical album I buy. But I think that blogs simply widen the audience of people who get exposed to the music--quite possibly people who wouldn't be exposed normally. If people get disinterested, chances are they wouldn't have stayed interested with the exact same non-internet music. The people who like the music'll stay no matter what format it is.
As for the pressure, it's always helped me to realize that no one's as alone as they think they are. Hokey as hell, but it works for me.

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like I said in Austin, believe in the music, believe in the power of the leak.

I do agree about the consumptive state of our creative class, however. I'm often disturbed at what rate new music (or movies, or art, for that matter) are built up, processed, and torn down again. IN that way, is it even possible to have a lasting album, a lasting effect?

I have to hope so, and that hope has returned me to the vinyl LP. The very ceremonial, symbiotic relationship one has to the music is cultivated in that form (more astute and educated readers could successfully argue that vinyl is responsible for the triumph of "album culture") lends itself to savoring. Even the delicate nature of the medium forces the listener to handle with reverence.

Which is why, on May 22, I'll be buying Voxtrot on Vinyl with included MP3s, because one can at once appreciate the past while embracing the future.

And no 2-bit hax0ring P2P subculture is gonna mess with that.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Redsauce said...

Where'll we be able to pick up the LP w/mp3s? I've looked on the voxtrot website but didn't see anything on it. I'd love to go that route too.

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I spend a bewildering amount of time on the internet, and I download a lot of music. Not so much whole albums, but the little bits and pieces that people put on their blogs at least. And sometimes it does seem sad, and so far removed from how these sorts of things should really be. It seems so different to how it used to be when you'd take your actual self to an actual record shop that the two things barely seem related. But ultimately, it's just a means of hearing things. It's just like hunching over the radio and listening to the Top 40 on a Sunday when you're nine years old and having your finger ready over the record button for when all the really great songs come on.

And you know all of this already, I'm sure. I honestly don't know if it's even relevant. But I can't imagine that the sort of people downloading these new songs of yours are the sort of people who'd not go out and buy the record as soon as they're physically able to. I don't expect they'd dream of it. Because there's no doubt that this MP3 schtick is a big deal, and that it's sort of making a mess of things. And probably in some walks more than others. But I think that people, ultimately, have a huge regard for real records still, and understand that music really ought to be something palpable.

The really, really good stuff has a way of floating to the surface. And if you honestly love something then just having it on your computer is never ever going to suffice. Because when you like something that much you need to stick a pin in it or something; you need to fold it over at the corner. And you certainly and definitely need to be able to hold it in your hands.

I hate that everything's so fast nowadays and that nobody, me included, has the resolve to just wait for things. And I am sure that there are some people, albeit silly ones, who have downloaded this new album of yours and decided it wasn't for them. But there'll be countless, countlesss others whose heads will be left spinning. And who will mark the date on their calendars and buy it in earnest and be turned upside down accordingly.

There seems to be a genuine fondness for Voxtrot amongst people. And not that awful fleeting sort wherein everybody loses their minds over something and more often than not will forget about it a fortnight later. It's sort of more dignified than that, you know? It's less showy. It is good and solid and upstanding with a heart and a backbone and isn't likely to ever burn out. And oh I'm not sure I'm even making sense anymore. I've long since forgotten what I ever meant to say. But I really don't think you've a single thing to worry about. Because I am certain that everybody will buy it and take it home and listen to it on a proper stereo like back in ye olde days, and nobody will come out of their rooms for weeks and weeks and weeks, and computers will be left untouched and attention spans will bloat back to a good and rosy size again, and everyones ears will go pink and hot and we'll all get tunnel vision and start speaking in tongues and it will be amazingngngng.


And oh my word this is so long. And inarticulate. I'm sorry I'm sorry.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Julia said...

When I was in high school, I wanted nothing more than to go to shows, discover new bands, and partake of the experience of music that kids who could afford to did. Not having money meant not having access - something the internet now provides, and I never stop appreciating that. Most of my discoveries now are through blogs that post mp3's - and if I really get immersed in something, I'll go buy the album/EP. I feel like the people to whom music is transient and disposable don't feel it in the first place - even though there is so much more available to everyone now, it doesn't take away from the potential to connect with a song. The music snobbery blog culture is perpetuated by people who use music as currency - those of us who just plain love it don't feel the need to furrow brows and elevate ourselves by putting bands down. Consequently, we tend to stay out of the blogosphere (we're too busy lying on the floor of our room with eyes closed and the volume turned up). Not that all blogs do that, of course.

I've been so happy and inspired this past week listening to your album. It washes through me and lingers each time I listen - I try to put on something else, but I keep coming back to it. I'm glad that by the time I see you guys play live, the songs will be familiar and I will have connected to them, making the show that much more enjoyable and meaningful. And even though I have it, I will, without a doubt, be buying it the day it comes out. There's a give and take that comes with music, and the immediacy and connectivity of the internet should heighten the connection between the artist and the listener. I still have an attachment to physical albums, and to the artwork they contain. And really, if you like a band and you enjoy their work, you should give back in the form of support. Otherwise, how can they thrive and reach their full potential?

I've taken the link down from my blog and apologize. I wanted to share something I thought was wonderful with others - and those who ARE sharing it already agree with me, not only in appreciating the music, but in continuing to support you guys. If it makes any sort of difference, no one ever really reads my blog anyway - it's just an outlet for enthusiasm over things most people don't bother about anyway.

4:18 PM  
Blogger BariaBlog said...

great blog

It is hard out there. For bands and labels too. Too much has been made of the internet as a "marketing tool". In truth it is just another way to engage people and if you are interesting it certianly helps but I really believe that the only way to make your music count is to get it heard. And the best way to do that is to play.

Its great to talk the talk but getting out there and making a big messy hall rock out to your tunes is the only way you are ever going to make it big.

Good luck.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Alicia said...

Voxtrot is not a blog band. I'm not even sure I can support the existence of such term, since it definitely seems to trivialize how fantastic your music is. I didn't discover you through word of mouth or reading some blog, although when I discovered you, I quickly read about Voxtrot through your own words (your blog).

I discovered you through Pandora. And I latched on and began to pay the buzz forward. Now my friends are hooked. If they hesitate, I slap them. They don't know what they're missing, and I make damn sure they wise up.

Mull this over. If you originated online, would it be accurate to say your following would then be content with you just remaining in such a realm? Would they insist you do all your live performances through media streaming?

I don't think so. People still want that connection. I don't care how people find out about Voxtrot, as long as they find out. If it's through blogs, word of mouth, interviews, NPR, myspace, Pandora and on and on... then I applaud the listening crowd. Music is intimacy. You can't have a love affair with anything in life without getting personally involved, which, for many, really comes to fruition at live performances.

You can't pinpoint the shelf life of a band by the avenue in which they were discovered. That's discrediting the band. It's like saying you met your lover online, but for eternity, that person will just be "the internet person." Give the person more credit. You can transition from one classification to the next, but does that even matter? It's a label, a way for people to classify their feelings. Get over it, I say.

You're coming to Phoenix. Hell yeah I'll be there. I've been on your bandwagon since the very first song on your EP.

Truth be told, I have blogged about you. But that's just another way I choose to pay the buzz forward. I consider it my creative duty. Heh.

10:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your album is coming out on my birthday (was that on purpose?). Oh wait, it's Morrisseys birthday too. Anyways, this isn't really related to your blog...I just wanted to say hello. I can't wait till you come back to San Francisco at the end of May. I'm moving to Paris in September so I'll be expecting a European tour sometime after that. Can't wait, xoxo

12:09 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I like how you write :)

6:49 PM  
Blogger Rage And Love said...

OK...where the hell have I been? Since when did Voxtrot have a bloggy? Yeah...I haven't been on lately myself...only because I lost my bloggy somwhere out there in the big universe of the internet. Anywho...I'm just happy I can get more info! :-) Aaaaaand I'll promote your guys' bloggy on my bloggy. Ya. Much Love!

10:49 AM  
Blogger gp said...

Dear friend,
Welcome to hell. I would be scared for you, if I weren't so confident in your success. Putting several years of work out into the world for judgement, especially in the context of anonymity-and-indie-politicks-driven-hyperbole-on-the-internet of the present day, and as a band with SO much (not-unjustified) hype swirling around, is extremely stressful. Having pretty much experienced the worst-case-scenario, a few words: Please remember that, hit or flop, this is all really very much a game, and a quite silly one at that. Your craft and its development are what matter, rain or shine, and whether on not voxtrot becomes the chart-topping megastars Beggars hopes you will be, the rest of us with less at stake will continue to love and cherish you. Also, try to resist the temptation to read reviews: even when they are very positive, they will most likely annoy the shit out of you.

12:50 PM  
Blogger geekatronic robot said...

Apparently the thoughts of self as we know, are conceived through the reflections and reactions we get from the people around us. But, I'd like to think that that's not entirely true and we have a concept of self through our inner deep human existence. Your music is truly amazing, and I wouldn't let other's opinions of your art bother you, because as long as you're happy with what you do, then that makes what you produce a million times better because it means more, which in turn makes it mean more to you and to others like random people like me.

Anyway, when I listen to your music, it makes me feel like my feet are perhaps elevated above the ground, and I go into a state of equilibrium in this world of chaos. You make me happy, and I don't even know you ^_^ so thank you!


3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand what you mean, and I'm not going to try and protect the medium but I wouldn't have heard of you if it wasn't for the internet. And the only judgement I've passed over your music is that I enjoy listening to it. I don't how much artist-patron connection there is, but I like your art regardless of how I acquired it (although it probably kills that I didn't buy it but I have an excuse for that: I can't.)

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have to realize that music is not the basis for everyone's lives like it is yours or mine.

Odds are that LCD Soundsystem dude prolly just wanted to impress everyone about having the albums early and was presenting a sort of "ehh, nothing special" attitude to maintain that cool.

Even if he's a fag.

9:12 PM  
Blogger Mitch said...

Well, yeah. Internet = immediacy. It's kind of a pity that everything has to happen so damn fast nowadays. I wouldn't mind popping on a vinyl that I'd paid for, cranking it, and sitting out the back in the sun. However, I must admit that had I not downloaded your music amongst a large number of other tracks I wouldn't have ever heard it.

On that line of thought. I downloaded "The Start of Something" and I love it. It seems like a real good tin can type of song; it ought to last for centuries unscathed. NOW though, I want to buy a record or CD or hell, even a tape would be great. I live in Melbourne, Australia... And I don't know where to start.

Additionally, fantastic work discussing the internet on the internet. I guess we're all a part of it now. :)

8:41 AM  
Blogger Renegade said...

Remember, everyone has their own opinion - some will love your work while other hate it. It's what matters to you that's important!

Keep creating new stuff, and keep blogging!

Check out Renegade's BS

7:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great entry. Personally, I worry more about iTunes destroying the idea of an album, what with the ability to download one song at a time. Sure, it has the possibility to eliminate "filler," but on the other hand, some people like songs that others consider to be filler. And no one really needs the pressure to make only great songs anyway, do they? Then there's the whole idea of an album as a cohesive unit, which I understand, even if I've never really noticed it myself.

I downloaded your album already, I'll admit. And I downloaded the new Shins, Arcade Fire, Ted Leo, Modest Mouse, and Decemberists CDs before they came out, and recently got the new The National album, which comes out the same day as yours. I can rationalize it by saying "I'm going to buy it anyway," and I will. I've bought all those above that already came out other than Modest Mouse, and I plan on buying that once I have the money to.

I listened to the Ted Leo album once, and then deleted it. The same for Modest Mouse. I listened to the Arcade Fire album once, didn't delete it, but didn't listen to it again. The same for The Shins. The Decemberists got regular play, as has yours, and I'm getting around to The National album. But, no matter what my initial impressions were, I bought The Decemberists, The Arcade Fire, and The Shins albums the day they came out. I bought the Ted Leo album eight or nine days after it came out. The Modest Mouse is forthcoming. I've got a point in here somewhere.

People need to listen to albums. More than once. More than twice. They don't necessarily have to listen to every song over and over again, you can clearly tell that some songs aren't going to grow, but most of them. Everyone is as good of a reviewer as the professionals in the end, but opinions need to be thought out, especially if you're posting before the release date of an album. Songs grow on people, it's a well known fact. Sometimes people just don't want songs to grow on them. They want to say "I hate that blog band Voxtrot," or whoever, just because they feel like it. Really, nothing could be better than giving out links to an album (since those people are unlikely to ever actually buy it anyway,) rather then just giving it a one or two liner and nothing else, positive or negative.

On May 22nd, I'll buy either your album or The National's, but probably not both. Not on the release date. I'll get both eventually. Who knows, I may never get around to seriously previewing their album before then, but I just don't know. It won't be because of any reviews, professional or otherwise.

4:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although the Internet may allow a certain disposable attitude toward music, great bands will always inspire loyalty, even if their fans stumble across them online. Like most Voxtrot fans I know, I fell head over heels for your band after the first few lines of "Start of Something," and I've been waiting for that full length album ever since. When I heard it had leaked, I couldn't bring myself to wait any longer. But the fact that I haven't yet paid my precious money for that album doesn't mean I don't feel any compulsion to do justice to it. It isn't perhaps as catchy and accessible as the early EPs, and at first I wasn't feeling it as much as I expected, but I had invested too much into waiting for the album that I was not willing to dismiss it after a couple lousy listens. So I listened to it over and over again and waited to let it sink in properly. I knew it would pay off, and I knew a band I admired that much deserved my true attention. And every time I listen to that album, I discover something new that appeals to me, a different song that startles me with its beauty. Somehow, you managed to exceed my expectations, but it took me two weeks to realize it. In short, I meant to say that people who love music, who love good music, are willing to invest time into the bands they love, whether they have to pay for the music or not. If they don't, they're cheating themselves out of a work of art that could be enriching their lives. You're doing something unbelievably amazing - you're creating music people can connect to on so many levels that it can't just be a fad. Me, I'm going to buy that album when it comes out, and somehow I'm going to get to at least one of your shows this summer. Please don't stop making music - your true fans aren't going anywhere.

8:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just discovered about you through the spiritualized forum I think, and it's true I would definitely go to see you in Paris if you came here (any plans to?). I can download your music, but what I really want is to see you play, and then buy your record!

3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just discovered about you through the spiritualized forum I think, and it's true I would definitely go to see you in Paris if you came here (any plans to?). I can download your music, but what I really want is to see you play, and then buy your record!

3:09 PM  
Blogger ANS said...

Hey just read..through stereogum...your blog, especially this post as they were referring to it. This issue is something I have thought about and written about on my blog -

Glad its not just me!

6:22 PM  

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