Brown Man Says Goodbye To Stereogum, Heads To Television, Wants To Thank You
A note to future departing music bloggers: Listening to Sigur Rós while writing a goodbye post is probably a bad choice.
A note to future humans on saying goodbye after nearly eight(!) years: Do it in person.
That’s how I tried to break this to Scott, but due to some crossed wires we wound up on the phone, and I wound up wrestling with a case of overwhelming emotion and an involuntarily ululating voice. It was a golden opportunity to bust the Antony cover of a lifetime; instead, I put my quavering vocal in service of thanking him for changing my life, being a great man, and one of my best friends. I’m doing that again here, in that this whole post is really a thank you to Scott; without him, there would be no here. (Truth.)
But first, let’s talk about us, and this thing we’ve built, together. By the end, we’ll have touched on a lot of things. Including that photo.
So, hi. Like I said, generally — and definitely after the better part of a decade — not having the decency to say goodbye in person is inconsiderate and cowardly and uncool. But since you and I have always communicated online, trading thoughts and barbs and love via WiFi, in our case this internet missive is the ultimate means of honoring our time together. I’m leaving, you guys, and I want to say thank you for tolerating me, and for allowing me to grow into this thing that I am now, and for sharing in the maintenance of this site, which is a powerful place.
In Stereogum, there’s always been a beautiful combination of actualized genius and pure potential. Scott built this spot in his own image, as a tasteful champion of obscurist indie, with a sharp and playful fascination with the machinations of pop culture. (Also, awesomely, he was really just trying to amuse his girlfriend, now wife. Lovefool!) In so doing, Scott also created a place for Us: The ones who were bound in our undying love for post-punk and My Bloody Valentine and Morrissey — and our fixation on upstarts like Arcade Fire and Lily Allen and Arctic Monkeys — but who weren’t so presumptuous or pretentious to think it was all that mattered. There was a world at play, a pop culture with outsized figures and interesting movements which impacted all facets of our shared culture, and we didn’t have to pretend like we weren’t paying attention. Because we LIKED paying attention, because we liked thinking about the world and how it related to the culturally marginalized place we decided to reside within it. We prided ourselves on our tasteful tribalism, but we weren’t insular or exclusionary. We wanted to talk. In those days Scott would call the site an “indie rock watercooler,” which was the best. It still is.
Stereogum — by which I mean you lot, by which I mean We — has been my life. It has changed it, too. Not to put too fine a point on it, but let’s be real. When we first met, I was living in the artsy East Village, working as a corporate securities litigator. That dichotomy of location and vocation is symbolic of my entire existence. From childhood I’d been a writer, and a musician. In college I concentrated in political science and philosophy and music theory and played in bands and wound up in law school, in part because I couldn’t successfully articulate a vision for a musical career path to the Indian parents it was my duty to please. I edited the International Law Journal and studied business organizations, simultaneously fascinated by it and realizing it was not my path. I moved into my parents’ basement after graduating to write and produce a record. A year later, I was a member of the NY Star Bar and had moved back to the city of my birth, hoping to make that music happen. Instead I began practicing at a big corporate midtown law firm, with no time to play music, but plenty of money (and late nights) to go see it. I discovered a downtown and Brooklyn-based independent music community — and, vitally, the nascent website culture that was chronicling it. I fell in love with Stereogum, reading it everyday to treat my existential cubicle-crisis. I started a website of my own, called it Village Indian. The wheels were in motion. My life became blogs.
My debut Stereogum appearance came in a post Scott titled “Mr. Indie Rock Visits Lincoln Center.” Mr. Indie Rock referred to Sufjan Stevens — and it is all sorts of appropriate and symbolic that Scott and I and you all came together thanks to Sufjan, who would later wear our shirt onstage — but I liked to let it ring more expansively. Sufjan and I both went to Lincoln Center, I wrote a review and sent it to Scott, and now we were all sharing space on the best website on the internet. Dream status. Something happened that day in my gut. I knew, fully and immediately, it wasn’t going to be writing songs, but writing about them, on Stereogum, that was going to deliver me from my wayward career as a lawyer. Soon, Scott asked me to review shows for him regularly. I one-upped him by quitting my job and blogging for him for free, all day every day, before he was even in a position to do the same. I took a chance on him, because his writing inspired greatness and had become intrinsic to my world view; he took a chance on me because, well, I still don’t know why. But I knew I could help Scott actualize his vision for Stereogum, and beyond. At the very least, I knew it could let us quit our day jobs.
Thanks to you guys, we did it. Now we’re here. Over the years you trusted me to introduce you to unheard bands, from Vampire Weekend to Sleigh Bells to Twin Shadow to Twin Sister, and you rode with me as I obsessively chronicled the every step of Grizzly Bear and Dirty Projectors and Das Racist and Yeasayer and Santigold and other artists who didn’t even live in Brooklyn. I attended countless concerts and took countless photos and we dined out on my seasonal harvest of eight straight SXSWs, seven CMJs, and about a million Lollas, Bonnaroos, Coachellas, and Pitchforks. Together we watched the impossible happen. (I.e. Pavement, My Bloody Valentine, and Neutral Milk Hotel returned!) Together we liveblogged our first listen of a free Radiohead album. Together we had Kanye call us squidbrains. YES WE CAN.
But these past eight years have been about more than just taste and trivia. Together we transubstantiated our Brooklyn indie cultural immersion into a broader cultural sensibility. Over that time you gave me the space to weave in my background in law, like when Beach House got ripped off by Volkswagen, and my background in brown, like when we lost Ravi Shankar. But the moment that I felt Stereogum’s power most deeply came in the wake of the Wisconsin Sikh Temple killings, just one year ago. My immediate response wasn’t to churn that horrendous moment into music blog content; rather, I spent two days only reading and reeling. But when the bitterly ironic musical dimension of the whole affair dawned on me, from hate punk to kirtan, I turned to you to help me process it. Your response was everything. Right then, in the context of a tragedy, was a reminder that we are doing something valuable by collecting here every day, like a family, to pore over and discuss and analyze and celebrate and criticize music, and the culture surrounding it. Because music is, fundamentally, transformative.
The beauty of Stereogum is that it can accommodate such seriousness, and also great levity, and absorb so many different perspectives while still retaining an enduring sense of “Stereogum.” And that’s why you should be confident of this site’s future success. My departure comes at a time when our editorial staff is an extraordinarily strong and productive beast. Scott’s at the helm, as he has been since the very beginning, so you’ve got all the legacy and primacy and vision in the world. Tom continues to crank out the most insightful, well versed, and amusing music-critical (and pop culturally synthesizing) commentary in the game. Michael’s work product is impassioned and informed, and he’s been a chief architect of many of the editorial initiatives you’ve seen here over the past year. Claire is an important young voice on the make. You guys are in good hands.
You guys have always been in good hands. And Stereogum has always benefitted from the talents that have passed through it. When I went to Øyafestivalen in Oslo in 2007, I met a brilliant bearded giant named Brandon Stosuy, and wanted nothing more than to work with him. Soon he was here, contributing a wealth of experience and knowledge and facial hair volume, and expanding Stereogum’s genre profile to include metal in a manner far, far beyond my cursory coverage at the time. I learned a lot from Brandon and his work ethic, and his heart, as we all did — in substance, and by example.
Soon we launched Videogum, and the world got a little more Gabe Delahaye and Lindsay Robertson. They had already been in our lives, as treasured internet voices and friends, but Videogum was the vehicle they (and we) needed. Lindsay’s instinctual internet savvy helped confirm Videogum in the web’s consciousness from the start, and Gabe’s tonal and total mastery of internet discourse made us all better writers just by virtue of our reading him. I can’t count how many posts I’ve seen shamelessly ape his comedic stylings to pathetic effect. (And I’m just talking about my own.) Coincidentally, Gabe just recently left Videogum, and while leaving is a sad thing, I take some comfort in having done it the same month as him. Because he is an inspiration, and a friend, and very handsome, and this puts our conversations about our neuroses back on a similar schedule. (We have great conversations about our neuroses!) And you guys remain in good hands at Videogum, too, as Kelly Conaboy is directing the site’s third act with boundless stamina and wit.
The next Stereogum roster expansion brought us Jessica Suarez, the site’s first female voice and a writer whose mark is still felt every time you read a Best Videos Of The Week. Brandon and Jessica moved on nearly simultaneously, but we never missed a beat, thanks in part to Stereogum’s elastic resilience, but mostly to the chance conversations I had with Tom Breihan and Corban Goble, separately but at the very same music festival, immediately after which I knew they would be our new editorial guns. Tom’s impact continues to this day, as the lyrical soul of the site; Corban’s tenure will always be remarkable for his freewheeling spirit and commitment to innovation, and for having brought a sense of lightness back to the content well. It was around that time that the community at Stereogum came back stronger than ever, too, after a site redesign introduced the registered commenter system which momentarily chilled conversation, but ultimately refined its mettle. And that was the greatest thing, because that commenter voice is, and always has been, the undying constant, the differentiating factor, and the bedrock of the site.
This remains the greatest music community on the internet. At Stereogum, your voice is essential. It’s never been a purely top-down editorial model, because we don’t live in a purely top-down world. We’ve always aspired to having an honest conversation with you, and we have always absorbed and reflected on your thoughts before proceeding with the talk. It’s never a lecture, always a dialogue. You have legitimately shaped the tenor and direction of the content, while we’ve sought the means to steer the conversation and push it forward. You’ve taught me the value of community, one of the reasons I adore this blog.
I also love this blog for the opportunities it’s provided me to explore more than just blogging, and to indulge my interest in television and film and video. Because as much as I love typing on the internet, I’ve always been too much of a litigator to be satisfied solely behind a laptop. I first tried on my “host” hat when I hosted The ‘Gum Bowl, our celebrity bowling tournament featuring Marnie Stern, The Blow, Les Savy Fav, Kumail Nanjiani, Jon Glaser, Baron Vaughn, Nick Thorburn, Max Silvestri, Gabe Liedman, and so many more. I represented Stereogum on MTV with Matt Pinfield, and on Fuse with Mark Hoppus. I made and appeared in a movie called DOSA HUNT with a bunch of my friends in Stereogummy bands like Vampire Weekend, Das Racist, Neon Indian, Yeasayer, and the Vijay Iyer Trio. All of those moments flow from this place, and they confirmed to me that my next step would be in this direction.
And it’s on that note, and with that in mind, that my time at Stereogum draws to a close. It’s not a decision I made easily, and not a thing I take lightly. (If you couldn’t tell.) But I have the extraordinary opportunity to evolve, while honoring what I’ve experienced here with you.
Starting this fall, I am going to be the Music and Culture Editor and Host of Revolt TV, the new music television network from Sean Combs. (Yes, this means Diddy is now my boss.) I’ll write and present stories on national TV, live, every day all day, with an eye toward connecting the dots between music and culture and art and news. I’ll get to synthesize all of my life detours, as an attorney and a musician and a blogger and in film/TV, and I’ll get to continue looking at art as a prism for substantive conversation about politics and the broader culture. And the thing that will shape what I create there are the lessons I learned here, and all of the aesthetic values and notions of community we dreamed up together.
Revolt will be on your television in October (via Time Warner and Comcast and a host of other carriers). If you are curious, its website is up and running now at revolt.tv.
And that lead photo is probably making a little more sense now, right? Some fun facts about it (though honestly, all of them are fun): It was taken in 2006, by one Scott Lapatine, who also was the one to suggest I post it here. It is both poetic and prophetic.
Now, this is the part where we talk about keeping in touch. Let’s keep in touch! There are ways to do that on the world wide web (I have a personal website, a Twitter, an Instagram). But also, please feel free to be more direct in your notes of celebration or condescension or derision by dropping a line at [email protected]. Or you can add me to your mailing list, or tell me about your band or movie or book or restaurant or political movement, at [email protected]. And you can catch me at a DOSA HUNT screening near you, or guest lecturing at a few universities you may be attending (this fall I’ll give a talk at University of Maryland; this spring I’ll do one at Yale). There are lots of ways to engage. I sincerely hope we do.
So, well, this is the end of my last post. IT’S WEIRD! I told Scott the other day, that while I don’t know what he saw in me in the beginning other than a big camera, he wound up netting a brother. You all did. I like to think we all grew into ourselves a little bit during our time together here. We’ve made some missteps, I got questionably obsessed with wearing band shirts, but we’ve always been able to gently point out the errors in each others’ ways, turn each other on to some good art, and make each other finer in the process. Whenever I made a mistake in a post — and god knows, there have been a few — you guys were there. Sometimes kinder than others, but I am better for it. The running joke has always been to reply to a corrective comment with “Thanks to my fact checkin’ cuz.” It’s a Pavement reference, yes, but I now realize it’s even more than that.
It’s a confirmation that we are family.
Thank you for everything. I will miss you.