Britt Brown (Not Not Fun, Robedoor, LA Vampires) “Ours is a thin-skinned generation, and a lot of artists harbor surprising venom toward anyone who isn’t buying what they’re selling.”

You have stated, “Having a face-to-face experience is like a ghost-town in L.A.,” insinuating a lot of American musicians are faceless in musical communities because of the internet. If someone were to suggest they play live do you believe there would be an evolution in their sound or setup?

Totally. Subjecting what you make to a public context changes it. Even on two-week tours a band’s sound will change. Night after night performing for people, feeling what rhythms work, what parts fit. People are staring at you, judging you, because you invented some moniker, drove to their hometown, charged them $5, and then turned your shit up loud. It’s a moment of truth — do you have anything dynamic to impart?

Society’s not for everyone though, so I appreciate pure loner-ism too. We get plenty of demos from people explaining how they live somewhere with no music scene or record stores, where no one likes what they like, and there’s no one to collab with so they just make music in a vacuum and download torrents all day. I empathize. Growing up in Dallas in the 1990s was mainly a void. Best you could do was see Butthole Surfers at some overpriced sports arena. Digging deeper took dedication.

You also mentioned how modern music is splintering off into “incommunicable cults of personality” — could you flesh that out for me a bit more?

All I meant by that was the vibe where the musician’s persona is as much a draw as the music. Sometimes that’s in a sort of “spectacle” way — like when an artist or band is known for doing deranged shit at shows, pissing on the audience or whatever, so people roll out regardless of admiring the actual music — and sometimes it’s just that the artist is unusually charismatic or has, I don’t know, like an aura almost. This isn’t at all a bad thing, or a new phenomenon, but it is a situation where what’s generating the interest isn’t purely the music — it’s like a belief in the “character.” For instance if you’ve ever met Jeff Witscher or Charles/Taterbug you’re probably not surprised that there’s a total cult of weirdos and music dudes all across the country who go to all their shows, mimic their slang, get similar tattoos, even dress kind of the same. There’s this idolatry aspect that’s beyond fanship. But this dynamic exists at all levels. People are definitely more interested in Grimes the person than Grimes the music. Same with Sky Ferreira, and tons of other people, rappers, Twitter stars, artists, actors, whoever. It’s not uncommon.

This closely follows along with the article you wrote at the beginning of last year about how solo musicians had dominated 2012’s quantification of music. How did you see this evolve or devolve throughout last year, and potentially into this year?

I wouldn’t use the word “evolved,” but it continued, for sure. Statistically, there’s less money to be made in music now so people are less and less inclined to split it. First step is to go solo. Then you start your own label, “Artist’s Name Records,” then you tour nine months of the year. People love this fantasy of independence. When that recent Beyoncé album came out there was this ticker-tape quote of hers running under her videos on Fuse or MTV or whatever that said basically, “I hope by doing this I can be an inspiration to all women and artists on how they should never have to share their money with ANYONE.” [mimicking Beyoncé voice]. What a joke. Her entire existence is based on having a paid staff of people to write her songs, lyrics, beats, produce everything, promote the living shit out of it, etc. God forbid Columbia’s staff make a dollar off years of work hustling her brand all over the planet.

What bums me out most is just the ebbing away from that communal aspect of music. I totally romanticize musicians playing together — not as hired guns but as a real team. There’s so many musicians out there that make, you know, pretty great music, solid cassettes, but if they joined forces with someone else who also had at least above average ideas? Much less if you added a THIRD person with vision to the mix? It’d be a fucking supergroup. Who knows what kind of next level synergy they could generate, united like that.

I remember one time during our final song, as each member leaves when their part ends, I dropped my guitar and hopped off the stage and instantly a guy was like, “Yo, can I give you this demo?” The band was fully still playing, three girls howling through pedals.

And then there’s PR helping these people go beyond just their community and access a general majority of people that could potentially enjoy their music — which again ties back into year-end nonsense. How do you figure PR enhances this intention of quantification of music?

It’s basic boring capitalism. American Apparel would have a tenth of the brand recognition they have if they hadn’t bought back-cover ads in a thousand different magazines for a decade straight. When a major release comes on deck 90 percent of music websites run interchangeable posts about it: “Wow, this Disclosure band is something special!” Only rarely is hype organic. Most of it’s paid for.

That said, people aren’t sheep, you can’t convince them to like something just by dunking their face in it repeatedly. But you can implant it in their consciousness. And that has a real effect. So many shitty movies break even because the studio blanketed every bench and bus and billboard with posters, and it seeped into people’s brains enough that they found themselves Netflix-ing Olympus Has Fallen or some garbage. A Tame Impala record isn’t any different.

PR plays into the Darwinism of music, which I have a personal aversion to. For the first eight years of NNF we didn’t have anyone handling that side of things, we just sent promo copies to whoever we’d had a personal interaction with. That’s dinosaur-style though; that won’t get you shit in 2014.

You wrote for The Wire that the critical infrastructure of music “plugs into the same loop [of music coverage].” Have you found any websites that review or promote in a way you enjoy, that keep it real?

There’s specific writers I like. Matt from Yellow Green Red is pretty thoughtful and intuitive. William Hutson, too, he writes for The Wire; his takes on things are nuanced and he calls stuff out for being lazy, which I’m into. Dwight Pavlovic from Decoder is a surprisingly good listener — he describes sounds in a way that’s not cribbed from one-sheets or other reviews, which is depressingly rare. So, yeah, definitely.

But obviously the majority of music sites are defined by whatever gets them page hits. It’s a business; they need those McDonald’s and Red Bull ads. So, whatever facilitates that: Lana Del Rey remixes, wacky Odd Future tweets, corporate techno festivals, James Blake’s headphone preferences, whatever. None of the big sites have any interest in rocking a boat.

I’m not calling these publications posers, I’m just saying that if a website has basically identical content to 20 other websites then why fight so hard to act like yours is uniquely important? You wanna stand out? Pan Yeezus. Admit the limitations of Julia Holter’s vibe. Obviously I’m kidding, this would never happen.

I think Tiny Mix Tapes’ approach has gotten pretty offbeat the past couple years, with these über-intellectual idea orgies. I’m not a dropout, but I didn’t go to school long enough to understand all those post-structuralist/Baudrillard/meta-times-meta concepts the TMT staff is always snorkeling in. I don’t mind confusion though. And “dense” and “indigestible” are hardly buzzed advertiser keywords, so I appreciate that.

That’s right, you actually mentioned to me digging TMT’s feature “The Trouble with Contemporary Music Criticism.” Where do you see Robedoor falling within this idea of “the musicians being the real critics?” Do you feel it falls along the lines of dark music or perception of occult?

I did dig the piece, but it was really heady. I’m not sure I got it all. But speaking clear-headed about Robedoor is pretty impossible for me. It’s a real ritual of friendship at this point, I’m not really sure who it’s for or how it’s intended to be perceived. It’s born from a pretty isolated state of mind.

Robedoor live

I’ve heard this crazy statistic that only 75% of iTunes has been played, like people just clicking through albums. YOU even wrote, “A person could spend a lifetime clicking and skimming without grazing a fraction of what’s out there.” With that in mind, would you mind indulging readers about what’ll be coming out on Not Not Fun for 2014?

Well I just picked up this Bronze LP for their release show tomorrow. They’re amazing, this totally unclassifiable lifer trio — an actual band, so it’s very novel. Later we’re doing this conceptual Umberto EP with Matt reworking one of his old songs and remixing it under an alias on the B-side. It’s different, really long. We’re also doing this Swanox LP this summer, it’s pretty epic in a homeless sort of way. He’s a really funny guy, his songs have this authentically busted vibe I’ve always been drawn to. What else? A new Cuticle record, a Skeppet LP. Some tapes. Plenty of stuff. We’ll hit the NNF300 mark for sure. Also a new Maria Minerva album in April.

To end on one of the first questions I’ve asked you way back, but… what’s your epic tour story?

Oh right, shit… Most tour road warriors I know have way more psycho stories but one memory that me and Amanda always reminisce about is this one super-bizarre event LA Vampires played in Cairns, which is this tropical town in Australia that only tourists and bogans go to. It was our first day there, and we were already zombified from the 16 hours in a plane, but as night fell these heavy storm clouds rolled in and it start[ed] raining torrentially. But the “show” was this crazy outdoor arts circus — fire-jugglers, aerialists swinging from poles, barefoot children dancing in mud, video projections on broke-down school buses, like some Merry Pranksters family freakshow. The other musical performances all involved homemade helmets, extended improv, lots of spoken word. The crowd wasn’t phased by ANY of it — they laughed and drank wine in the rain, loving all of it. We played in this cramped wooden room near this kitchen/bar area and people danced till our gear fell off the table and we had no songs left. At 3 AM we took a taxi to our hostel and slept for 15 hours. Then we killed two full days there, wandering weird fruit markets and watching backpackers with dreads play digeridoos on the street. I don’t know if that’s a “story” but it felt fucking surreal.

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