Monday, July 14, 2008

Daytrotter.com: stealing radio's thunder


Sean Moeller, from www.daytrotter.com.

Sean Moeller is a guy that radio stations are going to come to hate.

He's doing what they used to do, so far under the radar, that by the time they realize what he's up to, it will be too late.

The Rock Island, Ill. native has built an amazing retro recording studio out in the middle of nowhere, and they are coming. Indie rockers, up-and-comers, established rock stars, such as Carly Simon, Ani DiFranco, Amy Mann and Amos Lee, and some 3 million fans are finding his website (daytrotter.com), his analog studio, Futureappletree1; and the pizza parlor that houses their live shows. (They are also booking a 1,500 seat opera house.)

Death Cab for Cutie liked his setup so much, they recorded a version of their newest disc for him and released it on Daytrotter before it came out on their major label, Atlantic.

Indie rockers, (including the Bay Area's, Jolie Holland and Mates of State have been by. So has Of Montreal, the Cold War Kids and Bonnie Prince Billie. Moeller, a 29-year-old former music journalist, hopes his now rare tape and analog recording equipment will snag Neil Young, a musician who has always favored the old, warm sound.

"Most people these days have a Mac book and that's their recording studio," says Moeller, who started the site to help musicians who weren't getting the attenttion they deserved. "You can argue it doesn't sound nearly as good. A lot of these bands have never even recorded on tape, and they love it when they hear the results."

The sessions are notoriously informal. Bands use borrowed equipment, trade instruments and have fun, while engineers Patrick Stolley and Brad Kopplin roll tape. They are now doing five sessions a week, giving Daytrotter visitors for free, 20 new songs.

Moeller and Stolley came up with the idea while working day jobs, Moeller writing for the Rock Island newspaper and Stolley painting houses. The name was random, says Moeller, partly related to his love of horseracing.

The gas crisis has helped immensely. Rock Island is two hours from Chicago and two from Des Moines, a perfect pitstop for bands to stage a concert and make some money, or just stop and record for fans, before heading back to the road. It's one of those largely ignored places where boredom inspires a religious ferver for music and teens looked longingly down the Interstate-- and finally someone is bringing it to town.

Two years ago the site was a word of mouth thing and Moeller's talent for finding solid new acts got the buzz rolling. Now bands and labels are contacting him. They are even advertising there. Warren Haynes' new disc has a featured ad, as do Brooklyn, New York's Shannon McArdle and Little Rock Arkansas' American Princes.

They'd rather play for 100 passionate fans in Rock Island, than in some big city clubs where attitude is more important than music, says Moeller. The site also has a staff of artists, who, like 'zines of yore, add spice to their presentations.

"We are doing what radio used to do," says Moeller. "When I was in high school there were two or three stations I didn't hate. They used to play Nirvana and actual rock and roll. Groups would appear on the stations and when concerts came around, they would have vans pull up outside. Now, nothing is getting played but Three Doors Down and Nickelback. There are only three or four cool stations left, and a lot of cities are hurting for that."

1 comment:

Matt Jaworski said...

The sessions are notoriously informal. Bands use borrowed equipment, trade instruments and have fun, while engineers Patrick Stolley and Brad Kopplin roll tape. They are now doing five sessions a week, giving Daytrotter visitors for free, 20 new songs.