Tuesday, June 20, 2006

7 1/2 Questions with: Gorilla vs. Bear

Gorilla vs. Bear's Chris Cantalini seems to be a pretty busy guy these days. Not only does he run one of the most highly acclaimed "tastemaker" MP3 blogs in the U.S. right now, but he recently began hosting his own SIRIUS radio show with fellow bloggers Brooklyn Vegan and Productshop NYC. He also lives here in Dallas in case you didn't know, which probably makes him, in terms of impact and influence on underground music, one of the most important figures to come out of the Dallas music scene in a very long time (although he obviously hasn't had much competition over the past decade).

We're pretty sure that you've had your fill of think pieces on the power of MP3 blogs in the music business these days, so we'll spare you. However, we thought it might be interesting to get some thoughts on the matter from one of the bigger players in the game, someone that actually sees what these blogs are and are not capable of on a daily basis. We give you 7 1/2 questions with Chris Cantalini:

I bet you probably weren't expecting this, but we wanted to ask you some questions about music blogs and their influence. Shocked? It seems that before the "blogging" age, whatever that means, the tastemakers of the underground or "indie" music industry were a small group of writers at influential publications, college radio DJs at big college stations, certain record stores, and New York trust fund kids with art degrees. Now it seems that a small group of bloggers have joined that elite group, or maybe even replaced it a bit. Do you think that blogs really have changed that much in the business? Why or why not?

I think it's still a little early to say how they've changed the business, if at all. I think one function the blogs serve is that of a filter for more traditional media. I mean, you're seeing these virtually unknown bands like Beirut, Tapes 'n Tapes, etc. showing up in the New York Times, and they never fail to mention the "blog-hype", so I guess there is some impact, I just wouldn't know how to measure it. Plus, I'm more of a fan than anything else, and my site wasn't originally designed to be some tastemaking force, so I don't really care if I change the business or not.

When did you start your blog? Why did you start it? How long did it take to build up an audience? How large is your audience today?

I started it back in March of '05 out of sheer boredom. I hated my job, so it gave me something to do at work. It took probably 6-8 months before people started paying any attention, and now I get somewhere between 5 and 6 thousand unique visitors a day, which is crazy to me.

How do you go about finding some of the bands that a lot of people are unfamiliar with? Do you seek things out, do people send you stuff, etc?

I spend a good part of my work day listening to submissions and checking out band websites, and I also read a lot of blogs. I'm pretty much tied to a computer all day for work, so it gives me something to do. Out of the stuff that makes it onto the blog, I'd say maybe 20% is sent to me, and the rest I seek out on my own.

What does it feel like to now have the ability to help launch the careers of musicians that you like?

That's such a new phenomenon with me, I haven't really decided how I feel about it yet. I mean, it's fulfilling to see bands I love getting more attention based on something I wrote, but at the same time, it makes me a slightly uncomfortable to be "attached" to these bands' success. It makes me cringe when i see terms like "blogger darlings", because that is so condescending in a way, and it just means that the backlash is inevitable. You're already seeing backlash, people saying certain bands don't live up to the blogger-hype, which is just ridiculous. Blogs are a such a personal medium. People talk about shit that resonates with them. No matter what I say I like, I'm going to get like half the people saying I'm overhyping it.

Do you have relationships with label and PR people? If so, what is the general nature of these relationships? Do these people often offer you favors in exchange for favors?

For the most part, I tend to ignore most label and PR people, just because I don't have time to wade through all the shit they send me. I pay more attention to submissions coming from the artists themselves. But yeah, I do have some relationships with a couple labels and PR people that I like and trust, and who try to send me stuff that they feel will align with my tastes. They'll send me "exclusives" or ask me to run contests, but that stuff generally tends to be crap, so I never end up using most of it.

What is the single greatest thing that has happened to you as a result of Gorilla vs Bear?

I'd have to say getting my own show on SIRIUS satellite radio, which people probably view as far more legit than just running a blog. At least to my family and friends, the fact that I've joined the ranks of Howard Stern, Mark Cuban, and Richard Simmons as SIRIUS radio personalities sort of validates what I'm doing to a small extent.

How is the satellite radio thing going? What do you hope to accomplish with your show? How did you land the gig?

The show was just sort of handed to me by one of the format managers over there. I guess he was a fan of my blog, and blogs in general, so he hooked me up, along with Brooklyn Vegan and Productshop NYC.It's been a lot of fun so far. I still sound sort of clueless on air, but I've had some bands help me out as guest DJs, which has been cool. Tapes 'n Tapes co-hosted the last show, and I got Mike Skinner of the Streets to do a couple drops for this week's show. And I'm going to hopefully be doing a couple things with some local-ish bands in the near future, like Midlake and Sound Team. I have no idea what I hope to accomplish, I haven't really thought about that yet. I guess it's basically just a real-life extension of the blog.

If musicians get laid for being musicians because musicians are cool, and bloggers play a role in deciding WHICH musicians are cool, will bloggers ever be.... we already are, dude. No seriously, I know what you're getting at, and no, I've never had sex with any of the guys in Birdmonster.