Three Things Everybody Needs to Know about Atlanta Music

I’ll be frank – I’ve only been actively involved in the Atlanta music scene for around three years. I’m not a hardcore local and I don’t bear the breadth of knowledge about the Atlanta music scene that some locals have. However, I feel at times that works to my advantage. I still view the scene as an outsider and can poke and prod at it through a slightly different lens.

For the past few months, I’ve had debates with people about what defines the “Atlanta sound,” specifically in regards to the various styles of rock that come out of the city. It appears to me that there’s very little consensus about what sounds define the scene, but rather many sub-scenes and cliques existing all over town. To properly address this issue, I want to talk about what I feel makes up a music scene.

A music scene is essentially a localized and often independent community of music fans, artists and media alike. It’s that simple. Historically, certain geographic regions have created a signature sound. Many people are familiar with the jazz and dirty blues that originates from New Orleans. Or in the sixties, San Francisco was the mecca of hippie-psychedelic music. The same goes for genres like techno and rave music which were popularized in the nightclubs of the UK and eastern Europe.  I could go on forever about the different styles and genres of music and I guarantee with almost everyone, a particular city or region will subconsciously come to mind.

I would argue that Atlanta’s rock scene is not truly a scene with a signature sound at all. It’s a diaspora of different people with different musical identities and different objectives. Honestly, the only consistent and unified scenes in Atlanta are the rap and urban scenes. Think about it – we all recognize the signature Atlanta hip hop sound. The trunk rattling 808 bass, grim and moody synthesizer lines, simple, but witty punch lines, emcees who focus heavily on vocal delivery and flow. Atlanta legends like Outkast and Goodie Mob helped to perfect that brand and T.I., Ludacris, Young Jeezy,  and many others took the formula and ran with it. As more music fans were pulled into the sounds and culture surrounding Atlanta hip hop, the media latched onto it and record label heads started turning. Because there was a signature sound and brand the entire scene was elevated to the attention of mainstream audiences.

When I look at the big rock acts that have come out of Atlanta, mainly Mastodon, Deerhunter and the Black Lips, these groups are vastly different. Mastodon is clearly the most successful and they have pioneered a progressive metal sound in ways other metal bands can’t. Deerhunter appeals to the indie hipster crowd and the Black Lips are basically a party band which occasionally releases a genius garage rock single here and there. But all of these bands come from different streams and musical schools of thought. There’s very little that connects these sounds, at least not enough for someone to label it as a signature sound.

I’ll admit, I may be somewhat biased. I attended school in Athens and have always had a strong connection with the town and its amazing music scene. But while I lived there, I noticed that Athens has a signature sound and brand. There are lots of jam bands and indie pop bands, but that’s the sound. The bands that want to emulate the Sound Tribe Sector 9 electronic/jammy sound or Widespread Panic.  Other artists pay closer attention to the trippy indie pop sounds of the Orange Twin Commune/Elephant Six Collective (Of Montreal, Circulatory System, Apples in Stereo, Elf Power and many others). Several of the music blogs and local zines have picked up on the math rock/post punk sounds coming out of Athens via Hello Sir Records. There’s lot of variety and sounds in between, but I feel Athens has forged its own signature sound and style. That little town has created a brand reflective of the people within it.

For a while I was annoyed with the “new” Brooklyn scene. I got tired of hearing and reading about all the hype surrounding groups like Grizzly Bear, Bear in Heaven, Yeasayer and Animal Collective (actually I never get tired of hearing about this group). But I can understand how Brooklyn and Manhattan emerged from out of their comas after almost twenty years. The metro NYC area created a signature sound and brand. Many of the aforementioned bands have a dreamy and somewhat epic pop sound. There are very hazy elements, but the music is tightly arranged and obviously informed by the sounds circulating in the city’s electronic music scene. On top of that, metro NYC is a press haven and once again the media latched onto these artists and reported about all the new venues, trendy places and hot spots.

I’m no musicologist, but I understand one thing – a music scene is like a forest fire. There’s no specific cause for what creates the fire, but once a spark has occurred and smoke starts billowing hard and fast amongst the trees, we know there’s fire. There’s no single explanation as to why lightning may have struck in the particular area, but the life of the fire is contingent upon how much flammable material is available once the spark hits.

I feel that Atlanta’s music scene needs to catch a fire. Maybe it’s already there, but I want to see more of it and I want to fan the flames. The local media will have to step it up and start reporting about not only a diaspora of sounds, but a set of sounds that unites the scene. This will have to be a set of sounds that can bond groups of people locally, but also on the national and global levels.

I don’t have too many words to describe what these sounds could be. I think Atlanta’s scene could appeal to “working-class sounds and conditions.” Many affluent and wealthy personalities have moved into the city over the past decade, but I still feel Atlanta is very much a city whose best spots are surrounded by working class joints. I could picture a bizarre Tom Waits-like figure slowly creeping out of the Atlanta scene and into the mainstream.

Overall, I can’t predict which direction the music scene will turn towards, but I want to lay out and emphasize three points.

1) Bands should continue to network and build relationships

2) Fans, keep going to shows, but most importantly don’t forget that local bands do release records too. Justin Bieber isn’t the only one on itunes; don’t look down on purchasing a local record.

3)  The local media has to step it up. I’m tired of reading about your friends’ bands that honestly nobody gives a shit about. Quit writing about labels that release any and everything. Give me some content that speaks to a particular sound and nail it over and over in my head.

Tell me why these sounds (this BRAND) should appeal to me and how it identifies with what’s going on in society. Help me, the music fan, make sense of what’s going on in the streets.

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29 responses to “Three Things Everybody Needs to Know about Atlanta Music

  1. Great post Taylor.

    I think it’s hard, especially now that it is so easy to hear any style of music from anywhere in the world, for specific areas to maintain having a certain ‘sound’.

    That said, there are definitely still specific areas that you can easily tell have been influenced by what that areas ‘sound’ was before.

    B

  2. I think that Atlanta should celebrate it’s diversity and not try and have a certain sound or brand or anything like that. I think that a collective vision would be good, but one that is trying to broaden the tastes of the worlds listeners which is already happening through the internet. Maybe people could say, “Atlanta has a renaissance going on of great music and art that is very diverse.” You should check out The Moon and Pluto. That is actually the goal of that collective community. http://www.themoonandpluto.com

  3. @ Clint, thanks for reading the article and the comment. I’m well aware of the Moon and Pluto.

  4. The diversity in Atlanta music is great. The fragmentation is paralysis. You’re dead on regarding the local media. Our most mainstream local music news resource is tragically selective in it’s coverage of bands, shows, and music. It’s no wonder that the local music fans have a hard time getting into the scene, considering they are without a source that can handle (or are unwilling to cover) the breadth of what’s offered in our city. There’s too much ego out there and far too little sincerity.
    It’s difficult to navigate and even more difficult to circumvent. Persistence, an open mind, and unleashed opinions are key factors to benefiting Atlanta’s scene. Thank you for yours.

  5. This is about as half-baked as they come.

    First, your assement of Atlanta’s hip hop scene is vastly underinformed.

    Secondly, “The local media has to step it up. I’m tired of reading about your friends’ bands that honestly nobody gives a shit about. Quit writing about labels that release any and everything.”

    Give me a break Mr. Johnny-come-lately. Jeff at Stomp and Stammer and Chad at Creative Loafing have been “stepping it up” for years. Before you start barking pissy pants little demands like this you need to know what you’re talking about. Outsider or not.

    The laziest bands in this town ooze with an unwarranted sense of entitlement, and complain very loudly. If you want the local press to write about your band you need to write better songs and play better shows. I hear this bullshit a lot and its usually from bands who haven’t even put out a CD or a 7” or even a CDR for chrissakes!

    “Give me some content that speaks to a particular sound and nail it over and over in my head.”

    You know what. A few years back the Loaf was all over the Atlanta punk rock scene, which as getting a decent amount of national attention as well. But every Tom, Dick and Harry with a blog bitched about how they only wrote about their friends bands…. But really, if ever there was an emerging “brand” in Atlanta, that was it. And just like everything else in this town it came and went. But the negative Nancies couldn’t hear it over the sound of their own bitching.

  6. I APPLAUD POINT #3!

    Our local press is seriously slacking on covering music and writing reviews. I quit going to shows that are hyped up by the press because every damn time it was a disappointment.
    Why didn’t someone tell me that this band was only “average”?
    Why didn’t someone tell me that this band was still super new and figuring out their sound, but you may catch a song or 2 that has an inkling of greatness? (before I spend money to see them, and find it out myself?)

    Why didn’t someone tell me that this band is great, but maybe a little boring to watch if you’re looking for a dancey kind of fun?

    I really disagree with your whole “what a scene consists of” drivel because it’s obviously an ignorant take.

  7. Finally, my BIGGEST BEEF with our local press is that they just don’t know shit about music. They’re not out there in it, they only listen to what thy know and are familiar with, so they don’t possess the ability to properly evaluate music when it comes to them, and it’s obvious from the generic descriptions I see in the press every day. EPIC FAIL.

  8. @ Nadia, thanks for the comments, you made some great points. Our local media sources are very selective and have refused to write about new music that is relevant to what’s going on within Atlanta at this particular moment in time. We’ve become accustomed to reading the same, almost stale names in the newspaper. My question and task that I offer to others is, how do we challenge this? Should we demand content that is more pertinent?

  9. Atlanta is a “music community” that has many different “scenes.” What needs to happen is a revolution in the fan base – more people need to go to more shows to make that great “scene”….and I think that scene could involve a wide variety of music. We have plenty of musicians and media folks going to shows and it seems to be the same crowds for the same bands. The fans need to be more involved. Also, the folks in the more popular bands and scenes need to be more welcoming to “outsiders” if they want a larger fan base….quit beings so damn clique-ish. I think the local media is stepping it up…your blog, the moon and pluto, ohmpark, beatlanta, hijacking music, creative loafing – we have a variety of large blogs promoting some amazing music…with that said, beatlanta is ready to step it up even further…just wait to see what we bring in 2011. Big stuff I think.

  10. @ Kristin, when you say, ” I really disagree with your whole “what a scene consists of” drivel because it’s obviously an ignorant take.”

    Can you please elaborate upon this?

  11. You have some valid points in that the Atlanta music scene is somewhat fragmented and that hip-hop is mostly what the city is known for.

    I do believe you might be somewhat shorsighted in your assertion that Atlanta needs to “Brand” itself with one or a couple niches of music….Wild Fires start in many different ways and grow organically. There is no ONE formula. I’m sure that Austin, NYC, and LA for example all developed in different ways at a different rate.

    I think your article would have served itself well by including information about some of the cross genre overall collaboration taking place in this city right now and some other bands like The Constellations, The Coathangers, Manchester Orchestra, Zack Brown, and more that are doing VERY WELL. …Overall, I think more research into all the great bands across genres coming from Atlanta would have served this article w ell

  12. @ McNary, thanks for the comments! You said, “I do believe you might be somewhat shorsighted in your assertion that Atlanta needs to “Brand” itself with one or a couple niches of music….Wild Fires start in many different ways and grow organically. There is no ONE formula. I’m sure that Austin, NYC, and LA for example all developed in different ways at a different rate.”

    Great point! I’m not sure if Atlanta musicians themselves need to seek out a particular sound or brand in order to be known. Maybe I should have been clearer.

    As a major metropolitan city, it would be very tough/near impossible to get all the musicians in town onto one bandwagon. One bandwagon that makes everyone comfortable with the sound or genre being represented by the entire group.

    There are different outlets (ie the local media and fans) that gravitate towards a particular sound or brand. After all, the bands and artists do not make up the scene themselves; there are several components and actors involved. It’s just as important for these other actors to realize their importance within the entire equation. It’s not the musicians’ sole responsibility to define the scene.

    One of the quickest ways to catch a fire is to create a brand that sticks. During the early nineties, Seattle became a mecca for grunge music. However, there were and have always been different music genres and scenes within that city. But it was grunge that put the city on the map and it was the local journalists and press who loved the scene and wrote about what was going on that really made the difference. The same could be said of the relationship between a journalistic figure like Legs McNeil and punk music.

    Overall, much of what I’m viewing is as an outsider looking inward. I’m actively involved in many things music in the Atlanta area, but don’t wholly connect to everything like some locals. As an outsider, I see loads of talent, but I also see lots of fragmentation. I’m seeking unity.

  13. “One of the quickest ways to catch a fire is to create a brand that sticks. During the early nineties, Seattle became a mecca for grunge music. However, there were and have always been different music genres and scenes within that city. But it was grunge that put the city on the map and it was the local journalists and press who loved the scene and wrote about what was going on that really made the difference.”

    There are a couple ways to look at branding. It can be a convenient shorthand and it’s much easier to market something that has a name and identifiable traits. Branding is good for business.

    But within any given artistic scene, branding can be irritating at best, destructive at worst. I’m not so sure any band from Seattle worth its salt back in ’88-’94 was self-applying the term “grunge.” Terms like that are buzzwords, for use by outsiders and of little use to a band busting its hump to get a gig or book a tour or put out a record in their hometown.

    A couple stops down on the Branding train is homogenization. Once the sound’s got a name, stuff that doesn’t fit those parameters will be marginalized, the main attraction will be exploited and overexposed and eventually hung out to dry.

    It seems to me–though there may be evidence to counter this–that the musical scenes that have managed to survive with their dignity intact are the ones built around a strong center, supported by the merits of the music and the personalities involved. Atlanta is certainly lacking something like a Touch & Go or a Dischord to bring it together–and maybe in the electronic media-driven landscape we occupy, the time of the big indie label has passed. I just don’t think that marketing is going to fill that void.

    Atlanta itself is a city that is still working out its identity–we’re the Capitol of the South without any clear idea of what that means or how to shape it. Perhaps you’ll remember the logo Atlanta cooked up for itself and the “Every Day Is An Opening Day” billboards around town. I think you’ll agree that there are better ways of finding yourself.

  14. Well I think it’s ignorant because like the press, it ignores what’s going on outside of the trendy mainstream redundant Atlanta scene. If you go out to the surrounding suburban area there is definitely a “scene” and it’s pretty cohesive. Rova Zetella, Merkava, O’Brother, Red Sea, The Humboldt Trio, …these bands + others I would definitely say are the closest our area will get with a “cohesive” scene, but like other bands will have to go outside of Georgia and our locked down Atlanta bars and venues to get noticed. Remember Norma Jean? What about The Chariot? Blame Game? These are bands that have started outside of the trendy atlanta dives and got notice, and are the pre-cursers to the bands that I named above. Why? Because the little nich venues outside of the locked down biased venues, booked them regularly ad they gained a core following of teenagers like myself that they could rely on to go to their shows on a regular basis and got popular through good old Word of Mouth.

    You, like our local press, are ignoring fractions of the music community that not only have their shit together, but are the closest we are to having a “cohesive” scene.

    But this is just my opinion of course…

  15. Thanks for your input, everyone! This is a conversation I continue to have over and over again and that I work towards understanding daily. Atlanta is one of the most diverse cities in the country (and GA the most diverse state) in most ways, including population demographics and resources available to us. That’s what makes our city great but is also a primary contributor to the fragmentation in our music scene.

    In response to your list, I’ll keep this short:

    1) AMEN to artists needing to be networking, not only with each other, but also with venues, music industry business professionals, and current and potentials fans.

    2) PEOPLE, GO TO SHOWS! Atlantans are known for being fair-weather fans, in sports and all other forms of entertainment. You can promote two shows the same way, same band, same venue, and get 20 people at one show and 200 people at the other (and the same number of people RSVPed to both.)

    3) While there are tons of people out there writing about Atlanta music and entertainment, very few are actually posing conceptual views like this article. Every site I find is a “what shows are this week”, not “where is Atlanta’s entertainment scene headed, what could be possible reasons”, etc. If we discussed ideas like this one more often, maybe we could get a much better idea of what the music consumer thinks and start gearing our work towards that.

    4) If we can build the infrastructure of EDUCATED and EXPERIENCED business professionals, these artists may not go to NYC or LA for their managers, lawyers, and A & R reps.

    I put a lot of information into a few words here – I’ll write a blog post myself to further explain these. Thanks again for getting the conversation going!

  16. I think the Atlanta indie scene does have an identifiable sound, although I’m not sure it’s quite a brand. DaveC sort of said this already, but I think the garage/punk sound is the first thing I would identify with Atlanta. I’d look at The Black Lips, Gentleman Jesse, The Coathangers, bands like that. Not that those three and the other bands that I would say fit into the Atlanta sound are incredibly similar, but the vibe is the same. I’ve only been in Atlanta for a little over a year, but those are the sort of bands that I associated with the city before I moved here.

    Those are also the sort of bands that get heavy coverage from Creative Loafing, and I understand how that irritates the local bands, bloggers, and fans that think there’s better local music out there. I’m frequently one of them. There’s a lot of variety in Atlanta, and plenty of deserving bands that CL ignores completely. But speaking as someone who was looking from the outside in until a little over a year ago, the punk/garage thing is what’s getting the national attention, outside of outliers like Mastodon and Deerhunter on one hand (who are unique even on the national level) and others like The Constellations (who are the sort of assembly line bullshit that’s going to inevitably get major label attention anywhere).

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s possible the stuff Creative Loafing covers (because when we talk about local music coverage, that’s what we’re mostly talking about, right?) gets attention for more reasons than just pure favoritism or unwillingness to break out of narrow comfort zones. You might not like Howlies or Gentleman Jesse or Carnivores, but they’re relevant to what’s going on in the Atlanta music scene right now. I mean, Gentleman Jesse got Best New Music on Pitchfork a couple of years back and Carnivores just got written up in the New York Times. You don’t have to like them, read about them, or go out to their shows, but it’s just petty sniping to say they’re not relevant.

    Don’t get me wrong, CL’s coverage is far from perfect, and there’s definitely a buddy-buddy thing going on much of the time. How many times has CL been anything less than positive about a Double Phantom affiliated band? It’s much easier for bands that travel in that scene to get coverage by association. Bands like Jungol or Attention System might get a blurb or short feature on occasion, but it always feels perfunctory, like CL’s begrudgingly acknowledging a local band that’s made too many waves for them to continue to ignore.

    So, what needs to happen? Well, if you don’t think the local music press is inclusive enough, or you don’t think it’s receptive to the type of music you believe deserves attention, then start your own blog. Put your opinions out there. There are plenty of local blogs that cover shows and releases that CL ignores. The Moon and Pluto, Beatlanta, Ohmpark, Latest Disgrace, Atlanta’s A-List…none of them have identical tastes. There’s also not a single blog on that list that I agree with anywhere close to 100% of the time, and that’s a good thing. I’d like to think that I stay objective over at Little Advances, too. I’m not going to apologize for loving Mermaids, The Coathangers, Howlies, or Abby Go Go. But when something like Balkans or Roman Photos is crammed down my throat, I’m going to gag.

    Also, if you’re in a band, don’t just bitch about favoritism. Put your stuff out there. Maybe Creative Loafing still won’t listen, but others will. Most of those blogs listed up there will actually listen to your stuff if you send it to them (myself included). That’s the easiest way for you to put yourself on a blog’s radar. Look at what Oryx and Crake did this summer…they sent their album out to local music sites months before it’s release and made themselves incredibly available to anyone who wanted an interview or a track to post. The reviews were great and their buzz built, culminating in a sold out album release show at The Earl.

    tl;dr, sorry for getting longwinded. These comments have been interesting and I figured I’d throw out my opinion.

  17. @ nothal, when you say, “but I think the garage/punk sound is the first thing I would identify with Atlanta. I’d look at The Black Lips, Gentleman Jesse, The Coathangers, bands like that. ”

    I can see this. I’m also hearing a lot of garage/shoegazey punk sounds in the Atlanta area. I feel many of those sounds are reflective of the city’s landscape, I really like it.

  18. @ Kristin, you said, “You, like our local press, are ignoring fractions of the music community that not only have their shit together, but are the closest we are to having a “cohesive” scene. ”

    I think if you take a closer look at my blog and read some of the interviews I’ve posted, it will become apparent as to what kind of content I prefer to cover.

  19. Spot on, friend.

  20. @NotHalfFull – Reallly interesting points. I’d love to delve deeper into a few of your comments. Your post is insightful and has brought other points to my attention.
    “I think the Atlanta indie scene does have an identifiable sound…The Black Lips, Gentleman Jesse, The Coathangers, bands like that. Those are also the sort of bands that get heavy coverage from Creative Loafing, and I understand how that irritates the local bands, bloggers, and fans that think there’s better local music out there. I’m frequently one of them…But speaking as someone who was looking from the outside in until a little over a year ago, the punk/garage thing is what’s getting the national attention”

    It seems to me that you came to identify Atlanta’s sound with the punk/garage thing precisely BECAUSE that is what Creative Loafing covers heavily. The number of punk/garage bands don’t outnumber the indie/electronic bands, or the rock bands, etc. There are plenty of quality bands in Atlanta in every genre imaginable (and unimaginable), so it doesn’t make sense to assume that some kind of majority exists. Therefore, it appears that CL is in fact dictating the quintessential Atlanta sound, by making the punk/garage rock acts the most accessible.
    Or this could be a side effect of which labels CL associates most closely with – Rob’s House, Die Slaughterhaus, Double Phantom
    Either way, what it comes down to is that Creative Loafing is going to determine Atlanta’s sound. It is the most read and far-reaching. Is there any chance that The Carnivores got written about in NY Times because of the press they got in CL? It seems to me that CL is the “gateway” for these bands into the national arena.

    “There’s a lot of variety in Atlanta, and plenty of deserving bands that CL ignores completely.”

    It would be nice to see more variety in CL, especially considering it’s a weekly rag…it shouldn’t be hard to explore the scene more often and offer fresh content and perspectives on some new (or never-before covered) bands out there. I can only assume they don’t do this, because they are trying to push a certain sound as THE Atlanta sound.

    “Bands like Jungol or Attention System might get a blurb or short feature on occasion, but it always feels perfunctory, like CL’s begrudgingly acknowledging a local band that’s made too many waves for them to continue to ignore.”

    Undoubtedly.

    “Well, if you don’t think the local music press is inclusive enough, or you don’t think it’s receptive to the type of music you believe deserves attention, then start your own blog. Put your opinions out there. ”

    I like this and I see problems with this. First, I’ve moved in that direction, but I’ve been blessed with some writing skills. Not everyone can throw a blog up, nor are they inspired to write. Second, just because all these blogs exist doesn’t mean that anyone is reading them or have a clue they exist. Third, the fact that there are SO many Atlanta music blogs adds to the fragmentation of the scene.
    I’d love to see a group of people actively contributing to the music scene put their powers together and create something really worthwhile and sustainable. Right now, we are all doing our own thing all alone. There are 20 websites with the same theme. Someone can waste all day just going from one of our websites over to the next. And we can only put so much effort into it working alone.
    I can see putting all this together, working as a group, continuing to do what we do, but reaching a wider audience by having more to offer as a whole. This would also provide the diverse coverage we’re craving. This is what Atlanta needs. A respectable source to celebrate the diversity within it.

  21. @Nadia

    “It seems to me that you came to identify Atlanta’s sound with the punk/garage thing precisely BECAUSE that is what Creative Loafing covers heavily.”

    I think it’s something of a chicken/egg situation. I’m sure it’s true that some bands get national attention as a result of positive local attention from Creative Loafing, but some of those bands made a name for themselves through touring. The Coathangers definitely made a name for themselves out on the DIY touring circuit, they were headlining non-Atlanta venues I used to frequent. And I had seen Howlies 3 times in New York before I even moved to Atlanta. I saw The Selmanaires, too, back when they were doing the sort of garagey thing we’ve been talking about. (Unrelated, but their sound has changed so much that I only recently remembered I had seen them years ago.) And I had never even read Creative Loafing until I moved here.

    Having said all that, I’m sure CL coverage could help Atlanta bands get booked elsewhere. But I still think that people from outside Atlanta, if asked, would identify the garage punk thing as the Atlanta sound, and that is at least partially the result of bands that have made it on their own outside of the city. Maybe not totally, but partially.

    “I like this and I see problems with this. First, I’ve moved in that direction, but I’ve been blessed with some writing skills. Not everyone can throw a blog up, nor are they inspired to write. Second, just because all these blogs exist doesn’t mean that anyone is reading them or have a clue they exist. Third, the fact that there are SO many Atlanta music blogs adds to the fragmentation of the scene.”

    Ok, you’ve got me here. It was glib of me to say that anyone who’s dissatisfied should start a blog. I’m not sure that a glut of blogs is necessarily be a bad thing, but I do think that no single local blog can really compete with CL. They have too many resources, too many people that contribute. They’ve also got the recognition that comes with being the big alt weekly in town. A respectable alternative would definitely be a good addition to the city.

  22. Yes, Creative Loafing is a franchise. It offers them more resources certainly. But, it started somewhere…
    And I don’t think a single blog can compete with CL, but I was actually referring to something bigger than that. A pooling of talent to create something new, whatever that may be. I have some thoughts, but ultimately the goal would be vast coverage of Atlanta music with an emphasis on the. It wouldn’t be easy, it would require financial backing, but in my idealism, I see an attainable prospect.
    Besides, if Paste Magazine is out of print, and The New York times is going out of print, who knows…the clock may be ticking on CL. From what I understand, they (like most businesses) are under duress.
    On another note, any thoughts on Stomp and Stammer?

    Sidenote: When I moved to Georgia, I loved Creative Loafing (about 10 years ago). Since then, and since becoming more acquainted with the Atlanta scene (rather than Athens), I’ve become increasingly disappointed. Creative Loafing has been and could still be the shit…but, I don’t know what’s getting in their way.

  23. @ Nadia, great points as usual! Thanks for contributing to this conversation. Now when you say, “It seems to me that you came to identify Atlanta’s sound with the punk/garage thing precisely BECAUSE that is what Creative Loafing covers heavily. The number of punk/garage bands don’t outnumber the indie/electronic bands, or the rock bands, etc. ”

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. There is definitely a scene outside of the punk/garage rock sound and honestly CL’s boasting of the Black Lips and the Lips’ marginalized success has created many Black Lip clone bands around town. And yes, there are other bands rockin out and experimenting with new sounds (I love it!).

    However, I will say this. That dirty garage sound is something I personally relate to Atlanta. Creative Loafing did a heck of a job by shoving it all down our throats, but were they entirely wrong? When I walk down Little 5 and EAV, I see tons of “trendy and hip” spots, but it’s encased in this thin coating of grit and grime. That dirty lo-fi and hard-edged sound is what appeals to me. It says something to me about the city and it’s very reflective of the people within it.

    When I walk into a place like El Myr, I don’t expect to hear Katy Perry in the background. I’m waiting for the cool, washed out sounds of Link Wray’s guitar to float through the room. That is a part of Atlanta.

    • @shotfromguns: I get ya. I skimmed it.

      @nothalfull @nadia:
      the garage-rock/blues sound is the signature of Atlanta, I’ve talked with other musicians and promoters from outside of the area and that’s what they think is Atlanta’s signature sound is, aside from the hip hop that’s dominating radio airwaves.

      It’s precisely the reason why I have such a problem with the local press. It’s like because they promote what they “think” is ATL’s sound (i include OTP also), Atlanta gets the reputation for it. And its bad because there are a shit ton of bands doing the garage sound thing, which is fine, they just suck. And because its Atlanta’s signature sound, they get press and coverage.

      It’d be okay maybe if they could do a thing where they say “I don’t get it, it’s a little confusing, and too fast to process, but it’s different, talented and cool so see if you’ll like it.”

      Nadia is right about the plethora of “music” blogs out there and not getting attention, and she’s write about not everyone being talented enough to write—I’m definitely one of them. It’s why I like the Zappa quote about music journalism. I know i for one, don’t like to write, I just do it because every once in a while I find music or a musician so interesting and exciting that I just have to tell the world about them.

      If everyone came together out of sincerity in wanting to build a great and genuine, TALENTED music scene, and went to the shows that weren’t popular, the bands that aren’t exactly socially adept at “putting themselves out there”, at the venues that weren’t trendy, and the bands that don’t have style, or have their hipster swag thing going, then we’d not only get better coverage, we’d be able to create an exchange to find other new and interesting bands besides just the ones we and “our friends” know. Press would be able to process music that’s different from what they’re used to. Everyone meaning bloggers and press people, the people who get the word out.
      Atlanta got the garage rock sound stamp because our press Can’t process anything other than that. Period point blank. I’ll wager once more, that if our press went out to the shows of bands they DON’T KNOW, writing material that they’re NOT FAMILIAR WITH, or aren’t on some 4th generation indie label that they know to go to to “find” a “new” “band”, we wouldn’t have such a hard time shaking the stamp of blues-garage rock capital which i feel isn’t the “real” scene. But it’s just my bias against shitty musicians coming out most likely. I’ll admit that.

  24. Oh yeah, no doubt. I’m not denying that this sound is prevalent in Atlanta. And I’m not dissing it either. There’s a lot of good stuff out there in this scene. All I’m saying is that there’s more than just that, and it’s not being represented at all (or very little).

    This thread has been awesome. I think some resolution has even come. The conclusion must be that your #3 has been resolved.
    “Give me some content that speaks to a particular sound and nail it over and over in my head.”
    Garage/Punk
    But, in terms of what I’m spewing, the book is still open. I want content that speaks to a slew of sounds, and content that allows Atlanta breathe outside of a brand. I think this evokes the most justice to the creativity in the city. Besides that, the content can never get stale, like it can after the repetition of a certain something for a certain length of time. You know – like when you can’t eat another bowl of Ramen Noodles again for the rest of your life, because that is all you ate for every meal in college – type of thing.

  25. You guys/ gals rock. Nadia and Kristen T, you’ve both made some great points, and I think you’re spot on with what our city needs in terms of music industry/information cohesion.

    One very important point that has yet to be made here is the importance of business within the music industry. Every comment has referred to band publicity in a passive manner, as if it’s the sole responsibility of music publication contributors to seek out the bands that are making great music around the city. Unfortunately (sometimes), just playing good music does not ensure you will be able to feed your family off your music. In a changing industry, you can’t think you can go into the studio, drop several grand on a fabulous album, print 2,000 CDs and make a profit. There are several points I could make about how that just doesn’t happen anymore.

    Formula for success in Atlanta music:
    – good branding
    – tasteful, informative, and thorough promotion (this includes publicity – getting your OWN story placed in pubs. like CL)
    – a steady flow of well-priced shows
    – other well-known bands (more well-known than you) who respect your music and who you can play with
    – oh, and really really good music

    If you’re interested in a collective, check out Nadia’s themoonandpluto.com online, or email me at samparvin@gmail.com to get involved with a music industry business professionals organization here in Atlanta. Everything you’re talking about here is what we work to build in Atlanta entertainment.

  26. @ Kristin T, when you say, “Atlanta got the garage rock sound stamp because our press Can’t process anything other than that. Period point blank. I’ll wager once more, that if our press went out to the shows of bands they DON’T KNOW, writing material that they’re NOT FAMILIAR WITH, or aren’t on some 4th generation indie label that they know to go to to “find” a “new” “band””

    I kind of understand where you’re coming from…I feel that the success of the Black Lips generated several clone bands and it was easy for the press to latch onto that. I want to remain neutral in this debate, but you’re right – many of those bands are not crafting songs to the level that they should be.

    However, I will say this. I genuinely feel some of that gritty, garage lo-fi sound is an integral part of what we could classify as Atlanta’s “signature” sound. There’s this certain amount of grit to Atlanta, especially the downtown area. You see it in other big cities, but it’s readily apparent in Atlanta and we’re in the south. The blues and garage rock is in our region’s history.

    Personally, I enjoy going to more “progressive” and electronic shows, but I still feel that garage/lo-fi element is a part of Atlanta’s sound. I hear certain sounds on the radio when I’m driving downtown and it matches the landscape. When that happens and I find out it’s a local band, that is who I feel is promoting Atlanta’s sound.

  27. You wrongly say The Black Lips are Deerhunter are “vastly different” and “come from different streams and musical schools of thought”. All these guys (and most of the other big bands) lived together and played together for years before they headed off to separate labels and endless touring. And they still get together.

    I am just wondering what it is about the garage rock genre that invalidates the Atlanta scene? If Outkast has left a mark on the Atlantan hip hop community and Elephant 6 has left a mark on Athens indie then why deny The Black Lips and Deerhunter any influence on the music of Atlanta? Do you honestly think there is ‘little that connects these sounds’ to the type of bands people love to hate on CL for sounding just like them?

  28. @ Adam, it’s been months since I posted that article, but I suppose what I was getting at is that there is no “signature Atlanta” sound. I pointed to other music scenes because you can readily identify the musical traits and features of that city’s sound (ie Athens, Brooklyn and San Francisco were cited as examples).

    And I do feel while the Black Lips and Deerhunter are friends; stylistically they’re very different with Deerhunter drawing more influences from the indie/art pop realm and Black Lips from garage/surf rock. Arguably, if you look at the local scene in Atlanta, these are the most influential bands at the moment. Atlanta’s rock scene is heavily leaning towards garage/surf/punk, however, I feel Atlanta’s various scenes are constantly in tune with what’s hip in the mainstream and they seek to emulate those same mainstream trends.

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