Sunday, December 5, 2010

Interview with Sean Moeller, founder of Daytrotter

What do Ra Ra Riot, Cold War Kids, Raphael Saadiq, Ani DiFranco, Fleet Foxes, and The National all have in common? Yeah, probably whatever you're thinking but also, Daytrotter! All these artists along with hundreds of others have stopped by the Daytrotter studios to perform quality stripped down sessions for the site. By doing this these artists have contributed to the 16 million sessions downloaded so far by members of the site since it's launch in 2006.

Usually I get obsessed with an artist and want to know everything about them. I reel it in a little bit, pull myself together, and ask for an interview. However, back in June I got more obsessed with a website than I had been with any band in a while at that point. That site was Daytrotter. I was led there by Steel Train, who have now done two sessions.

If you want to see the magic for yourself go to the site. Pick three of your favorite indie bands and search for them there. Chances are at least one of them will have a Daytrotter session. At least this has been my experience. Now when I'm researching bands one of the the first places I go is DT. If I find a session I choose to listen to it before the actual record. I choose to read Sean's essays prior to cracking open a press release. The site is truly a music lover's dream.

I'll start with the obvious question: Why did you start Daytrotter?

The reasons why aren't really fuzzy, they're just sort of insignificant, the more I think about them. I really just wanted to try something. I was working for the newspaper here in Davenport and doing a handful of freelance writing for a couple of music magazines across the country, but it felt like I was always getting pushed to write about bands and people that I didn't really think were all that great -- instead of getting to write about those I thought had the most merit. I thought, "Why not try doing something else?" and so Pat Stolley, Johnnie Cluney and I started doing this. There was no over-planning or brainstorm, just a decision one evening of, "Let's start this next week and see where it goes."

Were you at all inspired by the Peel Sessions?
I've never actually listened to a Peel Session, I don't believe. I think I own a CD of a Hot Snakes Peel Session, but I've never listened to it. I obviously respect John Peel and have read a bit about him since we started Daytrotter, but I can safely say that Daytrotter wasn't inspired by anything at all. Funny how that works sometimes.

Daytrotter promises 7 bands, 28 songs a week. Was this tough to accomplish when DT first launched?
Well, we didn't do it like that at all in the beginning. We released one session a week. Then about three months in, it was two a week. Then we jumped to three a week about a year later. Shortly after that, we were posting one a day Monday-through-Friday. Now we're at seven days a week and starting in January, you're likely to see 2-3 sessions a day. It's impossible for us not to do that at this point. It's not hard at all.

Your essays and biographies of the bands are always incredible. I read some over and over. Did you or do you write professionally for other sites or publications?
Thanks so much. I spend a lot of time on them. I wrote for 12 years for the Quad-City Times, a newspaper here in the Quad-Cities and I did some freelance writing for Rockpile, Punk Planet, Filter and a handful of other places. Mostly a ton of publications that don't print physical copies any longer.

Could you take us through the process of preparing for a band to come record and then how exactly the sessions are recorded?
There's really not much preparation. We just wait for them. I book all of the sessions and they're all recorded live in one room -- no headphones or overdubs. We have a bunch of Otari 50/50 quarter-inch tape machines and we lay everything down onto quarter-inch tape. It's pretty sexy.

Are there other Daytrotter studios now, aside from the Horseshack?
We are now using Big Orange, the studio we have used for the past five years when we travel down there to tape during SXSW, as a second studio. It's a great thing to have available. We tape about 20 sessions a month down there, in addition to our close to 40 a month here in Rock Island. We're looking into the possibility of having a third studio in London sometime soon. We'll see how that goes.

Are you always around to personally oversee sessions recorded?
I'm usually always here. I hate to miss sessions, but reality gets to me sometimes as it's really hard to write at the studio and the writing really does demand a lot of my time so sometimes I have to choose between being at the studio and being productive/prolific.

What has been some of your favorite sessions?
I really do like all of them as I personally invite every band/artist to the studio, but there are certainly some sessions that really stand out. Kris Kristofferson, Gayngs, every time Delta Spirit's here, Avett Brothers, Blind Boys of Alabama and too many others are really at the top of my list for memorability. I have a feeling our upcoming session with Naughty By Nature will rank pretty high too.

I'm a huge fan of Johnnie Cluney's illustrations, just one of many things I look forward to in a new session. I can't help obsessing over how cool it would be to own vinyls with his pictures as album art. Any plans to produce vinyls of DT sessions?
Get ready. Yes.

The Naughty By Nature session takes place at Rock Island Brewing Company in Rock Island, IL. Tickets are $20, proceeds go to QC Times/United Way Wish List.

Some Personal DT Faves:

LINKS!!! (If you hadn't figured that one out yet...)

1 comment:

wendy said...

Excellent interview! I've always wanted to head down to Rock Island to check out a session...I used to hook artists up with Sean when I worked for Toolshed. I'm so glad to hear he's doing really well!