A Conversation with Everett True, October 2013
By Jasmine Darlington-Rielly
It’s a sunny spring day in Brisbane, about 10 in the morning I get a text from Everett True with whom I had asked to interview for a research project I was undertaking for my undergraduate journalism degree at the University of Queensland. The project is based about the current state of music journalism. He asks to meet at the Woolworths at Kelvin Grove at 11:30, a strange place to meet for an interview, but I agree nonetheless. I’m nervous despite the fact I’ve met Everett a few times before and he’s been nothing but lovely to me, he still terrifies me. I’m always afraid I say something stupid or I’ll wear a band T-shirt he won’t like or something. I try not to think about it as I start my trek through QUT’s campus from the bus station. I’ve never realised how hilly or big this campus was before now. I arrive at the Woolworths without getting lost, a victory in my case! I sit on a bench and wait for Everett to arrive, looking at every crotchety grey-haired man (I jest, I swear) who walks past to see if it’s him. Ah that hat I’ve seen it before! He arrives.
“So what’s your project about?” Music journalism, I reply. “Ah I’ve never been able to get a job as a journalism lecturer, even though most have less experience than I do, I bet some of yours work for the Courier Mail”. Yes, I concede although most are from the ABC. “When I first moved here five years ago, I got a job at the Courier Mail doing music reviews, I lasted three articles, because I turned in a negative review and I forgot you’re not supposed to do that”. I admit that I used to write for Fasterlouder and it frustrated me that I would be sent to a show that was sponsored by them, and even if the band sucked, I wouldn’t be able to write a negative review.
“We’re having a discussion at Collapse Board at the moment about pop music, and how funny it is that all these writers are suddenly in love with pop music, and audiences are really important online and so if you’re going to write about Miley Cyrus then you’re going to get a lot more traffic than if you’re going to write about Tiny Migrants”.
Speaking of Tiny Migrants, I really enjoyed your Song of the Day review of them that you posted this morning.
“Really? I wrote it on the hoof, I like to think that I can still write well like that, but I tried not to do it as much as people will only read it if they know the band and it just seems like they [Tiny Migrants] don’t understand where I’m coming from. Although I’m probably wrong”.
Yeah, I know like half the band, and I disagree with you about them being the closest thing in Brisbane to hipsters.
“I think they are though”.
No, no the guys in the East Brisbane scene are more so hipsters.
“East Brisbane scene? Where’s East Brisbane?”
Like around Woolongabba.
“So like Bedroom Sucks?”
I don’t think so… The bands don’t like using Facebook and they’re really anti Brisbane pop music.
“Oh well, it’s interesting, isn’t it, that hipster has become such a derogatory word, I’ll never understand to the day that I die, why being a hipster is a bad thing. Wallace Wylie wrote a piece for Collapse Board in which he explained that hipsterism is accused of blindly following fashion whereas people who ‘just listen to music’ are far more ‘authentic’ and so hipster has now become a dirty word. The idea that hipsters are somehow more inauthentic than people who buy Miley Cyrus records purely because they are making choices for themselves and not following what they see on tv is plain weird. It’s fascinating that one is more acceptable than the other.”
Yeah I must admit that I have so many friends that are like, fucking hipsters ruin everything!
“It’s because no one wants to be considered elitist, but I like elitism, I am discerning in my tastes and I don’t think it’s wrong to like what I like… although I will never see eye to eye with a Smashing Pumpkins fan, I’m sure you’re one, coming from Brisbane.”
I’m not actually, although I may have listened to them when I was 13, I admit to him.
“I didn’t listen to music when I was 13, but when I was living in Seattle, I invented this character and I can’t remember his name, who was 9 and a half (which was the whole point) who liked Smashing Pumpkins and Sunny Day Real Estate and everything just followed from there”.
So what’s your research thesis been about?
“You know music journalism and web 2.0, the usual stuff, what everyone is doing around the internet and will for years to come. Although I’ve had a few print media presses ask me to do stuff in print again, but it’s just so unfamiliar to me now. When I moved here, I predominantly worked in print and couldn’t fathom the idea of working on the web now it’s reversed and although there’s a part of me that will always love the artefacts, you can have so much more fun online, there’s more possibilities.”
Is it to do with the interaction?
“Urgh, in some ways that’s the worse part of it. In some ways the smartest thing that Pitchfork Media did was not to allow comments on their articles. The main problem with the internet is that it’s very difficult to establish authority and why would anyone listen to you more than anybody else. Before there was a clear barrier and Pitchfork has kept that barrier and kept that authority. When I contributed to Mess + Noise, and I stopped for quite a long time because of it, people would comment kind of maliciously and it didn’t matter personally, but it also isn’t very constructive so what’s the point? People leaving comments kind of see themselves as equal, but if you try to engage them in discussion they’re like “What are you doing? You’re the critic”, but I’m treating them as an equal and apparently I’m not supposed to do that, but at the same time quite often the commentary is far more interesting than the article by itself. For example that Miley Cyrus VMAs performance was really boring in itself but the dialogue around it is really interesting. Dialogue was what critics and journalists used to provide or at least they’d lead it.
“A couple of things that really bother me. First is about Collapse Board is that there are virtually no female contributors, which is something I really believe in and if we don’t get more I may have to shut it down.”
Do you think that there is a white middle class male bias?
“Yeah but I don’t think that it’s intentional, it happens naturally unfortunately. It makes sense that if you’re a white middle class male that you’ll ask other white middle class males you know. It’s the approach they are used too. One of the conversations I’m having with a couple of UK and US based music critics at the moment is about Scott’s approach to criticism. It’s just so alien to them and therefore it’s bad.”
Well I think that why Collapse Board is one of the few music criticism sites I read and respect.
“People keep saying that but I’ve never met anyone who actually reads it”.
Well now you have.
“I never believe them, although I believe you. When I say that we have a lack of female writers it’s not really saying much as we only have about three writers.
“The Second is that there’s not enough comments [on Collapse Board], which I think might be because people are used to it. I don’t mind when people call me out on the internet when they use their real names; it’s when they hide their identities it gets tiresome and invariable it’s the difference between writers and commentators, writers will normally use their real names. Not that I care that Collapse Board is unpaid but it really bothers me that our readership numbers are down when we publish [much more interesting] stuff that say themusic.com.au or WhotheHell who get 10,000 hits per blog entry compared to Collapse Board’s 1,000 or less. Sometimes I wished we’d monetized it or at least marketed it better. Because of that I don’t know how much cause and effect we have on anything, which is the only reason I ever write. Scott Creney did pretty well with that with his reviews of Iceage and Savages, because there was a possibility of harming their careers. Although Scott and I know that the damage we could do is limited. We’re just one of a multitude of voices.”
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