The Creator and the Critic
By Dayna Evans
Part 1: Before My Nuptials to the Internet and Why You Should Always Sign a Prenup
In 2010, I released three tracks to a Bandcamp page under the name Manors, tagged as #girlpop #indie pop #Brooklyn. I had written them earlier that year in my bedroom in Brooklyn out of bored inspiration with no goal in mind, no investment in the future of the project, save for an attempt to play a few shows, maybe coat-tailing on the mid-level success a little band by the name of Best Coast* was currently having, and then see where it went, maybe coax myself and my musical friends into making something of a tour. I didn’t have big goals or big plans for Manors because I was one of a hundred people I knew who were making music, posting it to the Internet, and hoping that someone would hear it. It was just something to do to let off steam and be young, long before the band fun. got a chance to ruin being young for everyone.
Over time, we got a little more exposure than I planned on, and did end up playing shows, pleasing people, and attempting to record a record. The record didn’t turn out for reasons that I can’t really say, and the ‘band’, as we were. sort of fell apart not many months later, but something strange started to happen right after the whole project tapered off. Without my constant nagging or promotion for the band on social media, the three songs that still remained on Bandcamp like a tombstone started to pick up steam again and reach people in places as far away as Europe and Australia, which is only considered ‘far’ when you imagine me recording those tracks in my bedroom in a dirty T-shirt and slippers. This unprovoked ‘Internet fame’ kept spiraling and snowballing beyond my wildest dreams (I have a tendency to dream small) and the little Bandcamp that could was getting retweets, mentions, shares, and praise from all kinds of people. Often I’d get emails from distant countries and places that read, “Are you guys a band anymore?”
Three years after having posted the tracks, and after receiving this kind of email on the regular, I became wildly aware that no one knew who had written the songs or who the man behind Manors was. It had been so long since I’d posted the songs that I never went back to the Manors page myself and when I started getting emails or notifications that people were talking about Manors, I was confused. What is happening? Why was there this surge of interest in a band that never got off the ground? And more importantly, what was I going to do with the renewed interest? It’s a common maxim in the digital age that it’s particularly important to strike while the iron is hot. Given the unpredictable nature and fickleness of Users of the Internet, it is unwise to sit on any kind of ‘buzz’, as it’s just as easy to forget about something buzzy as it was to praise it a second earlier. So when I started feeling the heat again, I got the itch to see what I could do with it and took the Internet’s renewed interest as a parallel for mine.
Since that time, when I realized that people actually liked the songs and I wanted to pursue that good will, I’ve done a lot of things: worn sweatpants every day; watched the entire series of Mad Men; read trending news articles on Tide laundry detergent, a TV show on firewood in Norway, gawked at photos of Taylor Swift with Frank Ocean; I’ve consumed new tracks from every artist with something new to say, then digested the remixes of those songs, then read the YouTube comments on the remixes of the new songs; I’ve read reviews, reviews of reviews; I’ve read interviews, interviews with interviewers; I’ve even listened to my own songs again, 80 or 90 of them (actually), just floating around in my iTunes under monikers like Odette and Swann, By the Sea, d-$, and of course, Manors.
The only thing I haven’t done is write any new music.
What I was encountering once I recognized this need to push forth was a question I feel is not asked often enough. What if in a time where buzz and trends and a constant feed of information are so prevalent that you’ve forgotten how to create? As a writer and a musician, I was poised to deal with a terrifying complex as I started to realize that my insistence that I was going to write again was coming up against the complete inability to create. I had picked up my guitar, recorded a few lines here and there, felt like I wanted to be creative, but there were two things that were stopping me: 1) the bloggable and minor praise that I hadn’t prepared myself for and 2) the incoming, nonstop pages of content that I was afraid if I didn’t read right then, I’d never get around to reading. As a creator, I’d become what I most hated: a critic.