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Videos: Daytrotter.com Sets the Record
A van rolls into the Quad Cities on the way to a gig in Omaha, Minneapolis or Chicago. After parking in downtown Rock Island, a few musicians get out, stretch their legs and amble up to a third-floor recording studio.
In the performance space, a drum kit is already in place. The band browses a collection of effects pedals and shiny guitars, stopping to play a few notes on the piano or vintage keyboard. Microphones are placed and checked; often a cigarette or two will be burnt.
The sound engineer loads a reel of tape and a backup CD. A photographer snaps some portraits of the band, and a writer pecks at his laptop in a tiny room just off of the main recording studio. He types a few notes of his first impressions of the band.
The sound check is over, tape is rolling, and the drummer counts off the tempo: “1, 2, 3, 4 …”
Welcome to Daytrotter.Offering original, live recordings from up-and-coming bands, great writing and reviews, and a wide array of original, hand-crafted artwork, the Quad City-based Daytrotter.com has transformed the way people listen to independent music.
Daytrotter, for those not in the know, is the music and arts Web site founded by writer Sean Moeller with some Quad City friends. Since early 2006, the site has offered an expanding library of independent music available for download from past sessions.
Independent bands are invited into the studio for a no-cost recording session engineered by masters Patrick Stolley and Brad Kopplin. Stolley is the songwriter/producer/engineer associated with Future Appletree Records. In each recording session, four songs are chosen for publication on the Web site, accompanied by original, hand-drawn artwork and Mr. Moeller’s poetic, stream-of-consciousness insights on the band and music.
And the best part, if you didn’t catch this before, is that all of the songs can be downloaded. For free.
Moeller has had an easy time promoting the site due to its fresh style. He recently inked a deal with Wolfgang’s Vault to share material from concert promoter Bill Graham’s collection. The deal has already resulted in the release of some Vault concert recordings from the 1960s and 1970s on Daytrotter.
I interviewed Moeller, who sometimes refers to himself as “Mr. Daytrotter,” last year during a session at the recording studio.
(Music that accompanies this video is by The High Strung.)
It’s not always a rock band cranking out power ballads and heavy riffs in the studio. Last summer, Laura Gibson dropped by and accompanied herself on acoustic guitar; her gentle folk songs are intoxicating.
After her session, she drove to her uncle’s farm in Iowa to go horseback riding, which is a perfectly Daytrotterly thing to do.
As the site has expanded, their space above a popular pizza parlor has been updated. A dusty couch was eliminated from the main performance studio, and down the hall a lounge space was cleaned up and a mini-fridge, stocked full of beer, was humming. In other rooms, additional musical instruments were on display and ready to be brought to sonic life.
Caleb Engstrom was handed one of those instruments after he informed Stolley he had sold his gear to finance a trip to India. When the Iowa City songwriter laid down some tracks last month he said it was the first recording he’d done outside of his home. Here’s an interview (and some music) with the recent University of Iowa graduate:
Missouri band Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin was there two years ago when the recording revolution began at the studio. In January they were back for more recording. They noticed the updated digs but settled in quickly and started cranking out rocking songs for their encore session.
SSLYBY drummer Philip Dickey sat down for an interview after their session. He was more excited to talk about Daytrotter’s Web site than his own band’s mySpace page!
Last year the Daytrotter crew recorded over 20 bands during the Austin, Texas music extravaganza known as SXSW. Two Daytrotter engineers, a photographer, and a chief writer camped on the concrete floor of Austin’s Big Orange Studios for the week. They let me follow their adventures (through rainstorms, power outages, and late-night recording sessions) with a video camera.
If you like exotic instruments, check out this video:
Hunter is playing a two-stringed Tuvan igil for his song, “The Fall – (Tuvan Igil version).” Since his SXSW session, he came through the Quad Cities to record an encore session.
The first thing you notice when you visit Daytrotter.com is all the varied and interesting drawings accompanying the features, reviews, and sessions. Artist Johnny Cluney’s work accompanies the band sessions and write-ups. Working from photos taken during the band’s recording session, his unique style has been a mainstay of the site since the first days. Like Moeller and Stolley, he’s a musician too.
Paintings by Johnny Cluney for Daytrotter: “High Strung,” “Broken West,” and “Skursula.”
The site taps almost 15 freelance artists to illustrate reviews and features. There is no band press imagery, which means no generic posed shots of the band standing against a brick wall. In fact you’ll struggle to find photographs anywhere on the site these days; all the imagery is originally created by hand for Daytrotter.
Daytrotter artist Ryan Flynn went to high school with Moeller in Bettendorf. He said Daytrotter has changed how he listens to music.
What’s in store for the ground-breaking site? Moeller and crew are working on bringing more bands to the culturally quiet Quad Cities for recording and have also started booking live shows. Plus they’ve probably got a few more ideas to keep the music, and all that goes with it, flowing and growing.
Did you get enough Daytrotter? Maybe you’re looking for more music videos?
Try this video for High Strung’s “Beautiful Summer,” minus the talking from Mr. Daytrotter.
Iowa City’s Skye Carrasco, Ursula Dial and Harlan Muir perform as Skursula. Here they are at the Moeller family farm for an outdoor Daytrotter concert in the summer of 2007:
SSLYBY’s Philip Dickey made a video about riding bicycles, a road trip to Russia, and recording his band’s new album. The video is called “Pershing.”