How does a road-weary band break up the monotonous highway miles of I-80 on their wat to Chicago? Just ask Sean Moeller. The former freelance writer filled the rarely used Futureappletree Studio 1 in Rock Island, Illinois, with vintage guitars, amps and other musical toys, and invited bands to stop by and record a track or four – to tape. The mastered Daytrotter sessions – featuring exclusive versions of rare or unreleased songs by Superdrag, Cold War Kids, the Rentals and more than 200 others – are then posted online. For free.
Location: Rock Island, Illinois
Number of Sessions: 234
How did Daytrotter start?
“I came up with the idea i n February 2006. I was doing a lot of freelancing, and it wasn’t going anywhere. I was [writing] about things that I wasn’t 100 percent passionate about just to get exposure and make a name for myself. There are plenty of print and web things out there that serve a purpose, but I hoped that [Daytrotter] could do something that was a little more interesting. My sound engineer – who I knew from town – had a great studio that wasn’t really being used a ton. Two weeks later, we were recording Catfish Haven. It’s just kind of how it happened – and now they’re our drinking buddies.”
What goes into a typical recording session?
“The bands show up, we brew some coffee, then the bands go into the live room and they look around at all the vintage instruments and basically go crazy. It’s like an instant sugar high when they ccome in and spy all these great things and realize they don’t have to bring anything out of the van. It happens the same way every time; it’s just a big, jaw-dropping thing where it’s like, ‘You’ve got that?’ It’s pretty funny. The bands go through four songs. We rewind tape if they mess up. We rewind tape if they’re not happy with something. It’s just a really laid back atmosphere. Then about an hour-and-a-half later, they’re done. We buy them a pizza downstairs [at Huckleberry’s Great Pizza].”
How did you spread the word?
“It was almost all word of mouth, but we’ve always contacted bands. We have to let them know we’re here. The one band that really made me say, ‘Wow, they know who we are?’ were the Rentals. I cantacted their publicist, and she wrote back two minutes later telling me that everyone in the band were huge fans of Daytrotter and they were in. It kind of floored me. It was a good moment.”
Aside from offering original downloads, what sets Daytrotter apart from other music sites?
“There are so many sites that rely on their hipster cred. They always have to be going after the coolest bands in the world – the coolest new bands. What we do is like a great leveling of the playing field in that we treat everybody the same way – whether it’s Superdrag or the National or Will Oldham or this bands that nobody’s ever heard of. I’m not afraid to bring anyone in. You’re not going to see Fall Out Boy on certain websites. Yet, I think that if Fall Out Boy came into our studio, they would probably do a really great session. I hope Daytrotter gets a name for giving a fair shake.”
Do you prompt bands to play certain songs or do they play whatever they feel like?
“I don’t say shit to the. It’s funny because when we started, people didn’t understand that we weren’t a radio station or [that they didn’t] have to play the hits. Everybody plays what they want to play. People have taken it upon themselves to do some really special things. We had White Williams in a few weeks ago, and they wrote a song in the studio. They didn’t know what they were doing, they just wrote a song. The same thing happened with the National. They did a cover of [the Psychedelic Furs] ‘Pretty in Pink’ and they’d never even played the song before.”
What is the biggest benefit bands get from recording Daytrotter sessions?
Believe it or not, but the idea is to get as big as we possibly can so we can help bands as much as we possibly can. It’s a really altruistic mindset for us. We really get to know these people. We get tons of people who stay in contact with us and come back for repeat sessions. It’s not one of those things where it’s just like a fanboy sort of thing. We’re doing it for the people in these bands who I want – more than anything – for them to be able to make money off their music.”
What are the plans for Daytrotter’s future?
“We’d love to have a live venue in [Rock Island], so people could actually coome in during the afternoon, do a session, play a show that night and hopefully make tons of money. That’s a long-term goal. I want people to start thinking, ‘Yeah, we need to book two shows in Illinois.’ Not just in Chicago.”
5 ESSENTIAL DAYTROTTER SESSIONS: as chosen by Sean Moeller
1 – Bonnie ‘prince’ Billy: “He performed the most mystical set we’ve ever done and then spent and hour talking about Madonna.”
2 – Casiotone For the Painfully Alone: “It showed that we could assist to put originality out there.”
3 – Richard Swift: “This session happened last March at SXSW. Cold War Kids, SOUND Team, Voxtrot and more were all soaking it in.”
4 – Grizzly Bear: “They did it at 10:30 a.m., waking up late and barely getting coffee into their systems.”
5 – Sunset Rubdown: “Wicked/Winged Thing’s was our first phenomenon. Every time we refreshed the page, the downloads jumped by hundreds.”
For more info and to browse the session archives, visit daytrotter.com.
SOURCE: Alternative Press magazine