CT Indie blogger, Jason Devin, talks about the local scene, Connecticut, and more!

Mia Becker

MB: When did the CT Indie Blog start, and what inspired you to start it?

JD:  I started the blog in July of 2008, so it’s been up for about a year now. The main reason for starting the blog was because of the limitations of MySpace. I created the CT Indie MySpace page back in early 2007 to provide a networking hub for Connecticut’s local bands, venues, and promoters. Initially, I thought I’d ask a few friends to start writing about local music, posting the articles using MySpace’s blog. But I learned pretty quickly that a better and more reliable tool was needed. Google’s Blogspot has worked out so far pretty well.

MB: What was the response like when the CT Indie Blog started? Did you start getting contacted from local bands, or did you search them out?

JD:  When I first got the blog started, I happened to focus on the Shaki Presents shows at BAR. Since most of what gets booked there is typically more on the obscure side, it was a good starting point to post about those bands, talking about who they were and provide links to their labels and websites. It meant having to spend a lot of time digging around on the internet to find information about the bands, which occasionally wasn’t as easy as you’d expect. It was worth it, though. I had even gotten a little bit of positive feedback from the folks that were putting those shows together. Then there were a few months when I couldn’t manage the blog consistently, but even during that downtime, the CT Indie blog gained notice, because emails started coming in from bands and promoters about shows. With the inbox filling up, I asked my friend John to join the CT Indie effort. Then John met a guy, who is also named John, at the Pains of Being Pure at Heart show that was back in April. He now posts on occasion for the blog, too. I haven’t made any effort to track the number of hits that the blog gets, though. It was considered, but in the end I realized that knowing how much traffic the blog is getting wouldn’t change anything for CT Indie.

MB: There is a really substantial list of CT/local bands that have been featured on the CT Indie Blog, what is a good way to find out about local, and upcoming CT bands? How did you get in contact with them?

JD:  The last time I counted, there were more than 550 bands and solo musicians listed on the CT Indie MySpace page. Even though it’s probably true that a portion of that number includes projects that are now defunct, the majority are still active. It took me about a year of digging around online and talking to people to find out about the majority of local acts in Connecticut. The internet is overwhelmingly the best source of information about the local music scene. Local music blogs, social networking sites, and websites are the place to start, and once familiar you can dig deeper from there. Comparing today with how it was when I was a kid, the only way anyone really knew what was going on back then was through word of mouth, zines, and flyers from the local record stores. Meanwhile, today, it’s easier to keep up to speed with what’s happening and where. Beside the websites and MySpace pages that bands have, there are the venues too. But nothing beats the effort of the promoters who put together shows with upcoming locals as openers on bills that usually has a touring band headlining or maybe a couple familiar local acts that have a solid fan base. There’s everyone from Connecticut DIY Shows, to Tweefort, Manic Productions, Rock Yer Socks, and more, all working hard to bring live music to Connecticut.

MB: Are there any other CT-based music blogs out there, and how does the CT Indie Blog compare?

JD:  Well, the two that are most similar to CT Indie are CT Shows and More Like A Six-Foot Turkey, both of which you can find links to on the CT Indie blog. There are also occasional posts about local shows on One Base on an Overthrow and The Needle Drop. More Like A Six-Foot Turkey posts about shows happening in the Massachusetts and Rhode Island area, too, though. CT Shows leans more toward punk and hardcore. Tweefort has its own blog on WordPress with a focus on indie pop. What CT Indie tries to do is cover a little bit of everything. We don’t hesitate to post about a basement noise show alongside a post about John Prine coming to town. We also do interviews with locals and touring bands. And I sometimes post articles that I come across that are relevant to Connecticut’s music community. The bottom line is that while CT Indie supports do-it-yourself and anti-mainstream attitudes, we are not particular about what form the music takes so long as it has an independent spirit. We try to send the message that Connecticut is proud of its local scene. So we support and provide as much information as we can find about everything happening here in Connecticut.

MB: How has the CT Indie Blog developed since its beginnings, between the layout/design, the type of bands that have been featured..etc, and tell me about the new CT Indie Blog website that you are planning?!

JD:  When John joined me, he added the calendar to the blog, which has been a great addition. The layout has been pretty bare bones all along, though. The time and effort needed to make the blog look nice is better spent on continuing to post more information, so it’s not likely the blog will start looking better anytime soon. I don’t want to reveal too much about the next steps CT Indie is going to take, but I will tell you that the discussions and planning has led to some pretty interesting ideas. The problem is that if anyone Googles “CT music” they will find a handful of websites that already exist devoted to music in Connecticut. I don’t know anything about how those other websites are maintained, but the key is to understand that no single website can provide all the info on every single show happening in the state. Plus, people want choice. The reasons why we don’t have one newspaper or one news station for each state apply to the web too. CT Indie provides an overview of what’s happening in Connecticut, but if you’re living in the Hartford area, for example, you’re probably going to pay closer attention to Sully’s, Zen Bar, The Whitney House, or Weird Diner, depending on what kind of music you’re into.

MB: What do you think of the current status of the local CT music scene? Is there any other indie scene do you think it can be compared to? (Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Minneapolis..etc). And do you think there is one area in CT that is the real “defining” area of the local scene, or do you feel its safe to say things are “all over the place”?

JD:  For the most part, yes, Connecticut is all over the place. Southern Connecticut is in better shape than the rest of the state by a landslide. The New Haven scene is probably the best, and if you include The Space in Hamden, Daniel Street in Milford, and Two Boots in Bridgeport, etc., it gets even better. Danbury is pretty happening too. I live closer to Northampton, MA than any of Connecticut’s best venues, though, so Western Mass is the comparison that comes to mind. The thing about Western Mass is not only that there are a bunch of great venues centralized within the Five Colleges area, but it is also a place that has produced a number of bands that happened to move on to have a tremendous influence on rock music. Unfortunately, Connecticut does not have all of those same ingredients in a single area, or at least not in as dense a locale as Western Mass. Since the New Haven area comes closest, though, I’d have to peg it as the defining area. What Pearl Street is to Western Mass, Toad’s is to Connecticut. But Western Mass is lucky enough to also have The Calvin and Iron Horse, among many other venues, which are always hosting great music.

MB: Do you think that CT Indie Blog has influenced any local bands, or the local indie scene at all? Yes, No and Why?

JD:  It’s hard for me to say with any degree of certainty. I’d like to think that it has helped the music community become more aware of itself, at least in the sense that all the different places and people are now more easily connected. Speaking from experience, I’m guessing it’s a lot easier now for a new local band to find places to play and other bands to play with by going onto CT Indie. There’s also the occasional message from touring bands looking for places to play. Most recently, Beloved Binge, a band from North Carolina, ended up with two dates in Connecticut after contacting CT Indie.

MB: Future goals, and plans of the CT Indie Blog, and the local music scene?

JD:  The plan is to keep on doing what we’re doing, taking the slow and steady approach. I’d like to start booking some shows in the Hartford area, but besides a total lack of time, the financial side of it is a big obstacle. The immediate goal is to make CT Indie as helpful as possible to everyone interested in Connecticut’s music scene. We’d like to get some more contributors to start writing more. We’ve been hesitant to review local releases because what happens is too many requests come in from bands that simply aren’t ready for that yet. There’s no point in blasting garbage demos, half baked EPs, or complaining about music we simply aren’t into. That stuff discourages musicians and would make CT Indie look like a bunch of jerks. But it is essential for locals to have alternative promotional outlets to help get them noticed.

MB: Who are some of your favorite local/indie CT bands/artists right now? What are some of your favorite local records to be released? And are there any local record labels in CT that have a really big stream of talent/great records? (like Subpop is to Seattle, as Touch and Go is to Chicago..etc.)

JD:  The two most recent are Abraham King and Heaven People. Abraham King is a solo folk-based project. His EP, Mark of the Mess, is available from Hot Air Press. He just moved to Tel Aviv for the next six months, so it will be awhile before we get to see him play Connecticut again. I’ve missed Heaven People every time they’ve played (ironically, I don’t get to go to very many shows because of work and familial responsibilities, which was another reason for me to start CT Indie: to keep involved even when I can’t get out). But I’ve heard enough Heaven People to know they are a killer noise act. As for labels, Safety Meeting Records is probably the most well known in the state, but there’s also Wooden Man Records. Wood Man sports a bunch of good bands, including Bloarzeyed, who not too long back flew out to Chicago to record with Steve Albini. I’m not sure if they’re still playing together, though.

MB: In the aspect of the CT music scene, its really shifted. A lot of bands don’t even pass through CT anymore, because its right between Boston, and New York.  It creates less exposure to national artists, but a greater outlet for local/indie artists to develop..Do you think that’s a positive thing, or negative thing?

JD:  It’s certainly a negative for those of us that live here to have national acts pass up Connecticut. If we had another couple of good rock clubs like Toad’s Place in the state, we’d be a great stop between New York and Western Mass, or we’d at least be able to compete for more bands to stop here when touring through New England. On the brighter side of things, bands that are on Ecstatic Peace play BAR often, as do many other great bands from all over. And what doesn’t get enough mention are all the bands that come here from all over the place, whether it’s the Swedish punk band Masshysteri that played The Whitney House in March, or when Pedestrian Deposit played The New Hawaii in June. These basement and house shows are not just random parties, they’re serious happenings put together by people that are 100% behind the music. And most important, all these shows feature locals on their bills.

MB: Any additional comments?

JD:  We’d like to get some more show reviews up on CT Indie, so if interested contributing, shoot us a message – our email can be found on the CT Indie blog.

For more information on the CT Indie Blog, local bands, reviews, and more! Please visit http://ctindie.blogspot.com/