Q&A with Sean Moeller of Daytrotter
April 9th, 2012 • Interview
Live sessions, typically around 4-5 tracks, are recorded onto vintage 1/4 Inch tape at Daytrotter’s Horseshack Studios (also in Rock Island, but several more have sprung up across the US) as bands pass through the town on their national tours, and are posted up online alongside some analysis from Moeller and a unique illustration of the band / artist – something that’s become a real USP for the site.
Since its inception in 2006, Daytrotter has hosted sessions from bands like MGMT, Bon Iver, The National, Wilco, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Local Natives, Fleet Foxes, The Naked And Famous, Two Door Cinema Club, Anna Calvi, The Vaccines and Youth Lagoon, amongst countless others, leading to the site being featured in publications such The New York Times, Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. Recently, a Daytrotter studio has opened up here in London, which has enabled many UK artists to feature on the site – recent tapings this side of the pond have included the likes of Dry The River, Kyla La Grange, Bombay Bicycle Club, Metronomy, Bastille and Slow Club.
Quite often, bands feature on the site before they fully break into the public consciousness, and as such Daytrotter rightly declares itself as a place to discover your new favourite band.
We’ve been aware of the site for a little while, but have taken a larger interest of late due to two of our bands, The Static Jacks and Channel Cairo, being featured. With both their sessions appearing online in recent weeks, we thought it was high time to pose some questions to Sean about it all – his aims and motivations for doing it, as well as what’s to come from Daytrotter in the future.
LFC: What inspired you to start Daytrotter?
Sean: I started the site with a couple buddies really just to try and make something different and special – something that would allow me to give a platform to bands that I thought were better than most of the bands that I read about in magazines. I just thought that if there was a way for us to put bands in a most natural environment and recording them without much fanfare, with vintage equipment, straight to tape, the results would be good and people could easily appreciate them. There would be little to no bullshit. The music could just shine through.
LFC: To someone who hasn’t come across Daytrotter – what exactly is it, and what’s the site’s aim/ethos?
Sean: We’re a website that records bands passing through our main analog studio here in Rock Island, Ill. (and a few others out there in the world) and features those songs for people to listen to on our site. We hope we’re a place where people have open ears and are willing to discover things they’ve never heard of. We just like the idea of getting great music into as many ears as possible and letting people decide for themselves, rather than get caught up in any hype that is too easy to find out there these days.
LFC: Aside from bands passing through to record sessions for you, is there much of an independent music scene where you’re based on the Illinois / Iowa border?
Sean: No, not really. We’re trying to change that. We’ve got some things up our sleeves. We usually have to get to Iowa City to link up with great shows. Though, surprisingly, a couple nights a year, Maquoketa, Iowa is about as cool of a place as you can ever go to hear music.
LFC: Of all the bands who have recorded Daytrotter sessions over the years, who have been the most memorable?
Sean: Really, honestly and truly, they all stand out for different reasons. It’s a big ‘ol bag of memories, all of them. It’s damn near impossible to think about what we’re trying to do over here without thinking about it as a whole. These aren’t individual moments for me, but more a whole. That’s what means the most to me.
LFC: Apart from the original studio in Rock Island, where are the other Daytrotter sites?
Sean: We have studios that we currently use in London, San Francisco, Nashville, Austin, Montreal and Asheville, NC.
LFC: How did setting up the studio in London come about?
Sean: We got to become really good buddies with the killer people at Communion and our values and tastes align so well that we couldn’t keep our hands off of one another. We just had to work together and so this is just the start of a relationship that I think is going to continue to grow and become something really amazing. We’re looking forward to seeing where it goes. Our studio over there is gorgeous and the two engineers we’re working with – Ian Grimble and Rich Matthews – are wizards. It’s a wonderful extension of our team here in Rock Island and we couldn’t be happier about the results so far.
LFC: What’s your criteria when booking a band for a Daytrotter session?
Sean: It’s very simple: If I like it we’ll try to make something happen. If I don’t like it, the band doesn’t stand a chance. Ha.
LFC: Are there any big names you’d like to get on the site, or are you happy with focusing on emerging talent?
Sean: I want Willie Nelson, Jay-Z, Alabama and Radiohead to come visit us.
LFC: How do you search for new talent? Is it mainly on the internet, or word of mouth?
Sean: It’s about half and half. I get a lot of recommendations and tips from bands that we’ve recorded in the past and friends that I trust. Mostly it’s just me bouncing around Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages. It’s amazing what you can find.
LFC: What’s next for Daytrotter?
Sean: It’s actually just a lot of the same, but we should have some very big news coming in the fall. It’s not the right time to let the cat or cats out of the bag just yet. All in due time, my good friend.
Like Daytrotter on Facebook here and follow Sean on Twitter at @RealDaytrotter. Listen to The Static Jacks’ session, recorded in San Francisco, here. Channel Cairo’s session, recorded in London, is available here.