When Musicians Tweet

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There’s an old adage that every musician wants to be a stand-up and every comic wants to be a rockstar. While this is probably a case of “the grass is always greener,” sometimes you’ll find someone who manages to excel in both categories. 

Luckily platforms like Twitter have made it easier than ever for musicians to prove their comedic chops, even if it’s just within the space of a 280 character message nonchalantly fired off from the comfort of a rest stop toilet. Some bands may relegate their social media usage to promoting their newest album or upcoming concerts, but (unsurprisingly) some of the most fulfilling Twitter follows belong to bands who also to use the platform the same way that I do: shitposting.

As great as it is to know when new music is coming from a band you follow, it’s almost more rewarding to find out that an artist you love shares the same sense of humor as you. Social media has allowed us to peek inside each other’s heads, and sometimes what you’ll find is so unexpected that you can’t help but laugh. Whether it’s dumb puns, depressing realizations, or just funny observations spurred by the never-ending drawl of tour life, there is occasionally some gold to be found in between tour dates and album promo.  

Without further ado, these are some of the funniest, most iconic, and just plain goofy tweets from musicians paired with their hyper-serious press photos. Because at the end of the day, bad jokes bind us all.


A Guide to Supporting Bands in the Streaming Age

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The landscape for how music is consumed has changed unrecognizably in the past 10 years. When we started the label we were selling hundreds of CDs (imagine that?!). Nowadays streaming is a big focus and can make a huge difference to whether we break even on a release or not, and if a band gets heard outside their immediate scene. This isn't meant to be an attack on streaming, I'm a big fan, it's super convenient and I've discovered loads of great bands through Spotify. But the reality is payment rates for streams are tiny (£0.003-4 a play). 99% of streaming income goes to the top 10% of tracks and we're participating in a system which only works financially for those at the top and leaves those at the bottom unheard and unpaid! 

It looks like that system is sticking around for a while, so here are a few ideas for how to support artists you like and try to level the playing field a bit. 


Be An Active Listener

Playlists, algorithms, 'radio' playlists all work to highlight those lucky few who get handpicked or get enough data to enter the recommendation algorithms. If you never break that threshold you're destined to remain in '<1000' streams territory. 

Listen
Listen to small artists, listen to ones you already like, actively check out ones you haven't heard, listen to their tracks in full (don't skip through), save their songs / albums to your library. 

Use Playlists
Set up some playlists for songs you like, maybe separate them by genre. It doesn't matter if anyone apart from you listens to the playlist, Spotify picks up on what tracks are on the same lists together and will use that data for their recommendation algorithms. 

Turn Off Auto Play!
You know when you finish listening to an album and it starts auto playing similar songs (usually from the lucky handful of top artists in that sub-genre)? It's nice not have an awkward silence, but it does serve to inflate the play count of those already popular artists. By not using it, you're choosing what to listen to and who to support. 

Discover
If you're looking to discover new music, by all means check out Discover Weekly, Release Radar and other recommendation systems. But also try listening to your mates playlists, look through related artists, listen to what's come out recently on labels you like, check out what blogs are recommending, read reviews in zines / MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL / Razorcake, look through the Bandcamp homepage. There is endless good shit out there and the best stuff is not necessarily what's being directly recommended to you. 


Share 

The influence of traditional media is dwindling, the influence of online music websites is dwindling, how many people actually look outside their own social media bubble anymore? The reach of bands and business Facebook pages has basically dropped to nothing unless they're willing to pay for it.

Your personal social media probably has more influence on the tastes of your friends than anything else! If you like a song, tell your mates, if you like a video show your mates, if you're going to a gig invite your mates or at least encourage them to check out the bands. If you have a playlist of new music, share it with people! If you're at a gig, take a photo / video, stick it on Instagram (obviously try not to be obnoxious about it, we've all been stuck behind someone at a gig that can't put their fucking phone away). If you're playing a record at home stick a photo on social media. 

If you do a blog / write reviews, I love you, you truly are doing awesome work! But it doesn't need to take that kind of time commitment to help share music, a simple repost and "If you like 'X Band' / 'Y Band"' type recommendation really helps. 


Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

The reality is most artists aren't making any significant money from streaming. If you can afford to support in other ways it will make a huge difference to their ability to continue touring and continue making music. Music will always be created regardless of the financial returns, it's fun and its cathartic, but a healthy music economy means that making music isn't only for those privileged enough to have spare cash and spare time to put into it. 

Buy The Record
I'm sure you've all heard about the so-called 'vinyl revival', and yes in total record sales are higher than they've been in years. But just because everyone's dad is buying Led Zep reissues at Tesco, the reality is small bands and labels are struggling. There are so many records coming out now, pressing turnaround times are going up, prices are going up. If you like physical music, buy that record you've been streaming constantly! 

Buy Advance Tickets to Gigs
Touring is pretty much the only consistent revenue stream for most bands! So go see them, buy advance tickets when the shows get announced, and try to bring some of your mates along. Services like Songkick do a great job of emailing you when bands you've been listening to on Spotify / Apple Music are playing nearby, so sign up for that as well as actively looking at venue listings and following local promoters. 

Buy Merchandise
Apart from touring, merch is probably the next most lucrative way bands have to make money. So pick something up at a show, check out their Bandcamp page and see if you can order online. 

I know some of this shit is obvious, and hopefully this isn't teaching you how to suck eggs! You have more power than you think to help out musicians you like, and it doesn't take a huge amount of time or money. No one's getting rich off this shit, bands you perceive to be doing well are probably still struggling, your support & enthusiasm can mean the world.


 I love talking about this kind of stuff so if you have any thoughts / ideas hit me up - andrew@specialistsubjectrecords.co.uk 

A PDF of this is available free at shop.specialistsubjectrecords.co.uk. Words by Andrew Horne, layout by Kay Stanley. Specialist Subject Records is an independent record label and shop based in Bristol UK. Follow them on Twitter here.

Interbellum - Dead Pets, Old Griefs

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Life becomes a cruel joke when you look at it from a cosmic perspective. Our time here is finite, and the only things we know for sure are that you were born, you will die, and a bunch of bad things will happen in between. 

On one hand, you could learn these facts and they could make you feel small. That you are infinitesimal. That you don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. On the other hand, you could learn these facts and be comforted by them. Be comforted by the fact that you are infinitesimal. Be comforted by the fact that you don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Because if this life is all there is, then everything you’ve ever dreaded will pass. All of your mistakes will be forgotten, and every bad feeling will dissipate. 

Enter Dead Pets, Old Griefs.

Life is a gift, but it comes at a price. The horror of existence is as much of a reality as the beauty. Life’s scarring experiences aren’t something you can bargain away; they’re part of the deal. Experiencing sadness, loss, and displacement are guaranteed at some point in your life, and Dead Pets, Old Griefs has put that feeling into words. 

The second album by Lebanese singer-songwriter Karl Mattar under the name Interbellum, Dead Pets, Old Griefs sees Mattar partnering with Fadi Tabbal and a host of musician friends to make a grand statement of love and loss. 

Focusing on the minute details of the human experience, Mattar weaves visceral tales about navigating the waters of life. With lyrics of healing bruises, red sunsets, and thawing snowfields, the language used is vivid and evocative. Your mind is drawn into the scenes being depicted, which unfold like canvas paintings from a past life. 

As the stories of each song unfurl, the listener begins to place themselves into the world of the album. Decaying particles linger. Shadows cling to the walls. The feeling is dark and inescapable but captured perfectly. 

It’s a release that blurs perception and bleeds into reality. As you find yourself listening to it, your mind will shoot from the experiences contained within the song to your own. It evokes a deep feeling of connectivity between its author and the listener. 

As these flashes of distant lives move throughout your mind, the songs also may evoke a feeling of familiarity, not just between your life and the songs, but between the songs and other music. From Sparklehorse-esque opening track “Distortion” to a pitch-perfect Yo La Tengo-style duet on “Ready To Dissolve.” There are hints of Daniel Jonhston, Vampire Weekend, and Car Seat Headrest just to name a few. The result is an album that feels wide-ranging, familiar, and distinctly indie. 

By the second half of the album, Mattar settles into a heartfelt Mark Linkous-style delivery as he continues to wrestle with the questions of his own existence. As the moments unfold, everything leads to the final track “Weight of Winter” which utilizes airy emo guitarwork as Mattar depicts an escape over a steadily-marching drumline. 

Dead Pets, Old Griefs is a reflective journey of the self. It forces the listener to face life’s inevitable sadness and loss and leaves them no choice but to lean into it. While that may be an uncomfortable journey for some, for others it could be meditative or even revelatory. 

With a title like Dead Pets, Old Griefs, one might expect this album to be an existentially-painful bummer, but I choose to view the album optimistically. Dead Pets, Old Griefs is a reminder to enjoy every moment of our finite time and to hold close the things that are dearest to us. It’s a reminder of the light that makes the darkness bearable and the beauty in life that makes it all worth it.

That’s a reminder we all could use sometimes.

Two Parallel Lines: Growing Up With The Wonder Years

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On this day nine years ago, Philidelphia-based pop-punk band The Wonder Years released their sophomore album The Upsides. I listened to the album one year later on February 14th of 2011, and my life has never been the same since. 

I became infatuated with The Upsides upon first listen, and the record quickly became one of my all-time favorites racking up hundreds of listens over the time since I first pressed play eight years ago. While eight years may not seem like a long time in the grand scheme of things, a lot has happened in my life since 2011, and the group’s songs were there with me every step of the way. 

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In many ways, your twenties are the first real years of your life. Your first years out of school. Your first years on your own. Your first years figuring out what the rest of your life will be. The music of The Wonder Years has been with me through every one of those. Their records act as demarcation points in my life because I consumed them so voraciously as they came out that now each one evokes a different era of my own history. 

When I first discovered the band I was a senior in high school, on the cusp of entering the unknown expanse of college. The Wonder Years had only put out two albums at the time: Get Stoked On It and The Upsides. I listened to them both endlessly, and one even helped me get through my first real breakup. In the fall of 2011 I went off to college the band released Suburbia I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing. I spent two years in school directionless and depressed, and after two years of soul-searching I finally found my passion. In the spring of 2013, The Greatest Generation was there right as the clouds began to clear. In 2015 I finished school and the band released No Closer to Heaven that same summer. Most recently, 2018 has been marked by the release of Sister Cities which I listened to as I moved across the country to start a new life following my career and passion into the unknown. 

All of that has happened in the last eight years, as have the Wonder Years. With each phase of my life, the band and their music continues to intertwine with my existence no matter what I’m going through. I write all this to say one thing; The Wonder Years May not be the greatest band in the world, but they are the greatest band of my life. 

On their earliest songs, lead singer Dan Campbell would pen lyrics of struggle and resistance. As I got older, so did the band. Their lyrics shifted from struggling with post-college listlessness to family, community, and acceptance. The band members have gotten married, and some now even have kids on the way. The words have changed, and the feelings have shifted, but the core has remained the same. 

The specificity of the lyrics allows the band to weave intimate tales of their own lives and experiences while simultaneously tackling something more significant. They address a universal struggle with existence. They’re poetic, heartfelt, sincere, and human.

The words within the songs have only strengthened this sense of attachment I feel with the Wonder Years’ music. I’m eight years younger than Campbell, and the frankness with which we wrote about adulthood, addiction, depression, and belief connected with me on every level. I feel like I grew up with the band. Not only that, I feel like they gave me a warning of things to come. That my experience mirrors theirs. That we are two parallel lines experiencing the same things eight years apart. 

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Back in October of 2017, I stumbled across a NYLON article by Helena Fitzgerald. It was technically a review of The National’s then-new record Sleep Well Beast. In the article, Fitzgerald talked about how The National had impacted her. How the band and their albums had been there for every step of her life, releasing music along with every minor and major change of her existence. Something clicked in my head as I was reading her words, and that article became one of my favorite pieces of music journalism I’ve ever read. 

It helped me realize that The Wonder Years have guided my life in the same way. I’ve loved bands before, and I’ll love bands after, but this past decade was soundtracked consistently by only one musical force, and was The Wonder Years. 

When someone asks me who my favorite band is, I don’t have to think about it twice. I answer ‘The Wonder Years’ instantly and without hesitation. Is it weird for a 25-year-old to love a group that started off as an easycore act singing about zombies? Well yeah, it’s funny at the very least, but I look at the Wonder Years and see progress both musical and literal. They’ve grown up and matured. They’re not the same people who released The Upsides nine years ago, and neither am I. I look at them and see progress. I look at them and see myself. 

Swim Into The Sound’s Year In Review

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2018 was a banner year for Swim Into The Sound. If you’d allow me to pull back the curtain for a minute and wax poetic, I would love to dedicate this decidedly non-music post to the year that was and express my profound gratitude to you, the reader. 

Swim Into The Sound began in my backyard when a burst of inspiration convinced me to jot down my thoughts on a Mogwai record. I probably spent a week on that post, manically editing the Google Doc until it was as good as I could make it of my own devices. I pasted it into a Tumblr page, posted it, and then let the account sit there for about a year. 

The summer after that I had graduated from college and found myself in need of an outlet. I remembered I had that Tumblr stashed away along with (what I thought) was a fantastic post already loaded up into it. I ventured back into the app and spent the remainder of the year posting a wide range of long-form music-related thoughts. Whether it was deconstructing my love of hip-hop or discussing my embarrassing pre-gym Taylor Swift rituals, I found a strange sense of relief in getting these thoughts out of my head and onto the (somewhat) permanent page of the internet. 

Throughout 2017 I continued to post on Swim Into The Sound more regularly and began promoting my blog on the /r/indieheads music subreddit since that’s where I was already spending most of my time. The support, affirmations, and love I received from the community there was unlike anything I’d ever felt before as a creator. It only fueled me further and confirmed that this whole endeavor was worth it. Seeing other people enjoy my words made me feel like that this site wasn’t just a hobby, but my passion. 

2018 is the first year I’ve had enough to warrant a recap of the blog’s year, so I’m going to lean into it, modesty be damned. To think that Swim Into The Sound has grown from one amateur-ish album review I wrote on my phone into this is mind-blowing. This is undeniably self-congratulatory, but I also hope this post captures my gratitude because this site would not be what it is without you.


One of the most significant changes Swim Into The Sound saw in 2018 was a complete redesign as we moved to Squarespace and escaped the clutches of Tumblr. Tumblr was wonderful as a free blogging tool, but over the past two years it became something that lacked the flexibility I really needed. It was an excellent way to dip my toes in the waters of public writing, but now I’m committed. 

Aside from the fresh coat of paint you’re now seeing, moving to Squarespace also gave me access to back-end information and analytics. For example, between the months of April (when I moved the site to Squarespace) and December, precisely 16,668 unique people visited Swim Into The Sound. That blows me away.

It’s unfortunate I have no way to measure how many people were reading for the three years when the site was on Tumblr, but I never in a million years would have thought sixteen thousand people would be interested in my thoughts.

Last year I posted 45 articles. That’s 73,899 words. More than I’ve ever done in a calendar year. Amongst those 45 posts, I broke into new and unfamiliar territory with my first interview, first concert review, and first visual piece. An artist walked me through his album track-by-track, and a Portland-based designer let me host his piece on my site. Those posts all broke format but felt incredibly fulfilling to get out into the world.

That said, I can’t take all the credit for those 74-thousand words, because 2018 also marked the appearance of our site’s first guest writer. We also bookended the year with another post from a different guest writer, both of whom I had met through the /r/indieheads subreddit… proof that wasting your time online can pay off. 

On the goofier side of things, I was interviewed by @SMALLALBUMS (in case you ever wondered where I stood on emojis), and a friend photoshopped the blog’s logo into a terrible pun which I’m officially dubbing our first fan art. 

In 2018 I also did “real” businessey things. I started a Fiverr page in a desperate attempt to stave off joblessness. While the model didn’t quite work for the site, it opened the door to many firsts of its own from my very first paid review to my first review quote and the first time I got to hear an album early. When all was said and done, I made money from the venture, not much, but if you’d told me back in 2015 that I’d get $200 from this site I would have been astonished. 

On the social front, I rounded Swim Into The Sound’s online presence (which previously only consisted of Twitter) to include Instagram and Spotify. I also created an email dedicated solely to the blog. While this email was initially designed to catch all the spam from these social accounts, I soon started to receive music submissions, something I never would have dreamt of in a million years. I had artists sending me their life’s work, and that’s an incredibly privileged position to be in. To express my gratitude I collected ten of my favorite submissions from the first few months and plan on doing it again whenever time allows. In fact, there are no less than 50 emails waiting unread in my inbox, so if you’ve submitted something recently, sorry, life and List Season got in the way. 

Speaking of which, Swim Into The Sound’s end of the year posts went off without a hitch. We attempted to recreate past glories with our Ancillary Diamond Platter Awards, we called out hack lyrics and bad behavior in our 2018 Un-Awards, and (of course) we ran through some of our favorite albums of the year

One of the things I’m most proud of in 2018 was listening to (and writing about) 454 new releases throughout the year. I went into more detail here, but writing about dozens of new releases each month was an interesting challenge that I didn’t even set out to do… it just sort of happened. Through that monthly process, I expanded my musical horizons and wrote about more albums than ever before. It was a grand experiment that took way more time than I could have imagined, but it was fun to see if I’d make it to the end of 2018 despite all that’s happened throughout the year. 

In addition to moving the site to Squarespace and keeping up with the music world through those monthly roundups, 2018 was also the year of the site’s first merch. I designed and ordered 250 4x4 stickers which were the sole content on our Instagram for some time. I also ordered 100 guitar pick “business cards” because I realized this blog’s name is hard to shout when networking at concerts.

Finally, this holiday season also saw the launch of A Very Sufjan Christmas which, while not entirely written by me, is still a side-project I’m running with the help of my equally-fanatic online friends. The site was a daily advent calendar with new posts each day throughout the month of December. As you could imagine, that blog had its own demands and challenges, but I still view it as a sister site to Swim Into The Sound. I had my hand at a post, but running social media promotion, wrangling posts from writers, editing them, and designing the site was enough of a job for me throughout the holiday season. 

If nothing else I’d like one thing to be clear: I could not have done this without you. I’m not doing this for money, I’m doing it for love, and every time someone clicks on an article, gives me a like, retweet, or message of affirmation, it fuels me for another thousand words. 

It’s people like you that keep this site running and my sole afloat. I wouldn’t have done any of this if I didn’t think that someone out there was benefitting from it in some way. I wouldn’t have spent all the money on stickers or a new website if I didn’t feel like I’d received that monetary amount back through some sort of spiritual love being sent my way. 

I wouldn’t have opened an email for music submissions if I didn’t want to support small artists. I wouldn’t have spun thousands of words about new music every month if I didn’t think someone else might find those posts helpful. 

So from the bottom of my heart, I’d like to send a profound thank you to anyone reading this. Your support, your attention, and your love are what has kept this blog afloat for another year, and you’re why I plan on charging into 2019 with more fire than ever before. 

Thank you for everything, thank you for this site.