The Eleven Letters page has been blowing up lately with comments relating to a couple of letters submitted by Eric Williger. The first, "Caught up in the hipster fads of yesteryear" (Dec '12/Jan '13), included a response by me inviting Williger to contribute to the magazine. His submission, which I titled "What's Gone Wrong with the St. Louis Music Culture" (a direct quote from within the piece) turned out to be less article than artifact, in that it discussed the musician Angel Olsen but also covered various opinions about STL's music community. That piece generated a lot of conversation on Facebook and several responses in letter form, which we published in the March issue of the magazine.
Below is a "clarification" that Williger asked me to run. The quote he refers to is from the second submission.
- Evan Sult, editor
I'd like to not be mistaken for trying to revise or even defend my prior writing ("Caught up in the hipster fads of yesteryear," Dec '12/Jan '13, "What's Gone Wrong with the St. Louis Music Culture," Feb '13), but there is one point from my piece in the February issue that I feel has been principally and commonly misunderstood, and I would like to release a clarification. Here's the quote: "[...]a large part of this problem is that a lot of the music that is lauded by the local music press--and that is rewarded by larger audiences--is boring. A lot of it is what you might call 'adult contemporary rock.' Many of the biggest bands are hellbent on copying stuff like Wilco, Pavement, The National--bands whose influence should be long dead. There's plenty of funk, soul, blues, ska, reggae, jazz, and other dead genres. But the thing that unites all of it is how incredibly, obnoxiously, depressingly derivative it is."
The misinterpretation that I've seen from this is that people feel that I am saying that it is the responsibility of the bands to make music that I, personally, find to be "interesting." This isn't the case at all. As the top line there suggests, it's the fault of music press for lauding acts out of laziness when the band's primary accomplishment is sounding very much like another band. I am very possibly in the minority here, but I'd much rather hear someone talking about an artist that is pushing boundaries unsuccessfully than hear someone talk about an artist that is living within the set boundaries comfortably.
The people who seemed to be most offended were members of bands or acts who felt like they were making music for the fun of it, rather than to appease some "higher power" or get famous. Of course, I have no issue with that. Make the music you want to make. Please, if anything, do that. But it is not the place of the music press to praise you just because you are relatively competent on your instruments and you fit easily into the booking schedule of clubs that tend to have really awful bands as headliners.
My point here is that I was taking no jabs at any bands or musicians--those that aspire for fame as well as those who couldn't care less. It was strictly a comment about the music press, and all those people that contribute in non-musical ways to the atmosphere of the "local music scene" wherein people should feel creatively free.
I would also like to take this opportunity to say, on the public record, that I did not come up with the title for the piece in the February issue. Had I titled it, it would've likely been something boring, like, "Angel Olsen as a case-study in the failings of the St. Louis' music scene," which would've gotten far fewer of you to read it. I worry that the melodramatic title that the piece received led some to color it as a very negative laundry list of problems, whereas I saw it as a relatively positive piece.