When we started our "Fill in the Blank" interview series back in June, our mission was simply to track down local creatives and give them a platform to speak. We provided open-ended questions, encouraging St. Louis musicians to rant or rave on the subject at hand. When presenting the phrase "The St. Louis music scene could use..." we received some particularly thoughtful responses. While a few seemed content with the usual goings-on of St. Louis music, many were vocal about specific changes they'd like to see.
With a new year now looming before us, we thought it would be worthwhile to compile some of these thoughts. After combing through the answers from six months' worth of interviews, five basic notions were agreed upon: local support, unity, diversity, effort and appreciation. Read on, because this advice rings true for many bands, venues, booking agents and music fans alike, regardless of genre or personal preference.
Brothers Lazaroff: The St. Louis music scene could use... more wide-spread support of original local music. There is a strong core of support for local music, between the RFT, KDHX, Arch City Radio Hour, Eleven Magazine, St. Louis Magazine, the Post and great local blogs like I Went To A Show and Jarred Gastreich's Show Me Shows. There are a lot of great outlets for local bands to spread their music. But until there is more of a "support original local music" ethos in the city and suburbs at large, it'll be hard for local bands to maintain momentum and play regularly in St. Louis. Maybe more happy hour and early evening weekday shows would help?
Ultimately, people have to realize that it is worth the energy of getting off the couch for a night and taking in some original music or art. I guess we all fight that inertia, though! St. Louis is a major music city in respects to our history and talent, but we aren't a music-industry town so we have to find a way to create a larger base of concertgoers.
Nicholas Horn (guitar) of Brotherfather: The St. Louis music scene could use... more fans. I don't really know how to make that happen, though. It seems like the bottom line is that St. Louis is a place that's largely dominated by mass culture, and the majority of people aren't interested in hearing much of anything other than what Clear Channel's offering. Luckily, there is a small community of people in town who are very much interested in fostering creative activity, supporting artists in all kinds of different media and generally making St. Louis a more vibrant, interesting place.
Langen Neubacher (guitar, vocals) of the Defeated County: The St. Louis music scene could use... more folks that aren't directly involved in the business following the local music here. The St. Louis music scene is all love between the musicians and venues and artists involved — it's beautiful, but I genuinely believe we've got some local talent that could compete with the best national acts. We need more people outside of our circles to hear us.
Austin (vocals) of Animal Teeth: The St. Louis music scene could use... more unity. It sounds cheesy, but you do not see the same people at a punk show that you would see at a noise show. Give or take [the genres] differ in sound, but one should understand that we are all weirdos and should maybe collaborate on shows.
Jordan Lake (guitar) of Heavy Horse: The St. Louis music scene could use... more unity. Sometimes, it feels like there are multiple St. Louis scenes. I want more a family-like feel across the board.
Philip Lesicko (drums/guitar) of the Funs: The St. Louis music scene could use... more diverse shows. I feel like more people would attend if they were more interesting. I'm not hating on anything, but it seems bleak at the moment. It needs new blood. Suburb kids with a clean slate.
Mister Ben (guitar) of Beauty Pageant: The St. Louis music scene could use... more self-confidence, especially when it comes to weirdness. There's an obsession with paying tribute to indigenous folk music from half a century ago, which the RFT oozes orgasmic love for. I'd rather see more creeps lurking in the corner wielding contact mics, prepared to make utterly uncomfortable noises. Because it's OK, goddammit, to make those noises. You can get away with it here! It's cheap and easy! Maybe we could use a more flexible critical standard, or another beer.
Jeff Robtoy (vocals) of Pillow Talk: The St. Louis music scene could use... more bands that tour consistently, put out records, promote themselves and become recognized on a national level. There are so many crummy bands that are popular not because they are interesting or talented, but because they come from money, a cool part of the United States, or are not afraid to promote their product. St. Louis bands could really be big if they tried a little harder — myself included.
Julio Prato (guitar, vocals) of Kenshiro's: The St. Louis music scene could use... more drive to get outside. St Louis is great, but I feel like it needs a different approach to making it nationally. There's so much fantastic music being made in the city — I wish I could see So Many Dynamos headlining Coachella or something like that. I've gained a lot of respect for the scene because I discovered that I actually enjoy the music quite a bit, so I would like to see those bands propelling themselves into national territory, so that the country starts looking at St Louis and realizing the scene is worth a lot more than what people think.
Galen McGreehan (drums) of Quaere Verum: The St. Louis music scene could use... more people that realize how amazing the St. Louis music scene is. There is so much talent in the metal scene right now, and people just don't seem to realize it. Everyone is forging their own path.
Gabe Karabell (guitar) and John Birkner (drums) of Bad Dates: The St. Louis music scene could use... a kick in the pants. We have a lot of talented people and awesome bands, but that's just one piece of a music scene. A lot of the folks who work behind the scenes — booking shows, running venues and record stores, writing blogs and zines, releasing records — go unappreciated and can't sustain the financial costs involved. So they move away or drop out.
Kevin Harris (experimental artist): I can really only speak for a very small section of the music community, that of mostly nontraditional music — music that does not seek to utilize formulas developed within the context of historical music traditions. This type of music has had an impact on my life because of its high degree of authenticity.
If music does not reference tradition, it becomes impossible to use popular models of critical examination, such as comparing music to existing forms to arrive at qualitative determinations. This necessitates the need for a unique type of appreciation — an appreciation also absent from the tradition of music appreciation. It forces the audience to be creative and truly question what it means to "like" a particular style or piece of music. Mostly what people think they like is really just what they are familiar with.
There have recently been studies on the way long- and short-term memory interact with one another when listening to music. It turns out that when musical information is stored in short-term memory, it is also passing through our long-term memory to reference stored musical info. The sets of information are bound together into groupings that produce satisfying feelings when musical information is familiar to us. This process teaches us that sound can be beautiful, challenging, cerebral, emotional and an entire world of complexity when it is arranged in novel ways, and just as this process shows the importance of approaching music without preconceived notions and expectations, it can also be used to show the importance of approaching all aspects of life with an open mind.
So... what can the nontraditional music scene in St. Louis use? Good critics who understand this music and tell others why it is so appealing. This community needs a voice, representatives to tell the story and inspire people.