The Black Sheep Interviews: Sean Moeller, creator of Daytrotter
- Article by Brendan Bonham
- February 28, 2011
This week we interviewed Sean Moeller from Daytrotter.com, an online portal to some truly great music, based out of Rock Island, Illinois. Nationally known artists and up-and-comers come through Daytrotter’s studio, the Horseshack, to record four songs in two hours. Later, they’re posted online, for free, for your enjoyment. Seriously cool.
The Black Sheep: Why did you choose to start Daytrotter?
Sean Moeller: It just started on a whim. I was doing a lot of freelance writing and working for the town newspaper, and that was fine, but I had an idea. A lot of people don’t follow through with their ideas, and I found a way to at least try it. I had a friend who was a sound engineer, he had a studio he wasn’t using, I got Johnnie [the artist] and just started doin’ it. We didn’t do it with any big master plan, but the idea was always there to do it the way we wanted to do it. I think people that really love music feel like musicians that aren’t getting noticed deserve to be noticed. Daytrotter started, and continues to exist, in the mindset of, “Who’s great, but needs a little push?”
TBS: How does the process work? Do you reach out to people, or do they reach out to you?
Sean: It’s a little bit of everything. I do a lot of the legwork when it comes to finding people I want to record with. It’s hard, there’s a good band in every city in the United States that plays a few shows around town or can’t get out to tour, and not many people know they exist. I’m constantly fielding inquiries and following tips, but it’s rare that a tip catches me off-guard, I’m plugged in and I hear of most things before other people. Bands write us, managers write us, labels write us, fans of the site write us, so we hear about everyone.
TBS: You guys have a formula; show up, play our instruments, get it on the web. Is there a reason for that formula?
Sean: We don’t force people to play our instruments, but we have a lot of cool stuff and a lot of the time people will show up and geek out over these old amps and old guitars that you’re not going to go on tour with. Nothing we do other than the actual tape recording is done for art’s sake. We don’t tell anybody what to do, so maybe that’s our contribution to art for art’s sake.
TBS: How do you get the stuff you have in your studio?
Sean: It’s just acquired over time. It’s ebay shopping and garage sales and flea markets. Somehow things fall into our lap, it’s pretty weird.
TBS: Some of the bands don’t strike me as Daytrotter material; MGMT, for example. How do you—or the band for that matter—prepare differently knowing that they won’t have the same tools at their disposal?
Sean: I think everyone approaches it differently, and now they consciously consider what they know about Daytrotter in terms of what they want to do and what they have. It’s becoming rare that a band coming in isn’t a fan of the site, so they know what to expect. A lot of that goes into the process of figuring out what they want their session to be like. It’s flattering to know that bands take the sessions seriously as far as an opportunity to put a different mark on songs or a band, and they choose appropriately. We don’t tell them what to play--even if they ask us-- and I think they pick songs that are open to interpretation. Those are the ones that turn into pretty special sessions.
TBS: Do any Daytrotter sessions stand out as really memorable for you?
Sean: The most memorable ones are the ones that are most surprising. We’ll invite people in and they’ll just shock us, like, “wow, where did these guys come from?”
TBS: What are some of your favorite bands that have done Daytrotter?
Sean: There’s a lot of them now, and many of them have become friends. It’s less of a surreal thing now, it’s more like, “this is how things work.” It was great when Matthew Sharp came in, I was a huge Weezer fan in high school. I got to meet Kris Kristofferson. It’s stupid to say, but now it’s every day. We get to meet really great people every day.