The beauty of Daytrotter

Re-discovering the music goldmine

A Christmas gift of a year-long membership to Daytrotter, prompted me to update a blog post from back in 2010, originally posted on Stereosubversion

Way back in July 2010, little did I know that an innocuous tweet, from one of my favourite bands would lead me on a musical quest.

Those five small words set me off on a journey exploring new music which instantly expanded my musical horizon, as that embedded link directed me to a documentary film “Welcome to Daytrotter” about the people behind the Daytrotter recording studio and music site.

For the uninitiated, Daytrotter started back in 2006 in Rock Island and the site is a real joy to behold for the music enthusiast. Founded by Sean Moeller, who provides passionate insights and meandering reviews in his idiosyncratic prose style, on the artist’s performances in the studio affectionately called The Horseshack. (Other team members include Michael Morrissey Gentry, Phil Pracht and Johnnie Cluney, the illustrator of those wonderful animated images of the bands.)

The concept is wonderful, in that the guys persuade bands to stop by, play in the “raw” without any overdubbing, effects and the tracks go straight to tape. These tracks were once presented free to the music lover to stream or download, in an old school type endeavour to build up a following …fan by fan. In more recent times, membership has been introduced as mandatory, the current offering for $32 per year, which includes access to live video streams of Daytrotter shows. There are also options to purchase additional tracks from bands.

podcast interview on the background and beginnings of Daytrotter

Over seven thousand recorded sessions have been captured since its inception and new recordings are being added, I am still playing catch up at the moment, as I re-entered the gold mine that is the Daytrotter website.

Now, not everything is to my taste, I mainly skip the Country section to be honest, but discovering little nuggets such as Eef Barzelay playing the track ‘Well’, is what really makes the quest through Daytrotter so enjoyable.

I tripped across Clem Snide and Eef Barzelay when browsing artists. Back then, for whatever reason, I had never heard of Eef or his band Clem Snide. But since hearing ‘Well’, I have been exploring their back catalogue, mystified as to why I hadn’t heard of him and what exactly was this genre of alternative country. He seemed to have a song for any occasion to pick you up, make you smile and I still believe he is one of most under rated songwriters out there.

I have since treated myself to what I think is a really cool gift, in a personal recording from Eef Barzelay and I chose favourites “Well”, “Born a Man”, “Show of it”. It is a novel idea to be able to get your very own dedicated versions of amazing songs. Incidentally, he also offers “Living Room Shows”, hosted in private spaces with no stage, no sound system limited to 40–60 people.

Listening to earlier sessions from now established bands e.g. Tokyo Police Club, from 2007, is most worthwhile experience. I ended up buying their record ‘Champ’, became a fan, going to their live show when they visited only really on the back of hearing that session, which includes their excellent ‘End of a spark’ track

Tokyo Police Club

Other notable finds back then included Strand of Oaks, Trashcan Sinatras, Rocky Votolato, Architecture In Helsinki, Bill Callahan and any of the Local Natives sets are pure gold — a must for fans of the band.

Going back this year, re-discovering Daytrotter as a new member, it is truly amazing looking back over the many sessions, to see who has played there, there is an endless list of note-worthy artists.

Acts such as The National, Dirty Projectors, Phosphorescent played in 2007, Wye Oak, Bon Iver, the Dodos in 2008, Real Estate in 2009, Sharon Von Etten, Biffy Clyro in 2010 and so many more, including Cage the Elephant at the time of their debut album.

You can now search Daytrotter by genre, date, by featured artist, Daytrotter top picks, most popular or alternatively you can jump right in, to the new sessions to discover the next band of the future.

The writer, music critic, Sasha Frere-Jones mentioned in his Village Voice piece recently,

“There are a few true holdouts for independent music, like Bandcamp, which can power careers as long”

As there are now fewer places for the indie music purist to frequent, Daytrotter remains an even more essential community for both bands and the music listener. In today’s music world, where record executives can’t seem to agree on the right business model, Daytrotter’s direct engagement is a real breath of fresh air. It opens up a whole new world of great music, from new undiscovered acts who are starting out to more established acts and has whetted my appetite, to keep searching!