by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
Column 285: Sonic Youth
Tapping the mind of a 17-year-old.
Out of the blue last week I received an e-mail from Molly Misek. Ms. Misek had read my column/review of the Concert for Equality and wanted to interview me for an article for The Network, the highly esteemed Marian High School newspaper. I said sure, but to be fair, there’d have to be an information exchange — she could interview me, if I could interview her.
Look, how often am I going to get a chance to interview a 17-year-old about the music that surrounds her everyday life during what arguably is/will be her most formative years? Do you remember what you were listening to when you were 17? It’s very likely that you’re still listening to that same music today. And let’s face it, how else is a guy of my vintage (with no kids of his own) really supposed to find out what today’s youth is listening to?
Molly’s questions keyed on the Benson concert, the issues surrounding it, and, of course, the bands. Her piece will focus more on the cause than the music, even though it was Conor Oberst — not the plight of illegal immigrants — that drew her attention to the show. “It wasn’t about the issue at all. I’m a fan of Bright Eyes,” she said. “Everything Conor does is pretty awesome. I’m mostly a fan of him, and can’t say I was a fan of any other bands that played, but I’m not so into the super Omaha indie scene.”
Her love of all things Oberst began in 7th Grade when her cousins visited from Laredo, Texas. “They’re super-big fans of Bright Eyes,” she said. “Anyway, we were in Target and we see this guy in dark glasses and this shady kind of hair, and my cousin said, ‘Oh my god, that looks like Conor Oberst.’ She walks by him and says, ‘That’s his voice, Molly.’ Why would he be in a SuperTarget across from my house? They finally made me go up and ask and he said he was (Oberst), and autographed her shoe or something. After that, I got interested in his music and his albums. I wish I had been more of a fan, I would have appreciated it more.”
These days Molly’s record collection consists of about 60 CDs and 3,500 songs on iTunes, about half of which she actually purchased. “I used to buy a lot of CDs,” she said. “Before I got my Macbook I would buy them the regular way, from iTunes. Now that I have my Macbook, I rip them from YouTube if they’re good quality. I was never an ‘illegal person’ — I will buy a song if I feel the band deserves the money for it, not that any band doesn’t.”
Her last purchase was an Interpol CD, bought at Target or Best Buy. “It was probably not even a month ago,” she said. “I went through an Interpol craze and bought their previous three albums.”
Misek said she discovers new music on websites like Spinner.com. “They have a ‘Free MP3 of the Day,’ and I download it every day,” she said. Spinner has a few mainstream tracks (Weezer’s “Memories” is available), but its focus is almost solely indie music, with new tracks by bands like !!!, Revolver, and Broken Social Scene.
How does she define indie? “Indie music is considered anything that anyone doesn’t know about,” Misek said. “There are people who say, ‘Bright Eyes is too mainstream.’ Everyone can be a snob sometimes. When something becomes popular, you can become angry because you knew about it before anyone else. I needed to let that go and like music just to like it, not to be perceived as ‘cool’ or ‘indie.’ A lot of time indie music isn’t even that good.”
Her current favorite song is the new one by Enrique Iglesias. She also likes Lady Gaga (“I think she’s pretty revolutionary”), the new Arcade Fire, Miike Snow and Kid Cudi. “People like rap because it’s good at dances,” she said. “It’s easy to listen to. I’m not a huge fan of rap, but I won’t delete it from my iTunes.”
Molly goes to shows “every couple of months,” and would attend more all-ages shows, but “it’s a problem because I have to get a notarized parent’s signature. It’s a lot of work.” She didn’t know that places like The Slowdown can keep parental slips on file.
To galvanize a stereotype, I rattled off the names of 15 old-school bands like Boston, Journey and REM. Misek was familiar with all of their music, except for Tom Jones (“I’ve heard of him”), The Moody Blues (“never heard their music”), The Dead Kennedys, The Minutemen (Why would she know their music?), and one of my dad’s favorites, Herb Albert (while she knew about The Pixies because they’re one of her dad’s favorites).
Over the course of our hour-long phone interview, we talked about radio (“I used to like 89.7 The River, but now they play more hardcore stuff”), metal (“Weird metal bands are more popular with guys. It’s just gross”), Katy Perry (“I like her despite being normal bubble-gum pop”), and the “next big thing” (“From my point of view, it’s electronic”).
Even though technology has changed the way Molly’s generation listens to music, not much else has changed since when I was her age. Back then, I was always looking for that song that would change my life. Molly’s no different.
“Sometimes you’ll be listening to a song and then one lyric will hit you, and you’ll think ‘Oh my god, I so know what you’re talking about,'” she said. “Maybe I’m too romantic, but music is an expression of the soul. It kind of changes your mind a little. If you identify with a song, isn’t that what it’s supposed to do? Isn’t everything in your life life-changing?”
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Tonight at The Waiting Room is the return of Eux Autres. As I said in this vintage 2005 interview, it’s pronounced “ooz-oh-truh,” and it means “The Others” in French, of course. The brother-and-sister rock band from Portland has Omaha roots. Guitarist/vocalist Nicholas Larimer graduated from North High School in ’96, while his drummer/vocalist sister Heather graduated from Central in ’90, where she was “the cheerleader that never smiled.” Since that story was written, the band added drummer Yoshi Nakamoto (The Aislers Set, Still Flyin’) and released a second album, Cold City, on Happy Birthday to Me Records, along with a handful of singles. They’ve got a new album, Broken Bow, waiting in the wings for a November release. Check out their latest free downloadable single, “World Cup Fever 2010.” It’s good. Opening is The Third Men. 9 p.m., $7.
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.