[road to sxsw] In Orlando, contributes to collaboration of Florida's underground creative communities

Quilt's SXSW tour crew

Our last stop on tour before Austin was Orlando, where QUILT played Orange You Glad Festival, a four-day fest also featuring Cults, Tennis, Grimes, and others. The festival drew a notable amount of artists on tour en route to SXSW, similarly to the Savannah Stopover Festival that Quilt played a few nights earlier. Festivals like these speak to the scope of SXSW in 2012; to the countless number of bands who now trek out on the same Austin-bound touring routes ever year. The SXSW tradition starts to feel more like an entire season than a one-week festival.

This Orlando festival was also a microcosmic view of the town’s local music community, a topic that the dudes from were psyched to talk about when we met up on Saturday night. Tiny Waves presented a stage at the festival, featuring Quilt, along with Hear Hums, Attatched Hands, Levek, and others.

On Saturday night after the show, Tiny Waves Editor-in-Chief Danny Dorsa drove Quilt’s Shane Butler and I over to a party at Music Editor Steve Head's house, where we all sat down for a 3 AM conversation on Steve’s porch. Our chat (read it below) started as an interview, but ultimately it was more of a group chat that other party guests chimed in on, covering everything from Orange You Glad Festival, the Tiny-Waves website, and their connection with the international artist collective FMLY, to Florida’s various music scenes and the ways the economy is changing the face of Orlando’s creative class. After I turned my recorder off, the conversation lasted almost an hour longer, a testament to how passionate the kids in this town are about the scene they're cultivating right now. I left Orlando feeling inspired by the energy that is currently buzzing around their burgeoning DIY music community.

Tiny-Waves Editor-in-Chief Danny Dorsa and Music Editor Steve Head

Can you start my telling me what your involvement was in the festival that happened here this weekend?

Steve: We’ve been arranging shows for a while. I guess we demonstrated some cultural awareness and they afforded us the opportunity to have a stage. It was pretty serendipitous because we pretty much just booked all of our friends . . . And we followed the leadership of our friend Katy Bradford for stage design.

Danny: Steve handled more of the booking of the music aspect. I came up with kind of the basic concept of the underwater theme. Then we had some brainstorming sessions with Katie. We all did it together . . . Katie’s amazing at crafting, set design, working three-dimensionally, so, she totally took the lead on that and making it amazing.

How does this festival speak to the DIY music community in Orlando at large?

Steve: I think this was extremely representative of Orlando. Florida as a whole has always been pretty disparate. But as of late there’s been networks established between different communities. For a while it was extremely stratified, there just wasn’t an awareness of what was going on elsewhere. The last few years, it’s been really awesome to see the communities come together to establish these networks where bands can tour and interact and become a part of other communities and be inspired by them . . .We were all inspired by what was happening in Gainesville especially. I think this [festival] represented all of them well.

A video by Tiny Waves re: The Church of Holy Colors, a DIY art space in Gainseville, Florida

So in terms of Florida having felt disparate . . .  what are the different communities? I know there’s Orlando, Gainesville . . .

Steve: There are pockets down south. There’s been an incredible array of bands to come out of there . . . Lake Worth and Palm Beach have awesome scenes. West Palm Biatch is an amazing label. They have some rad artists on there. I feel like a lot of Florida was originally known for its punk scene. It was a major uphill battle not to erase that, but to establish your own identity. Then Total Bummer began as this network for electronic musicians, but it became a breeding ground for anything eccentric or avant garde or left of center. That’s where I met everyone. We all met there. It was so important.

Shane: Were you there at the original one? You know we played that too . . . We were traveling with Many Mansions then. It’s sick, we’ve always been playing with a lot of electronic acts even though we’re not necessarily electronic.

Steve: Oh right, I bought your tape! I was losing my mind that week when Many Mansions was in town.

When was that first one, 2009? Do you think there was anything specific about 2009 that led to that?

Steve: MySpace at the time was at its apex. [laughs.] [Our friends] JT and Neil up in Gainesville were just really awesome at networking.

Online you mean?

Steve: Yeah. But they’re also extremely personable dudes. But yeah, Total Bummer was totally the milestone … Key stone … a lot of people got stoned … A lot of pleasant memories.

Quilt @ Orange You Glad Fest

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot with Orange You Glad fest, as well as this other fest Quilt played in Georgia called Savannah Stopover festival, which is also specifically formulated for bands on their way to SXSW . . . is that all of these bands migrating to SXSW sort of creates opportunities for places like GA and FL, that fall on the SXSW touring route. Do you think SXSW is having a significant impact on those scenes around this time of year?

Steve: Yes and no. It sort of feels like the Chitlin’ circuit or something, with those musicians having to go through a certain circuit. I was talking to Shane Don [from Many Mansions] and he played the weirdest places, like Pensacola a lot.

Shane: Yeah we’ve played Pensacola a lot too.

Steve: Yeah I don’t understand that. And I’m Floridian. But that’s where you need to go on the road.

Shane: They have some really interesting shows.

Steve: He told me about all of the train-hoppers. There’s really eccentric crowds there.

Shane: That’s the thing that’s weird about a lot of the southern cities is that there are these train-hopping towns that have these DIY venues that are right off the line. Like in Pensacola, this band This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb, do you know that band? They have a house in Pensacola. Their house is amazing, the train that goes through the town is right by the house. So all of these dudes would train hop, get off the train, walk like a foot to the house, and there would be a show going on. It’s this crazy house, we got to play there once. Pensacola’s got a great DIY scene because of that whole train-hopping culture. But that’s a whole other story.

Steve: To answer your SXSW question . . . I think there’s probably only like one band out of 100 that we’ll pick up from that, but still . . . It’s like being JV and getting to see a really good varsity team or something. It’s a privilege. Especially in Florida because it is a difficult state to tour, when any band at all comes through you just shower them with love because it’s rare.

Danny: That being said, I think that in the future that could make Florida or Orlando more promising for bigger acts to come through. And we do appreciate them a lot.

Something that really intrigued me about Orlando is that it’s not really a college town. It’s cool to have a community of young people who are passionate about arts and music without it necessarily revolving around a college. I’m interested in what brings people to Orlando and how long they stay there. Is it transient? Or is it filled with just mostly people who grew up here?

Danny: The funny thing is, there are actually four colleges here. We have UCF, which has 60,000 students.

Oh, so it is a college town.

Steve: Yeah but it is a weird college town. There are no colleges for the most part in the direct downtown area, in the city center area. The closest one is Rollins and that demographic as a whole doesn’t really go to these shows. It’s a private college that’s very different demographic. A lot of the people who come to shows aren’t even from UCF, which is the biggest school  . . .  Its really strange that we have this really young demographic of people who are really into this [music community] right now. I feel like they go to UCF, and they graduate and hang around here for a couple of years … it is a little transient, there are plenty of people who will leave, go up to New York for a couple years, then come back. You’ll see a lot of people come and go.

Its exciting to me in Orlando now though because the Mills 50 district where Orange You Glad Fest is taking place is being rapidly regenerated by the creative class. Even the street right down the block from here is being bought up by interesting bakeries and bars and things, the younger community . . . the economy has led to less of that exodus to New York, instead [kids are staying and[ making due with what they can. There’s not that feeling of ‘I’m here for 4 years and now I’m gone.’  I graduated and I can’t escape. In the grand scheme of Florida for a relatively large city this is definitely the cheapest part.

Danny: In comparison to South Florida its much cheaper here. It’s much cheaper to live in Orlando than it is to live in like Tampa or something. And this is the only part where you can also kind of work out a quasi-pedestrian lifestyle. The Colonial Town area. People walk and bike to all of those businesses, which kind of facilitates that natural creative, thinking-outside-of-the-box culture. . . . Anywhere else in Florida, if you don’t have a car, you’re fucked.

Dude from party whose name I never got: Steve really hit on something that I think really leads to the re-vitalization of this area is the fact that one of the problems with education is most people who grow up in an area and then become educated leave. And don’t return to where they came from. Some educational scholar has a great quote, that the world would be a better place if the people who grew up in their hometowns went out and got educated and then came home and changed where they grew up. But most people don’t do that. But because of the economic depression if you were educated some place, most often you’re stuck there. And I think that for our generation has led to us filling our heads with a lot of hope and good ideas and then the only area where we have to vent all of them is wherever we went to school. Fortunately, that’s been here for a lot of people around in this area. I can’t stress how different the UCF area is over this.

It's excruciating knowing what exists in [cool] places like Winter Park and and even downtown Winter Garden, where you see that something is being intelligently planned, and the culture that can come form it. And to then see [other parts of] Florida get force-fed that same sprawl of endless bullshit all over the place, where you can drive for 45 minutes and not know what town or county you’re even in because everything looks the same, it’s the same LA Fitness, Tacobell, KFC, Long John Silvers, and Best Buy every single plaza for as long as the eye can see . . . Unfortunately the UCF area suffers from that. And they don’t really have any choice because the school was built in the 1960s and is now the second largest school in the entire country behind Arizone State University. It’s larger than UF, FSU, and because of that they’ve had to sprawl and that’s really been their growth plan, and that’s a bummer for them.

Steve: And none of those minds can interact, their ideas don’t get shared.

Given that changing cultural/socio-economic climate of Florida with different pockets of creative communities, how do you think what you guys are doing with Tiny-Waves relates to all of that?

Steve: I think there’s a lot of luxury for us in the fact that we’re the first people to do it and it’s kind of just providing exposure. I think we’re doing it exceedingly well but I think we’re just the first. I think more people are going to catch onto the fact that if you just think together, believe in yourself, and do things with other people and brainstorm, that you can do whatever you want. I think that’s probably what I’ve surmised the most from it. Getting over your ego, working together.

Danny: We’re giving exposure to not just our own clique group, we’re going beyond that . . . its cool to see that we’re slightly pushing into different demographics. Even tonight at Peacock where our stage was at Orange You Glad, there were a bunch of people there who not only had I never seen before but I would never expect to be there . . . and there was nothing but positive responses from that.

Steve: Its just trying to provide an alternative to a traditional concert experience. We’ve learned so much from going to FMLY Fest and seeing in general how you can build a community around a show. Once you have that idea, you realize that when putting on a show, if you’re just doing it to put on a show, then you’re missing out on a tremendous opportunity to expand information to people, enlighten people’s heads. I’m so tired of going to a show and having it be an excuse for people to get drunk, or a place for idol worship.

I feel like we’re almost past the point of going to shows to listen to music, its going to shows to experience something. I think that’s definitely a shared sentiment. I think culturally a lot of people are feeling that way. I think we’re just tapping into a need that’s there and I think people are going to see that we’ve succeeded in this way and they’ll probably start doing their shows differently, hopefully everyone will start doing shows in a slightly different context because it is getting stale.

Can you talk about the FMLY and Tiny Waves connection. How you have been inspired by them?

Steve: I feel like they have been mentors as far as like trying to promote music without trying to be the arbiter, saying promoting music without saying what’s good and what’s bad. They’re promoting music because its earnest and not doing explicit reviews, never saying “Oh, that person’s creative output was a 7.9” . . . That’s been a major influence in terms of what Tiny Waves is doing.

Danny: And what they’re doing with the FMLY rides and the FMLY dinner shows, too . . . we were already having potlucks at my house all of the time so we decided to just start making them dinner shows.

Shane: Something I’ve noticed with FMLY shows and just like the whole house show scene and what FMLY is built out of. . . .Over the years there’s just been all of these collaborations that are happening between different types of music that couldn’t happen at venues beforehand. The influences for our band comes from so many different outsets, a lot of noise bands, a lot of folk bands, who we met through house shows . . . which are spontaneous shows where its just a lot of artists and musicians, and it’s not about trying to get this one particular look or sound in this one place, it’s about collaboration going beyond that. That is so key right now. I think it’s sick.

Danny: Even our stage was totally like that . . .  Just like Steve said, it's about great music being earnest . . . that’s all that matters. On our stage tonight, the first two bands were completely different sounds from the rest of the set.

Steve: Everything sounded really different.

Shane: Everything time. That’s the quote of the century man. ["I can hear everything, It's everything time,”] from that Gang Gang Dance song. We live in shuffle culture but the shows that have come out of it are allowing extremely different bands to influence and inspired each other in different contexts. I feel super psyched to be playing in a time when so many musical trajectories are colliding


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