No time for mediocrity
Boston native Justin Snow doesn't play any instruments, he hasn't studied music and he'd never written anything before he started his music review blog Anti-gravity Bunny. But he is the one thing that matters above all else, a listener. Snow is driven by the desire to share his enthusiasm for the music he loves and by the challenge to accurately convey his exuberance with expletives. What started five years ago as an exploration of the local experimental music scene has became a broader collection of reviews covering noise, ambient and drone releases from the smallest bedrooms to the bigger labels. Not a huge fan of the full stop, this film archivist grad-student's reviews are favoured for their honest and frenzied lucidity and sterling word-smithery. As he works his way through every Criterion film ever released, Snow and his pet rabbits Yoshimi and Clarence, work hard to share the love, because after all, sharing is caring.
When did you start writing about music - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
I had zero experience in music writing before I started Anti-Gravity Bunny. My first blog post was my was first attempt. I read a lot of music blogs before I started my own, but the one that stands out as a strong influence was Forest Gospel. I discovered a lot of great bands from them that, at the time, nobody else was covering, like A Faulty Chromosome and The Fun Years, and I really loved the simplicity & enthusiasm in their reviews. I never felt like I had to set aside a whole lunch break just to see what they thought about a record. I’ve certainly tried to maintain my own style & voice in AGB, but I’ve always kept the old Forest Gospel in mind when I feel like I’m getting off-track.
What are your main impulses to write about music?
Getting really fuckin psyched about a record and wanting to tell everyone about it, hoping someone else will join in my enthusiasm.
What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments and pieces in your journalistic work and/or career?
I usually only think about past writing if I think it sucked. But I do have fond memories of my first few Locrian reviews (Drenched Lands, Territories, Rain Of Ashes, etc). I was totally enthralled with those dudes, still am. I remember feeling like I did a decent job capturing my enthusiasm in those reviews and being kind of nervous every time I’d go to review their newest record because I’d feel like even though I loved the new record more than the last, that my review wouldn’t convey that.
I also liked the review I wrote for Choral by Mountains. I loved their album before that, Sewn, so fucking much and had zero luck finding any info about them. Then, years later, this new mind-blowing record comes from out of the blue on fucking Thrill Jockey of all places, and I lost my shit and exploded my guts out in that review. Then Google deleted it. AGB was still on Blogspot back then even though it was a label-sanctioned post. So I’m just gonna say that review was a motherfuckin masterpiece and you’ll just have to believe me.
How would you describe and rate the music scene of the city you are currently living in and how important is it in terms of what you're actually writing about?
The experimental scene in Boston is fucking awesome. There are veterans like Keith Fullerton Whitman and dudes recently hitting it big like High Aura’d alongside new guys who are popping up all the time like Christopher Glenn. There’s a lot of support & interest in this kind of stuff in Boston, local sites like Boston Hassle that cover the sweet fresh bands and organizers like Non-Event bringing big names to the city while encouraging local droners. There could always be more support but I think Boston does a pretty good job at appreciating noise/drone artists.
When I started AGB, I had a decent focus on local stuff, partly because it meant something to me and partly because I was digging into the scene a lot at the time, picking up random tapes n' shit at shows just because it was by some dude I knew was local. I’ve become less Boston focused lately and it’s something that bothers me. I think it’s partially because I now get a ton of submissions for review which I generally prioritize over something I’ve found on my own for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, and I have less time to go to shows to score some random local gem. I hope I’ll get back to regularly loving on Boston artists at some point, but who knows. And hey, attention Boston weirdos, send me your shit.
When it comes to music journalism, what are your criteria for quality? What are currently your main challenges and ambitions as a writer?
How many times I can fit fuck, fucking, and motherfucking into a review for a record I really love. That way you’ll know I really mean it.
My main challenges & ambitions seem a little contradictory but whatever. I have a hard time keeping the site going at all lately. Stressed out and shit, hard to make time for it working full time with a 2 hour commute each way and going to grad school. If I miss updating for a few days then every day that passes it gets harder to motivate myself to write something. At the same time, my ambition is to update AGB more frequently and do a better job tossing in more than just record reviews.
What do you usually start with when working on a new piece?
Listening to the record. And drinking coffee.
Tell us a bit about the selection process for deciding on what to write about, please. What sources will you draw from for research purposes and how much time goes into research, information gathering and fact-checking in general?
I almost exclusively write about music that gets submitted to me. There’s just so much of it. But I’m only one dude and my site is just me, so only a fraction of it gets written about, so I make sure I really fucking love whatever I review. No time for mediocrity. Sometimes, though, my love doesn’t translate into words and I’ll have very little to say about a record, so I won’t review it even if it’s awesome.
I don’t do research. Like, at all. Mostly because I don’t write about facts. Sometimes I’ll double check what other stuff the artist has been involved in to give some context, but otherwise I just write about the music. The most research I do is trying to find the right site to link to for the artist which can be a huge pain in the ass sometimes.