Beer and Pavement

Indie-Craft Interview #14: Katlyn Conroy

Posted in Indie-Craft, Interview by Zac on May 23, 2012

My role at my other blog sometimes means that I get emails from artists passing through, hoping for some coverage. I try to do my best to preview their shows or even attend now and again with a review to follow. One such opportunity entered my inbox this week.

Katlyn Conroy, AKA La Guerre, was the latest touring artist to do so. As is usual, I checked out her material in order to see if I could help her. Well, after seeing what Katlyn is doing there in Lawrence, KS, I knew that she’d be a perfect fit for this series. Katlyn is currently touring as La Guere, her solo project, but appears to be busy with several other music projects. Since I felt like I was short on females for the interviews, I asked Katlyn to submit some answers. She did and the excellent results are below.

1. Describe your craft(s).
Singer, Songwriter, and Pianist for La Guerre (myself), Cowboy Indian Bear, and Hospital Ships

2. What’s the importance or benefit of remaining indie?
Remaining true to who I am as an artist, mostly. Also, it’s nice to kind of be forced into being my own manager, promoter, etc. because it helps shape me and instills in me a larger overall sense of the music “business”, whatever that means. Tomorrow it will mean something completely different. There’s a lot of beauty in creating something completely your own, kind of untouched by corporate hands.  There’s a lot of freedom in it, too. I can have 100% control in what direction I’m going and how fast I’m going at all times, and you can’t really say that for a lot of mainstream artists.

3. How does your craft contribute to society?
I try to participate in as many fundraisers/benefits as possible. I also do a lot of guest work on other musician’s albums and have contributed to many compilations. Just being able to spread out my music as broadly as possible to potentially increase awareness for certain issues always feels productive.

4. What other indie-craft products inspire you?
I grew up listening to primarily Bright Eyes, Neutral Milk Hotel, Grandaddy, and a lot of artists who really built their own empire. I’ve always been inspired by young, unconventional talent that doesn’t give up and stays true to their vision. I have a lot of friends in that position who push me to continue doing what I love every day. It isn’t easy being broke, or feeling left out of the typical “growing up” experience, so anything that encourages you is so meaningful. I’m also inspired by a lot of my painter friends. I’ve never been able to put onto paper the images I see in my head, other than in writing form, so it’s really baffling to see them create this colorful, detailed scene out of nothing.

5. What is your dream of success?
Ideally, to inspire or bring out emotions in my listeners, and even potentially help their mental state at the time, like so many of my favorite artists have done for me. There are times when I’m on tour listening to music and watching my surroundings and the song I’m hearing just brings me out of the boredom of riding 7 hours in a van and transports me to this incredible state of emotion. If my music can do that for anyone, I’m happy.

Realistically, it would be fantastic to make music my only job while being able to afford to live. I don’t need fame, or a big house, I just want to be able to concentrate on creating music for the rest of my life.

You can  find Katlyn’s song “23″ on her bandcamp page here  as well as the link to a song she performed in anticipation of this year’s Middle of the Map Festival. Cowboy Indian Bear are here. Katlyn plays as La Guerre at Columbia’s Candyland on June 8th for all my Middle Missouri readers.

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Indie-Craft Interview #13: Stone’s Greg Koch

Posted in Beer, Indie-Craft, Interview by Zac on May 22, 2012

When Stone finally arrived in Missouri, so did Greg Koch, the brewing company’s co-founder and CEO comes correct, preaching the craft beer gospel through a bull horn. His message is the only thing louder than said bullhorn. It’s a message that speaks to the coalition. It’s a message that promotes artisanal products, particularly his own Stone beers.

Unfortunately, Greg did not make it to Columbia during that release. He did however take the time to respond to my blog post on the events of that week. He even responded to each and every footnote. Regardless of your stance on Stone, craft beer hype, or the circus that surrounds Greg, it was pretty cool that he took the time to leave comments on my 100-views-a-day blog. It was even cooler that he took the time to answer my questions for this series.

Imagine this image with a beard… Image lifted from OC Beer Blog.

1. Describe your craft(s).
Our craft at Stone Brewing Company as you might guess is craft beer. We started in 1996 and since then helped introduce the world big character, hoppy, aggressive beers that don’t compromise.  Also, our craft is in the Stone Brewing World Bistro Gardens  where we have become the largest restaurant purchaser of local, small, farm, organic produce in Sand Diego County – a stat that I am particularly proud of. In addition we have our own small organic farm which only produces a small percentage of our produce needs is about eight miles north of our brewery.

2. What’s the importance or benefit of remaining indie?
It’s substantial. When you’re independent- that is not owned by a large conglomerate or industrial producer or also not publicly traded or held – you can make decisions that aren’t based upon a bottom-line, financial black and white spreadsheet. Now I’m one that argues that actually making “impractical” or  “nonstandard” decisions is a very good business model, but it’s extraordinarily hard to do that hundred any circumstances, to trust your gut, to go direction really feel you should go. But if you’re in part of a larger conglomerate or a publicly held company, then the chances that you’re going to do that are almost nil.  Being indie allows the creativity to come out and now to go directions that may seem on the surface to many impractical or uncertain but ultimately can allow you to create things that are special and unique and hopefully, ultimately successful.

3. How does your craft contribute to society?
At Stone, our biggest contribution is to do our part to show the world that there are better, more interesting things out there. There are things that have a better connection to the community, a better connection to our local region [through] our eclectic menu, our aggressive and unique beers…that people don’t have only the same old same old to choose from. They also have the ability to choose and learn about things that are of a special and unique quality. We’ve also tried to do our best to display a model that is highly connected to our community as far as community involvement. We participate in more than 500 charitable events each year. We’ve donated more than $2 million in cash and beer to charities for charitable fundraising events over our lives at Stone Brewing Company. We’re an active part of the community. Stone Brewing World Bistro Gardens is a community gathering place. It’s a place where people go to congregate, discuss issues like the old-time pubs and meeting places. Our place – which has no TV’s, a complete ban on high-fructose corn syrup, no commodity beers, no commodity pre-processed foods – is a place that sort of breaks free from the convention that’s all around us, allowing people to more creative in their own direction and their own lives.

4. What other indie-craft products inspire you?
I’m actually stoked to say that there’s quite a number. Maybe coffee would be at the top of the list but coffee would have to share the top of the list with artisanal cheese producers. Pretty much all artisinal and artistic food and drink: local bakeries, kombucha producers – creating great, flavorful, healthy drinks – , and restaurants and pubs… You know, like the gastropub movement to use a broad term. These businesses that are working hard to make sure they’re connected to the community and our environment by carefully curating what they serve, understanding the policies, practices, philosophies behind the items that they bring in the backdoor, prepare, and serve to their guests. All places that approach their business from that perspective I have a high level of respect for and appreciation for because it makes my life as a consumer richer and more rewarding. I get to experience the best that life has to offer. In today’s world, there’s kind of no reason no to enjoy all of these things. Sometimes in certain areas you have to seek it out a little bit more, but overall the level of availability of specialty and artisanal products has continued to grow. I appreciate that.

5. What is your dream of success?
Success to me means the world has changed or is dramatically changing for the better; yhat we are continuing to understand the importance of  organic and local produce; that we [consume] actual, real food as opposed to pre-prepared foods or processed foods and all that. They’re better for our society. They’re better for us individually. They’re better for the environment. They’re better for the animals in the case of eating meat. We can live happier, healthier lives. This is a beautiful thing. It’s what I believe in. While it may not look like on the surface from our work that we’re working towards that, but I really feel that we are part of this movement to steer away from commodity, conglomerate, and lowest-common-denominator stuff towards artisinal quality, characterful, and well-crafted items.

Cheers and thanks for including me in the article! I appreciate it.

Greg has a new book out that you should read. Some of it is redundant for those of you who know the story of beer well or even the story of Stone. However, there are some great beer and food recipes included along with a good model for starting a small business the way you want to do it. In the meantime, drink a Stone in honor of this interview.

Click here for the previous twelve indie-craft interviews. If you know of someone I should interview for the series, make a suggestion below.

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Indie-Craft Interview #12: Ben Chlapek

Posted in Indie-Craft, Interview by Zac on May 16, 2012

Ben Chlapek prints posters and plays in bands. Of course, this only skims the surface of his creativity and drive. Ben’s Never Sleeping Design posters can be found everywhere. Half the bands covered in this blog have used a Never Sleeping poster to advertise a gig. Then, there are his music projects. The layers and textures Ben builds from scratch are pretty unforgettable and just as striking as his printed work. Luckily for me, as with many of the subjects of the series, Ben lives here in Columbia and agreed to answer my questions about his indie-craft.

Photo by Corey Hale Ransberg.

1. Describe your craft(s).
Freelance artist (illustrator, screen printer, painter) – neversleeping.com
Musician (guitar, keys, vox) – Enemy Airship, Neatly Knotted.

2. What’s the importance or benefit of remaining indie?
Well, I suppose having a little control over what I do is the big reason. Though I’m totally broke, so maybe if a halfway decent corporation said “jump” I might ask how high. I don’t know though, I’ve always been a do-it-yourself type. I want to take broken things apart and fix them, and print my own drawings, record my own songs, etc. It’s really frustrating that I can’t do everything I want by myself, and that I have to get others involved to get a certain desired result. Not enough hours in the day to learn everything I suppose.

3. How does your craft contribute to society?
It’s all entertainment, which is good and bad. People need entertainment like art and music to feel like they are people and not some sort of hamster in a wheel. At the same time, it’s totally disposable. No one has to care about it. No one is going to die if I don’t make drawings of weird little houses or play my guitar or synthesizer with the perfect tone that took hours to get just right. That being said, music and art affect me daily. Hourly. I can pour over an album or series of artwork and analyze every single detail…just totally get lost in it. Maybe one day someone will do that with something I make.

4. What other indie-craft products inspire you?
I’d like to make a line of effects pedals. I’ve always been fascinated by that, and I think I might be good at it with a little practice. Fixing/building old mopeds from the 70′s and 80′s is something I sort of got into, just because I had no idea about it. I still can’t do a lot with the engines, but I know how to swap out parts and clean carbs and a few other things. More than I knew when I started. I obsess over sound and trying to get a good recording on my 4 track tape machine. I’d like to make a short film. Like, write the soundtrack and plan out every shot and be the only person in it. Or something along those lines.

5. What is your dream of success?
I know it shouldn’t have to do with money necessarily (or at least that’s what people say), but I won’t truly feel successful until I can stop living hand to mouth. It would be nice to get more exposure from any of my art or music endeavors, but it seems like you have to be in the right place at the right time. If I stay in Columbia, I’m not sure the “right time” will ever come around. I’d like to think if I make work that’s good enough then people will notice, though.

Follow Ben Chlapek on Twitter or Tumblr. Then go buy his craft in his etsy store. After that, be prepared to see Ben’s visage and his work everywhere.

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Indie-Craft Interview #11: Zach Biri

Posted in Indie-Craft, Interview by Zac on May 15, 2012

Zach Biri is the man behind local record coop Yards and Gods. His bands Nonreturner (RIP) and Enemy Airship wreak of Canadian indie a la Broken Social Scene and Wolf Parade’s many offshoots. That’s a good thing. There aren’t enough Broken Social Scenes or Wolf Parades in this world, particularly in Middle Missouri. What also makes Zach similar to these bands is how seriously he takes his craft without taking himself too seriously at the same time. He’s thoughtful and has a lot to say, as you will see below…

Credit: Carrie Wade

1. Describe your craft(s).
Musician, audio engineer

2. What’s the importance or benefit of remaining indie?
As I have no experience in the indie beer community, my answer will be about music.

The stock answer is, of course, maintaining creative control and not contributing to toxic corporate culture. I’m not sure this is true across the board. Plenty of toxic corporate culture (selling an image, getting people to buy shit to attain some manufactured aesthetic, etc) is facilitated by the indies and the all-but-corporate-whores on them, and not every band or chairman on a major label is evil or even makes (much) money.

I also don’t buy into the notion that there isn’t some old greasy dude at the top of the food chain on the indie label that makes a bunch of money off of the blood sweat and tears of the doe eyed naive kids in the bands. Business is business, big or small. Obviously this isn’t the case for people who just cut out all the middle men, and it’s nice to see that becoming a viable option. I guess some people pat themselves on the back for it, but I always kind of thought remaining on an indie label (when it was even a choice in the first place, as it often is not) was – in the best case – a matter of good intentions.

Second best case: a self celebrating distinction of circumstance – some people are in love with the idea when it was basically forced upon them in the first place. Third best case: an excuse to half-ass things and sell it as an endearing quirk or something “you just don’t get because blah blah blah conceptual blah blah blah lo-fi blah blah blah” (DISCLAIMER: I do not dislike lo-fi, but it’s an example of something people clearly try to pass as intentional sometimes when a little bit of effort and planning just wasn’t in the playbook).

There are shitty people and practices on either side of that line, and as much as I don’t want to come off as a total misanthrope, there’s always someone out there trying to use you to make a buck or feel good about themselves. Maybe there have historically been more nightmare people on the major side – I love Albini’s rundown in Some Of Your Friends May Already Be This Fucked. I think, though, that in 2012, even more of these proverbial friends “may already be this fucked” as well and not realize it because they think they are safe not signed to a major – you think they paid you proportionally from the door? Do you think you are not being used in some way by someone even if you etched the vinyl yourself with an Exacto knife? I’m not saying there is or isn’t an assumed importance or benefit of remaining indie. There’s a lot about the concept of indie that is pretty great, and also a lot of the culture that I find to be sickeningly precious and/or self righteous, and I don’t buy it 100%. It’s a complicated rats nest, but it’s good that it’s on the table for discussion. I think what’s important is however you get there, don’t be a fucking prick about it.

3. How does your craft contribute to society?
Does it? Millions of people pick up guitars, learn a couple of chords, and consider themselves musicians, and every kid who pirates Cubase and Komplete considers himself an engineer. Would it be fair to say that adding another voice to the cacophony is contributing to society at all? Is that elitist in some way? I don’t know. Some would argue that this culture where everyone is in a band and access is easy is just confusing the cultural narrative when it’s already ass-to-ankles full of “content creators”, and vapid and soulless to boot.

The rebuttal is that a level playing field makes it fair and facilitates variety or something. That’s a concept in genetics (diversity = a stronger, better organism) and I think it carries over to a lot of other things. I mean, I guess adding more “art” to the world is contributing something to society. Then again, how many bands (or artists) can you name that (if you could) you would pay money to NOT make music (or art) ever again? I’m sure I’m that person to someone, and the opposite of that person to someone else.

I guess I enjoy playing devils advocate on these last two questions because I think they are not the givens that a lot of people need to believe they are. I wonder if everyone would agree that I contribute anything to society at all. I’m not sure. I’m sorry, that’s a really obtuse parenthetical answer and I didn’t mean for it to be at all.

4. What other indie-craft products inspire you?
Jarrett Crader opened my eyes to the world of homebrewing a few years ago, and that shit is endlessly fascinating to me – the history and the craft of it. I’ll probably never attempt that kind of thing though, at least not soon. My apartment has two doors: the entrance to the apartment, and a bathroom door that doesn’t lock. I’m sure the landlord would freak out if he saw me sparging on my 5×5′ “patio” one day. I don’t see myself living in a larger place any time in the near future…

People who build and sell effects pedals on the small scale are incredibly inspiring to me. Ben (Chlapek) and I are hoping to break into this once we do a little bit of research – partially to design our sounds in Enemy Airship and other musical outlets from the ground up, and partially because we need new hobbies that don’t involve drinking coffee and talking shit. Looking into Earthquaker Devices after geeking out over their “Dispatch Master” pedal kind of spawned this fascination for me at least. It turns out there are a bunch of little companies like ED that are actually just one or two people making and distributing hand made pedals from their little studio apartments. A lot of times, they make only 100 or so of a certain pedal – many with unique custom design work screen printed or etched onto them – and then they are never made again.

I’m guilty of it as much as any guitarist/gearhead: there’s always the guy at the show who is craning his neck to see what pedals his favorite musician uses so that he can go home and order them and ape that sound. Try to pull that shit when it’s a board of limited run Blackout Effectors and Dr. Scientist gear. I don’t necessarily become indignant and cry foul when someone sounds like someone else intentionally or otherwise – art is part theft and everybody knows it and anyone who denies it is a liar or delusional – but adding some rare variables to that theft couldn’t hurt the crucial diversity.

5. What is your dream of success?
I don’t know. Finding a bag of money? Paying my mom back somehow for putting up with the heartache of watching her son work entry level jobs for the rest of his life because he wanted to drop out of a private university to play music with his friends? Some recognition would be nice, but I doubt I’ll find it in this town. Everyone wants to get paid to do what they love. I guess the tricky part is not compromising the integrity of that thing in order to get paid for it.

Pay attention to Enemy Airship. The band seems to have lit a creative fire under Zach’s ass. It’s more cohesive and purposeful than Nonreturner with some rather strong parts in place. If they really are able to build their sound from scratch (the ultimate in DIY achievement and Sonic Youth worship), the sounds coming out of Columbia, MO should be able to create a niche for Enemy Airship such that Zach will quit those entry level jobs and do what he obsesses over loves.

Note: I’m still waiting on a few “big” names to submit their answers to the interview questions, but be on the lookout for Zach’s partner-in-crime tomorrow and who knows beyond that. If you have suggestions for people that should contribute to this series, feel free to submit names in the comments.

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Indie-Craft Interview #10: Justin Nardy

Posted in Indie-Craft, Interview by Zac on May 14, 2012

I met Justin Nardy on a trip to St. Louis to see Caribou. An artist on his label (Ahmed Gallab, AKA Sinkane) was playing drums for Caribou and Justin was driving so that he and his partners could conduct some label business. I found that Justin was a likable, well-grounded artist, a rare thing these days or so I thought at the time. Since then, we’ve had some beers and BBQ as well as traded some vinyl. He’s a part of the small group of people I turn to in this town for information regarding the music and art scenes. He’s always good for inspiration as several of his pieces hang in my home. Here’s what he had to say regarding Indie-Craft…

1. Describe your craft(s).
Well I tend to dabble in a bunch of different things. I have been an active musician and part of the CoMo music scene for about 17 years now. I have played in numerous bands such as, Sooprize Package, Quatermast Wind, Amputee Set, Subscribe, Carryon Killaway, Bald Eagle, The Foundry Field Recordings, and I currently sing and play bass in New Tongues. Besides playing music, I was a co-owner of local record label Emergency Umbrella. I also work full time as a screen printer for two locally owned shops, and screen print posters out of my basement when I have free time, or a burst of creative energy. I have also provided bands, local business, and random cool people with 1” buttons for the last 10 years or so. I illustrate, and do random graphic design projects, and have always been the “art/design guy” in all of the bands that I have played in. So yeah I feel like I am jack of all trades, but maybe more successful in some areas more than others. Music has definitely been my main focus and craft for some time.

2. What’s the importance or benefit of remaining indie?
That’s tough, but I think remaining indie really comes down to never having to answer to anyone but yourself. To always be able to have totally creative freedom in what you are doing, and by doing that I think you stay happy and sane (or I would like to think you stay happy and sane).

Though I feel like anymore it is really hard to stay indie, and not depend on a larger group or some money at hand. Most indie bands aren’t indie anymore, most indie labels aren’t 100% indie, there is money coming from somewhere, whether it is selling music to movies or commercials etc, but that’s what allows those bands and labels to keep going. So maybe the definition of indie has changed. I think it is fine to make money off of your art or passion, but remaining indie all depends on what you do with that money once you have it, do you completely change everything or do you carry on like always with a little more funds to help you along the way? I don’t know if any of that makes sense, but in the end remaining indie to me means I am happy and I don’t have to answer to anyone or change what my creative outlook is to please some asshole and make them money.

3. How does your craft contribute to society?
Well I don’t know if I have ever personally created any art or music that has changed people’s lives or improved them, but overall I think music and art are two of the most important things people can have in their lives. I know that I would not be the person I am today without music and art. They improve the quality of life.

By being a musician in Columbia for such a long time I think I, with the help of many others have built a scene and a community of awesome people with many talents and that we have overall improved Columbia as a town. By creating music, art, putting out records, and bringing numerous bands to Columbia we have made it a better town to live in. We not only provided entertainment and things to do in a town that sometimes lacks entertainment and things to do, we have also created some pretty amazing bands and music. The musicians in this town are definitely a great group of people that are super talented and I feel like most of the bands here support each other and have each other’s back. And that is a great feeling to have, that we all have a support group and a tight knit of people that are always there for you and help push you to be creative. I am still blown away that places like The Hairhole and Rag Tag exist in this town, where you can go and constantly be surrounded by talented like minded people.

4. What other indie-craft products inspire you?
Other local bands, indie labels, lots of things on etsy, vinyl nerds, screen printers, people who book local shows, True/False, my wonderfully talented and supportive girlfriend Julie Hayes, indie record stores, craft beer etc. etc. etc.

5. What is your dream of success?
To wake up every day and be happy doing what I am doing and to be completely comfortable in my own skin.

I am not there, in fact there is much of my everyday life that is pretty opposite of that. I wake up and go to a job that I hate and make someone else a ton of money while I struggle to get by. Which is tough because I am doing a form of art that I love (screen printing), but instead of doing it under my own terms and conditions and remaining “indie” I am working for people that I generally hate and despise. I have been in tons of bands and l have loved everything I have done in those bands, yet none of them have been a complete success. When I turned 30 I thought I might completely stop playing music, and yet I still struggle with it and to be happy doing it. The record label that I was part of, that I loved and that put out a bunch of great records by friends and amazing bands went under. The part of me that loves to draw, screen print, and do design work constantly struggles to find motivation to do anything. So I feel like success is a long long way from becoming a reality. I am successful and happy that I get to wake up every day with a person that drives and pushes me to be creative, and that I am still actively playing music and creating art at age 31 but I definitely struggle with it at times. My ultimate goal of success would to be able to open a venue/bar/record store/screen printing/art gallery/musician practice space and employee all my wonderfully talented friends and make it the best thing in the world and have it support all of us and our families while providing an amazing place for people to hang out.

You can find Justin’s work at his old blog or his new blog. Buy his art here and you might be able to score a Bald Eagle record at Insound. In the meantime, don’t forget to peruse all the Indie-Craft interviews. There are still more to come…

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Indie-Craft Interview #9: Julie Hayes

Posted in Indie-Craft, Interview, Uncategorized by Zac on May 9, 2012

Julie Hayes bombed the shit out of this town.

What I mean is that she knit-bombed the shit out of this town. Once I learned of her shenanigans, I promptly made sure that my other blog featured her and her other crafty creations. Those creations (and finds) can be obtained for a reasonable fee at her Etsy shop – possibly world headquarters for indie-craft wares – where one can ascertain a pretty good feel for Julie’s aesthetic and a bit of her personality, making it clear why she’s so cool.

I feel lucky to know someone so cool. So I’m introducing her to the Coalition now… 

photo by Tony Irons

1. Describe your craft(s).
Well, I went to school for fine arts and ever since I graduated I have done nothing conceptual. I do what’s called “low” art in the art world. And I am an avid dabbler. I knit, sew, embroider, make jewelry, build things from reclaimed wood, you name it! I find that if it has a function, I’m drawn to making it. I think that was my biggest problem with “fine” art, it had no function to me.

2. What’s the importance or benefit of remaining indie? 
I have worked with lots of people on lots of projects, but I could never imagine working with someone who I did not know. Being independent allows you to keep control of what you’re making and how you’re making it. I couldn’t imagine someone from the public trying to tell me what to make.

3. How does your craft contribute to society?
In the most basic sense, it makes me a better person. For a long time after I graduated I wanted to make things to sell to people. I think that mind set is changing for me. I think I’m starting to savor making things for myself again; holding back a little what I’ve been giving all those years. It makes me happy to be able to produce a piece that I’m proud of and that makes me a better person. I have done public art pieces in Columbia and I’m happy with the response that I’ve gotten to them. I hope that they make people think and react to them, though I cannot say exactly what those reactions are. I’ve been interviewed for pieces I’ve done and the reaction seems positive.

4. What other indie-craft products inspire you?
EVERYTHING. Literally. It’s hard to not be inspired in todays world. So much is at our fingertips. I remember being in school and having to trudge to the library to look at books put out by artists who have been dead for 20, 30, 40, 100 years. Today, you can sit down, turn on your computer and be hit by inspiration. There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not inspired by a color, or a project or a scene. It’s incredible.

5. What is your dream of success?
Happiness. Whatever that looks like to me is what I imagine success to be. Right now I am happy. I have a lot of time to myself to make things and to create and that makes me happy. In the future, that may change, but I don’t know. Being an artist is a very personal thing and to me, success has always been a very personal thing too. It’s never been about money or fame. It’s always been about my state of mind and how I feel about my work. My work has changed so much since I started making things so many years ago, and I can only guess that my idea of success will change as well.

You can learn more about Julie at her blog, Yonder. And don’t forget the rest of the Indie-Craft interviews.

Indie-Craft Interview #8: New Albanian’s Roger Baylor

Posted in Beer, Indie-Craft, Interview by Zac on May 8, 2012

I first learned of the New Albanian Brewing Company when they brewed a tasty collaboration with Missouri breweries Schlafly and O’Fallon a while back. Then, I saw their t-shirts touting various brewing equipment as machines for killing facists, a la Woody Guthrie. Finally, I discovered the outspoken NABC owner Roger Baylor on Twitter and knew the Coalition had found another unsuspecting member.

Roger’s stirred up some discussion on Twitter, especially over the expansion east of several larger craft brewers and Goose Island’s AB-InBev move. He never holds back and appears to stay true to the indie-craft ethos. This makes him an ideal subject for the series. Luckily, he agreed to contribute some thought-provoking answers to the interview. Check it…

1. Describe your craft(s).
This may come as a surprise, but actually there exists scant evidence to indicate that I practice any known craft. I’m surely unemployable outside the narrow job description created by me (and exclusively for me) as a restaurant/pub/brewery owner, although many years ago the late beer writer Michael Jackson referred to me as a polemicist, so there it is: Polemicist. Good beer is my preferred metaphor for all other human endeavors, and for advocating the revolution, while at the same time not
sparing the revolution from constructive criticism – and make no mistake, craft beer is in desperate need of self-criticism right about now.

2. What’s the importance or benefit of remaining indie?
The craft beer business has long since entered the phase in which imagery is freely co-opted by conglomerates, and the odd part is that onlookers persist in ignoring the differences between authentic and corporate. The classic, textbook example is Goose Island, still adored by supposed indie-thinking fans, whose cognitive dissonance precludes them from grasping that they’re merely enriching AB-InBev’s coffers whenever they choose to buy Goose. Consequently, remaining indie is important precisely because by doing so, persons and entities remain connected to reality, retain integrity, and restrain the flight of money out of communities, both big and small.

3. How does your craft contribute to society?
There always needs to be a gadfly who reminds us that our sacred cows are mere lumps of clay, tastefully re-arranged to look fetching. Questions need to be asked, and people need to be made accountable and uncomfortable. Is it really good for society to subsidize exurban sprawl, to shop at Wal-Mart, and to tolerate Churchill Downs declaring Stella Artois the official beer of the Kentucky Derby? If someone really drove 1,000 miles for a Dorito Taco from Taco Bell, shouldn’t eugenics be making a comeback?

4. What other indie-craft products inspire you?
The answer comes in the form of questions: What are you good at doing? What explains your ability to do it well? I enjoy listening to, and learning from, those who are good at something/anything, and even when the topic lies outside my immediate range of personal interest, there’s an aspect of one’s experience and abilities that illuminates my own: Orchestra musicians playing as one; Repairing the gears on a bicycle; Milking a goat and transforming the yield into cheese. I never tire of learning, especially when beer drinking can be squeezed into the tutorial.

5. What is your dream of success?
On a day to day basis, success is the ability to earn an honest living, while concurrently, neither compromising one’s ideals nor hurting other people. Long term, after you’re dead, success is when someone thinks about you and smiles at the memory.

Read more from the man’s own blog, The Potable Curmudgeon, and be sure to find New Albanian the next time you’re in Indiana or Kentucky. (Maybe Missouri will be added soon?) Also, read the previous seven interviews here.

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Indie-Craft Interview #7: Paul Sturtz

Posted in Indie-Craft, Interview by Zac on May 7, 2012

Paul Sturtz is one-half the brain power (not counting hundreds of volunteers and a handful of employees) behind the establishment and planning for the Ragtag Cinema and the True/False Film Fest. He, al0ng with fellow founder David Wilson, have brought high-brow film to the unlikeliest of places, AKA the middle of Missouri. Additonally, Paul has dabbled in his own filmaking projects as well as a short stint as a city councilman here in Columbia. Like many of the featured individuals in this series, Paul has his hands in many projects that represent the indie-craft ethic well.

Note: Paul didn’t have a picture for me to use. He asked me to have my child draw his portrait. As is my daughter’s prerogative, she turned down the opportunity to draw Paul’s portrait. So I did the next best thing and drew Paul using Microsoft paint. 

Artist rendition of Paul Sturtz’s face.

1. Describe your craft(s).
Helping to organize T/F involves the craft of saying no to a lot of things. Film festivals tend to be self-important, pretentious, empty affairs that are all about congratulating each other about how wonderful everyone is. Based in a small, Midwestern city, we’ve been able to develop our own culture without paying too much attention to what’s “normal.” The atmosphere of Columbia fuels this kind of can-do, grassroots ethos because people here aren’t as cynical about a glut of choices. And the documentary world tends to keep our feet on the ground. Also, our populist, iconoclastic, and sometimes misanthropic tendencies have made us steer clear of some  essential trappings such as award ceremonies, red carpet, and stars.

2. What’s the importance or benefit of remaining indie?
I don’t really know what “indie” means anymore. We said this years ago, but we’re pathetically dependent on all sorts of people and institutions. If we can get folks to buy into our vision of the festival, then we’re all for them coming on board as sponsors and partners. Of course, we’d have to think twice about burnishing the reputation of companies like Exxon/Mobil and WalMart and most multi-national corporations that have more allegiance to shareholders than the common good.

3. How does your craft contribute to society?
We provide a platform for nonfiction filmmakers that has integrity. And we demonstrate that a small town can do big things and have fun at the same time.

4. What other indie-craft products inspire you?
I am really inspired by food trucks that have become a sensation in the last few years. I like that they open up a sense of possibility in the city. There have been loads of places that have inspired me such as the Middle East Restaurant in Cambridge, the X-Ray Cafe in Portland, Oregon (formerly the UFO), the Space Gallery in Portland, Maine and the old Red Vic in San Francisco. I really admire the work that the Rabid Hands collective is doing. I like the Japanese architect Terunobu Fujimori, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Buster Keaton, “Eagle Rock Rag” by Leadbelly, “Obeah Man” by Exuma, SunRay tempeh, Luna & Larry’s coconut cream, Polina Malikin’s raw sauerkraut. I like the idea of micro-distilleries and butteries. I am playing this song by Brigitte Fontaine constantly.  “My Uncle Used to Love Me But She Died” by Roger Miller is the greatest song ever. And my son Leo’s drawings the last two weeks have been amazing.

5. What is your dream of success?
To live more and more in an actively creative way. To make silly things just for myself while still working on behalf of the world.

Paul, like previous Indie-Craft subjects, is from Columbia, MO but has a national, even international reach. Check out the other interviews in the series and stay tuned for more.

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Indie-Craft Interview #5: Jim Galligan

Posted in Beer, Indie-Craft, Interview by Zac on May 3, 2012

Jim Galligan is the less bear-like half of the Beer and Whiskey Brothers, a semi-popular beer blog that likes to keep things light, aside from their beer and whiskey. The brothers have flirted with a TV series and now Jim writes beery thoughts for one of those awful morning network “news” shows. He’s self-effacing and generally a good guy, plus his favorite brewery is in my backyard (STL).

Jim and his brother Don have made a pretty good go at this beer blogging thing. They actually respond to every comment. It seems their ultimate goal is to sell out, but I just like to refer to that as “making a living doing what you like to do.” It doesn’t lessen the independence or craftiness of their site for me. Wanting to make a living doing what you love is as indie-craft as one can get.

1. Describe your craft(s).
My main craft is creating content, either by writing, designing, making a video, whatever. I like to entertain people and stir things up a bit. I mostly write about craft beer, which is something I love to turn people on to.

2. What’s the importance or benefit of remaining indie?
I find honesty refreshing, especially these days when everyone is afraid they’ll be crucified for saying the wrong thing. Say what’s in your heart, and if it’s wrong, who cares? For me, being “indie” is all about keeping it real. Authenticity is something I cherish.

I’ve found that writing about beer has given me a space where I’m comfortable being 100% honest about what I think, regardless of whether or not anyone else agrees with me. It’s liberating, and I find it has made me more confident sharing my opinions in places where there’s more at stake, like at work.

3. How does your craft contribute to society?
That’s a good question. Most craft brewers are more interested in making something great than getting rich (otherwise they’d work for Budweiser), and by celebrating what they do, I feel that my brother Don and I help whet peoples’ appetites for things that are authentic and special. I know since I’ve gotten into craft beer, I’ve also become much more interested in supporting indie restaurants and local shops, even if they cost more than the chains. I think once you get an appreciation for the good stuff the “little guy” can do, it bleeds into other parts of your life. So in essence we’re saving America – how about that?!

4. What other indie-craft products inspire you?
I like anything that shows how excellent people can be or even that people aren’t perfect. So I guess any product that has a real human element to it – artwork, a great meal, a Pixies song – will catch my interest.

5. What is your dream of success?
My dream of success is making a living doing something I love. I recently got paid for writing about beer for the first time ever – I have a weekly craft beer column for the Today Show’s website – and it was very cool to hold that first check in my hands. It’s far from enough to live on, but it’s a start, and that’s something.

Speaking of checks, I should note that even though I’m getting paid a bit here and there by MSNBC, it hasn’t changed my approach to writing honest stuff from the heart. It HAS impacted my topic selection and the tone of what I write – the sloppy sarcasm we sling on our blog doesn’t play well there – but I’m not out to please anyone more than the truth. I’ve seen you point to Sonic Youth as an indie band that moved to a big label but kept their integrity, and I’d like to think I can pull it off as well, but in a bloggy kind of way. To me “selling out” isn’t about who is writing the checks, it’s about who is pulling the strings.

Well, if there’s a way to sell out, Jim’s doing it the right way. Keep it real, Jimmy.

Indie-Craft Interview #4: Bob Hartzell

Posted in Indie-Craft, Interview by Zac on May 3, 2012

Bob Hartzell found me over a year ago, offering me an Archers of Loaf poster he printed back in the nineties. Since those halcyon days of yester-decades, he’s made quite a nice niche for himself in the Midwestern art scene with his Augratin Press. It’s nice to see the posters he creates for shows here, but his other projects are cool as well. Bob agreed to share some thoughts for yet another edition of the Indie-Craft interview series

1. Describe your craft(s).
I make things. I am mostly a silkscreener but I have been doing more light sculptures now that people are buying them. I also do as much community based work as I can because it is the most rewarding.

2. What’s the importance or benefit of remaining indie?
It helps hold of the eventual moment when I start to suck.

3. How does your craft contribute to society?
I think my community-based work encourages people to do creative things outside self-ordained, artistic environments. Other than that, my craft contributes nothing to society.

4. What other indie-craft products inspire you?
Furniture and Architecture as well as broken things.

5. What is your dream of success?
I am lucky to have done what I have. If it all goes down from here, I should still consider my self fortunate, but I will probably complain anyway.

Bob’s work can be found via Facebook or his website.

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