Last year, I told you that I was going to start introducing you more to who I am and what motivates me to support indie artists and share new music with you. As part of that goal, our new Contributing-Partner and Director of Playlists, Enrique Llamas has taken the reins and put together some great (and difficult) questions for me to introduce myself to you, just in time for my 23rd birthday. There’s no better way I would like to celebrate my birthday than with all of you that support IndieBeat, so read on and find out how much of a music snob I really am.
Introducing You To Josh S. Pineda
Describe yourself in 3 words.
Can I use anxious three times? I would say I’m loyal, passionate, and inquisitive.
Tell us about the idea that brought IndieBeat to life. Why did you decide to create this blog?
I started IndieBeat when I was in college, though the idea to start a music blog was something I toyed with since middle school when I started reading my sister’s SPIN magazines. For me, SPIN always seemed like a magazine that was artist-centric and one that focused on examining music culture as a whole by picking the artist’s brain. It just always seemed different and better to me than the other music magazines. I knew I wanted to create something like that, but I never imagined it would result in what IndieBeat has become.
What really pushed me to start the blog was a need to explore my writing. I had just decided I didn’t want to be a music major since performance never felt right for me, and I had discovered that my calling had always been writing. I knew I wanted to write about music. One day, I just decided to start writing articles about artists I liked at the time, to just practice and eventually turn the blog into a portfolio. I never imagined I would interact with the artists themselves, but very early on I started receiving compliments and submissions from indie artists that wanted to be featured because they enjoyed my writing. It was surprising to me that something resonated with them. That’s when I changed the formula, and started creating long-form features that included music reviews and interviews on truly independent, hard-working, and visionary musicians. IndieBeat really started there, when I discovered that I can make an impact on the careers of artists I believe in through my writing.
What are your hobbies and passions, do you have a theme or subject you’re obsessed with?
I used to be able to say that IndieBeat was my hobby, but with the scope of the project I don’t think I can call it that anymore. Though it is still my passion, since it combines my love for music, with my writing. My hobby is just going and exploring new experiences and interacting with art. I enjoy going to concerts, festivals, and museums and just seeing what’s out there. My passion is art in general, and trying to experience and support as much of it as I can.
What makes indie music so relevant for you?
I truly believe that independent artists are the source of innovation, since they’re willing to take the risk and experiment with different sounds, textures and fusions to create something new, with the only motivation being to create cool music. These artists also tend to have a hand in all aspects of their presentation, so you get a sense of their vision and earnestness early on.
I think today more than ever, indie music is super relevant. We’re seeing the drastic shift away from the major label mentality, and a lot more people have the time and resources to create from the comforts of their own home. There’s more support and interest for new music in general, as more people are discovering music they would have never have been exposed to thanks to streaming and social platforms. These fans are starting their own blogs to share their discoveries with their friends and people across the internet, whether it be a simple Instagram Story, creating a playlist, or writing their own reviews. I think now that we’re all getting used to the digital age of the music industry, the indie approach is becoming more democratized, more common practice. With more support, better music is going to be made. Indie music matters because we’re in an age where being independent and outspoken is more important than ever, and music is a perfect and accessible way to communicate that.
What is the first musical memory you can remember?
I don’t have just one musical memory I can reference, I just have fragments of many from my childhood: always being obsessed with TV themes songs, my sister trying to make me famous by trying to enter me in the ‘Oscar Meyer Talent Search’ contest in the late 90s, getting a karaoke machine for Christmas and singing American Woman 50 times in a row, family parties where a soundtrack of cumbias and salsa would always be playing ready for me to dance to, discovering Maroon 5’s Songs About Jane (you know back when they actually made good music) early on in elementary school and thinking I was cool because I wasn’t listening to something a little different than what the other kids were listening to. Now that I share all those memories, I realize I was just a dorky kid. But really, I don’t think I can pinpoint just one memory, because music has always been around me, that it just seems natural part of me.
What are your main musical influences?
I won’t mention any artists because there are too many. It would have to be a combination of late 70s rock and mid-2000s alt-rock. These were the two main movements that I kind of discovered on my own that sort of stood apart from everything I was used to (up until then all I have ever heard was my family’s favorite music: latin-american staples, yacht-rock, 90s boy-bands, classical music). When I discovered New York punk and alternative music, I was attracted to it. It was rawer, but still accessible to a young me. Both types of guitar-centric music have always made me feel validated in my times of discomfort. I don’t know, there’s something about the interaction between “words and guitar” (to reference Sleater-Kinney) that has always rocked me to my core, so I hold that close.
What do you think about indie music or music in general right now? Do you like it? What would you like to hear?
I won’t talk about music in general, or at least not what’s on Top-40 radio these days, because I don’t tend to concentrate my efforts there and I’m not really a fan of what is popular today (lots of droning beats, lack of substance, and overproduced tracks that personally don’t attract me). In terms of indie music, I do like where we’re at. I think we’re about to see some new sounds emerge, as we’re sort of approaching the tail end of the symphonic-rock era (have you noticed all those sax-lines in alternative music lately?), the 70s folk-rock resurgence, and “slacker-rock” as a whole. I’m a fan of all of this, but typically when you notice a trend, that’s when it is time to switch things up. I love that there’s an attention to funk that is alive and well in indie and alternative music though.
I don’t know what I want to hear exactly, but I do want to artists to not be afraid to push the boundaries and explore. I want to be challenged in trying to describe a sound-aesthetic. I want more visionaries, who are thoughtful about every sound they put out.
I read an article a few days ago about how MTV decided to scale-back their news department to focus more on creating “popular” short-video content that attracts more of a younger demographic. What is your opinion on this? Do you think that this is the future of blogs and music criticism?
Let me first preface this by saying that I’m a fan of video content. As a digital marketer (my day-job), I know how beneficial video is to a brand and how much fun it is to direct and produce videos. I’m just not a fan of video for video’s sake, or the “pivot to video” approach if it is forced, instead of an organic progression. MTV News has a been a great source of music journalism in the past couple of Jessica Hopper’s leaders. She’s an amazing music critic and has put together a team of writers that really hit on the cultural tension of our times, not afraid to say what’s on their minds, and always relating everything back to how cultural context gets infused into today’s music. I don’t like that the department has to be sacrificed to focus on video content–especially just because of an artist’s opinion on a “negative review”– I think both can exist in conversation with one another and that there’s a large audience for both individually as well.
Do I think that video is the future for blogs and music criticism? Not necessarily. I think there’s a function for video in presenting ideas, such as more discussion pieces and interview features, but I also think that good writing keeps persevering. Personally, I like to think of blogs in being punk in times like these, where each of us does what feels right and just for our values. I will always continue writing about music, because that is what I do. Music criticism will live as long as writers are dedicated to their crafts, and typically a writer writes by any means necessary.
As for the state of blogs and music criticism, I think each music website has to decide and commit to what ratio of journalism/critiques to promotion they’re comfortable with, and work to create the best content from their mission goals. I won’t reveal what the IndieBeat ratio is, but I will say we are highly selective of the artists we approach and are committed writing fair reviews for artists we believe in.
If you could go back in time to a concert, which one would it be?
I would probably go back to the late 70s and see a show at CBGB’s. I mean, Blondie, Television, The Ramones, Talking Heads–all bands that I adore in the same place, intermingling, trying to make a name for themselves, not knowing what’s about to happen. A part of me wants to also say The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl, just because to see that energy in person would be fantastic. But really, instead of going back in time, I would rather focus on going to as many concerts as possible in my lifetime and experiencing different types of music in person. Looking forward is always more fun than looking back.
A book, a movie, an album.
Book: The Madonnas of Echo Park. It’s about a latinx community discovering their identity in 1980s Los Angeles, while trying to pursue their dreams of belonging in America. It has a great introduction that talks about how MTV became a “mutual language” for kids then, and how music culture can bring people together and make for great shared experiences.
Movie: How much cred would I lose if I said The Devil Wears Prada, because I can legit watch that movie every day for the rest of my life. But if we are to keep it more music-centric, Frank always hits me.
Album: Choosing just one is difficult, because there’s so many for different functions in my life. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Camera Obscura, so let’s go with My Maudlin Career.
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