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Before we begin

August 31, 2008

I find it pertinent to at least offer some background, both on myself and on the project.

First, myself. I’m currently a senior at Penn State University, where I’ve been a music reporter for the Daily Collegian for the past few years. More recently, I’ve also begun freelancing for a variety of online and print music publications. I will be graduating in May and, as of this post, I have no job waiting for me after college, although I’d love to continue with this whole “music journalism” thing. In addition to this book project (and the Collegian, and classes, and a couple part-time jobs), I will be spending the next few months exploring my post-graduate employment opportunities, but I hope that I can postpone whatever job I might land until a month or two after graduation, so I can focus on this book for a little while.

Now: the project. Basically, I’d like to write book outlining the history of the Elephant Six Recording Company and the impact it has had on the music community at large. In my time as a music reporter, I’ve talked to numerous musicians who list E6 bands as primary influences and listened to countless more who quite obviously feel the same way. I’ve also had the opportunity to speak with a few Elephant Six musicians themselves and have always come away impressed by both their artistic ideals and their outlook on life in general. Most prominently figuring into my decision to write a book about the whole thing, however, is the simple fact that I really dig most of the music they’ve made over the past decade and a half.

For those unfamiliar, here is the basic gist of the book’s premise:

In the early 90s, four friends began a musician’s collective (eventually centralized in Athens, Georgia) known as the Elephant 6 Recording Company. The collective eventually grew to a few dozen, with each member playing in multiple bands, each band overlapping in an incestuously collaborative way. Though none of these bands were ever runaway commercial successes, a few of them gained great notoriety in the critical community and to this day remain idolized in the indie music world. The more popular ones — the Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel, for example — retain a cultish following even though it’s been over a decade since either released any new material, while some of the more lasting contemporary bands like of Montreal have rivaled their predecessors, both critically and commercially. At any rate, the bands and the collective as a whole have had a profound lasting impact on the indie community at large, in musical style but also in aspects like recording techniques and collaborative methods. Regardless of where the collective stands right now, its influence is palpable.

The book itself will focus on the Elephant Six Recording Company as a whole. Ideally, I’d like to cover everything from the collective‘s inception to its rise and growth to where it is today, as well as its lasting impact and influence on the independent and mainstream music scene in general. There are also a few specific bands on which I’d like to focus. That said, while I feel like I know a bit about the collective already, I’m going in with an open mind, well aware that any preconceived notions I might have about anything can be subverted rather easily. I need to remain open to a lot of new information and have to resist planning out too much before I get going.

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