Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Interview: Syd Bishop of Never Nervous

As part of 37FLOOD's 10th Anniversary we have asked Louisville writers to talk about music, Louisville, culture, and what it's like writing about it all in the Derby City. We will be posting the interviews throughout the summer.

Syd Bishop is a music and culture writer and the co-editor of Never Nervous, founded in 2011, and covers music, culture, and sports in the Louisville area. 

37- What is the name of the publication you write for?

SB- Kind of all of them, depending on when you ask. Almost every week, I have something up at either Never Nervous, which I co-run, or the LEO. On top of that, I contribute to Louisville Distilled and the JCC Communitypaper, and have worked with the CJ, the Voice Tribune, and Al Día en America. And maybe more? Hell, I don’t remember. I just like to write about things and tell the best story I can. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. 

37- How long has Never Nervous been operating?

SB- Never Nervous has been around since August 2011. I remember when Phil started it, I thought it was redundant, but here I am six years later (and for the last five), running it with him, because it’s awesome.

37- How long have you been covering music in Louisville?

SB- In what capacity? I contributed here and there to things back in the early aughts, so in that respect, I guess 17 years? But I didn’t really get moving on the writing front until the summer of 2012. Phil interviewed me for Never Nervous, and then invited me to contribute. We’ve been at it since.

37- What made you decide to cover music in Louisville?

SB- I’ve been in bands for something like 20 years. A combination of laziness, melancholy, and stress kept me from ever hustling to get the word out about that, but I didn’t feel right having a chip on my shoulder about it; no one owes me coverage. That said, it sucks to create art in a vacuum, and I enjoy having the opportunity to give a voice to the otherwise voiceless through my work. It’s hard cutting through all the static to be heard –I mean really heard- and I want to give attention where it’s due. I’m just as into writing about someone’s great success as I am some kid making beats in their bedroom: it’s all good to me.

37- What has been the most exciting or rewarding post you have written?

SB- That’s hard to narrow down. I’m not joking when I say I write every day, and have stuff out every week. I’ve probably had about 500+ things published, NOT INCLUDING my regular contributions at Never Nervous. I wrote a piece about a Shadowpact beef song that I really enjoyed, if only for the sheer ridiculousness of the content (beef songs are an asinine waste of time, but Shadowpact knew that). I interviewed Kevin Parker from Tame Impala, Andrew WK, Shannon Wright, Kurt Vile, Little Shalimar to name a few; these are all people I really admire or came to admire, and who I had to wonder how my life had gotten to a point where this became my reality. It all sounds kind of name-droppy though, right? It makes it hard to talk about this stuff.

Some of things I most enjoy are the pieces that think outside the norm or that give room for some free expression. I’ve written a series of Scene Etiquette articles for Never Nervous that I always enjoy. I worked an oral history of the then Outskirts Festival (see now: Girls Rock Louisville) for the LEO. That was fun, because I made it my mission to listen and stay out of the way of the story as best as possible, which was no problem. I’m thinking about writing a story about my daughter’s first show, as I write this. She’s not even three, but it was just the best watching her have fun. 

37- Has there been a scandalous situation you have been involved with during your time as a music writer?

SB- Sure there has, but that’s just par for the course. It’s always been my experience that artists and the surrounding culture can be a little extra, but you just kind of shrug and ignore it. I’ve had boring interviews *cough*J Mascis*cough* and I’ve refused coverage for a few things here and there, mainly because I refuse to work with jerks. Really though, if someone is scandalous or over the top to work with, I just don’t. I do this, because I love it, and if someone wants to take that pleasure away, I’d rather just not talk to them. It’s not like I need the press or the work myself, I’m there for them.

37- What Local music publications or writers do you keep up with?

SB- Scott Recker, my peeps at Never Nervous, Michael C. Powell, if the spirits are chilling. I spin a lot of plates and do my best to keep up with whatever it is that I can, whenever I can. The good news is that there are a lot of super qualified peers to be had in Louisville.

37- What are some of your favorite events you have covered?

SB- I don’t know. Like I mentioned a little above, I’ve got kids, as in plural, and they’re both very young. So I’m a bit of a homebody now, which is why it’s rad to keep writing, so that I can (hopefully) help make our community a little bit better. I’ve been to thousands of shows, I guess at this point, and it’s all kind of a blur. I am stoked on this year’s Forecastle, which is a first for me; I’m definitely not the target demo to stand out in the sun and pay $8 for a PBR. I’m like the ghost of someone’s future shitty metabolism, and I always feel like that standing in a sea of 20-somethings just feeling it or whatever. But how can you go wrong with PJ Harvey and Run the Jewels?

37- What do you see in the future for Louisville Music?

SB- I see it very much like the past. I read chatter now and again of people talking about the good old days, as if there ever were any really. I get that in the 90’s there was this big wave that a lot of folks got to ride, and they should thank Nirvana every day for that. Not discounting the music at all, but let’s not play like our local indie scene was turning out music meant to touch a frat brother’s heart either, so it was just kind of in the zeitgeist at that moment. That bubble burst, and people act like all the talent was drained or something, and that’s just stupid. There are tons of amazing bands now and there has continued to be one for as far back as that was a thing.

It’s a philosophical conversation for me, at the end of the day. Louisville is this weird island of activity. We’re in the bible belt, but far and away the most liberal place in Kentucky. We have historically been overlooked by touring bands and the like, in lieu of nearby bigger “markets,” like Cinci, Indi, or Nashville. I would posit that as a good thing though, as we’ve had to go our own way for so many years that it’s just part of our punk rock DNA as it were, like we’ll just do this thing we want and not sweat the haters. That’s not a chip on my shoulder thing either; we get amazing bands coming through, I just know that it’s not as much as bigger cities, which is fine by me. We’ve turned all that inward and we’re stronger for it.

The through line there is that a lot of the music that’s come out of this city has had some melancholic quality to it, be that manifested as sad, manic, angry, or something else, which I attribute sociologically to the weather. It’s non-stop humid in a comparatively liberal island that is largely passed over by touring artists, so I’d say we all get a little crabby sometimes, even just subconsciously, and that passes on to our music. The future then, is an evolution of that as filtered through the internet, which brings all of the music to all of the people. So, I’m expecting some dynamic shifts in the general atmosphere of our music culture. But hell, I could be wrong. Write that on my tombstone.

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