Bearded Gentlemen Music | Buzz Blog

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bearded Gentlemen Music

Posted By on July 16, 2014, 10:00 AM

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We here at City Weekly put forth the most awesome effort we can to cover all things local and indie music coming through town, but like every publication across the country, we can't be everywhere at once. Even websites like Pitchfork, who have hundreds of writers on staff, can't cover everything in the rising indie market. So it's no surprise to see many music fans turn into critics and reviewers and give their passionate opinions on what's coming through their town on their own websites. One of the local sites in Utah making headway is Bearded Gentlemen Music, a blog dedicated to reviewing the latest shows that hit SLC from the well-known all the way to indie performers you should know, as well as album reviews and opinions on what's coming down the pike. Today we chat with the site's co-founders about their run and thoughts on music today. (All pictures courtesy of B.G.M.)

Jon Robertson & Isaac Atencio III
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Gavin: Hey guys, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.

Jon: Hey! I think the easiest way to put it might be that we are two friends who really enjoy music. When we first started hanging out I didn't really have any other friends that were super into music and searching out new tunes. Then Isaac and I discovered that we both had serious cases of #ChinoFever and that we were both obsessed with all things Deftones. From there we started trading recommendations back and forth.

Isaac: Yeah, other than that we’re a couple 30-year-old dudes from SLC. Well, Jon lives in Bountiful. We basically live in local music venues like Shred Shed, Kilby Court, Urban Lounge and Diabolical Records. We celebrate sweet facial hair, good beer and great music!

Gavin: What got each of you interested in music and what were some of your favorite acts growing up?

Isaac: My dad played guitar and was in a band for a good chunk of my childhood. They played a mix of Mexican music and oldies-rock covers. People like Elvis and Chuck Berry. Since seeing him practice in our basement I have more than anything, just loved live music. I honestly didn't have the greatest taste in some of my early years, but I did have an appreciation for everything. Anything from rock and classic rock to Mexican cumbia, country to hip-hop. But I listened to what was on the radio. It was what was accessible to me. It wasn't until I bought my first two CD's that I really started honing my tastes and venturing outside mainstream music. They were Alice Cooper and Type O Negative. RIP Peter Steele! Ha!

Jon: Both my parents listened to music a lot when I was growing up, not sure that there musical tastes were all that great though (my dad had a serious U2 obsession for some time). I first started off with horrible pop like Paula Abdul, Another Bad Creation, Color Me Badd, Gerardo and MC Hammer. Then Uncle Nate (who writes for the site) showed me the light and I began discovering rock type music, but make no mistake I still have an undying love for horrible pop. Mimi, if you read this, hit me up.

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Gavin: Did either of you venture into playing in bands or were you more appreciative of music?

Jon: I began playing bass when I was 13 and have been in a band ever since. I am currently in two bands at the moment. I.A.T., which is progressive space rock metal stuff, and Vincent Draper & The Dirty Thirty, which is more of a folk pop Americana type thing. Once I started playing music my love for other bands and musicianship overall really started to blossom. I have a crush on every heavy hitting drummer.

Isaac: I have played the guitar since about the same age and had a brief stint learning to play the drums. I have jammed around a bit playing with other people, but have never really played in a tried and true band.

Gavin: At what point did you find yourselves critiquing music and really started forming a public opinion about what you were into and didn't like?

Isaac: I would say since junior high I have been very vocal about what I liked and didn't as far as music goes. I was always the friend who either had recommendation or was open for new recommendations and was always up for a discussion on a band, song or album, etc.

Jon: In sixth grade I thought I was cool, because I was the only kid listening to bands like Nirvana, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pixies, Sonic Youth and Soundgarden. I had to make sure that everyone knew how cool I was for listening to these bands even though no one cared and had no idea what I was talking about.

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Gavin: When did the two of you first meet each other and become friends?

Jon: We originally met when we were pretty young, I think around five years old. We were both wannabe child actors and our moms used to take us to the same movie and television auditions, but we never actually became friends. Then like 22 years later we re-meet while working for United Concerts as runners for bands. One day Isaac was talking about some Star Trek audition he went to as a child where he was trying out for the role of a Klingon child and I was like “I did that same thing!” Then we realized that we had actually met back then, it was a total trip. Neither of us ever landed any significant roles as child actors, it’s kind of pathetic actually.

Isaac: Yep, that’s the story. Once we started working together at United Concerts we started trading music back and forth and the rest is history.

Gavin: How did the idea come about to start up your own website and do reviews of shows and albums? And where did the name come from?

Isaac: Jon had been writing for numerous publications both online and print, including local reviews for SLUG. He eventually decided to start his own personal blog, which I was secretly jealous of haha. I dropped some not so subtle hints that I wanted to contribute and basically Jedi mind tricked him into letting me write a "Best of List" for 2011. I don't think he expected me to take the assignment as serious as I did. After that, a site of our combined efforts was pretty much immediately brought to the table by both of us.

Jon: The name came from the fact that we both always had beards and that we were generally nice and well behaved while drinking. At least I think that’s where it came from.

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Gavin: What was it like putting the website together and getting those first few reviews out?

Jon: Isaac text me out of nowhere one night at like midnight and told me that he had purchased the URL and launched the site. I was honestly a bit surprised because I didn't think we were actually going to do it. At first I didn't take it too seriously and would just write whatever and not put too much thought into it. It was kind of a joke thing at the beginning. I still love to go back into our archives and read some of our first articles, they are super random.

Isaac: Yeah, we were seriously winging it. Everything that we were posting at the time was just for us. We didn’t expect anyone to actually pay attention. So there was no pressure at all. However, one of the first interviews we landed was a sit down, face-to-face with Coheed & Cambria’s new bassist Zach Cooper. I had no idea what I was doing and was such a fan-boy, it was everything I could do to keep my wits about me. I knew then that we had something special going on.

Gavin: What were some of the first big lessons you learned early on and how did you adapt to them?

Isaac: Everything has really been learn as we go. I would say that a lot of the lessons we have learned came at around our one year mark. The appearance, format and usability of the site became super critical. Having a presence on social media is imperative. I feel the biggest lesson we learned is how to share our material with bands and their PR or management. Once you can get a band to share your article that is when the readers come.

Jon: I would say the social media thing was huge. I used to have this delusion that my/our writing was cool and unique and that people would flock to it organically, but in reality there are so many outlets, that websites and articles just get buried. Informing people that our articles were out there and trying to build a following/community of like-minded music enthusiasts was critical at the beginning and is still super important to this day.

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Gavin: What made you decide to stay Utah-based rather than move it to a coast and establish it like other review sites have over the years?

Jon: The thought of relocating has never crossed my mind until this question. I suppose it would be beneficial in some ways because the coasts get a lot more concerts than Salt Lake City, and these cities generally have a bigger music community, but honestly SLC has a pretty legit music scene. We usually get a stop on the majority of most tours, there are some killer concert venues in the area, and I feel like Salt Lake is getting a better reputation every year as a place that has really cool local bands and music stuff going on. Plus the majority of our writers are spread out across the U.S., Canada and the U.K., so I guess in a way we are an international super power. Totally kidding!

Isaac: Utah is definitely home for us. At least for now. Like Jon said, only a handful of our writers are actually based in the SLC area and being an online presence it’s very convenient to function through email, social media, etc. The only thing we don't really have are big, multiple day music festivals happening in our backyard. But even that is changing. We recently were able to get a small crew of us together here in SLC and to cover this year's Crucial Fest. It was pretty awesome.

Gavin: What's the criteria you have for deciding if a show or album is worth reviewing, and what's the process like when you review something?

Isaac: With our group of writers growing as much as it has, Jon and I have taken on the role of Editors. We will contribute here and there mostly for interviews (my favorite part) or concert reviews. We send out a list of new music, like releases that are about to come out or albums that have been sent to us by a band's management. We let our writers choose stuff they are interested in rather than assign it to them. In turn, whatever they write is their true feelings on that release and not something that was forced on them.

Jon: I think the thing that sets us apart from other sites is that we let our contributors write about whatever they want. As Isaac mentioned we will send out opportunities to our writers with an open invitation to cover it, but there’s no pressure from our end. We totally encourage everyone to come up with their own ideas and music to cover. I think it has been successful because we are covering stuff that I have never heard of, which rules for me personally because I get spoon fed a bunch of great music. As far as the contributions that Isaac and I make it’s more about being a music fan than critic, we both generally concentrate on articles that celebrate bands and we try to convey how much we enjoy the band’s music or live show. It’s kind of geeky and fan boyish, but that’s basically how we are in real life. There is music and bands out there that we dislike; but we’d rather not waste our time with being negative, when we can spend our limited writing time promoting stuff we love.

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Gavin: How did the process go about to building up your staff of people to write reviews, and what kind of a challenge is it keeping everything going from so many people?

Jon: At first it was just the two of us, then a couple friends and family members joined. Once we started getting more traffic and growing on social media we put up a few posts/tweets in effort to recruit additional writers. Now people seem to just find us and we generally accept them into the B.G.M family with open arms. It does get a bit hectic from time to time trying to remember what everyone is covering and trying to make sure certain bands that we love are getting some sort of coverage from the site. All that being said we are always looking to grow so if you like beards and tunes hit us up!

Isaac: It’s kind of a trip to receive messages from people asking if they could contribute. We haven’t really had to actively try and recruit anyone for a while. Everyone that has joined has been extremely stoked to be part of the family. It’s very humbling.

Gavin: One of the biggest areas that seems to get the most traffic is the Rants area. What made you decide to go in that route with your site and how did the writers respond?

Isaac: Since the beginning we may not have anticipated the growth we have experienced, but we knew that we didn't want to be just a site that just had album reviews. We wanted to have everything music related from reviews and interviews to editorial/opinion pieces. That is where the rant section came from.

Jon: Everyone does album reviews and we wanted something unique. Luckily, we have a talented enough staff that consistently comes up with creative ways to express their opinions without coming across as bratty Internet trolls.

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Gavin: What's the public feedback been like to the Rants and how do you gauge whether it's worked on a particular post or not?

Jon: People love it, hate it, or ignore it. As it happens with most things on the internet, when someone hates the writers opinion is when we get the most feedback. Sometimes though, articles like our “Cellphones At Concerts" piece that J.P. Gorman wrote, gets extremely positive feedback and people kind of rally behind it.

Isaac: These types of pieces are what shape an identity for a music site. I think in this day and age, to be truly unique you need articles that are different. The fact that they garner any attention be it positive or negative, is a clear indicator that we've done our job.

Gavin: Do you have any plans to expand the website or are you comfortable where things are now?

Isaac: A couple of my favorite sites are VICE and their music branch Noisey. Noisey in particular has done a really great job at transcending the music review blog vibe and I think we are on the path to doing something similar. I sent out a mission statement to our writers recently encouraging them to really use B.G.M. as a place to use their "voice" and write about things they are passionate about and to come to us with ideas. Growth is inevitable! Haha.

Jon: International domination! No, we’re always looking to grow and expand our group of writers. Recently, I have started to look at B.G.M. as less of a music site and more of a music community where people who are passionate about music are allowed to write about whatever they desire and people who don’t necessarily want to write an article can hit us up on social media to sound off and be a part of the community in that fashion. We just want people to know about cool music and participate in the enjoyment of music discovery. We put a lot of pride in being super interactive with everyone. If you hit us up on social media about something we will respond back in some fashion guaranteed.

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Gavin: What can we expect from both of you and B.G.M. over the rest of the year?

Jon: Matching B.G.M. logo neck tats! Totally kidding again. More of what we are already doing. We’re trying get into more festival coverage and getting our various writers into those type of events. Also, one of our goals for the past two years is to figure out a way to get the majority of the staff down to SXSW. I think it would be utter chaos to have the whole crew actually hanging out and running around from show to show.

Isaac: We would definitely like to get some merch out there. Things like t-shirts and hoodies. Really focus on B.G.M as brand. If you live in the Salt Lake area keep your eyes peeled for some B.G.M. sponsored concerts in the future.

Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?

Isaac: Be sure to check out our Get To Know Us section, we always try and keep the list of our writers up to date. A lot of them have their own personal sites, bands, or projects that we have listed there.

Jon: I’m tempted to list out all of our writers personal sites, but I’m not going to in fear of leaving someone out! Seriously though like Isaac mentioned please check out everyone’s personal stuff. Immerse yourself in all the cool things your city has to offer. In SLC things like this fine publication (Gavin’s Underground/Salt Lake City Weekly), SLUG, community radio such as KRCL and search out and show up to as many concerts as you can. Thanks!

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