The Music Enjoyer: Matty Monroe

The Music Enjoyer: Matty Monroe

On the first of the month, or the weekday closest to it, I publish "The Music Enjoyer," which is a content series in which I ask music-oriented people for a bit of their musical DNA — the music they listened to when they were younger, the music they listen to now — and also for some practical info, like their favorite ways to find music and actually listen to it.

Last month's feature was comedian, writer and producer Brett Davis, star of The John Gentle Show, who reminisced about his history of first enjoying, and then participating in, public access music television culture...

The Music Enjoyer: Brett Davis
On the first of the month, or the weekday closest to it, I publish “The Music Enjoyer,” which is a content series in which I ask music-oriented people for a bit of their musical DNA — the music they listened to when they were younger, the music they listen to now

We're keeping the independent media energy rolling this month with Matty Monroe!! Matty is a music enjoyer of many trades, including: moderating r/indieheads, a font of alternative music discussion and host of AMAs with artists like Sylvan Esso and Wisp; working on the radio/digital team at Planetary Group; co-hosting the pleasantly deranged Indieheads Podcast, an audio product upon which I have guested several times (including the time we listened to and discussed the Black Eyed Peas song "Boom Boom Pow" for several hours straight); (until recently) hosting the radio show Obscurity Knocks, which I blogged about recently; singing Hinder's "Lips of an Angel" at karaoke.

In short, Matty keeps a certain type of flame of music enjoyership alive—having both an incredibly deep knowledge base, and also the desire to get a little silly with it. Let's learn a bit more about Matty's musical history and habits, from wrestling-induced butt rock tendencies to Odd Future forum-dwelling and beyond...

What music did you listen to when you were a kid?

Like most kids around my age, my love for music begins with the radio, but especially the St. Louis radio stations Y98, 101.1 The River and KSHE 95. Each of these stations I could place at specific locations in my life, with Y98 being your standard top 40 station that I heard the most at the swim club I hung out at a lot when I was a kid, 101.1 The River being an adult contemporary/top 40 station that was my mom's favorite & I heard it often when riding with her, and KSHE 95 being St. Louis' go-to classic rock station & my dad's favorite. If I gotta pick a favorite song that I first heard on each of these stations, I'd say they'd be Usher's "Yeah" for Y98, Evanescence's "Bring Me To Life" for the River and Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love" for KSHE 95, as thankfully these are all bangers that still hold up really well.

But around 2005 is when I tuned into MTV2 for the first time and discovered Kanye West and My Chemical Romance. Like many a young person, your brain chemistry is going to be altered forever when you not only hear songs like "Diamonds From Sierra Leona" or "Helena", but then see the music videos for the latter track along with "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" and "The Ghost of You."

And then pretty soon after MCR I'd discover Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco and I became a shitty little emo kid for a short period there, as the first three CDs I ever bought were The Black Parade (an amazing record still), Infinity on High (probably doesn't hold up) and A Fever You Can't Sweat Out (a bad album that I still unfortunately love).

Then I continued to further regress as on October 20, 2006, my best friend at the time called my house and told me to tune to The CW to watch a little program called WWE SmackDown!, as I then proceeded to watch a pro wrestling match between Chavo Guererro and Rey Mysterio that broke my little 9 year old brain. From there on out, I became a wrestling fan, and my last music taste journey before I became a teenager was getting deeply into any song that was heard on a WWE show or promo, official or unofficial. I even made a few of these promos (fancams is what the kids would call them these days) myself, and we did an episode of the Indieheads Podcast about some of the songs I used in said videos.

So if you're wondering why I have such a fondness for butt rock, it's because I became a pro wrestling fan in the 2000s, as it comes with the territory.

What music did you listen to when you were a teenager?

I'd say somewhere from around 2010-2011, I kinda just stopped listening to music regularly, as I got super into gaming YouTubers at this time (remember the Call of Duty commentary community?) & wanted to become YouTube famous for gaming. But for whatever reason, I decided to watch the VMA's in 2011, and tuned in just in time to see Tyler, The Creator win the award for Best New Artist for his video for "Yonkers", and much like MCR & Kanye before him, hearing his music completely broke my brain.

Ironically we say shit like "Can he say that?" when an artist gestures towards something vaguely edgy or "brave", but genuinely at the time I couldn't believe you could say the things Tyler would say in his songs, as I somehow was one of the few white boys in the 2000s to never really have a full blown Eminem phase.

And this was 2011 of course, as you didn't just get into Tyler, but the entire Odd Future collective & its affiliates. These days the only artists from the collective to have stuck around in the public consciousness are Tyler, Earl Sweatshirt, Frank Ocean and maybe The Internet, but I was deep into other artists in the group like Hodgy Beats/MellowHype, Mike G, Domo Genesis or The Jet Age of Tomorrow, as I'm probably one of the only people that heard "The Knight Hawk" before it was sampled by Kendrick Lamar for "A.D.H.D."

At this point I also became a massive forum dweller, eventually becoming an active user on places like Odd Future Talk, r/hiphopheads and Kanye To The, with KTT probably only being notable these days for being the birthplace of BROCKHAMPTON (a group I could never get into because they gave me Odd Future PTSD), where I got into even more rap music like MF DOOM, Lil Ugly Mane, Yung Lean, Chance the Rapper and Childish Gambino.

Around 2014 though I wanted to broaden my horizons a little more, and thankfully a little subreddit called r/indieheads had just started up a few months prior, as pretty soon I was getting deep into artists like St. Vincent, Radiohead, Father John Misty, Animal Collective, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Perfume Genius just to name a few, though there was a few artists from the rap forum days that fully stayed in my rotation like Death Grips or Lil Ugly Mane. Basically by the time I entered community college, I was a pretentious little indie music shit.

How has your music taste developed since then?

Since then, I've changed in a lot of ways and stayed the same. I'm less into hip hop these days (the death of rap forums and consolidation of social media can do that), but I still love my good old indie rock, though these days if I had to pick a specific lane or beat I'm known for, it's definitely indie rock/pop with an electronic/dance twist of some kind. Whether that'd be PENDANT going from a Brit-pop/early shoegaze loving noise rocker to underground electronic music DJ or Strange Ranger going from a Modest Mouse-worshipping emo band to dance floor-ready dream pop, I'm always going to be fascinated by an artist breaking from expectations and transforming themselves into something different.

Also if your music gets compared to Dean Blunt in any way, there's a solid 50% chance I'm gonna love it (looking at you bar italia, Chanel Beads, Nourished By Time, Strange Ranger again).

What is your favorite way to listen to music? (i.e. speakers, headphones, digital vs analog, etc.).

I usually do a lot of my music listening via my classic Sony MDR7506's and streaming usually on Spotify or iTunes, but I do love to pop a record or playlist on while I'm driving, as some of my most potent memories with music comes from hearing these songs while driving. Truth Club's Not An Exit? Yeah that's a record I'm always gonna associate with driving to Ohio to see my girlfriend at the time while the sun's setting.

Animal Collective's Sung Tongs? Yeah that's an album I cried to in my car as I realized I wasn't over my ex-girlfriend in 2016.

PENDANT's Harp? Late night drives home from the bar in the hours before dusk.

There's a reason engineers love to test out mixes through car speakers, and it's not just because of the sound quality difference.

Where do you find new (or new to you) music?

I find a lot of my new music these days through Stereogum's new music column or their Album of the Week feature, along with r/indieheads of course and my friends/co-hosts over at the Indieheads Podcast. Despite the fact that the podcast doesn't talk about a whole lot of new music these days, myself and many of my cast-mates are still really plugged into what's going on right now in music, as there's always a treasure trove of recommendations through our small but very active community on Discord. Sources like these made making my radio show, Obscurity Knocks (which is on ice right now as I find a new station to host the show), very easy!

Do you have to do any personal organizing + curating of new music as it comes in—i.e. do you have someplace where you track what you cover/play, or are you just vibing/surfing the wave/hoping for the best?

Honestly my organization skills are pretty god damn shit all things considered, as usually my process when I was doing the radio show was first checking out what promoters were sending to me, as my show reported to the SubModern Charts & therefore I was on the mailing lists of a number of radio promoters that specialize in the alt-specialty format. Then once I've gone through my inbox of promoters, I'll usually swing by Stereogum's New Music page & see what singles are out this week as this year alone I've discovered a ton of new bands I probably wouldn't have heard otherwise had they not been covered. And then once I've picked my favorites from there, I'll see what albums are out this week via Stereogum's Album of the Week column, & the onslaught of [FRESH] posts that r/indieheads sees every Thursday night ahead of New Music Friday. Usually that covers just about everything I'd be interested in, but I've also got the Indieheads Podcast Discord & friends like Jacqueline/DJ Horse Jeans to fill in the gaps as she also sometimes has my taste in music locked the fuck in even though we don't always line up (for example: we both love Death Grips, but she doesn't like a lot of Dean Blunt and I don't really care for Knifeplay).

At the end of the day, I want personal curation above all else, as for my own radio show I only play stuff I like, so I couldn't care less if a promoter is banging on my door to play the new Nick Cave or St. Vincent or Fontaines, DC—if it doesn't pass my smell test on a listen it doesn't get played on the show. Algorithms and AI both repel me deeply, as I want a goddamn human I can put a name and/or face to when trying to discover music.

I do wish streaming services would be a little more public with who is curating their in-house playlists, as that being only accessible to those deep in the industry is a real shame & very much creates a pay-to-win scenario as the market further and further gets swallowed up in the big streaming vortex. This isn't to shit on any of those bands/artists that have teams behind them to enter these gates, as hey if you've got the resources & the tunes to back it up, go for it, but it'd be nice to get even a taste palette of these in-house curators as just from looking at their playlists, as it's really just a lot of nothing.

Obscurity Knocks | matty monroe | Substack
a music newsletter by matty monroe, host of Obscurity Knocks on 89.9 WLCA. Click to read Obscurity Knocks, by matty monroe, a Substack publication with hundreds of subscribers.

This is why college radio at the end of the day will always be such an important platform, as the literal and figurative voices of DJs are almost always so strong there, as even if I'm tuning in and hearing music I'm maybe not fully gelling with, I can pretty easily figure out what they're seeing in this music and why they feel like they have to broadcast it. They don't care if a couple thousand or hundred people are tuning in, they're expressing themselves and that's fucking rad. When I go to New Indie Mix on Spotify I don't see that, I just see a bunch of artists who have people on their teams that just did emails or Zoom calls the best.

Thank you Matty! Linking the Indieheads Podcast Patreon here, which is a bountiful source of original music analysis and discussion (big fan of the episode "Songs to Trans Your Gender To") plus recordings of Matty's Obscurity Knocks radio show and probably some other stuff too.

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