The new year is only two days old, and WUSC seems utterly deserted. It’s winter break, and most of the staff of the University of South Carolina’s student radio station is still on vacation. Throughout most of the cramped and sticker-strewn office, it’s dark and quiet. But inside the broadcast booth Greg Slattery and Alex Strickland are serving up a diverse selection of local rock tunes: Eager prog from Trees on Mars shares airspace with the crushing punk of No. It’s a jarring contrast, but one that energizes these avid music lovers.
Such diversity is the lifeblood of Stereofly, the music magazine and artist collective that Slattery and Strickland help lead. Along with Brett Kent, they are the editors and managers of this unusual operation. Every month, they produce pages filled with words on their favorite bands from the Southeast, sending 500 copies to 10 cities across the region. And they commemorate the occasion by having some of those groups play a release party in town.
But Stereofly is also one of the more active promoters in Columbia, presenting frequent concerts in various clubs covering a wide array of genres. In March, it’ll present its first showcases at South By Southwest, Austin’s annual indie hullabaloo. For these guys, showing up on an off day to spin a few tunes is the least extent of their fierce dedication.
“The foundation of the music industry is really in shambles, but now we have this opportunity to build it up,” Slattery says, glancing up from an iPad displaying Stereofly’s lengthy mission statement. “Record labels are fighting for ways to stay afloat, but we’ve decided that it’s something that we don’t necessarily need. If we all collectively, as a region and as art appreciators, come together and support our own local artists, we can provide them with everything that they need to live a satisfying and fruitful life. It all pays forward and creates the community that we all want.”
Slattery’s interest in supporting indie music in the Southeast is informed by more than mere fandom. He founded Stereofly four years ago after stints in Greenville, Charleston and down in Athens, Ga., striving to create something that might unify the various scenes he had come to love. But he’s also an active participant. He guides Shallow Palace, an energetic ensemble breeding rough distortion and theatrical melodies from pianos and voices. His Stereofly cohorts play in other groups: Strickland screams for burly punk outfit Abacus, while Kent plays bass in Stagbriar and The Mazloom Empire, among other tuneful outfits. Balancing their various roles hasn’t always been easy.
“At the very, very beginning of Stereofly — just because I didn’t know as many people — events would be Shallow Palace plus other bands,” Slattery recalls. “Those would be the bands that I would be talking about and promoting. But in the last couple of years, I’ve been doing at least a monthly release show, and Shallow Palace hardly ever plays those. It can be a little strange, particularly with a radio show. I would love Shallow Place to get tons of radio play, just like I want Abacus to get a ton of radio play.”
“It took me a while to kind of get over the fact that I’m talking about and announcing the band that I’m in,” Strickland adds, laughing, having just played Abacus during his turn at the mic.
Shallow Palace plays a release show this week for the magazine’s new issue, but it’ll be joined by Charleston’s Carnaval and Zonaea and Greenville’s Long Canes, groups that Stereofly is keen to promote. On Thursday, the guys will co-present an acoustic showcase with local blog SceneSC. For next week, they have a rap show at Conundrum Music Hall, headlined by the indomitable Fat Rat Dda Czar. They make their own music, but these editors have little interest in giving their bands preferential treatment.
They’ve gone so far as to forgo genre terms to promote diversity. Instead, they break music into four categories: aggressive, fluid, saturated and rustic. Each classification gets a section in every issue with a page at the front defining each term. Saturated, for instance, signifies music that is “thoroughly soaked, charged, or brought to a state of complete saturation,” and refers to the more popular strains of indie rock.
“If nothing else, it’s something else to talk about and another way to describe music,” Slattery says. “Using adjectives appeals more to the emotion and the feeling that music has, which I think is maybe a better way to describe music than hard-line genres.”
In keeping with Stereofly’s relentless ambition, they hope their two SXSW showcases can do more than draw audiences in Austin. They have a Kickstarter page with a goal of $8,000, a measure to recoup the costs of reserving the club. Their primary rewards are starter packs of regional music, one for each of the magazine’s categories. If you donate $25, you get to pick a pack. If you donate $100, you get the entire collection, comprising 32 albums, one from each act they will bring to Texas. In addition, they’re planning shows for these artists all over the region. That Fat Rat bill, for instance, will also hit Greenville and Asheville.
“It’s going to be a great year,” Slattery smiles. “We finally feel pretty solid in our format in print. It feels good to be at a place where I feel like we understand what we’re doing and have a more focused and therefore more effective promotion ability.”
Stereofly releases a new issue at Art Bar on Saturday, Jan. 11. Shallow Palace, The Long Canes, Carnaval and Zonaea all play. Art Bar is at 1211 Park St. Music begins at 9 p.m.; Admission is $5. Visit artbarsc.com for more information.
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