Another Cup of Coffee with E.J. Friedman of Loudersoft

E.J. Friedman—the author of loudersoft—is a music blogger, artist manager, social media whiz, songwriter, and all-around Renaissance Man. 

A native Memphian, he’s also lived in NYC, Seattle, Los Angeles, and more.  But here’s the point: every music community needs an E.J.; a scene needs a connector.  Someone who makes, shares, promotes, engages, debates, and fervently, publicly, loves music for a living.  Someone who invests in what’s going on around him.  Someone who goes out to a show at midnight on Monday and blogs about it at 8AM on Tuesday.  Someone who can start the conversation, or advance it, or elevate it.  If you’re lucky, your music scene has an E.J. Friedman.  Memphis is lucky to have ours.

So, enjoy Another Cup of Coffee with E.J. Friedman!

[EJ sits down after greeting literally a third of the room.]

It seems like you not only know everybody, but have a clandestine relationship with everybody.  Some people are loud social butterflies; you give off a mafioso vibe. 

Comes from being in a family of lawyers, I guess.

Is that family all from here?

Born and raised in Memphis, went to Ridgeway High School, then went to NYU.  I graduated with a degree in theater, of all things.  It turned out to be a useless liberal arts degree.  My parents are still mad at me.

How long were you in New York?

Basically just the four years.  I got burned out on New York.  Shortly after, I moved to Seattle, where I fell into the music scene there.

Why’d you get burned out on New York?

New York City is a place where you have to be working, and you have to be on your game.  I was a kid with a degree, but I didn’t have any knowledge of the world.  I was still trying to find my way in the world.  There’s an old saying: you have two lives, the one that you learn with, and the one that you live with after that.  New York City was part of my learning life.

Why Seattle?

Originally, I went out there to do theater.  But when I moved out there, I met people who worked in and around the music scene in Seattle.  It was kind of the perfect storm that I ended up in Seattle right when the music scene was about to explode.  I wasn’t paying attention before I got there, but I realized that it was exploding around me.

That’s amazing.  I’m fascinated by that music scene in the early ’90s.  Anytime I meet someone from Seattle, I probably drive them nuts with questions.  “Were you there?  What was it like??”

All the things you read and hear are probably true.  The first show I ever went to in Seattle was Halloween night at the Paramount Theater, and it was Nirvana.  I didn’t know who they were at the time.  This girl said, “You have to go with me,” so I agreed.  I have some very heavy stories from that time.

So how’d you end up back in Memphis?

Memphis is my hometown.  Growing up, I didn’t have as profound a respect for the music scene here as I did once I left.  Peoples’ ideas about what Memphis is, or was, are very skewed.  The media has done an excellent job of portraying us in a certain way, which may or may not be an accurate representation of who we are.  To me, today, it’s more like being in Portland in 1995, or Austin in 1995.

Those are very buzzed-about music scenes today.  Do you see Memphis as eventually being the next cool city? 

Memphis has the potential to be all kinds of things.  We need outlets for people to promote their work beyond putting up flyers and posting on the internet.  I mean, those are all great methods.  But there’s no college radio station.  WEVL’s a terrific radio station—truly, it’s a terrific radio station—but they don’t really provide a permanent outlet to have their music played.  There’s no local television support.  It’s hard for music to grow beyond a certain level here.  I also think there’s a certain jadedness that comes from living hand-to-mouth.

Then again, the thing that separates Memphis and Nashville are the same things that I think separated Portland and Seattle when I lived there.  Seattle and Nashville were very similar in that people were constantly looking over their shoulder to see if anyone’s noticing what they’re doing.  But Portland has always had this, “I really don’t give a fuck” attitude.  Memphis has the same thing.  It’s staunch, do-it-yourself, but it’s also very devil-may-care.  The music industry in Memphis that thrives is Goner Records—they’ve perfected the DIY ethic, but they’ve also created an entire scene around it.

loudersoft focuses mostly on hip-hop, electronic, and some rock.  Is that fair to say?

It’s a very selfish website.  It really focuses on whatever inspires me, which could be anything.  But right now, the two most inspired genres—to my ear—are electronic and hip hop.

How did it get started?

Several years ago, I ran into Rachel Hurley.  We immediately hit it off talking about music.  She asked if I wanted to write on her site at the time, called Scenestars.  From there, it just started a whole thing.  I started to feel like I was posting too much on her site and kind of intruding on her voice.  So I chose to start loudersoft.

The description on the site says that loudersoft has modest beginnings as a music blog and has since branched out into artist development, management, etc.  How did that transition happen?

Since I started the blog, people would come to me at various times and ask me to do things for them.  Management, writing bios, PR, all sorts of things.  I would generally tell people “no.”  To me, management requires that you give your undivided attention to something.

Last year, my friend Taylor posted a track by this band on Facebook.  I asked about the band because I was totally enthused by it.  We talked on the phone, they sent me more tracks, we kept talking, and I realized that this was something I’d been listening for my whole life.  I realized that I had the types of connections that might help a fledgling band whose songs are terrific.  So, Future Unlimited was born out of that.

What was it about their music that initially excited you?

I remember the first time I heard Violator by Depeche Mode.  I remember the first time I heard Nothing’s Shocking by Jane’s Addiction…

Right, the ’80s influence is immediate.  Their affection for the music of that decade really comes through.

Agree.  I think these guys have a shared love of outdated sounds.  But with modern technology, they’re easily re-creatable.  Rather than overkill it and trying to turn it into something too new, they’re very true to that particular set of sounds.  They’re not trying to make it into something it isn’t.  That’s an important delineation between them and some contemporaries that are also doing retro-ized music.

So, to your initial question—when I first heard Future Unlimited, I not only went to that place of hearing Depeche Mode or Jane’s Addiction for the first time; I heard what was cool about each of those bands all imbued in the songs.  Even though it felt familiar, it was unique and original and so powerful.

I couldn’t see how people weren’t speaking in hushed whispers about this band.  I’m not saying I have the greatest taste in music, but I would say I know some things based on my own experiences.

Right, folks around music usually have a feel for what other people will like.  Even artists I’m not a fan of, I’ll often say, “but I get why they’re popular.” 

Right, exactly.

What’s next for them?

Free, 18+ show Monday night at the Brass Door here in Memphis.  Doors are at 9PM, show’s at 10.  From there, they’re headed to Austin, where they’ll be playing shows at SXSW.

There’s an EP on the way, but we’re working on it.

There’s another band that I manage called Fast Planet

That’s Landon’s [Moore, bassist] and Brandon’s [Herrington, interviewed] project, right?

Right.  We just started working together.  Their video premiered on Consequence of Sound on Monday.  Their record is phenomenal.  It’s just a beautifully done ambient rock album.  It’s passionate.  It’s real.  You can listen to it at work, you can listen to it getting ready for bed, you can listen to it in your car.  It’s called Jes.

Who else are you listening to right now?

The new Santigold record.  It sounds weird to say this, because I’m a music blogger, but really, I have listened to almost nothing but Fast Planet and Future Unlimited for the past few months.

That doesn’t sound weird to me.  I totally fixate.

I just don’t get tired of these records.

[At this point, another Otherlands patron asks E.J. about an internship.  E.J. describes the site to the gentleman, which leads us to…]

This is something I disagree with other bloggers about.  Rachel got me into the habit of writing only about things I like and ignoring things I don’t.  Now, that’s probably hurt in some regards because sometimes people just want my thoughts about an album, period.

Right…

But to only trash people is a bad thing.  Is it bad to only say nice things?  I don’t know.

Yeah.  I always try to be nice, if possible.  By-product of a polite upbringing, I guess.

It’s that very Southern thing of, “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Yeah, I’m talking from the cheap seats, though.  I just try to be nice because it’s bad form for an artist to trash another artist.  A writer has a different role.  In many ways, it’s much more complicated.

It’s a really tough thing.  I just don’t know.

When I spoke with Cities Aviv, we joked about it.  He was candid about artists he likes and artists he doesn’t.  And I said, “I wish singer-songwriters had beef.”  We’re a disingenuous lot.

Mmm-hmm.  Hip hop is beef, though.  Hip hop is all about being better than everyone else and telling them about it.  What he was doing is very true to hip hop, and it’s very real.

And for every negative thing he said, he said ten more positive things.  The artists he likes, he loves.  He’s a cheerleader for them.  Honestly, that was the biggest impression I got from our conversation: this guy loves music. 

Yes!  He’s a huge music fan.  Look, if you want to play music because you want to get girls, or you want money, you want to buy nice things… if you don’t love music, get the fuck out of this business.  Do something else.

I think that happens anyway—it weeds itself out.  If you don’t love it, you will quit at some point. I know plenty of ex-artists who work at Regions now.

Some people have to be told!  The reality is that some people need to be told, “this is not for you.”

Some random, rapid-fire questions now: What’s your favorite bar in Memphis?  Most frequented bar?

I can’t answer that question, because I don’t drink!

Doesn’t have to be a drinking thing–just place to go out, maybe hear music.

Mollie Fontaine Lounge.

You have one meal left in Memphis.  Where do you go?

Pho Hoa Binh.  Put it this way: if I ever had to leave Memphis, the thing I’d miss is Pho.  I’d miss it probably more than some of my friends.

I saw you on the ILoveMemphis blog–y’all got dim sum together.  I love when Memphians who have lived elsewhere (New York, Seattle, etc.) advocate the food here.   

Because the food here is phenomenal!  I went to the Lucero listening party, and some of us took some out-of-towners afterwards to Earnestine & Hazel’s.  We took them to get a Soul Burger.  Because you try to explain it to people and come up short.  You just have to take people there.  Take them to the buffet at Pho, and then they’ll understand.

Someone’s making a Memphis music playlist.  You get to add one song to the mix.  Name it.

Fast Planet, “Lost.”

Memphis is…?

Memphis is everything outsiders think it’s not and everything insiders know it is.

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