Making Of: The Modern Vinyl Podcast

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We have a brand new feature called “Making Of” where we look into how music podcasts have been started and we’re proud to have Modern Vinyl as our first podcast! We hope to continue this feature with some of our other favorite music podcasts, so let us know if you have any suggestions. Check them out here and check out the feature below on how they got started.

How did you all meet and start working together?
James: I was dating a girl who told me I should start writing for Modern Vinyl, and since I wanted to get my writing out to more readers, I tweeted at Chris (who was and still handles running the site’s social media) to see if we could get me on the team. Surprisingly enough, I’m still here but the girl isn’t. Funny how that works out. As far as the podcast team goes, Mike hopped on to talk about Say Anything’s latest record Hebrews and he injected some life into our conversation, so I suggested we keep him on as a permanent member. Hey Mike, you’re welcome. Without the podcast, I wouldn’t know what Chris or Mike look like. Part of me wishes I still didn’t… just kidding, homies.

Chris: I think I initially met Mike through a writer’s call I had put out. His writing samples were solid and he started right away with some reviews and features. James reached out to me via social media, as he said, and he’s been a great asset to the site ever since.

Who initially had the idea for Modern Vinyl and what made you decide to start the site?
James: It was all Mike. Mike is the Mark Zuckerberg of Modern Vinyl. With slightly better facial hair. Mark’s got him beat on the brains, though.

Mike: Yeah, I just wanted to make something that would get me laid.

James: Probably should’ve done something better than this.

Mike: Wait…you guys aren’t getting mad groupies from this site/podcast?!

Chris: Haha, well, I had the initial idea, but there’s no real crazy story as to why I started the site. I was working at a small town newspaper and wanted another creative outlet for some writing. It seemed like there was an empty space (which isn’t common in this digital journalistic/blogging world) for a site devoted to physical media. Of course I was already passionate about vinyl records and the format, having a pretty sizeable collection, so it just seemed natural to write about something I was already into. After the first post, everything else (and the eight, nine thousand posts that followed) were history.

James: I definitely bring the angst that a music site desperately feeds off of. I turn twenty next week so I’m a perfect foil to Mike and Chris’ knack at being the podcast’s grumpy old men.

Mike: I knew about MV during its early days of white on black. I reached out to Chris when he was looking for writers. I was just out of college and looking for writing gigs to beef up my portfolio. I did a little writing for the site, but work and music was taking over my life, so I had to stop writing. When Chris and James started up the podcast, they asked me to talk about Say Anything’s new album. For whatever reason, they asked me to come back on and join the show regularly. 

Chris: I hate you for bringing up the “white on black” days. 

James: We could always bring back the first hundred posts of the site. Those are gold.

Did you initially know you also wanted to have a podcast or did that idea come later?
Chris: The idea definitely came later. The site and the idea of what the site could be has slowly expanded throughout the last three years. I usually don’t take on any expansion without knowing that our readers can support it, so the podcast only came about when I knew a large block of people would be listening. The first episode came about right after this year’s edition of Record Store Day.

James: I’ve been writing for the site since March 2013 and there wasn’t really talk of a podcast until a little before 2014 began. Chris and I bought microphones, and the result is now twenty episodes deep as I’m typing this. Like Chris said, we recorded Episode 1 of the podcast the week after this year’s Record Store Day and received so much feedback that we realized the support behind this idea was worth enough to keep recording hour-long music talks.

Mike: I was a big supporter for the idea of a podcast for a while, but Chris shot down the idea. I think even now, the podcast is morphing and growing into something truly special. We are friends talking about music, what more could you want?

Chris: I do shoot down many many ideas and Mike is probably right. Mostly I shoot down James’ ideas but sometimes I like to switch it up.

James: I’m going solo after this interview.

How do you go about choosing topics for the podcast? What about the songs you guys play?
Chris: The songs usually match up with a label we want to feature. The label will pick out some songs from bands they’re promoting or I’ll recommend a few tracks. They’ll also come from our sponsors at times. For topics, we really try to not put limits on what we’ll talk about. In other words, it doesn’t have to be vinyl stuff. It’s more of just a general music podcast.

James: For our “mixtape” episodes, however (the first was Episode 10, and our second is going to be Episode 21), we actually do seek out music to put on our podcast. Those episodes are a little different, of course, so the format Chris listed is pretty much the standard. We’ve pretty much been topically flexible since we started, usually dedicating an episode to an album we feel like we can discuss from an hour when the time feels natural to do so. Some of our episodes have surrounded recent news we’ve covered – reissues, fall tours – but overall, we’re more of a general music podcast than our name suggests. We also let the podcast’s direction come from reader questions at times. Yes, we really do answer those. Chris did blatantly ignore one once…but other than that…

Mike: Sometimes we’ll be inspired about podcast topics during the actual recording.

How far ahead do you plan out each show?
Chris: We try to plan it out well in advance, but it doesn’t often work out that way. With three people all having full time gigs elsewhere, it’s tough to be too far ahead in regards to preparation. We do plan ahead in regards to episode types, as we have “mixtape” episodes, interviews with various label owners and musicians and just our general format episodes. We’re generally on the ball?

James: Chris usually shares Mike and me on a Google Doc that we fill, over the course of the week leading up recording, with our notes. As of late, with school on my end (as a student), school on Chris’ end (as a teacher), and work/music/life on Mike’s end really picking up speed, it’s hard to take thorough notes, but I think if we did prepare more, it would lead to more structure and less of a conversation.

Mike: Our documents for the podcast typically turn into long chats over music. We use these conversations a lot in the actual recording. So some of it is planned, but a lot of it just natural conversation. 

This is a little more on the tech side. What equipment do you guys use to record, edit, and publish the podcast?
Chris: It’s a pretty low-tech process. Personally, I use a Blue Yeti microphone, along with Audio Hijack Pro to capture audio from all three Skype accounts. Then I just edit in GarageBand. People really try to overcomplicate the process but that’s about all you need to do.

James: I edited the “mixtape” podcast in Logic Pro, but essentially our recording process is so low-tech with Skype and varying microphone setups that it didn’t make much of a difference. I use a Blue Snowball microphone to record usually, but sometimes I have to record outside of my dorm room so I have used my laptop’s internal audio before. Chris forgot to mention this, but we use Blubrry to host and publish our podcast. We’re also available on iTunes and can be downloaded using the Overcast app as well.

Mike: I just sit in my really hot room recording on my MacBook Pro. 

Chris: Yeah, we should call it the “MV Sweat Hour” because literally all we do is sit in really hot locations (with the windows closed) and yell at each other. It’s kind of magical and loving all at once. One time James’ entire shirt had been overtaken by a sweat stain. Sorry James. That just really made me laugh that day.

James: What can I say? I’m hot.

Which episode has been your favorite so far?
Chris: That’s a good question. I liked “No Guitars Allowed,” which is the first appearance of our “Roundtable” feature. This is a more produced piece where we talk about a new release in depth. That was also the first appearance for Mike, who’s become a valuable part of the conversation. I also really like “Mixtape #1” which has 10 hand-picked songs from me and James. I look forward to doing many more of those.

James: I think “No Guitars Allowed” really allowed us to establish one of our best episode formats, the album roundtable, and Mike was thus there from the beginning of that idea. We also featured some great music from Lame-O Records, which I actually got permission to use after eating awesome tacos with the label owners during a day trip to Philadelphia. But, I think my favorite episode thus far has to be “These Are Dark Times,” where we discuss some really pressing matters regarding Urban Outfitters as a true-blue vinyl retailer (I had an excellent analogy about this during the hour; listen for it), shows we missed out on, and some great music from Park, Dads and Vasudeva – the last of which is great music to do work to.

Mike: Hands down the “No Guitars Allowed” episode is my favorite. It was the first episode i showed up on and it felt like a fluid conversation. Chris and James already nailed it on why this episode just really set the bar for future episodes. I also really enjoyed the episode where we go on a rant about Sizzler – we ended up naming the episode “Sizzler!” because of it.  The “feelings” episode we just recorded has a lot of good moments too. 

Any exciting future guests or plans for the podcast you can tell us about?
Chris: We’ve got a whole bunch of guests in the pipeline. We’ve got some bloggers, some label personnel and some fellow podcasters. Some big ones that I’m excited about are possible conversations with Waxwork Records and Mondo (I’m big on soundtracks if you can’t tell) and guest spots from the other podcasters in our scene. Also, another “mixtape” episode, some more fun games (Pick Your Poison is my favorite) and who knows what else!

James: I’m pretty sure punk celebrity and musician Chris Farren said he’d guest on our podcast sometime in the future – I’ll have to set that up soon. Zack Zarrillo of PropertyOfZack/Bad Timing Records fame expressed interest in coming on, so that’ll happen before the end of the year, I’m sure. I would love to do more “mini” podcasts – quick shots centered around one topic that can be digested in one setting. We’ve done our “feelings” episode (that’s Episode 20, if you’re wondering) already, so I wonder what things you’ll see from us next? More ragging on me I assume? Whatever it is, I know we’re thinking of ways to keep it interesting – and I honestly think we wouldn’t be opposed to any ideas we’d get from our listeners.

Mike: We have the pop punk themed episode coming up where James will go on a long rant trying to convince Chris and I to give pop punk a chance. I think it will be our 100th episode special. 

James: See what I mean?!

Chris: I think for our 100th episode I’m going to fire James. Like really go off on him. Oh, thanks for this interview by the way.

James: R.I.P. Modern Vinyl’s sex appeal.