By Matt Chrystal (WNJ correspondent)
I am flying high over Tupelo, Mississippi with America’s hottest band… and we are all about to die! Ok, you got me… I’m sitting at home, surfing the interwebs and having the same text conversation with a friend that I have every week. “Hey, what are you doing this weekend?” “I dunno yet, I have to check CoolDadMusic to see what shows are going on!” For me, CoolDadMusic.com is similar to sites such as Wikipedia.org or Google.com. Yeah, I mean that it’s that essential, and meaning that I am not sure when or how I got turned on to it, but it just seemed that it was always there. I find myself checking it all the time and it contains all the answers I am looking for, as well as turns me on to all kinds of new stuff. James Appio, is the cool dad behind CoolDadMusic.com and through his reviews, pictures and updates keeps me and music lovers from all over, abreast of all the happenings in the “local” New Jersey music scene as well as clueing folks in on various indie-rock artists and shows from all over the country.
CoolDadMusic has become a champion of emerging bands such as Dentist, Lowlight and the RocknRoll Hi-Fives that are breaking out of New Jersey. He capturing them in action through his camera lens as well as capturing their sound through his reviews, which go beneath the surface to really give the reader a sense of what each band’s sound is all about. CoolDad’s influence even goes beyond the computer screen as he has also become a curator of live events in Asbury Park that helps introduce new talent to broader audiences. CoolDad always has his ears open for new sounds and his finger on the pulse of the indie scene. In addition to his fatherly duties at home, providing updates on shows happening all over the Garden State and going out to review shows at night, he recently opened himself up to “randomly review” seven submissions in seven days from upcoming artists… and yet somehow he found time to answer my ten questions for DIYNJ.
Everyone loves an origin story, soooo… 1. Where did the name “Cool Dad Music” come from?
I used to post lots of stuff on Twitter and Facebook about all the bands I was into. This was before the blog. So I’d post a video from Titus Andronicus or a song by Real Estate and tag it #cooldad as kind of a joke. Like I was this middle-aged suburban dad listening to the cool kids’ music. I knew I wanted the blog to be CoolDadSomething, and once I went through all the names that were already taken, I settled on CoolDad Music.
2. How and why did you get started?
CoolDad Music started back in 2012. I would always pester my friends by posting stuff on social media, and someone said, “You should start a blog.” So I did. Then it evolved into this thing that I just really love doing. It became my way to get fulfillment from doing work since that really wasn’t coming from the day job.
3. What does your process look like (selecting bands/shows to cover and review, info to update your website with, etc)?
My process is very seat of my pants. It’s just me, and, while I often try to have a plan, I get distracted by anything new and shiny. There are a couple of genres of music that I’m really into: really good pop (like The Beatles or The Beach Boys), shoe gaze, garage, surf. Guitars and reverb. Whenever anything like that comes along, I’m immediately drawn to it. I try to be eclectic, though, so I can be all over the map. The blog is really a record of what’s going on in my head at any given moment.
4. How big a role does the area/community of NJ that you operate out of play into your brand – i.e.: Inspiration, motivation, support, resources?
I am so very lucky to live where I do. The proximity to Asbury Park and New York means that I can see a quality live show every single day of the week if I want to. Also, the bands, venue owners, label people, etc., who make up the New Jersey music community have been wonderful to me and provide so much of my inspiration. Without everything they do, there would be no CoolDad Music; so I’d say all of those people are really everything to the brand.
Speaking of community, in marketing and networking these days, online communities usually have a big role in the success and expansion of DIY businesses. And as with any relationship, there seems to be periods of love and hate as opinions and reviews flow freely on open forums and message boards….
5. Does being part of an online community or a “scene” make it difficult to “please the people” and still “stay true” to your vision?
This is a really good question. I feel like if I want CoolDad Music to grow, I can’t just stay in the little box that is my head. I have to try and give people who may not have exactly the same tastes as I do a reason to visit the blog. So I’ll help bands that may play a little outside my preferred genres by getting the word out about their shows or premiering their videos or songs. And, if the vision of the blog is to get people to notice the diversity of new music that the Tri-State Area has to offer, then that’s staying true to it. At the same time, I am trying to be kind of a curator. So I’m not going to write about something just to please someone or just because I think it will get views. I have to believe that someone out there will really get something out of a post. That’s a tough balancing act sometimes.
6. What phase of the love/hate relationship would describe your current state of mind when dealing with the online community and/or the “scene”? C’mon be honest!
You mean “love” or “hate?” I’ve really never gotten very much negative feedback from the online community, which is really nice. As far as the “scene” goes, sometimes I wish some of the local venues would take more risks in bringing in bands that may be unproven locally. I get that they’re trying to run a business and they’re not there solely to entertain me and cater to my every whim; but sometimes I think we could branch out a little more. In general, though, I think I’m still in the “love” phase. I may have a complaint here or there, but, like I said, without the stuff happening in Asbury Park, my blog would be pretty boring.
7. Your brand has taking you to many places, not only in the Garden State but also around the United States? What is one of your favorite adventures or experiences? Any least favorite experiences?
I really enjoyed going to South By Southwest in Austin this year. I’ve been to Texas for family and business many times, but never to Austin. The ability to see so many bands I’ve always wanted to see while getting to experience the city (albeit in full-on festival mode) was just a blast.
Least favorite is a tough one, though back in 2013, I think, I headed to Los Angeles to cover FYF. I generally had a good time, and I saw some great bands. But it was tough being so far from home and experiencing the festival totally solo. Also, I almost got crushed to death when MGMT took the stage which was not fun.
Well, it’s a good thing you lived to talk about it! Barring any more concert crushing, let’s talk about what cool things are in the future and not so distant future for CoolDadMusic…
8. What should we know about what you got going on?
Right now, I’m just plugging along. I hope to maybe book a show here and there or maybe head to cover another big festival somewhere, but I’d just say keep on reading for right now. I’m gonna keep on writing and taking lots of pictures.
9. Any cool plans in the works?
I recently retired to become a stay-at-home cool dad. That was mostly a family-oriented decision, but it should have some interesting implications for CoolDad Music. I’m still thinking of ways to grow the blog. Expect maybe some more Brooklyn and NYC coverage. Maybe I’ll get a Philly correspondent or something. As I said, I’m very seat of the pants over here, so keep watching. Something could happen very suddenly.
10. Where can folks find you to keep up with you – website, social media, brick & mortar, appearances etc.?
Twitter / Instagram: @cooldadmusic
Thanks for the info and your time, CoolDad! See ya at the next show! Annnnd to our faithful readers, Stay Up, Stay Tuned and Tune In Next Time as WEIRD NJ “Breaks Punk n Stuff” with Joseph F. Kuzemka, the founder and producer of the Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market (pssst his next flea market is on Aug 7th).