Since 2008, Salem, MA-based Anti-Gravity Bunny is a website that has been inviting a wide audience of readership into its vast, bottomless pit of crazy music. From drone to psych to metal and beyond (not to mention all of these styles’ prismatic, seemingly endless sets of sub-genres), 27-year-old blogger Justin Snow has kept the quality, consistency and diversity of his coverage of experimental music up with daunting agility. Sure, the dude swears a lot (a lot), but his style always comes through as incredibly honest and passionate about whatever it is he’s hearing, digging and sharing with the world at large. Over the years the site has become an indispensable source for aural weirdness in all its glorious iterations.
Recently, the blog came under difficult times when the grad student and Simmons College archivist’s iPod bit the dust. In a world where the best music discovery sites are run by folks who do it out of love, on a budget of exactly zero dollars, and in the free time spent outside of otherwise mundane day jobs, something as simple as a portable music playback device is absolutely essential. In order to keep things going, AGB posted on its blogroll an article asking readers to contribute whatever they could to help him replace the malfunctioning Apple product, and the response was overwhelming. Asking only for $250 to replace the iPod, Snow ended up doubling his goal in less than a week’s time. As a thank you, Snow quickly posted an announcement that with the additional funds raised, he and his wife would be putting together a line of Anti-Gravity Bunny tee-shirts to give as gifts to all those who donated, and sell to those interested. No official release on the tee-shirts has been made yet, but keep a keen eye out for those. Also, AGB put together a killer mix as an additional thank you.
I was so inspired by this story because of the love and care involved on both sides of the donation platform, fans and blogger seamlessly combined to brilliantly (and thankfully) side-step the fund-raising cliché that is Kickstarter to achieve a common goal associated with a love for all things experimental music. One modest individual doing what he truly loves, asking for a modest sum to keep doing that thing he loves, and being rewarded/appreciated for his efforts in spades, only to return what extra money he received as a modest token of appreciation.
I caught up with Justin with some questions about his amazing blog and the process behind his writing, the iPod debacle, and his goals for the future of AGB in hopes of pointing more folks his direction, and to give everyone a heads-up about the forthcoming tee-shirt run. Delight in the little Q&A below, and don’t forget to check Anti-Gravity Bunny every week for updates.
Foxy Digitalis: What actually happened to the iPod? How long did you have it, and what kind was it?
Justin Snow: My iPod (160GB Classic) is at least a few years old. I can’t recall when I got it exactly, but it was just around when Apple announced the 160GB models. For the past couple months, it’s been acting up. Turning off randomly, freezing, and skipping like crazy. Then it stopped connecting to my computer altogether. It wouldn’t mount, I couldn’t restore it, etc. I brought it to a Genius and they said there was nothing they could do and it was out of warranty, so I was stuck with a semi-playable iPod that couldn’t load new music, which, as someone who writes about new music almost daily, basically made it go from essential to unusable.
FD: The donation drive was quick! How did the whole thing make you feel when your goal was reached?
JS: I was incredibly humbled. I posted the announcement of the fundraiser in the morning and before the day was over, I had reached the goal. And the donations kept coming. I wasn’t even confident I would reach the goal, let alone more than double it. I’m never really sure how much people pay attention to or care about Anti-Gravity Bunny, so to see people not only help me raise some money to keep it going, but also send lots of warm wishes & kind comments was way more than I anticipated. I was just overwhelmed with people’s sentiments, which was a much appreciated and unexpected bonus.
FD: You said in the original post about the donation drive that you mostly reviewed things off your iPod. Tell me a bit about your process, where/when are you listening to the most music, and what’s the transfer rate for you to getting an intriguing listen into a post?
JS: My writing process has changed a lot over the years, except that I need to listen to an album at least a few times before reviewing it. And I mean actually listen to it, I try to give it my full attention at least once or twice all the way through.
I used to have mornings to myself at home and I would make a big pot of crazy strong coffee, sit down at my computer, and listen to whatever I was reviewing that day on whatever format it came on, vinyl, tape, etc. That was my favorite because I was alone, had all the time I needed, occasionally got to listen to some vinyl, and was always highly caffeinated.
Currently, I’m in the midst of my least favorite model. I have to set up the post at night before I go to bed (get the artist/label links, upload to song, find album art, etc). When I leave the house in the morning to go to work, I start the album on my iPod, walk about 20-25 minutes to the train while drinking as much coffee as I can without scorching my mouth, then (thanks to the train’s wifi) try to bust out a review in less than 25 minutes before I hit North Station. Usually this works out ok (I’ve been doing it for about the past 6 months), but sometimes it doesn’t, like when there’s no open seats or if I’m soaked because it’s raining. The worst part is if I’m reviewing an album that’s over an hour long and I don’t get to listen to the whole thing before I finish writing. I just have to remember how the album ends if I want to say anything specific about it.
I don’t like writing like this. It’s the exact opposite of my ideal situation (no distraction, caffeine, infinite time). But I still like sharing awesome music and I really want to keep AGB going, and since this is the only real way to go about it right now, I see this as just a bit of a rough patch I need to wait out.
I listen to almost all of the music I review while I’m at work or travelling to/from work. I spend about 2 or 3 hours at home per weekday, which is usually spent with my wife and she’s normally not into the music I write about. So listening at home almost never happens, which is shitty when I get something analog submitted.
The turnaround time for a submission varies. Could be a couple days, could be a couple weeks, sometimes even a few months. Even though I need to rip a tape or LP, that doesn’t mean the turnaround time is longer. Sometimes it is, but not always. I just hate having to review a beautifully packaged sexy beast of a record while sitting on the train and listening to it on my iPod. But like with everything else, I’ll try to get a couple good listens to a record while I’m sitting next to my turntable before I get a review written.
FD: Now that you’ve reached your goal, you’re making shirts! When will those be available? Any previews of them yet?
JS: Yeah, I’ve always wanted to make an AGB shirt, but mostly just for myself. I never knew if anyone else wanted one and I definitely never had the time or money to make them, but since the fundraising went so well, I figured now’s the perfect time. My wife Elise has some mad art skillz (Argyle Whale) so she’s going to draw it up. We already have a killer design planned out, but that’s as far as we’ve got. I have no idea when they’ll be ready. The only realistic goal I can set is maybe a few months. I’m hoping way sooner than that but I’ve never screenprinted shirts before so my estimate could be way off. I don’t think I’ll do any previews. You can check out what Elise’s style is like and you can rest assured there will be a bunny in there somewhere but I’d like it to be a surprise.
FD: Care to give our readers a little background on the history of Anti-Gravity Bunny? How long do you see it going for the future?
JS: A brief history of AGB… I started in February 2008 on Blogspot where I wrote about music, movies, video games, whatever. I narrowed it down to focus solely on music a few months later. After Google started deleting my posts (including a writeup of Mountains’ Choral which I’m still pissed about because that was one of my favorite reviews ever), I found a web-savvy friend to help me build my own site and finally decided it was worth it to drop some dollars on my own domain & hosting. antigravitybunny.com was a thing in November 2010.
I have no idea how long I’ll keep it going. I started Anti-Gravity Bunny because I was out of college, had a lot of time on my hands, and wanted to share awesome shit. Now I have a lot less time but way more awesome stuff to talk about, so it’s kinda hard to know what’s going to happen. Sometimes it’s hard updating regularly and being the only one running everything but I never want to share the responsibilities of AGB with someone else, that’s part of what I love about it, that it’s just me. I couldn’t imagine AGB being anything other than my personal platform for sharing my favorite music.
I’m kind of proud of how long I’ve kept it up. I really enjoy having been around for a few years, seeing artists grow and helping them get some new fans, it’s the fucking best. I’d love to hit some sort of milestone, like 10 years or something, because it’ll feel great to know that I’ve tipped off some random people about a new artist they might follow for the rest of their career. And I can’t even imagine how many bands & labels I’ll have connected with along the way. Making friends with cool creators and fellow sharers is one of the most amazing things about running a site like this. I know I can’t keep doing it forever, but I’ll definitely keep doing it for as long as I can.