Constantly and Beautifully Evolving: An Interview with Darrin Lee of Janglepop Hub

Janglepop Hub—along with Eclectic Music Lover and a handful of others—is one of go-to music blogs. Offering interviews with artists and reviews of singles, EPs, and albums, editor Darrin Lee works tirelessly to share the indie music he loves with the world at large. No surprise, perhaps that I’ve discovered many of the artists I’ve interviewed on this blog by way of Darrin’s finely-tuned ears: The Smashing Times, Eric Linden, and Brian Lambert (among others) have all made appearances there! So when he recently suggested (in jest) that he was waiting for someone to drop by the Janglepop Hub offices to interview him on musical matters, I couldn’t resist…

How would you define Janglepop, and what do you love about the genre?

The two parts of the question, a) the definition and b) what I like, undoubtedly merge into one answer.

“Lucid, jangly guitars with minimal effects and distortion, layered with pop hooks and melodies” is probably what many would say.

However, the people using such a definition would probably look at you aghast if you dared to suggest that jangle-pop did not begin and end with The Byrds / The Beatles and would demand you be institutionalized should you try and point out that we are now living in the absolute golden age of the jangle-pop genre…

But we are. The influences of the genre can be found in all manner of other genres, from the burgeoning bedroom / lo-fi pop genre, through indie/twee/surf/slacker/sunshine pop at the more sedate end, all the way up to the more raucous stylistics of modern day post-punk, jangle rock and jangle-punk.

Nothing really is off limits anymore and because of this the genre is constantly and beautifully evolving. The recent movements (last 2-3 years) towards dreamy jangle gaze, melodic fuzz pop, the new San Francisco scene and the whole Melbourne dolewave thing, just shows how new scenes are emanating from the genre so very quickly. My love for the genre emanates from the fact it never stands still and is easily incorporated into other genres.

Yes, The Byrds were good, but the whole “now” of it all is better in terms of eclecticism and our blog tries to uncover the best of it. Of course my words above could be seen as a criticism of those who revel in 60s sounds. It is really not meant to be…it is more of a sadness that so much good modern music can be missed out upon of you just dwell on the familiar.

You write a lot of reviews. Where do you find the time? And how do you avoid burnout?

Is it a lot? I have ADHD so I cannot really concentrate enough to get through a lot TV series, films, books etc. Therefore, music has always been perfect for me. It’s like a new story is starting with every different track. It resets the brain for me somewhat.

Therefore, it has always been my chosen form of relaxation. I listen to music on my lengthy commute into work , I also have my own office and the type of job (total solitude) which means I can listen to music all day everyday…so I do (and love it).

Two reviews every three days, especially when they are only a handful of paragraphs long, is not that many really? Is it?

I suppose it’s all relative! I know that you accept submissions through SubmitHub. How many do submissions do you get a day? How much time do you spend sifting through them all? How long do you listen to each submission?

With all the submissions I get through the various e-mails and via Submithub, I get over a 1000 a week. This quadruples on Bandcamp Friday week when many acts and labels wants to sell you that ‘must have’ re-issue of a 2012 demo of a cover of an Oasis or Yazoo track.

People distrust Submithub; however I did not really have much option to use it as it represented my best chance of actually hearing good music, as it tends to separate by relevance in terms of genre.

I listen to each submission for 90 seconds, unless it is obvious that it is completely the wrong genre, which tends to happen a lot as people tend to use the automated submit function. This was the reason why I had to stop offering the free submission option recently, as I was just receiving hundreds of Albanian techno type submissions rather than anything remotely relevant to the jangle-pop genre.

I spend 30-60 minutes a day selecting music.

Is there anything in particular that you’re listening for? What makes for a successful submission?

It needs to have some sort of relevance the jangle-pop genre for a start. Beyond that it needs to appeal to me in some way. It could be anything from a single dominant riff all the way through to lyrical context.

Does anyone really know why music appeals to them? It just does…

It is far easier to state what will not. Effects on vocals (especially vocoder), anything too old fashioned (tends to be the middle-aged and their power-pop), too polished in terms of production, are all things that tend to have me reaching for the delete button.

You often review singles in your “Beat the Delete” and “Singled Out” posts, but you also review EPs and albums. I know that SumbitHub really only lets artists submit singles to bloggers—though they do allow artists to provide links to their albums. How do you decide to review a full EP or album?

Submithub is not the only place where I hear music. I follow many acts and especially my favourite labels to hear new releases. Submithub tends to be more for self-released music, although some labels do submit through it.

In terms of the selection of what EPs and albums to review, I am not one of these bloggers who need everything to be perfect and absolute total quality before I will put it on the blog. I know some bloggers who feel that unless a release is totally amazing then they do not want to be associated with it. This is just silly, as it makes the reviewing process more about them, as opposed to the artist, genre or reader.

For me, if a release from an upcoming/new act has a few decent tracks on it that are linked to the genre, I am likely to review it as I feel that promoting new acts, helps promote the genre itself.  This is why we have so many self-released acts on the blog.

With the more established acts the album needs to be of a more consistent quality. They already have a fanbase and need less of my love to support them.

Is there anything artists should avoid when pitching music to you for review? Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to the artist-reviewer relationship? Or, to put it more positively, is there anything artists should know about pitching their music?

  • Be cognizant of how the reviewer wants the submission. If they specifically ask for it via certain medium (i.e. Submithub) do not naturally assume you are the exception and submit by another medium.
  • Have emotional intelligence. If a reviewer does not feature your submission, do not keep e-mailing them or send them rude messages. One regular submitter spends all his time being sarcastic about blogs/radio etc who reject his music on his social media pages, but then still submits on a weekly basis.
  • As mentioned previously, take the time to find out what music the blog covers. Sending Rap to a jangle-pop blog is just a waste of everyone’s time.
  • Timing is massive – I receive submissions 2/3 months before the actual release date. Bloggers get untold submissions and the chances of them remembering your track are slim. Do it a few days before release date for better results.

Great advice! I know that you also run the Subjangle music label. What’s involved in that endeavor?

It is a beautiful labour of love. Me and my mate James ‘Shoey” Shoesmith started it in Feb 2019, purely out of a mutual love for an band called Lost Ships (who have released with us several times since then) whose debut EP we wanted in our CD collections, but it was only offered digitally.

We contacted them and offered to release it. It was only supposed to be a once off, but 36 releases later we are still going, still losing money hand over fist (especially since Brexit ruined postal charges from the UK), still spending mental amounts of time of the admin/promo…but most importantly still loving it !!!

We have been extremely fortunate to get a loyal band of followers for the label and has been great to see certain acts get snapped up by vinyl labels…not bad for a CD label (remember them?).

Most importantly we get acts we love a little bit more well known, which is really the only mission statement of the label.

How do you find artists to work with?

Initially, when the label was in its infancy we would contact bands (we always concentrate on relatively new acts who hitherto had no physical format) who were jangly and we liked, just to see if they would be interested in collaborating with us.

We still do this, but as we have become a little more established, they often come to us these days. Which is an honour.

How is the work divided? In other words, what’s expected of the artists, and what does the label do for the artists?

The label does everything other than the artwork. We pay the artist a small amount or give them stock of the CDs to sell at gigs, whatever is their preference. The artist pays for nothing.

It is really the promo that is worth the association with Subjangle for the artiste. We have done quite well on that over the years.

And, because the question is inevitable, who was your breakthrough act of 2022?

Field School (out of the Small Craft Advisory label). Usually you can reel off several acts from the genre and it’s numerous variants, that would be contenders and of course I could go through that process again.

However, the three EPs from this act that were released in 2022 are just so immense that it would seem churlish to really mention the others. They have now been picked up by the Spanish, Bobo Integral label, whose big jangly indie heart will ensure they move from strength to strength when they release next years’ album.

Also, although you did not ask me, but I will tell you anyway. Look out for Maripool in 2023. She offers something extra to the whole lo-fi, jangly chanteuse aesthetic and could well take things by storm next year,

Thanks for taking the time to chat with me!

My absolute pleasure Marc…it’s been fun and I can cross the whole ‘be interviewed’ thing off my musical bucket list.

Glad to oblige!

A small sample of Janglepop Hub’s offerings!

Recommended: Collaborations by the Kintners

The first line says it all: “I’m spinning in squares, not circles.”

Translation: We’re doing something new with the old, familiar forms.

Even before that telling first line, the sound of scratchy vinyl and a cinematic blend of brass and strings conveys a similar message: A spinning record translated to the ones and zeros of the digital realm, a circle transmogrified into a seemingly infinite string of binary squares. Is it past, or is it future?

The album, by the way, is called Collaborations, and it’s quite excellent. Front and center are the complementary vocals of Kelly and Keri Kintner. Kelly has a rough-hewn, soulful, earthy voice reminiscent of the late, great Rick Danko of The Band (and a bit of Kenny Rogers as well), while Keri sings in a voice that calls to mind Linda Ronstadt. In short, if you like 70s country rock, you’ll love this album.

Yet even as a country-rock vibe provides the sonic foundation of this wonderful album, the Kintners, with the help, as the title suggests, of some extremely talented collaborators, are also eager to branch out into other musical styles. The horns and strings on the aforementioned opening track, “Keep Me Around,” for example, call to mind indie-rock darlings Belle and Sebastian, while the soaring, searing bluesy guitar of “Keep Me Around” offers a visceral echo of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. And be sure to give some special attention to the jazzy piano in “Two Weeks” featuring Charu Suri.

As for lyrics, the Kintners deliver vivid, heartfelt stories of real people living real lives. Often lonely but never hopeless, they populate the small, private spaces of our day-to-day lives: the front seat of the car, the hotel bar, the back roads we all travel.

The truly amazing feat of this album is that it conveys a sense of intimacy despite the fact that (I imagine, anyway) its contributors, with the exception of Kelly and Keri, were rarely, if ever, in the same room together. Sure, it’s common for musicians these days to shoot files halfway around the world to each other, but something – the magic of musicians playing off each other in real time, let’s say – usually gets lost in the process. It’s like trying to capture the same bolt of lightning in two separate bottles, but it’s a feat the Kintners manage to pull off with warmth and grace.

Review by Marc Schuster

What I’m Listening To…

Quick post on what I’m listening to at the moment!

We Are Okay (Triumph Version) A great remix of an incredibly uplifting song by Brian Lambert. There’s a vulnerable, confessional quality to the lyrics that gives some real weight to the declaration in the title.

The Big Question A soothing, meditative instrumental track by Timothy Simmons. I feel like we all have a lot of big questions lately.

Opposable Thumbs This quirky track by Megazillion has a nice low-key groove. Lyrically, I’m reminded of Jonathan Coulton. Musically, I’m hearing a bit of a Velvet Underground vibe. Look for my interview with Megazillion later this week!

Call It a Kindness A bit of shameless self-promotion here. I think of this one as a friendly breakup letter from God to humanity.