It's another first! We told you, we're not only gonna interview photographers and musicians, so here is our first music blog feature! We talked to editor / co-founder Renette van der Merwe from The Alt Club about starting a blog in the middle of a pandemic and proving that her love for punk, emo, post-hardcore and beyond wasn't just a phase. Musicians can get some insights on how to get in touch with blogs and photographers should keep an eye out on their Spotlight series "Behind The Lens".
Hey Renette, can you give our readers a brief introduction about yourself and The Alt Club? What's your position?
Hey, my name is Renette and I’m the Editor at The Alt Club. I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa before moving to the UK in 2012. I was on MySpace and MSN messenger (have I given away my age?) played the guitar, keyboard and drums at various points before realising my talents are better put to use writing about music instead of trying to play it. Some of my favourite bands include Silverstein, Funeral For A Friend, My Chemical Romance, Microwave, Movements, Drug Church and more.
When did you start the blog and why?
Matt, who is my partner, and I have always spoken about starting our own music website. It stemmed from our shared interests in music - we pretty much like all the same bands - and would pop up in conversation from time to time. Mostly after I’d have a rant about not being able to get work at music publications - you know the sort of “if they’re not hiring you, just do your own thing” mentality. Anyway, we wanted to keep honoring the bands we loved growing up and when the pandemic hit, we finally had the time we couldn’t ever find. We threw ourselves at it and started The Alt Club as an homage to emo and post-hardcore.
How big is the team and where are you and your team based?
We’re still teeny tiny. For a while it was just the two of us running things alongside all of our other responsibilities. After several months, I was blessed enough to have a friend of mine take over on socials and we recently recruited another writer to take on the growing pile of reviews. We’re all based in the UK, but spread out across the place. Matt and I recently moved up North whilst Robyn remains in London and Simone Barton - our newest addition - operates from Birmingham.
Who did the design for the website and the social media posts?
Matt White is the brains behind our aesthetic. We went into the design with a pretty solid idea of what we wanted, but what he created was even better than I imagined it would be. It’s got this really cool magazine editorial look to it that, I think, sets us apart a little. Clean, fresh and really pleasing to look at.
Socials are headed up by Robyn Adams who is really witty and a lot better at creating engaging captions than I have ever been. She is smart, always happy to help and we’re lucky to have her on team Alt Club.
Do you have photographers / videographers on your team? Are you currently looking for photographers/videographers or are open to applications? If yes, what are the requirements and what’s the best way to get in touch with you?
We don’t actually. Because we started up during the pandemic, we’ve never really had to think about live reviews or gig galleries. We’re honestly not sure of our position yet, so we may or may not cover live in the future, but I find it never hurts to have people register their interest anyway. We are based in the UK, so we’ll predominantly cover events here if we do go ahead with a live section - if you’re a UK photographer with an interest in heavier music, feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with a portfolio, but please bear in mind it’s all voluntary at the moment.
Which topics and genres do you cover?
We keep the scope fairly tight in terms of genres, so we currently cover emo, post-hardcore, pop punk, punk rock and metalcore. Our content includes interviews with bands surrounding albums, liscticles like ‘Albums of the Year’ or ‘Bands to Watch’, album and EP reviews and news. We also do ‘Spotlight’ features which takes a closer look at the music industry professionals working behind the scenes to really make the industry thrive, as well as our ‘Introducing’ features. They’re the thing we’re most proud of, just because it gives us an opportunity to constantly find incredible bands who aren’t as well known yet and introduce them to our readership.
Can you tell us more about the series “Behind The Lens”? Why did you start it and can photographers / videographers still participate?
Sure. ‘Behind The Lens’ is part of the ‘Spotlight’ section I mentioned above. As someone who had to navigate the music industry without any guidance, it started out as an idea to give young readers some tips if they wanted to be a photographer, videographer, producer, merch designer or whatever else. Most of the questions are meant to serve up some insider knowledge to give kids a starting point. That wasn’t our only motivation though; we know how hard people work with hardly any credit and we wanted to shout them out a little. We see each and every person who’s constantly grinding to keep the music industry thriving creatively.
If you picture your ideal reader, what type of person would that be?
Someone who didn’t grow out of their “phase” and won’t let TikTok dictate whether or not they can wear skinny jeans. Okay, so skinny jeans aren't really a prerequisite - in fact, we recognise that it isn’t about what you look like at all, but the intense connection you have with the music. We love building this community of like-minded people who view bands like Silverstein or Hawthorne Heights as pioneers instead of token emo bands who “had that one song”. We appreciate discussions surrounding music and want to create a space where all opinions are welcome.
What was the best/funniest/worst pitch you ever received?
We often get spam for redesigning our site, that counts right? I can’t think of anything that screams best or worst, but we did have a super rude and pushy publicist once and that wasn’t a fun time for anyone.
Do you have a tip for independent musicians who want to get press coverage?
It’s a really hard grind and understanding that for every nine NOs, you might get one YES is important. Keep your expectations realistic, expect to encounter a lot of dicks (yeah, I said it) and just keep at it. I can’t promise fame and fortune, but hard work always pays off eventually. Make sure you’re organised and nice when you reach out to publicists and sites and really pay attention to the music they feature to make sure your genre aligns with what they’re already posting about. If they do feature you in any way, share it on socials. They put in time and effort to write about you, make sure they know it’s appreciated. Celebrate the little victories along the way!
Can you share 5 of your recent music discoveries?
There’s been a few, but some of our favourites over few months has to include:
Rusted Hearts - Be still my little emo heart. These guys are actually killing it with what they’ve been putting out. I’ve always been a fan of concept albums and although not technically one, they have put out a trilogy of EPs that are all connected by one storyline, which I think is really cool.
Foreign Bodies - I’m absolutely head over heels for this band. The singer was in a band called Far Away Stables prior to Foreign Bodies. They’ve got this incredibly atmospheric vibe to them, like the emotion is almost palpable in every song and his voice is reminiscent of Anthony Green (Saosin, Circa Survive) which is beautiful. They’re just super nice guys too.
GILT - The way this band thinks and creates is mesmerising. They’re post-hardcore masterminds who’re messy (but actually super technical) and loud, but in the best way and their concepts are always super interesting. They’re also queer and POC.
Havelocke - They’re based out in Sheffield, so a fairly local band and although not new, I’ve been sleeping on them. Having only recently discovered them, I’m obsessed. They’re theatrical and like a road trip through mid-naughties post hardcore and punk rock. Reminds us of My Chem, Funeral For A Friend and the like.
Action/Adventure - Again, not a new band, but one that’s only recently popped up on my radar. Not only do I love their pop punk tunes (I find myself humming ‘Tuck Everlasting ALL THE TIME) but I admire what they’re doing with their Pop Punk in Colour initiative - shedding a light on the fact that alt music isn’t exactly super inclusive and being POC themselves, they really poke fun at that to bring about awareness.
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