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Thursday, September 30, 2010

A conversation with Other Sound co-organizer Eric Holder

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Listen to The Other Sound 2010 comp.

On Sat., Oct. 2 The Other Sound music festival returns to Little 5 Points for its sixth year of providing a platform for Atlanta's brightest indie up-and-comers. But this year the festival expands its reach to cover a larger part of L5P proper with shows happening at The Star Bar, Java Lords, The 5 Spot and Criminal Records. Check out the lineup.

Eric Holder of ISP (marketing and publicity), Justin Sias (booking) and Kathryn (Kat) Colohan of Containment Theory Records (branding) make up the managerial triad at the heart of it all. As Holder explains, it's a labor of love that keeps him in touch with the local music scene, and literally grounded in the community

Chad Radford: What motivates you to come back and put on The Other Sound Festival again this year?

Eric Holder: Personally speaking, I was one of the original organizers of AthFest and the excitement of putting together a festival that isn't driven by corporate motives really gets in your blood. We have sponsors but they're on board with us because they like what we have already put into motion. This isn't a commercial thing, it's an underground thing and half of the bands that are playing this year might not be around this time next year.

Also, I'm getting older and The Other Sound keeps my senses alert. I'm not out clubbing every night and I don't play in a band, so this keeps me involved and it keeps the conversation going; and it's a fun conversation.

When you say The Other Sound is not driven by "Corporate motives" you're essentially talking about not letting the almighty dollar influence who get's booked, correct?

Yes, and I have been approached by some bigger potential sponsors who have asked "why don't you get some bigger bands to play?" But that's not what this is about.

What is The Other Music fest. about?

We've all been in the music scene for a long time, and part of the fun, at least for me, is trying to pick who the up-and-coming bands are going to be. And another thing that keeps me motivated is that the bands are really benevolent. This is the fifth year that I've been involved and every year bands always say "Yeah, pick a song for the compilation!" And even though I can never say that any of them are guaranteed any amount of money to play, it's never a deterrent. We've had plenty of bands ask and we just couldn't do it, but they played anyway. Actually, in the 5 years that I've been doing it there's been one band —Judi Chicago — that was paid the guarantee that they asked for. It was within our means and we were able to pay them last year.

...Actually, last year was the first time that everyone got paid, and we were even able to pay for all of our merch! And that's another reason why we continue doing this: We're encouraged by our successes, even though it comes in baby steps. Breaking even is a success.

Tell me about the decision to keep The Other Sound in Little 5 Points.

We moved it to L5P and shaved it down to one day, which has really kept us going. In terms of embracing the awkwardness and the character and the intrigue of L5P, we are it. And this year we've doubled our foot print with shows happening at Java lords and The 5 Spot.

I've self-anointed us the L5P festival of the year, but it's a community thing. Criminal is in charge of their own agenda, as are The Star Bar and every other participating merchant. When we posed the idea to the businesses that are involved, they were all like "OK..." They took ownership of the festival with us.

Utilizing the lay of the land in such a SXSW style is something I haven't seen done in such an effective way in Atlanta before.

Yes, and it has better legs under it now that we've consolidated it to the neighborhood.

What's the biggest obstacle The Other Sound faces?

With AthFest everything became very corporate and was spliced into committees, which made it all very bureaucratic. To do a successful festival that embraces art or film or music like that takes a lot of management. We keep it lean and manageable and make decisions together. We have corporate sponsors like Whynatte, but there's no corporate influence which means we can run it how we want to run it, and the bands make it easy because they get it.

A lot of smaller fests in town shoot for diversity and a "we represent all of Atlanta" kind of thing. But the most successful fests keep the music focused on a specific kind sound, like the Atlanta Mess-Around, for example. It has grown exponentially in two years, but it's all pretty much one kind of music: punk, power pop and garage rock. Has that been a factor in your selection of who plays?

We've got returning guests — Three of the bands playing this year received Best band awards in Creative Loafing: Mermaids, A Fight to the Death and the Back Pockets. Take those three bands for example. Even though they all fall under this loosely defined "indie rock" category, they're all playing very different styles of music. So yes, there is a unifying thing going on but it's flexible. We've been observing the music from the field and can see what people want to embrace. But what's also a big part of who we select is that none of these bands are signed to a label. Maybe some of them are on a micro local label, but we're constantly looking back at the first year. Snowden, Deerhutner and the Black Lips were all playing this fest before they made it big. They would have become success stories anyway, but we look at these bands that are playing now and think that they could do just as well if they found the right audience. We're here providing a platform to help find that audience.

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