Over the past three months, Denton resident Kevin McStravick has taken on a rather daunting project -- finding and reviewing every single band that is playing at SXSW this year, which counts almost 2,000 acts, and ranking them on his website.
For the project, which is called Operation Every Band and is in its final stages of completion, McStravick listens to every band of every genre that is playing in the Austin festival and ranks them on a scale of 1 to 10.
He may not have been the first person to come up with the idea -- some sites have even tried interviewing every SXSW act -- but McStravick might be the first to actually finish the task. We caught up with him earlier this week, and he was kind enough to talk to us about his site, and about which bands are and aren't worth the hype at SXSW 2011. See our Q&A with him after the jump.
How long have you been going to SXSW?
It's only been two years prior. I went to my first one in 2009. I moved here from the Northeast, I lived in Boston and then I lived in Philadelphia. I've only been in Texas for about three years, and I've gone to SXSW ever since.
So you jumped into the Texas local music scene really quickly, then.
I'm really lucky that I live in Denton -- it's a real treat. I got really into it, and that extended down to Austin. When I went to Austin for the first time, there was really nothing like it. The first year, I didn't know who I was going to see. And, last year, I made my own spreadsheet -- but nothing like what I'm doing this year.
How have you previously decided what bands to see at SXSW?
The first year I went, there were four or five bands that I wanted to see. There were some nights where we were just wandering around Austin, not knowing the scene and what time to get to places. So it was a little intimidating the first time around. The second time, I knew exactly what I wanted to go to. I had five or six bands picked out for each day -- though I never had a badge, so I pretty much had to stay at the venue the whole time.
Are you writing all of the reviews on your website by yourself?
Yes, it's just me. One thing I'd do differently next year is get a group of people together. It's definitely a lot of work. It's nice, though, to have such a personal project. It's nice that people are getting my tastes in music from it.
Did you start this project with the intention of promoting bands that were not as well known as the headliners?
This is my first foray into the music world, though I've been a fan for a long time. I'm one of those people who recommends bands to my friends. So I'll tell them, "Y'know, this is who you need to check out." That's my main focus. I think I'm like a lot of people where, if there is a band that has been playing for a long time, I'm really just looking for something new.
What kind of a reaction has Operation Every Band received?
It's been really good. People have wrote back to me and said that they don't know how I did it. It's been nice to hear back from bands, too. For someone who's just been a fan, it's been really exciting to be involved.
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When you're rating music, do you find that you judge some genres harsher than others?
Definitely. I blog a lot about what I like and what I don't like. I have a friend who really likes electronic music, and he'll e-mail me and say that I really need to get someone else to review the electronic bands. I just don't get it; I prefer live music. Metal is the same way. As much as I try, it kind of works out the same. Knowing that I'm writing for an audience, though, I really try to get out of that box. This is the first year that I've really gotten into hip-hop. There are some great acts playing.
I saw that you really liked Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.
Yes, this is a great time for hip-hop. It seems like there are some people who are really pushing the genre. I wasn't that into it before, but it's really a neat thing. Taking a formula, and totally turning it on its head -- that's just great. Anything new and different, hybrid music, has been really important to me.
Have you been disappointed by any of the bands that have received a lot of hype?
The only thing I can think of is James Blake. I have been listening over and over again, hoping that it would work for me. He's been on Pitchfork and Brooklyn Vegan. But it's amazing how often people will talk about a band, and I will just not understand it. Not yet. I makes me want to go and check them out, though, and maybe have them prove me wrong.
What bands are you most looking forward to seeing at SXSW?
A couple ones James Vincent McMorrow, he's an artist from Ireland. It's very intricate music. On the hip-hop side, I mentioned Macklemore. Doomtree is one of the most exciting bands I've seen in years. The Deer Tracks, they're from Sweden. Naked and Famous is another one -- they're Passion Pit-esque electronic rock. I'm looking at making my 'Best Of' list right now. It's hard to find who to pick and who not to pick.