Meet a Blogger: Stadiums & Shrines

We chat with Dave Sutton and Nathaniel Whitcomb of Stadiums and Shrines



Meet a Blogger highlights our favorite writers from across the web.

And few sites hold a dearer spot in our collective heart than Stadiums & Shrines. Both Dave and Nathaniel were kind enough to spend some time with us, discussing their origins, their recent refocusing, and why blogging is so important to them.

When and how did Stadiums & Shrines begin?

Dave: Guess this actually dates back to Myspace. One winter break I obsessed over my favorite albums of 2005 in a post with little blurbs and thumbnails…funny to look back now but it was the first time I’d put some form of expression out there and it felt good. Around that time I started following sites like I Guess I’m Floating and Gorilla vs. Bear, which lead me to blogspot in 2007. The first two years were pretty scattered, it took a while before I came into any sort of voice or really knew how I wanted to use the space.

You were living in Southern California, and then you moved to Brooklyn in 2010. What all inspired that move, and how has it influenced the site?

D: Victoria was my inspiration to move (we’d been in a long distance thing). She also challenged me to be better and pursue what I really loved, so in that respect S&S has been majorly influenced and shaped by her. And of course by her photography.

Brooklyn’s influence is everywhere on the site. We’re part of a community here, our friends make music, we open our door to people on tour; this is our life, on and off the site. It all just happened to work out this way, I’m very grateful.

And shoutout Diamond Mouth Surprise, some wonderful minds we’ve been curating events with. They’ve really opened up our scope and introduced us to another realm of performance here.

S&S has a signature ability to present music through imagery and language. Has this always been the way you think?

D: In a way, yes. I dig music naturally from a sensory standpoint and what it does with the imagination.  In hindsight, I was unknowingly into that at a pretty young age, like listening to “Planet Telex” while playing Myst, you know.

How has that style and your process evolved?

D: Album art defined S&S early on. My writing tried to create or underline a subtle interplay between the song and its artwork (which around 2009 coincided with an influx of landscapes). Eventually that habit needed more room, as not every cover necessarily reflects tone like that, and I began matching songs with found photos and old scans instead. But over time that search for the perfect image felt restricting, so I started composing my own versions, which is now the process: chilling in Photoshop with the song on repeat (sorry Vic). It has slowed us down, but that’s kind of the point of our site these days: to slow down.

Nathaniel, I don’t think many people realize just how long you’ve been “a part” of S&S. How did that relationship form?

Nathaniel: Back in 2010 I connected with Michael Barron, then the drummer for Holy Spirits. At that time I was experimenting a lot with my art, adding music and motion to collages I’d cut from magazines. We ended up collaborating on a visual EP, followed by a string of live performances, which flew me out from the Midwest. A few days before our show in Brooklyn, a Gchat window popped up. It was Dave offering a place to stay while in town. Basically from then on that Gchat window never closed, and before long we were looking over posts, tweaking each other’s sentences and psd files.

A few months ago S&S relaunched with a new design (by Nathaniel) and approach, introducing the Dreams project. How did you guys arrive at all this?

D: We’d both shared a certain level of fatigue with blogging, and agreed to quietly step away from our sites last summer. The idea of teaming up in some capacity was not a new one for us, but we needed that time to really align on a vision together.

N: I loved where Dave had taken things on his site, whereas I felt Think or Smile had hit a plateau as a general arts blog. I wanted to get closer to music, and push my own craft further. So we dove into S&S, and first I asked that we remove the word blog from the conversation for a minute. To me “music blogworld” had become this supercity that never rested, not a negative thing per say, but I knew that we had to head out to the countryside, even though we were both comfortably rooted in that city.

Regarding design, it was a matter of clearing out what wasn’t needed, broadening the line of sight, minimizing distractions to the point where it’s just the reader and the clouds, so to speak.

Dreams was derived from a collage project I’d been working on for a few years, which I had first envisioned becoming a book, similar to Atlas of Remote Islands. Each collage is built entirely with tourist photos of the real place it depicts, arranged into a version that can no longer be visited physically. I had a number of pieces underway when we started discussing the new site, and I’d planned to pair them with some form of writing since they felt incomplete on their own.

D: When Nathaniel mentioned the book and suggested that we try forming stories around each piece, I loved the idea. Then I sat down with a collage, stared at it, and spent the next hour looking for something to listen to while writing. That night I sent back a draft, and attached “Submersible” by OPN. Clearly I couldn’t part ways with the role of sound in my own fiction. And the more we talked about it, opening up the series to music, and even more so, to musicians themselves, made the project more dynamic and collaborative. Instead of full narratives, we landed on something more abstract and open-ended: scenes, or rather, dreams. And suddenly it made sense to do it through the site.

What has motivated you to do things differently from other blogs?

D: There’s no real motivation to be comparatively different, we just focus on what excites us and hope there’s a few people out there who appreciate it. We still love posting new music, that moment when you find someone’s work and are able help get it heard…we’re just not as interested in participating in the big rush of things.

What’s been the most rewarding aspect of blogging?

D: Just being around music. When I started doing this, I could never have anticipated working directly with artists like this, playing some part in their process, seeing their stories develop. Also watching how blogs have evolved as a platform for art and collaboration, coming together as something perhaps more pure or at least more interesting than their beginnings. Oh and getting to know people like all of you at PORTALS!

N: Agreed, I think its very telling of our times that some of my best friends are people I see once or twice a year, and I’d have never met outside of this. And as an artist, blogs have essentially been a study on contemporary culture; what I’ve learned and been able to incorporate into my own art through blogging is equally as important as anything I’ve studied academically. Curating and creating has given me a perspective I couldn’t have otherwise found, and for me that’s worth the many 3AMs spent on a pixel or a line of code.

Have you ever considered calling it quits?

D: Sure I think anyone who’s ever done this has thought about where it’s all going and how long they can keep at it. For me, I don’t think it’s possible to ever truly “quit” this community or stop following the progress of music through the Internet in some form, whether S&S takes on other shapes or just disappears one day. This site is a creative outlet for us. We run in and out of inspiration, which is unpredictable (if so far pretty consistent). We both have responsibilities to our adult lives, careers, etc. But I look at someone like Yvynyl, an amazing guy who balances a whole lot and has remained in this for all the right reasons, and I know it’s possible.

N: When I was considering a hibernation mode for Think or Smile, Jordan of Mutual Benefit said something very simple and poignant to me: “there are seasons for everything”. Makes sense, nature changes so why shouldn’t human interest? Quitting isn’t really an option, just moving forward, embracing new seasons.

What’s on the horizon for S&S?

D: More clouds. ;)

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