Interview: Marcel’s Music Journal
Marcel Foley is an online music journalist who started his career at the surprising age of thirteen. I was fortunate enough to have the chance to ask him about who he is, why he does what he does, and the future of music journalism.
Check out his site at : http://marcelsmusicjournal.com/
Follow him on Twitter at : @MarcelTheCritic
Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way right off the bat. Can you give us a quick rundown of who you are and what you do for the previously uninitiated?
My name’s Marcel. I run an online music publication called Marcel’s Music Journal. I’ve been operating the site for roughly two years now and I regularly feature album reviews, news articles, special features, editorials, interviews, and daily .mp3 downloads for new songs in our “Listen” tag!
I’m sure many people are currently curious or have been curious at one point or another: what’s your average day like? I believe I’ve read somewhere that you’re home-schooled, how do you structure your daily schedule?
Aside from working on the site, my average day usually involves me eating, sleeping, watching incredibly stupid YouTube videos, and various stuff on TV. Once in a while I’ll watch a movie – I actually used to be a film critic before I reviewed music, but I don’t think I could ever go back to reviewing films at this point. And yeah, I’m home-schooled, so that gives me a LOT of free time as well! Usually, I’ll go to downtown Santa Cruz and go record shopping, or play basketball down at a local court near the record stores that they have there. I usually don’t PLAN a lot of what I do in the day. It’s all up to chance, like a European Free Jazz record or something like that.
How many hours do you spend on music journalism per day? How many times do you listen to an album before reviewing it?
I usually don’t know when I’m going to make my first site posting of the day (as of late that’s typically been an addition to the “Listen” tag that I mentioned earlier), and I usually make two to twelve postings per day. I really don’t set out to review stuff in advance. Whenever I hear something that catches my interest (whether I enjoy it or not) I’ll probably review it. Recently, however, I haven’t heard that many full-length LPs – once again, bad or not – that catch my interest enough to warrant a review.
How many times do you listen to an album before reviewing it?
It really depends. I don’t think I’ve established a specific number of times I have to listen to an album. As Anthony Fantano said in a video of his where he talked about this, there is really no set number.
I think that’s something that all music critics go by, really. If an album clicks, it clicks, and you don’t need more listens to justify that for you. Same goes for an album that DOESN’T click for you.
At what point did you realize that people were taking you seriously and that you were establishing a brand? Was there a crucial review you can point to that garnered notable responses from the general public?
I’m not really sure when that all began to happen. I think I started to get noticed because of some of my early YouTube interviews. My interviews with William Tyler and Ty Segall got some positive reactions right off the bat, and my interview with Deafheaven is by far and away my most popular/viewed interview to date.
That interview got posted on sites like Stereogum and The A.V. Club, and I think that interview’s popularity is what really got people to notice me. Shortly after, I got interviewed by a Parisian radio station called Pop-Corn sur Le Mouv’, got interviewed by a Bay Area website called The Bay Bridged, in addition to a really great publication called The Media, all of which were really sweet and awesome experiences with really sweet and awesome people. A lot of those interviews caught the attention of a lot of people, too.
What is the role or obligation of the modern music journalist? Do you truly pursue this field for your personal investment, or do you think that the role of tastemaker is an important and necessary one?
I think the most important thing is is to never forget that music is your passion and that you live for it. I think it’s best to stay true to what you’re doing, and not to worry about what other people may perceive you as. You’re not forced to write about what’s currently popular, or what’s the trendy norm within “indie” and “underground” music circles; just write about what you believe in. All of the opinions you pin down are yours. I don’t really believe in that whole “tastemaker” nonsense because, when you really step back and look at it, it’s pretty ridiculous.
What is the future of music journalism?
I’m not entirely sure. I had a thought that occurred to me a few days ago that I almost wrote an essay on: with the rise of social media apps such as Twitter and Vine, will people still have the attention span to read lengthy album reviews or editorials? This is a major problem with technology nowadays, as its ruining the health of so many people. When people are on their mobile device, they come across more like zombies than actual human beings. This is partly why I don’t own a cell phone and I don’t plan on doing so anytime soon.
How did you get people to care about what you have to say? What medium or web platform has contributed to the most followers?
It just sort of began to catch on with people due to the string of things that happened with the Deafheaven interview. I currently have around 1,500 followers on the main website, and that’s the biggest number out of all of my social media accounts. Following closely behind is the Twitter page, and I think that that helped spread the word about each new post I made on the site, in addition to helping me connect with musicians and fellow journalists.
I’m going to ask you something difficult: do you think people interact with your content because they view your age as a gimmick? Having visited your site somewhat regularly, I’ve noticed that you’ve taken down the header advertising your age. Did you initially use the surprising fact that you’re a teenager to draw people in?
I took it down because I thought not mentioning my age would come across as more professional. I had no intention to use it as a gimmick in the beginning. I think I’ve sort of moved away from being a “13-year-old music journalist” to something more independent that doesn’t display my age like that.
Your presence is fairly prevalent on many online music communities; which one has proven the hardest to break into? Where have you faced the most opposition or hate? Would you like to say anything to your haters?
I don’t know. I try not to read that stuff, y’know? It gives you a headache.
To anyone that keeps up with you, its clear that you’ve been focusing more and more attention on becoming a musician in your own right. How has music journalism affected who you are as a musician? Do you eventually want to transition solely into creating music as opposed to critiquing it? Do you think audiences are biased towards your music one way or another thanks to your career as a journalist?
I’ve just been making my own music as a side project, really. I don’t put too much thought into it, as it’s just something that keeps me busy. I love messing around with synths and various software I have and stuff like that, so I guess that’s mainly where it comes from. And yeah, I feel like in some way or another people’s views on my writing seems to affect how they view my music. Which is totally fine.
And finally, what’s next for Marcel? Do you plan on going to college?
I have been home-schooled all of my life, but I’ve always wanted to to attend some college courses, so hopefully that!
Have you ever considered writing for another site?
I’ve considered writing for other sites in the past, but I feel that I operate best when I’m not working on a schedule. But who knows, maybe someday I’ll write a guest article for another publication!
How about turning Marcel’s Music Journal into a viable media enterprise?
I’ve been considering turning MMJ into an actual print magazine with some features and interviews that you wouldn’t be able to view online, but I think that I would have to pull together some money for that first.
Ah fuck it, I was going to avoid asking anything regarding personal tastes, but let’s do a little something for the fans. What’s the release that everyone should be listening to right now?
There’s this really cool techno/house produced named ∆LE that I interviewed recently who has some incredible singles on his SoundCloud and deserves way more attention. You should check out his page. My personal favorites are “Redefine Beauty” and “Grooby Boob”.
Also, if anyone hasn’t heard it already, you should listen to The Caretaker’s AN EMPTY BLISS BEYOND THIS WORLD. It’s my favorite album of all time. It’s simply life-affirming, and one of the most emotional albums I’ve ever listened to.
A huge thank you to Marcel for participating in this interview!