Juggling Design, Programming, Bands, and Life. Dave Garwacke tells all.

Dave Garwacke interview

Dave is a guy that has always impressed me. He manages to run a site that produces all its own video and audio content, play in 5 different bands, do freelance design/coding, and have a social life. This interview probes deep into his brain and covers everything from being an entrepreneur, a designer, and a musician. Something a lot of our readers, including myself, struggling with keeping them balanced. — Jeff Finley

GoMediaZine: Tell us about who you are and a little info about IYMI site. Do you do it from your apartment? Who else is part of IYMI?

Dave: Hey, I’m Dave Garwacke and I run this little website out of my apartment in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, NY. IYMI is a support mechanism for the bands I love. I figured if I archived enough footage and created enough content, people would start to notice some of these bands on a more global level.

I get a lot of help from friends, especially these 4.

Eric Ayotte and Dominic Armao contributed heavily to the Series section, and have stepped up to record a handful of shows on the site. Jeff Ledellaytner has helped me out so much with technical advice and creating bumpers for each section. My roommate and great friend Katie Pallatto has also been a godsend in helping me with Pink Couch recordings and filming the bands that I’ve been in.

If You Make It

GoMediaZine: Why did you start IYMI? Were there any other sites out there like it? I remember punkrockvids.com was out there for one… Did you know about it? If so, what was your opinion of those other sites?

Dave: I started the site about 3 years ago when I saw a complete lack of documentation of the scene around me. I lived in a house in New Paltz, NY where we had tons of bands come through, but we never really thought to catalogue what we had done. When I came to New York, I decided to make sure that people saw how amazing some of these bands are.

As far as shows go, I never really checked out sites like punkrockvids. What really drove the site was France’s La Blogotheque and their Takeaway shows. I loved the idea of showing the bands in a different way that wasn’t a music video, but was still visually interesting. It got rid of the visually interesting part and focused on the awkward times in between. If you haven’t checked them out, you should. They are doing some awesome things over there, and their high contrast look is being copied all over the web.

GoMediaZine: How was IYMI designed and developed? Who designed it? Who coded it? Is it based off WordPress? Custom developed?

Dave: The website started off as a WordPress theme designed by IAMWW. After a while I decided that WordPress was way too limiting, and that I couldn’t write, so I moved over to custom backend that I coded.

IYMI is on it’s 3rd 4th iteration right now, and I think it’s the most stable it’s ever been. The backend runs off of PHP and a large MySQL database hosted by a MediaTemple DV, which helps with a lot of the load. I have a lot of fun adding modules to the site, and utilizing jQuery to spiff the site up. Recently I added in a Vanilla forum and WordPress Blog, which shares a unified login throughout the site.

Currently I’ve decided to jump back on the all WordPress bandwagon, and started developing the site locally. It’s going to take some time to merge all the tables, but in the end it’ll be a lot leaner, and meaner.

GoMediaZine: Tell us about Twin Cuts, the design collective you share with Pat Schramm, one of my favorite drummers.

Dave: I approached Pat and Jeff [Rosenstock] about pooling together our work into a single portfolio. I figured it be a good way to present ourselves, and all share our collective contacts. Unfortunately, no one could really project manage, or deal with money. Currently we are all working on projects alone, and sort them out as they come through the contact system.

Twin Cuts

GoMediaZine: What kind of bands/artists have you featured that people would know about? What about some of your favorite “unknown” features?

Dave: Some of the bigger bands that have been on If You Make It have been The Bouncing Souls, Maps and Atlases, Kevin Devine, Good Old War, Bridge and Tunnel, Defiance,Ohio, Andrew Jackson Jihad and Bomb the Music Industry.

There are couple of awesome videos/bands that people need to check out including Ultra Dolphins, where the guitarist plays a second drumset while fingertapping out his parts. The Brainworms video is also amazing from ABC No Rio. All the Kickball videos are also great and they were also some of my first. Francois Virot of Clara Clara did an amazing Pink Couch for a song called Dummies, which everyone should watch. His playing/singing style is definitely different and really interesting.

GoMediaZine: What made you start the intimate musical sessions known as the Pink Couch?

Dave: After filming a couple of shows, I realized that the majority of the audio sounded like trash. I needed to have some way of controlling the sound, so I took one look at my big ugly couch, invited some friends over and started filming. I figured the couch could be iconic, and saw an opportunity to provide something different. I pulled a lot of inspiration from what La Blogotheque was doing.

Pink Couch Sessions

GoMediaZine: Tell us about the short film series… That’s the part I know least about and truthfully don’t have as much of an interest in. Why should I be interested?

Dave: The short film or series section is mainly filled out by work from my friends, Eric, Dom and Jeff, who are all extremely creative and funny. A lot of the videos are from a DVD they put out last year, where they had to make 31 movies in the 31 days of October. They competed with a team from Gainesville, FL, headed up by Chris Clavin of Plan-It-X Records.

Between Resistance & Community: The Long Island DIY Punk Community from Joe Biel on Vimeo.

A lot of the time, the Series section gets shelved and neglected. Fortunately I’m trying to remedy that by starting to contact people who want to fill in the cracks. I’m hoping to fill that section with programs that are updated often. It’d be great to have some interviews, music lessons, and a cooking program. Right now I’m working with some friends on a write-in cooking show that could be produced and edited quickly and feature music from the site and the local scene.

GoMediaZine: What’s the Gadabout Film Festival? How does it relate to what you do and why should we care about it?

Dave: Eric Ayotte started the Gadabout Film Fest about 7 years ago as a way to bring great short films to some places that would never see them. With the advent of YouTube, there is so much junk shoved down people’s throats that they sometimes miss the gold. I can’t imagine eating gold to be that great, but Eric does an amazing job at making it palatable. He travels around the country with videos from all over the world and created a community amongst some amazing filmmakers.

Gadabout Film Fest

Eric is a great friend, and has always been a supporter of what I’ve been doing with the site. Right now he is working on a monthly short film movie challenge called “Instant Gratification”. You can find out more at gadaboutfilmfest.com

GoMediaZine: You also play drums in multiple bands and always going to shows. Tell us how you balance your time with work (where do you earn your money btw?), bands, IYMI, and still have time to have a social life both online and off?

Dave: My one dream in life is to sustain myself through my work on this site. Unfortunately that idea is looking less and less likely. It’s a lot of hard work to maintain and update the site on daily basis. To offset the cost of the site, I do freelance work for a small boutique firm called 3 Rings Media, which is based in Manhattan. I usually have a lot of work coming through, but never projects that take up too much of my time.

Dave Garwacke on drums
Photo by Twinkleaira

Another way I balance the time is through merging all of my work together. I work on record label sites (like Plan-it-x.org), and record covers, go to and play local shows where I film for the site. IYMI is basically a calendar of my life at any given point, you can see the places where I’ve been, and pick apart the gaps when I’m too busy to bother with it.

With the free time that I have left, I spend it on playing in a bunch of side projects. I don’t really have the time to be in anything full time, so it’s nice to be in something that’s low pressure and sporadic in nature. Unfortunately I have to play in 5 bands to approximate the output of one normal group.

Currently I play drums for Kudrow, Thousandaires, Halo Fauna, State Lottery, and The Golden Age of Radio. I also used to play with Air Raid Barcelona and He’s A Cop?! during my years in New Paltz.

Halo Fauna – Blame a Bird for your Shortcomings from If You Make It on Vimeo.

GoMediaZine: If you could get anyone to play on IYMI for a pink couch, who would it be?

Dave: I have always wanted to have John K. Samson of the Weakerthans over. I recently contacted their guitarist Stephen Carroll, about coming over during their recent jaunt through New York. Unfortunately it did not work out, although I was just as happy to see them play in Brooklyn.

My list of must-haves include Mike Kinsella of Owen, Ted Leo, Hutch Harris of the Thermals, and Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. When I first start IYMI, I had a link to email and tweet Ted Leo, but I took it down soon after realizing how annoying it could be. Some day Ted… some day.

GoMediaZine: I consider you a pioneer of documentary, especially in the punk scene. It reminds me of the Decline of Western Civilization films by Penelope Spheeris where she documented a certain aspect of the underground punk scene as it was at that point in time. It wasn’t trying to say anything, just documenting the scene. Have you seen the Decline films? Do you have any inspirations for continuing to document the punk scene? What are your ultimate plans for this type of venture?

Dave: I have seen those films, and it’s a real complement to be compared to them. Outside of the bands I choose to shoot, I’m not trying to interject my feelings into the things I capture. Hopefully in the future, someone will look back and be able too look back on the site with fond memories.

My ultimate plan for this is to have the Pink Couch Sessions be more regular, and put them out twice a week, all year long. Financially it’s nowhere near that point, but I can still try.

GoMediaZine: Do you plan to make a feature length documentary on the scene? With more than just live shows – like talking heads, interviews, the what and they whys? I’ve been waiting for the Plan-it-X documentary to come out, but I can see you actually doing something of your own and releasing it.

Dave: As much as I would love to do something like that, I don’t think I have the time or patience for something of that magnitude. As far as the scene goes, the goal of IYMI isn’t to localize a group of music, but to generate interest for bands that I believe in or whose music I love.

As far as filming goes, I am talentless. Work on IYMI is just scratching the surface of what you can do with video and audio. I’d love to work on larger scale project, but it’d be in more of a producer/director capacity. I have a bunch of friends who are great at this kind of stuff, it’s just coming up with an idea to base it around.

GoMediaZine: Where do you live and how would you describe the music scene you’re involved in locally? From my perspective, it seems like a great scene – lots of musicians and friends playing in each other’s bands. Tell me about your local music scene.

Dave: For the duration of IYMI, I’ve been sequestered in the small hamlet of Clinton Hill in Brooklyn, NY. The scene here is pretty crazy and all over the place, I mean it’s New York. We have a group of friends from all over the state that tend to recycle themselves into new bands all the time, but slowly we’re pulling in new people from outside our friend circle.

There are tons of awesome bands in New York, and there are shows every single night here, especially if you have broad musical tastes. I would name some of them, but it seems almost pointless, because I have 100% chance of forgetting someone.

Download Full albums at ifyoumakeit.com

Currently we have a handful of great spaces to play in the Brooklyn area, which we are eternally grateful for. Some of the places that regularly host shows include the Silent Barn, Death By Audio, The Glass Door, Tompkins, Lulus, Tommy’s Tavern, 538 Johnson, The Fort, The Boneyard and many more.

GoMediaZine: A drumming question – how long have you been drumming? Where do you get your inspiration? How do you learn new techniques? Any advice for an up and coming drummer in the scene?

Dave: I started drumming 15 years ago, when I started playing snare in concert band. I never really took it too seriously, even though I went on to play in the high school marching band. Once I moved to New Paltz, I started practicing more, and bringing together everything I learned. I get a lot of inspiration from friends and my brother. If I had a 1/10th of the skill my brother has at the guitar, I’d be happy.

Kudrow – Favreau from If You Make It on Vimeo.

Drums are all about tempo, you can play the craziest parts, but if you speed up and down to much it’ll never matter. The most important thing to do is play to a metronome and work on your sense of rhythm. I need to follow my own advice.

GoMediaZine: Songwriting questions – In all of your bands, how have YOU been involved in the actual songwriting process. Do you normally come to practice with material or do your band mates? How do you then integrate your drumming into the music. Do you typically write music or lyrics first? Talk to me a little about your songwriting techniques.

Dave: My main contribution to the song writing is mostly in the form of tweaking parts. I never really have anything, but I tend to have a lot of ideas on how to transition between parts, and work out rough spots. My main objective is to try and force myself to play something different on each song, although with 5 bands, it’s getting sort of hard. Prog-metal time?

GoMediaZine: By playing in bands, touring, and doing IYMI, you’ve met a lot of people, some good, some bad. In general what’s your outlook in the scene itself? Are you jaded? What disappoints you? What gives you hope?

Dave: I’ve been around the US a couple times with Halo Fauna a couple of times, and it’s always been a mix of good and bad. In the end though, I just love spending time with my friends and meeting new people. Generally I’m pretty happy with the way things are going, as social networking increases, it seems like the distance between bands, people and their respective scenes decreases.

It’s exciting to keep contact with the people you meet on tour, and I think it makes everything more personal. Working on IYMI has helped me interact with a whole new set of people all over the world who I would never meet, or interact with.

GoMediaZine: If you could change 1 thing about the punk scene, what would it be and why?

Dave: I wish we could all get along. Friends?

For more information on Dave, the bands he plays in, or his site ifyoumakeit.com, send him an email or follow @ifyoumakeit on Twitter.