Raised in Minneapolis, Max Timander is best known to The Current’s audience as Stereo Confession’s guitarist/vocalist. But there’s something readers might not know: pre-Stereo-Confession, he blogged about music—and quite enthusiastically, at that. Chris Riemenschneider at the Star Tribune covered Timander’s blog in 2009 (headline: “He’s taking rock blogs to the Max”).
“I really want to be a musician,” Timander told Riemenschneider back then. Just a few years later, Timander and the band were releasing music and headlining the 7th St. Entry—where they’re playing tonight, sharing a bill with What Tyrants for a tour kick-off show.
Sitting down at his favorite hangout, Chicago Avenue’s Town Hall Tap, Timander and I drank sodas (his standby is Cherry Coke) and talked about his experience as a music critic and musician.
First, some background on his blog, areyourockin.com: after getting out of sixth grade, Timander started critiquing music as a summer pastime. His dad had been taking him to shows for years, starting with his first concert—Dan Zanes and Friends—at the age of three. At about 12 years old, he became one of the most prolific music consumers in the area, reviewing albums and going to several local concerts—well, the all-ages ones, at least.
He sent an e-mail to Riemenschneider once he’d written for a while, letting the journalist know about Are You Rockin’; the resulting 2009 article sparked worldwide readership for the blog.
“At first I was enthusiastic about literally everything,” he said, “and that’s why I got so many readers.” But when musicians saw that he’d put his address online (in case artists wanted to send any music), they started mailing out scores of CDs, “to the point where I would actually throw music out, which is a weird idea.” Jeremy Messersmith dropped off an early album in person, leaving a note when he found out Timander wasn’t home.
Actually, that youthful enthusiasm of Timander’s turned out to be quite polarizing: “People didn’t like that I liked Coldplay…or Green Day,” he said, sounding dismayed. “But,” he added, “you’ve got to have roots somewhere.”
Speaking of roots, he’s seen music journalism changing a bit, even since he began his blog. “I think popularity has changed…blogs are definitely making a bigger impact now, like Pigeons & Planes.” Maybe Pitchfork isn’t the authoritative voice on music anymore, and “physical copies of magazines are totally dying out.”
Still, the local scene is just as coverage-worthy as it ever has been. Timander would even say that along with his youth, the local element of his blog was the novelty that gained him readers: “If I was reviewing Katy Perry, there would not have been as much of an interest there.”
When I asked him if he’d changed his mind about a band he covered, he had an answer right away. “I totally was wrong. This band I got a tattoo of, Fidlar…” He rolled up his sleeve to show the band’s name in block letters on his forearm. “When I first reviewed them, I gave [the album] a three out of ten. And then I went back two months later and fell in love with it.” He laughed. “And then, I became the number one Fidlar fan in the world.”
Timander and drummer Spencer Tweedy, son of Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, actually bonded over being young critics years ago. Timander he’s “still buddies with Spencer,” and when father-son band Tweedy stopped at the Mainroom last March, Timander was at the show.
Timander wrote Are You Rockin’s most recent post on May 3, 2014; since that date, he’s spent time on other projects, like Stereo Confession. “[There were] other things—I just had my own music to work on,” he explained, “and I didn’t feel like writing anymore.” However, the blog “got me listening to a lot of types of music.” He made some local contacts back then—Koo Koo Kanga Roo, for example—although most artists he runs into now don’t recognize him from his blogging days. “I remember getting a lot of their CDs, and I remember throwing out a lot of their CDs,” he laughed with a shrug.
At 18, Timander is as much of a music fan as ever—he simply squeezes shows and album discoveries in between work and band practice. Last month, he enjoyed Ariel Pink’s set at Pitchfork Music Festival, going to social media to share his review: “Nothing will beat that show this weekend. Not even that entire festival will beat his set and his band.”
Cecilia Johnson is studying English and Spanish at Hamline University. Her favorite things include soccer, KILLSTREAK, and trivia nights.