A Love Letter to the Lanes: Introducing Mixtape Nation

by Brian Erickson • November 2, 2016 • Arts & Entertainment, MusicComments (0)1605

Featuring live performances by Lowlight, Dentist, The Vaughns, and more!

Last year, Scott Silvester, a local musician, videographer, and general man-about-town as far as New Jersey’s music and arts scene goes, sat with an idea in his head: a local music-based performance-and-interview formatted program called Mixtape Nation. It would put bands first, serving to provide a platform for them to promote themselves as well as a way to perhaps stir up greater awareness of just how special the New Jersey-area music scene really is.

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Asbury Lanes was his first choice to play host to this program, but since its closure, he thought time had run out. Then he got a lucky break. The building would sit vacant for one week prior to the start of construction; just enough time to go in and shoot. Working quickly, Silvester and his six-person crew wrangled together some of the region’s most prolific, beloved talent. For one final week, Asbury Lanes was back and Mixtape Nation would be there to document it.

Silvester was gracious enough to sit with us and answer a few questions about how Mixtape Nation came to life, what we can expect to see from its first season (which is currently underway) as well as the future.

When did you start to gravitate toward music?

I’ve been into music for my entire life. I think the biggest shock for me was when I realized how many people didn’t connect so strongly with music for their entire lives. It wasn’t till college when I discovered this mindset. I thought even the “top 40 crowd” was super into those groups or artists. It turns out music just doesn’t speak to some people the way it speaks to others. It sounds crazy now, but I actually had a hard time really grasping that concept.

How long have you been involved in videography and what gave you the idea to marry the two?

I got into video production in high school. I did a similar live-music show in college as my independent study in lieu of an internship. It was so much fun and I learned so much I didn’t want it to end. Years later, after finishing grad school, I was interested in doing something in television on my own. I had worked in television before, loved it, but didn’t want to go back to being a cog in someone else’s machine. I really wanted to challenge myself. I was sitting with Frank Lettieri (now our director) discussing different ideas. He insisted I follow my heart and give this type of show a shot. Without that conversation this show wouldn’t exist.

Describe the format of the program for those who haven’t seen it yet.

It’s live performances, interviews, and the occasional music video; all bands from the tri-state area. I feel that the bands we get are enough to carry the show. I didn’t want to get wacky with anything. I don’t “play host”. I don’t try to be funny. We want to make it about the bands and what is going on in our scene. There are no gimmicks or tricks.

There is so much going on with the internet and television, it feels like I’m being screamed at all the time. Everyone is trying to be bigger, flashier, more extreme, etc. This is the antithesis of that. We’re like the NPR of the indie rock world. I feel like all the flash we’re used to seeing in mainstream media can get in the way of good ideas. Or maybe there is a lack of good ideas and they need that flash to get viewers or clicks or whatever.

Regardless, this show is minimal and streamlined on purpose. It’s about the ideas of people who make music without any incentive other than to make music for music’s sake.

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Why did you feel you needed to bring a program like Mixtape Nation to life? Did you feel there was something missing?

I really liked the idea of carving out a central location where we could all live. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the infinite options of the internet. With our show we separate the entire world from these bands from our area doing something cool.

It sometimes can feel like we’re creating a nice little scene, but the scene already exists. A lot of these bands know each other. We just feel like they deserve to stand out a little.

I also did the show just to see if I could do it. I wanted to fight the good fight. I was tired of seeing so much negative garbage on television. I’d much rather see something like this on TV than politicians arguing or multi-millionaires acting like moody teenagers.

When did you first see the realistic opportunity to create a show based around these local bands?

Creating a television show isn’t the best idea. It’s a lot of work. If I put this much work into something profitable I’d be able to buy a Lamborghini for everyone on my block. Television is tough, but I didn’t want “realistic” to be part of my thought process when creating the show. Being “realistic” can hold people back from cool things.

As far as the content, we created the show first then chose the bands. It wasn’t the other way around. We were totally confident that there were enough great bands in the area to create quality content for the show. People have always said how lucky we are to have such a talented and supportive local scene. Content was never a concern.

Why did you choose Asbury Park as your primary source for scouting many of the bands featured on the program?

We didn’t set out to choose bands from Asbury Park. However, we did want most bands to be from New Jersey for the first season. I think we ended up with a few bands from Asbury Park, but we had a nice mix of locations for the first season.

As for the venue, we set the bar high. My dream venue was to shoot at Asbury Lanes. I was so nervous to ask, but it turns out Jenn (then owner) is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I asked and she was like “That sounds cool! Go for it!” I was blown away. I think that speaks to how supportive our scene can be.

Talk a little bit about basically shutting down Asbury Lanes. I mean, you essentially hosted that venue’s final round of shows. How did it feel to be getting a private concert every night for a week at such an iconic, beloved venue?

It’s still sad. People are still upset, and it’s been almost a year since they closed! My first date with my girlfriend was at The Lanes. My friends and I have seen a million great bands there. However, it was more than a venue. There was this cool artwork everywhere, the staff was great, and you could tell that it was a venue run by “us”. Very relaxed, nothing corporate about it. Very organic and untainted.

On a selfish level, it was fantastic getting access to the building the week it was to close. Some of the bands would come in and share memories about the venue, or they’d tell me how they always wanted to play there and were happy to get the chance before they closed for good. Personally it felt like I gave The Lanes that little bit of extra life. We can see those bands playing on that stage, shot professionally, and it’s a nice little piece of documentation. Of course, it doesn’t capture even 10% of what The Lanes had to offer, but it felt nice getting it on video and knowing the venue played a part in the future after they closed.

What’s the response to Mixtape Nation been like so far?

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. I expected some of that, with some jabs at the host (me) thrown in, but I haven’t heard anything but positive reviews so far which is nice. It takes a lot of work. Sometimes we have to sacrifice creative ideas due to financial, timing, or staffing restrictions, but people realize that and have been very cool.

The biggest shock has been the support from the younger audience. I’ve had a lot of people in college or younger telling me they love the show. They tell me they missed the MTV era and they’re stoked to have a show like this. That had never occurred to me. I assumed young people just watched bands online, but it turns out they dig the TV show. That’s been one of the nicest surprises of this whole thing.

What was the most difficult thing about putting a program like this together?

I could create you a list, but nobody wants to read that much. There were challenges on every level. Let’s leave it at that.

I will tell you that the show would not be possible without the very generous help and encouragement from some wonderful people. I could gush but I’ll save your readers from the eye strain.

Quite a few of the bands you had on the show have gone on to get record deals, release albums, and just generally grow in stature since the taping. How does that make you feel?

I don’t think any of that is from us. Every band we’ve had on the show works extremely hard. I’m in a band too, so I know how much work goes into that as well. They all deserve everything they get.

What’s next for Mixtape Nation?

The station (WMCN) asked us for another season. They really dig the show and we’ve been doing well in the ratings. I just don’t know how soon we can get it ready for them. Once we solidify advertisers for season two I’ll be able to give more specifics. Like us at facebook.com/MixtapeNationTV to stay in the loop!

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