I have a 14 year-old cousin who’s just discovering teenage angst, black clothes, and rock n’ roll. His main method of musical discovery is thumbing through his parent’s vinyl and then iTunesing the band names with the album covers that look the most badass (The Doors Strange Days, Alice in Chains Facelift, Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti, etc.).
I hung out with him this past weekend (read: asked him questions and received one word responses while he stumbled his way through the first few chords of Unforgiven) to find out if he’s into any indie rock or at least something recorded post-Clinton. The answer? He’s not. The reason? He doesn’t listen to the radio, read Stereogum, nor watch Gossip Girl.
In an era where MTV prefers domestic porn to music videos, and acts aspire to be showcased on Apple commercials in lieu of a defunct TRL, how does one get tuned into new music? I think it’s by watching the teenybopper dramatic stylings of Josh Schwartz and listening to the accompanying soundtracks arranged by Alexandra Patsavas. Just like Serena van der Woodsen’s wardrobe influences females’ fashion senses, Patsavas’ musical selections impact what songs you’ll find on high schoolers’ iPods.
Patsavas has been the musical supervisor for Schwartz’ The O.C., Gossip Girl, and Chuck, but their latest collaboration – TheWB.com original web series Rockville, CA – is their most music-oriented program to date. The show blends narrative and musical numbers by following the flirtatious and business lives of music fans who make the (fictional) Club Rockville a second home and interspersing mini-concerts from (real) bands on the indie scene.
I recently caught up with Alexandra Patsavas to ask her about how and why she selects the bands she does and if shows like Rocvkille, CA could be considered 21st century incarnations of American Bandstand.
Tilzy.TV: What’s the basic premise of Rockville, CA?
Alex: It’s the fictional story of aspiring music business professionals, but told within the confines of an indie rock club. So it’s the story of a family of an indie rock club, and of course in every episode there’s a live band that performs.
Tilzy.TV: So Josh conceived of the show and then you worked on getting the bands together?
Alex: Josh and I have worked together since The O.C., specifically season 1 episode 8 or 9, and we work together now currently on Gossip Girl and Chuck. This gig is a little different because the show actually takes place in a rock venue, so instead of just hearing music with the picture we’re also very concerned about actually booking a venue and the mix of bands that would be performing at an indie rock club like Rockville.
Tilzy.TV: How did you decide which bands were going to be involved?
Alex: Well, we taped the show in the early Winter, late Fall of last year and we were actually part of the routing of a lot of these rock bands. We looked at who was playing in Los Angeles, we certainly looked at some LA bands – as any good local club has a core of local talent and their friends and family – but a lot of the bands actually had gigs in LA at this time and we were part of the routing.
We looked for bands that play clubs like this one all the time and touring bands and touring international bands. So that was the concept. Then we had some smaller groups, some bigger groups, female singers, male singers, all the things that happen in a normal booking pattern.
Tilzy.TV: So you acted like a small venue promoter?
Alex: Ha. I did, which is how I started many years ago. The performances are actually live instead of hoping to be live. The production of the live sound, the load-in, the load-out, the equipment was especially important not just for how the show looks but for how the music sounds.
Tilzy.TV: Did you get nostalgic at all for your booking days while doing the series?
Alex: Oh yes and no. It’s a lot of work with a lot of variables.
Tilzy.TV: How much of the show is a narrative and how much is it a showcase for these new bands and artists?
Alex: Each episode of Rockville, CA is approximately five minutes and a great portion of the show is a narrative and we see a bit of the performance. But alongside each episode the viewer can see each music video in its entirety. So every band came in and actually performed three songs live. So you’ll see a bit of that – maybe 30 seconds or so – during the episode and you can also check it out alongside the episode.
Tilzy.TV: With the waning influence of MTV and the music video as a vehicle for music promotion is Rockville, CA a new kind of new music video or a reincarnation of American Bandstand?
Alex: Woah. How exciting would it be to be a new American Bandstand?!? What a seminal show! I think that fans are hungry to collect live experiences and this is a way to do that without having to go the miles. Hopefully we can be a destination to see live music.
Tilzy.TV: So is that the goal? To have the narrative be a vehicle to get people to watch more live stuff?
Alex: No, I think the goal is the combination. The story and Josh’s storytelling is essential, but it’s set in a rock club. We’re hoping that people can check out new music, but get entrenched into the storytelling at the same time.
Tilzy.TV: I remember on episodes of Sabrina the Teenage Witch bands like the Gin Blossoms would perform and it always looked profoundly lame. How do you get a musical performance set in a web series to not look so lame?
Alex: I think it’s that we taped in a real rock club. The show was shot in its entirety in the Echoplex, which is downstairs at the Echo.
I’ve spent a lot of time in working rock venues and we spent a long time working this venue. We shot during the day and everyday we wrapped we pulled down all of our sets and then the working indie rock club opened back up for business. And I think it shows. This audience can tell the difference between a club that’s hoping to be a club and a club that is a club. These are real bands preforming real songs live. And I think that comes across.
Tilzy.TV: Any predictions for any one of these bands that are going to make it?
Alex: Oh gosh…I think we can expect to see very big things from The White Lies.
Check them out at TheWB.com.