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Meet Alec Hodgman of A Fistful of Vinyl in South Bay

Our guest today spends his personal time building a channel for musicians to share their music with an ever-growing audience. He’s recorded over 100 artists and created more than 300 videos. We’d like to introduce you to Alec Hodgman.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Alec. So, let’s start at the beginning, and we can move on from there.
I host and run A Fistful of Vinyl on YouTube and on KXLU 88.9. We’re a DIY outfit of volunteers who create and share live performance videos and interviews with artists both big and small, all with the goal of uplifting meaningful music that doesn’t get the exposure it deserves.

At heart, we’re just friends who share a vocation – and I mean that almost in an etymological sense. A vocation – a calling. We feel called towards this project, and feel vitalized by the effort we pour into it.

How did you get your start?
It started with my friend John and I staying up all night DJing on KXLU, playing weird music on-air from 2-6am, but really grew when we got a more merciful timeslot and started inviting guests to come on air with us.

We had some wonderful early interviews (guests from shows like Community, Arrested Development, and Matthew Lillard from SLC Punk) before we began bringing in musicians. We’d use the mics in the booth to record acoustic artists – mostly from within the folk-punk scene – and broadcast their voices across the county as we filmed on our phones. Already having the footage and audio, we taught ourselves how to edit, and started our YouTube channel.

Over time we became more confident and comfortable in our element as our techniques improved. We got better cameras and bigger guests, and our YouTube channel reached new viewership and subscriber milestones. We got to work with some phenomenal musicians whose work we knew and loved. Pat the Bunny, AJJ, Days N Daze, to name a couple. All the while, I’m running the project as a volunteer and doing my best to find and showcase artists who have immense and unique talents but lack a platform to share those talents.

Today, our team has grown as more people reached out to contribute their talents. We still focus on those small artists who deserve more attention, and we collaborate with larger artists who share that same passion for promoting fledgling musicians on their way up. I’ve gotten to work with some of my musical heroes, sit across from them in an interview, and help share the music I love with the world. We focus on upholding a DIY ethos, a generous spirit towards musicians, and a focus on the beauty in imperfection present in all people.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
We’ve certainly hit our bumps along the way that was more or less a side effect of inexperience, and we learned from all of them. We stopped trying to make something perfect a long time ago. If we can accurately show how something happened – even if a musician did something unintentionally, or I say something embarrassing, or we record someone whose music is still unrefined – then we’re creating something historical from an egalitarian perspective, and capturing unique, sincere moments of artistic honesty along the way.

Our biggest challenges are the ones we charge ourselves with. We want our platform to be more and more effective for the artists coming on, and that means teaching ourselves how to be better allies to them. Sharing new music without any kind of marketing budget is hard as hell, and we rely a lot on the community of musicians and fans to help get it out there further than we can on our own. Our bottom line is to do what’s best for the artist, and while a lot of our videos get a lot of really positive attention, releasing a song that just doesn’t get traction makes we want to do better by the artist next time.

Every person involved in A Fistful of Vinyl volunteers their time, energy, and talent. We joke about A Fistful of Vinyl being “revenue-negative radio.” My closest partner is my cousin Kirk, who lives with me and helps produce the show. Kirk and I both work full time and use our disposable income to elevate the show, and dedicate as much time as we can. Our supporters on Patreon are a huge help too, and truly do help us feel supported.

What sets you apart from others on a similar path? What can you say is uniquely “A Fistful of Vinyl”?
We’re committed to sincerity. We aren’t afraid to show our flaws, and we want our viewers and listeners to appreciate the human side of the artists creating the music they love. I’ve never met an artist who doesn’t prefer to be treated like an equal, and that notion encourages intimate, candid, and deeply genuine conversations in our interviews.

I think many people have a tendency to deify the artists who create music that resonates with them – at times forgetting that the artist is just a person dealing with the same challenges as everyone else. They’re imperfect. They have lives outside of music. They have a favorite ice cream flavor, or a childhood dog they miss, or a guilty pleasure movie. Elevating them to idolatry isn’t a healthy perception for the listener, and isn’t a fair expectation of the artist.

One bit we try to do every interview is have our guest roll a D20 (a 20-sided die, typically used for Dungeons & Dragons) and I have a list of 20 questions that I’m always updating – they don’t have much to do with being a musician, but more are just about being a person that people can relate to. What’s the worst date you’ve ever been on? Favorite fictional band name? Favorite lyrics written by someone else? That kind of thing.

Do you think A Fistful of Vinyl will have a legacy?
Hell, we still create our own t-shirts by hand. We have a stencil, and we either spray paint or bleach our design into the fabric so each one we create is singular. If you send us a shirt and a few bucks for return shipping, we’ll make you one for free (laughs). I’m still waiting to find one at Salvation Army.

I hope that our dedication to uplifting music and musicians as people is our most meaningful contribution. These videos may exist forever; I hope they do. We are as DIY as it gets, and that means if believe these musicians deserve support, we figure out how to do it. Everyone who helps make that happen sets their sights on that goal, and we’re grateful to just make these videos exist.

Any artists you’d love to record, but haven’t gotten to yet?
Always! The Mountain Goats, Open Mic Eagle, Josh Ritter, Camp Cope, Antarctigo Vespucci, PUP, Toh Kay from Streetlight Manifesto. I’d love to reunite The Taxpayers, Two Gallants, The Wild, This Bike is a Pipe Bomb, and Two Gallants, just for a day to record them. If anyone knows them, help a DJ out!

What’s on the horizon? Do you have longer-term goals for A Fistful of Vinyl?
Short term, I always try to have at least a few sessions I’m looking forward to. We’re recording Laura Jane Grace (of Against Me!) and Ignite next month, and this coming weekend we’re hosting a phenomenal artist out of Tucson named Erica Russo.

Longer term? Hell, it’s hard to say. Keep going? Keep the fire alive as long as we can. I’ve said with a laugh to bands who we want to record but can’t due to scheduling conflicts, “Take your time; we’re gonna do this til we die.” Til then, I think we just keep getting better at what we do. Learn more, apply it, keep finding new bands and active audiences. Keep doing right by both of them.

Maybe someday we’ll figure out a way to do A Fistful of Vinyl full-time, in a self-sustaining way. That can be the dream.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I used to watch other session channels like Pink Couch Sessions, and follow in the footsteps of DIY bands like Bomb the Music Industry (we got our stencil/spray t-shirt idea from what they used to do on tour). They taught me to believe that something can’t come from nothing, but anything can come from very little. We had the nucleus of an idea and a slim means of creating it, but through ingenuity, creativity, and dedication, we’ve been able to grow into what we are now.

There have been some phenomenal mentors who’ve believed in us along the way. Erik Petersen from Mischief Brew, Chris Farren, Jeff Rosenstock, the Anti-Flag boys, Frank Turner, Julian Casablancas, Ceschi, Derek Zanetti, Matt Pless (to name a small handful) all felt strongly about our mission and help to propel it forward. Having artists we look up to and respect believe about our project gives us an immense dose of motivation, and hearing stories from individual fans who’ve heard music on our channel that’s changed their lives – they keep us humble and grounded in our mission.

 

Thank you for the interview – I appreciate you helping to share with other people what we do.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Kirk Hodgman

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