Handshake Drugs #9: Industry Magic and a Young Sari

Remember your first concert? Your first music festival? Your first crush on a dude in a band? Your first band member signature on your shoe? Remember that magic that pulled you in to music? Each moment so perfectly unfolded in front of you. You didn’t know where you were going, but you were going…

Every person in this industry has their own special moments where they can think back and say, that’s when I knew this is what I wanted to do. Everyone felt that magic and wanted to bathe in it constantly.

For me it started with a show in my hometown of Barrie, Ontario at the college bar The Last Class. My friend Andrea taught me Dickie’s and black Billabong hoodies, were appropriate attire and we bought our 10 dollar ticket on our lunch break during high school. The doors opened at 7pm and the bands were all locals, most of which I can’t remember their names. I knew about 2 people at the show, high school girlfriends. Little did I know the members of the horrible bands on stage that night would in time become closer than family. That night I was hooked. My friends sneaked out to get high and I talked about Thrice with the really cute singer in the first band. That was it for me.

Growing up in Barrie, there was an active local scene but nothing like the hovering sparkle of the big city. Everyone knew you had to go to Toronto to see the big bands. You had to convince your parents to drive you or an older sibling, save up for the 40 dollar tickets, and make a whole day of it. I soon learned this routine with my first parent-less Toronto trip to see Anti-Flag and Bad Religion at the Kool Haus. Alongside 7 of my high school friends, our parents dropped us off hours early and we spent the day milling around the lake front being loud and intrusive at Sobey’s and pretending we were booking a luncheon for a church group with the staff at John’s Seafood Cruise. This all was hilarious to us at the time.

Barrie was lucky enough to have Warped Tour grace our usually boring city. This was the biggest day of the year for us, we finally got to feel like the cool hometown kids while people from Toronto and all over Ontario shuttled in to our city for the day. Even more exciting was having all the Alternative Press-approved bands on our home turf. I could have sworn Andrea and I saw a member of HelloGoodbye at the local Wal-Mart and my Subway co-workers bragged about having drinks at Tiff’s with Moneen and Protest the Hero. I wasn’t old enough to drink and the whole city knew this. Luckily at the time there were enough all ages shows to keep me busy.

Slowly my concert schedule was swelling with touring bands. I wanted to be in Toronto almost weekly to see shows. This was not to the liking of my parents who responded by making a rule that I was only permitted to go to the big city for 1 concert a month. Man oh man, this was not good for me. BUT! It added to the experience. Trips to Toronto were soon disguised as “sleepovers” at Andrea’s. One night when telling my parents how “unfair” they were the words came out of my mouth before I even knew what they were. All of a sudden I was telling them, “I need to go to Toronto because I’m going to be a music journalist. It’s for my future!!!” Probably the by-product of recently watching Almost Famous and becoming obsessed with Alt Press, 14 year old Sari was determined she had to attend these concerts for her well being. And she was probably right. High school was incredibly boring and the city of Barrie was feeling more and more like a prison each day. My parents replied half realistically, “If you get a writing job and are working at these shows then you can go down to the city as much as you want.” Game on. They probably didn’t expect me to rise to the challenge, plus who would hire a 14 year old writer?

Sure enough 1 week later I had lined up my first writing gig for an online magazine – BedlamSociety.com (which later evolved in to Bedlam Music Management and Dine Alone Records). I was thrilled to show my parents. To my surprise, the editor George Brown was willing to give me a shot. Looking back, my writing was really not good – angst filled diatribes at best. They wanted them though, and boy oh boy did I want to give them! My first phone interview was with a young reggae pop band called Bedouin Soundclash. My voice was quivering on the phone and I was so worried my speakerphone contraption with my mini tape recorder taped to the side of the phone wasn’t going to pick up the interview properly. It did, and I transcribed that interview like it was the New Testament!

My first in-person interview was with an emo pop band I was just a bit obsessed with, Motion City Soundtrack. I had to take off the afternoon of school for this one, much to my parents’ disapproval. I convinced them with an elaborate power point slide show about all the chores I would do in exchange for this one blessing! My parents were working and couldn’t drive me down so my step dad arranged for his parcel driver at his work (a grandfather-ly man Bud) to escort me down, giving him very specific directions that he must come right in to the interview with me. Bud did just that and we met MCS at their hotel on the east end of Toronto. Nerves and embarrassment aside, I asked my 20 questions I had typed out in advance, captured the interview on my mini tape recorder appropriately and got out as soon as I could in fear I would puke on myself. All my girlfriends at school were impressed with my new “job”. As I started going down to Toronto more and more I would always get to bring a friend along and show them just how on the inside I “really” was. Every band that came through The Foundation in Barrie were sure to be interviewed by young Sari. It was then I met future friends The Most Serene Republic, Protest the Hero, Five Blank Pages, The Meligrove Band, Fox Jaws, Brett Caswell, The Junction, Rosesdead, Moneen, Boys Night Out, and many others. Every show I was at I was studying how it was run, who was running it, and what was happening around me. I was taking in information that still aids me to this day.

One year for my birthday my youngest sister Erin bought be the Warped Tour DVD 2004. I had just turned 15 and spent hours replaying the band performances and looking up each artist, discussing them with Andrea, and scribing their lyrics on my bedroom walls. I watched the industry people lining the side stage and wished I could be them, tattooed and confident. It was in this DVD I found my newest obsession, The Matches. When I say obsession this is an understatement. A teenage girl and a rock and roll band cannot fall in love but I was surely in some sort of affair with the Matches. The lyrics, the members, the performances, the songs – I had to hear them ALL and not just once but thousands of times. This was a special band, unlike the thousands of others I had confessed my love for previously. I swore the Matches knew me. Their lyrics soon became my teenage advice having higher hold than anything my parents or teachers could ever teach me. Their harmonies soon became a soundtrack to my days. They had this infectious song called “Audio Blood” about underground shows and people building a community. The song told of these people who didn’t fit in at school, who had this meeting place where they bleeded Audio Blood (video below, best I could find).  This resonated with me heavy and I felt my eyes had been opened to this whole new world. I shipped myself to Toronto to see the Matches play a handful of time and interview them. Myself and the lead singer Shawn always had long and intense interviews, often getting in to the most personal of things, or so it seemed to me. I was now writing for a series of online magazines and by 16 I was hired by Exclaim! as a freelancer.

With this idea stuck in my head that there was a community to be made, I started Audio Blood Zine. At first just a website and then we had 3 issues of a print zine. We had an open door policy. Anyone could contribute. I was meeting new people quicker than ever before and new music was literally arriving at my doorstep in bucket loads. Toronto publicists flocked to our new online magazine and the work load took over my life. My high school friends soon started to complain about why I didn’t hang out anymore. My parents often found me typing away at 2am on school nights and would throw fits. My earnings at Subway funnelled in to my new obsession – keeping the website alive and getting me back and forth from Toronto. At the age of 16 I visited Sneaky Dees for the first time with a fake ID (sorry George!) to see a band called Uncut. I was so nervous; I didn’t even order a beer. School became harder and harder to care about. I did my work and got good marks but was writing CD reviews and transcribing interviews in my notebooks during class and on lunch hours. I started putting on shows in Barrie under ‘Audio Blood Presents’ and working with local promotions company Old New York Entertainment briefly. Eric Warner helped me book DD/MM/YYYY a couple of times and cool art rock bands like Japanther.

At the age of 17 I left my parents home and moved to Toronto. Audio Blood came with me, kind of. It got put on hold when I attempted to attend classes at Ryerson Univeristy for Journalism. I was struggling with writing though, I had really overdone it. If you know me, you know it’s no surprise, I have a tendency to really go overboard when I find something I love. It felt more like work than fun and I decided I would be better fit in different areas of the industry and traded in my journalism degree for a job on the marketing side of things at Wind-Up Records. This where I truly learned what marketing even was and just how fun it really is! My Toronto industry connections were already growing, knowing mostly publicists who were quick to help me find internships and jobs. Audio Blood was always on the sidelines and when I decided to start my own company, I fell back on the name that already had a community surrounding it. Some of the people involved with Audio Blood early on have become my closest allies. Some of the people who I was dealing with via email at the age of 13 have become my clients, employees, and business partners. Somehow we’re all still here. Still fighting for what we love.

The magic of the music industry is gone but it is never hard to think back to these memories and feel it as strong as ever. Not to mention, the genuine joy that comes with making these experiences for other writers and young fans. The nostalgia will forever come flooding back packed with that swooney mushy feeling I used to get when plotting my way in to the elusive music industry. I remember every little second. Like when I went to meet Motion City Soundtrack at the hotel for my first interview their publicist Keith told me the tour manager was wearing Buddy Holly glasses. I had no idea what that meant. But it will forever be burned in my head.

There’s no way to recount these stories without missing huge pieces, but here’s a snapshot. The Matches broke up in 2009, the year I left my job to focus on Audio Blood full time and grow it in to a music and brand development company. Below I’ve pasted some of my favourite interviews.

Some people ask me how I got in to this and how it started… that question forever eludes me. It was as if I didn’t have a choice, I got dragged in head first and the magic had a really strong grip on me. So strong that years later I am still fighting and plotting the same things I was when I was 14 just in different capacities.

Writings from the Vault:
My first piece of writing for Exclaim!, An Emily Haines review (2007)
Interview with Shawn from the Matches for TruthExplosion.com
Tokyo Police Club Interview from 2007
Most Intense interview I ever did with The Locust
Swoony review of the Matches’ 3rd Album for Exclaim (last album before they broke up)!
Thank you for reading! Much love,


**to read other blog entries from Sari click here!

*photo above: Sari interviews Die Mannequin at Edgefest 2006!

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