David Garwacke is probably not a name with which most people are familiar. However, his website, If You Make It, has become an invaluable resource for anyone needing a primer on the East Coast pop-punk and indie underground. His Pink Couch Sessions, a series of acoustic performances on a big pink couch, have featured cult favorites like the Measure [sa], as well as Vivian Girls. The website is also home to a carefully curated selection of free album downloads from some of the best bands of which you've never heard.
Garwacke is currently on tour as the drummer for Laura Stevenson and the Cans, which are opening for Fake Problems this Sunday, May 1, at the Jackpot. We took advantage of his forthcoming visit to the area to talk about If You Make It, touring and the indie underground.
The Pitch: How did If You Make It get started?
David Garwacke: About four years ago, I lived up in New Paltz, New York, and I lived in a big house, with like, 10 people living there at once at one point, and we had shows in the basement. I had a lot of friends who were video majors and did a lot of video work, but, for some reason, when bands came through, nobody would ever film bands. So we never had a catalog of who came through, and we had a lot of bands who came through that went on to do bigger bands, or friends' bands who broke up very soon after. So there's really no catalog of who came through.
So when I finally came down to New York [City], I decided to do something about it, and I started to record bands all the time in New York. And I do Web design as my main job, so I started uploading stuff to the Internet and made my own website. So it sort of all spawned from there, just cataloging all these bands and making sure that people knew about my friends' bands and bands I liked a lot. YouTube was getting easier to upload to -- it just kind of all spawned off of that.
The free albums that are offered on the site -- is there a "pick and choose" aspect to all of that? It's such a huge swathe, but it seems curated in some way.
Yeah. All the bands and music up there are just bands that I loved and wanted other people to hear. The whole "free album" thing is just spawned off of Jeff Rosenstock's Quote Unquote Records. From being friends with him, I saw that as being a cool way to add stuff to the site. Kind of like an online label, but really at no cost to me -- just uploading and my own time.
Did the Pink Couch Sessions spin off that idea of bands not getting documented or as a way to offer something exclusive?
The Pink Couch Sessions basically started because I was recording all of these shows, and when I was at these shows, 80 percent of the time, the audio was awful or unusable or too high and would peak the microphone, or just sounds bad. So I started doing something where I could control the audio a little better. And I had this giant pink couch, so I just started to invite a bunch of friends over -- friends I thought would work out really well for that kind of setting.
It just kind of spawned off not being able to work at shows all the time, and I had all of these shows I shot using tapes, and they filled up really quick. A bunch of shows nobody could ever watch, or want to watch, outside of just friend value or just to see. It kind of flew off from there. I wanted to decide my own setting, where I could control the audio and how it sounded and looked all the time.
Has it gone beyond stuff that you like at this point and on to people seeking you out to have their stuff put up on the site?
Yeah, definitely. I get at least one or two e-mails a day when people send me their music for the free album section or that want to come over and do some Pink Couch Sessions. It's never been anything outside of me being able to handle, but it gets to the point where there's a lot of stuff I have to go through to make sure I don't miss anything. It's a lot of work, making sure the people who contact me get responded to and making sure nothing falls through the cracks.
How did the comic section come to be? It's rapidly become my favorite part of the site.
The comic section was born out of the idea that I couldn't really post all the time, and I needed not easy content, but content I could more easily delegate to someone else. Mostly because I was trying to do all the work on my own, so I just talked to a couple artists to just randomly send stuff in, once a month.
It was kind of something to space out the Pink Couches and space out the videos and kind of take off a lot of the work for me. I also thought the idea of having some sort of music-based art/comics was kind of cool. I looked at things like Razorcake and 'zines in which they were featured, and thought that it would be kind of nice to have 'em on If You Make It.
You're in bands, yourself -- like, right now, you're drumming for Laura Stevenson and the Cans. How'd you end up playing with her? That'd started off as a solo project, if I remember correctly.
Well, the last couple years, Laura's surrounded herself with four to five people in the band, so that's pretty awesome. It's all friends. As far as this tour, I've known Mike and Laura for a really long time -- Mike being the bassist. We used to live together, me and Mike, went to New Paltz together, and we've been friends ever since. Basically, they needed a drummer for this tour, and me and Mike play in this other band, Kudrow, and a bunch of other bands before so, on a friend level, it was pretty awesome for me to just go on the road for several weeks with them. It's a lot of fun.
How are the crowds thus far on the tour?
It's kind of been pretty nice. All the shows have been pretty fun. Pretty cool turnouts.
Are the audiences familiar with all the bands on the tour, or do you find that you're introducing people to the band for the first time?
There's a big crossover. I think all three bands on the tour -- which is Fake Problems, Laura Stevenson, and Pomegranates -- kind of have completely different crowds for each one, but there's a lot of overlap. Most people come up to Laura and tell her that they came for Fake Problems or Pomegranates, and that they were surprised that they'd like other bands. I think all the bands are different. But within their own genres, they're pretty awesome, so it makes it pretty easy for people in the crowd to jump around.