Blogger Spotlight: Mark Garza (Funeral Sounds)

Hello and welcome to the start of another exciting week on the official blog of Haulix. We have been preparing for March since the early days of 2014, and think you will be pretty impressed by the content we have in store. Our goals to inform and inspire the next generation of music industry professionals remains, but in the weeks ahead you will see content offering continue to expand. There is a lot more to understanding the music business than can be taught through advice and interview feature. Stick around and you’ll see what we mean. If you have an idea for this blog, or if you would like to learn more about the digital distribution services we offer at Haulix, please do not hesitate to email james@haulix.com and share your thoughts. If you prefer social media, feel free to reach out to us on Facebook and Twitter.

People create music blogs for many different reasons. Some want to be journalists, some want to get attention for their friends, some want a space to share the thoughts they think no one else wants to hear, and still others – usually terrible, moronic humans – start blogs to pirate music. They each have their unique reasons, but no matter how misguided their intentions may be they all share a desire to express their love of certain artists with anyone willing to listen.

Mark Garza started Funeral Sounds for a number a of reasons. First and foremost, he loved music and wanted to share that love with the world. Second, he was interested in discovering new music, which is extremely easy to do when running your own site. Third, and perhaps the most interesting reason of all, he wanted a launching pad for his own industry endeavors.

You see, Funeral Sounds is not your typical music blog. It’s also a record label.

We should clarify that statement and explain that Funeral Sounds is currently a blog and cassette label, but one day records may be involved as well. Cassettes are more affordable to press and create low risk investment situations for young entrepreneurs. Mark is only 15 himself, but his insight on what people want to hear is on par with many of his industry peers.

When I learned of Mark’s efforts I knew he needed to be featured on our blog. He may not have the years of experience or college level education possessed by many of our guests, but he has the drive and focus needed to succeed in this industry. He’s the perfect example of what the next industry of music industry professionals will look like and I, for one, could not be more excited to see what he does in the future.

If you would like to learn more about Mark’s efforts in music, make sure you take the time to follow Funeral Sounds on Twitter after reading the interview below. Additional questions and comments can be left at the end of this post.

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H: To begin, please tell everyone your full name, job title, and the site/company you’re here to discuss:

M: Mark Anthony Garza, Co-founder/Owner/CEO of Funeral Sounds, an online publication out of Houston, Texas.

H: Thank you for joining us, Mark. It’s a pleasure to feature you on our site. Tell me, what are the earliest memories you have of music?

M: I think one time in 4th or 5th grade I was going to be in the talent show with my friend Gary after my two other friends bailed and we were gonna sing Linkin Park. I had to make a CD with the instrumental of In The End and I had no idea how and I asked my sister’s friend and she gave me the wrong version so we couldn’t do it. I think Gary went on to sing Hotel California. Also, I couldn’t sing. 

H: Who are the first artists you can remember obsessing over, and how did you originally discover them? 

M: I always say Linkin Park got me into music and they really did. I think I heard In The End on the radio or MTV once or something. After that was either The Mars Volta or Circa Survive, they came kind of back to back. I found a burned TMV CD in my sister’s room and my neighbor would always be playing Circa Survive in his room and I always thought, “Wow, this is perfect, this is what I want in a band,” but I was too nervous to ask who it was. I ended up overhearing them say the band name and I googled “circus survive” and it worked.

H: Can you pinpoint any formative moments or experiences from your youth that steered you toward the pursuit of a career in the music industry?

M: After I got into post-hardcore/emo music, I met a lot of people with smaller, independent, DIY labels and being around that made me think that it didn’t take a ton of money to help musicians on that scale and that really inspired me to do something industry-wise. Also being around my brother and his band all the time always made me want to be involved in some way, though back in the formative years I always wanted to be a vocalist. I still can’t sing. 

H: What was your first concert experience like? Go on, paint us a mental picture. 

M: I don’t think there’s too much to say that I can remember. I say my first concert was Circa Survive although it was probably one of my brother’s shows way back before I can ever remember. There was a lot of people at this relatively small venue, we got there kind of late so we missed all the opening bands. This was I think in 2009 or 2010, they were touring with Dredg and Animals as Leaders, I was like 12. There was a lot of sweat and a lot of singing. Not much that I can really remember besides screaming all the lyrics as loud as I could and really feeling like everyone in that room was connected, as cheesy as that is. I bought a yellow shirt afterwards and I regret it. 

H: Let’s change our focus to your efforts in writing. When did you first consider exploring the world of music criticism, and how long was it from that point to the day you launched your site?

M: Maybe a month or so before. I mean, Funeral Sounds came from me and my friend/partner at the time Chase Jennewine. We’d always talk about startnig a music blog and it didn’t happen for a while until at some point one of us reminded each other on Facebook and we started a Blogspot under the name “Troo Scrums” which was a really dumb joke. We moved to tumblr the next day and changed the name to what it is now.

H: The name of your site, Funeral Sounds, is one that sticks in the mind. What is the story behind the name?

M: At the same time of starting FS, all Chase and I listened to was like 90s emo and really emotional/sad post-hardcore/screamo bands so we wanted something kind of dark and depressing. The name itself came out of spit balling, haha. I distinctly remember messaging someone “give me a name for my music blog. funeral music. funeral homes. dead homes. funeral sounds. wait, nvm”. It wasn’t really serious serious back then but I think the name really fits the music we tend to gravitate towards nowadays and I’ve grown quite fond of it, even if I have a lot of trouble pronouncing it for some reason.

H: Before we get to the other part of what you do, I want to discuss the site a bit more. Tell me, what type of music do you cover on Funeral Sounds?

M: That whole “emo revival” thing you keep reading about. I don’t think anyone at Funeral Sounds really agrees with the term though. We mostly cover post-hardcore/emo/punk as the name suggests but we try to cover everything we get. We have a couple writers that are really into indie (and two that are really into rap but one of them hadn’t even heard Madvillain until we told him about it so I have my doubts, haha.)

H: There are a number of great sites covering similar areas of music as yours right now. What do you think sets your site apart from the competition?

M: This is something the staff and I have discussed occasionally and I like to think there’s a degree of personality in our reviews that I haven’t really seen too much anywhere else. We try to be as professional as possible about our reviews without compromising our individual personalities and some of us let our humor and personalities into the review if the music calls for it. But, you know, maybe not. I just feel like we’re a lot friendlier and open to shitty phone demo recordings that the artist was too excited to try to mix or master at all. There’s an honesty to it that we appreciate and a lot of us aer musicians so that excitement when you finish a group of material, whether it be an EP or an album is something we relate to. That’s probably a better answer.

H: Your site is still relatively young, so I am not surprised to see the lack of advertising. Have you considered monetizing in the future? If so, how?

M: I have. I’ve considered advertising mostly to pay for label expenses since I’m not yet of age to get a job but by the time we ever get close enough to start advertising for independents/friends/artists we support I’ll have a job by then, hopefully, but it still won’t be out of the picture completely. It depends on the demand at that point really. 

H: Okay, now let’s get to the truly exciting stuff. Funeral Sounds is not just a blog – it’s a RECORD LABEL as well. Did you always plan to launch both projects, or did one come before the other?

M: The music blog came first and at some point I think a month after starting, Chase tagged me in a Facebook post and said “Let’s make FS a record label” and that was all it took. He had all the equipment and money so I just tried to help out as much as possible and I ended up taking the blog responsibilities and built our audience that way. I wish I could’ve helped more and I really, truly appreciate all that Chase has done for us and for me more than words can ever describe. My mom didn’t know about Funeral Sounds until we were a year and a half old which is always a funny story but if I told her earlier I probably would’ve been able to help Chase with the day to day expenses of starting a label, even if it is more-so a tape label. So yeah, thanks Chase. I love you man.

H: Were there any labels or groups that inspired you to start your own label? When did you first come up with this idea?

M: Tons. Like I said, we had a lot of label friends beforehand. I think most notably there was Dandy from Driftwood Records, Ashley from It’s a Trap! Records and Billy Brown from the now defunct Turn of the Century.

H: How many releases do you have out so far, and how many do you have confirmed for the future? You can feel free to include store links if you like. We want to help you promote. 

M: It’s all kind of gone. The past releases, I mean. We had about 9 and they all got lost in the mail when Chase was shipping me the rest of the product we had leftover as we were changing management and Chase left Funeral Sounds. It was really hard for us as a label in the beginning because of mailorder issues and time management and all that so we did a lot of stuff wrong and made a lot of mistakes so we went on hiatus for a while but I always hated the idea of a hiatus and eventually I got the money together to go at it by myself so we’re back again. Most of the past few months of starting up again has been making sure that we repair any relationships we may have damaged because of the problems we had during our first run. 

With all that out of the way, we have about 5 releases planned for the future and I’m more determined than anything to do everything right this time. They are mostly unannounced but we have two that are announced, Alomar (acoustic/folk punk), Heccra (a post-hardcore based experimental producer), and weak.(screamo from Halifax, Nova Scotia) that should be available for ordering sometime this week but all of them are available for streaming on our Bandcamp. Planning to announce the next two releases definitely before March ends. 

H: Running a blog and label seems pretty time consuming. How do you balance your responsibilities while still leading a normal life?

M: I don’t. I spend all my time with Funeral Sounds if I can do that without failing any classes, haha. Most of my time is spent recording tapes or answering emails and I think any of the free time I have goes to talking with all of our writers as they’ve become some of my closest friends. 

H: You have done a lot of cassette releases so far. Any plans for vinyl in the future?

M: We were actually looking up prices for vinyl yesterday. I have a plan in mind for a vinyl release but I don’t think it can be done anytime soon but it’s definitely a plan for the future, definitely a dream of mine. I like to think we can do it in summer but who knows. The more I research, the more realistic it seems. I can promise that we’ll have something on vinyl by the end of 2015, for what it counts.

H: What advice would you offer young people who may be reading this and considering pursuing their own career in entertainment?

M: From a business/industry standpoint, it’s all about who you know. Luckily, a lot of people are really nice and willing to help however they can, you just gotta take the chance and introduce yourself, whether by email or Facebook message (which I think is a little more personal). Be careful what bridges you burn and whose toes you step on. There’s a lot of ways to get in the industry, just find whatever suits you best and go for it. I think the independent side of music is a little more forgiving. 

H: What are your current career goals?

M: Release vinyl by the end of 2015. I hope to start writing for Under the Gun Review soon and hopefully that will give my PR company a little kick in the right direction. Hopefully buy a printer and stop using my apartment complex’s. Become self-sustaining, in a nutshell. I’ve also been working on our new website with a friend of mine who’s actually in weak. Does that count? 

H: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?

M: How exclusive it all seems. How much profit plays a factor in everything. I mean, I get it but I don’t think enough people are alright with losing money for art you truly believe in and that’s kind of what the whole DIY/punk/emo scene that we associate with is all about. It may not be the most practical way to go about things or a good way to run a business but it’s honest and it’s pure and it’s damn well worth it.

H: What can you tell us about Funeral Sounds’ plans for the rest of 2014?

M: New website, better organization, more tapes, more emotional letters from yours truly. More music, as always.  

H: That’s everything I have for now. Before I let you go, are there any final thoughts or observations you would like to share with our readers? The floor is yours:

M: I truly believe that you can do anything you want to if you try hard enough and never give up. I used to really think that was just a dumb saying that parents told their kids so they’d suck it up but from first-hand experience, if you want something strong enough and you really put in the effort, it’ll come to you. Also, Funeral Sounds also has a quarterly webzine that we put out every three months that accepts submissions from all types of creatives: poems, short stories, reviews, interviews, photography, art, articles, anything artistic, really. The next one should be out at the end of March. See our website for more information on that. You can read the first one here. Thank you for your time and thank you for reading. Oh, and go check out my friend Billy at Too Far Gone Records.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.