Ever wonder what happens beyond the stage? Well we do. These roadies, managers, guitar techs, lighting directors, publicists (and even positions you may not have known about) make the music you love come alive! With an overwhelmingly noticeable amount of passion and love for music displayed in her books, we were pleased to speak with the awesome Leslie Simon (author of Geek Girls Unite: How Fangirls, Bookworms, Indie Chicks and Other Misfits Are Taking Over the World, Everybody Hurts: An Essential Guide to Emo Culture, and Wish You Were Here: An Essential Guide To Your Favorite Music Scenes). Read our entire interview below as we discuss Courtney Love, favourite books of all time, which Geek Girl she is, and much more.
AMBY: Hello Leslie, welcome to AMBY! Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Leslie Simon: Why, hello! Pleased to make your virtual acquaintance, AMBY readers. I’m Leslie Simon, a Cleveland native who somehow managed to find herself living in the wilds of West Hollywood, California—twice. I consider myself a writer, first and foremost. However, ever since college, I’ve always managed to keep one foot in the music and/or entertainment industry. In addition to having three books published, I’ve also been an editor, creative director and marketer. No matter what it says on my business card, I am always looking for a professional challenge and strive to work with people who are super passionate about what they do. That’s the dream, right?
AMBY: How did you first get into your industry?
Leslie Simon: As far as writing goes, I’ve been penning stories ever since I could, well, hold a pen. [Sidenote: Did you know they stopped teaching kids how to write in cursive? I, personally, think this is a travesty. Even though most people have piss-poor penmanship, I feel like everyone should know how to craft a proper capital “J.” It’s just like everyone should know how to balance a checkbook. Sorry, I’ll get off my soapbox and get back to the actual question.]
As far as getting into the media industry, I suppose my interest started as early as college. I worked on the school’s entertainment newspaper, The Amusement; first as a writer, then the music editor and, finally, as a co-editor-in-chief. It was here that I discovered this was something I could do for a living. During the summer before my senior year, I interned in NYC. I felt like I was studying abroad, even though I was still in the same time zone. I worked for both MTV.com and Wetlands Preserve, a now-defunct rock club in Chelsea that specialized in jam bands. I was sort of a hippie at the time—Wiiiiillllllsssssooooonnnn*—so I was in total heaven.
After graduation, I came back to Cleveland to regroup. While I figured out my next move, I lived at home, worked at a local coffee shop and interned at Alternative Press Magazine. At the time, I wasn’t that familiar with the mag, mostly because I spent most of my time listening to Dead bootlegs from the ’70s. However, over the next few months, my music worldview opened drastically and I started to discover a whole new scene of bands that would eventually become the new soundtrack of my life. I attacked each day with editorial vengeance and my temporary position eventually turned into something full-time. I worked my way up from the bottom rung, literally, by starting as an intern and ending as the managing editor. I wouldn’t have been able to advance there without the help and insight of a few mentors who helped mold me into the writer, editor and creative person I am today. (Thanks, guys!)
* Fellow Phish fans will understand this reference.
AMBY: Your book Wish You Were Here discusses different music scenes. Which do you relate to the most?
Leslie Simon: I probably relate most to the Chicago’s music scene, but I think that’s because us Midwestern folk like to stick together. At the time I wrote the book, I probably would’ve picked Omaha as the scene I wished I had grown up in. As a teen, if I could’ve seen bands like Cursive, Bright Eyes and The Faint playing at local watering holes and open-mic nights, I think I would’ve lost my marbles. That said, the older I get, the more I come to respect and admire the music scene in NYC. Pick a decade and you’ve got a crew of like-minded artists making a permanent imprint on the city and, in most cases, the world. To see Television perform at CBGBs in 1974 or watch The Strokes play Mercury Lounge in 2000, you’d be witnessing music history. Can’t argue with that.
AMBY: Which type of Geek Girl are you?
Leslie Simon: Honestly, I think I’m a little bit like every geek girl described in Geek Girls Unite. I’m a mutt. However, if I had to rank my top three layers of geekiness, I’d say 1.) music, 2.) literature, then 3.) comedy.
AMBY: What were some of the coolest or most memorable places you visited while doing research for your books?
Leslie Simon: When I was an editor at AP, I was sent to represent the magazine on Warped Tour for four summers in a row. I stayed for two to four weeks at a time and visited more states then I can remember—even if I just got to see the inside of amphitheater or county fairground. I wrote stories from the road and helped run the magazine’s tent, which is where fans could pick up copies of the tour’s program guide and attend daily meet-and-greets with bands. After traveling with this punk-rock circus in the summer of 2005, I was inspired to write my first book, Everybody Hurts: An Essential Guide To Emo Culture. I count that book as my first child, albeit a child who knows all the lyrics to My Chemical Romance’s Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge and insists on over-applying cranberry eye shadow.
AMBY: We love how your work is filled with lots of humour and wit. Where does that come from?
Leslie Simon: Honestly? It comes from having low self-esteem in high school, never entirely fitting in and feeling a weird sense of power from the ability to make my friends laugh. #realtalk
AMBY: Name some of your favourite books of all time.
Leslie Simon: I love memoirs, so I’d definitely have to say Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Pamela Des Barres I’m With The Band are must-reads, though very different types of books. Completely different. I will always have a special place in my heart for Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen. That was one of the first books I ever read more than once. Oh! I would be remiss if I didn’t mention The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. That book is a masterpiece and I recommend it to everyone I know. Though originally released as a YA title, the story defies any/all age, gender or genre prerequisites. Trust.
AMBY: Who would be in your dream concert line-up?
Leslie Simon: Assuming there are no rules, here’s what I would do: First, I’d reunite Jawbreaker and have them play Dear You front to back. Only Dear You. Then, in no particular order, I’d book The Wombats, Fiona Apple, The Lonely Island, Vampire Weekend, and Flight Of The Conchords.
AMBY: What do you like to do outside of music for fun?
Leslie Simon: I watch a lot of TV. That probably sounds extremely lame and/or lazy, but I’m starting to transition from writing non-fiction to fiction, and I’m interested in penning sitcoms, as well. So, for “research”—imagine I just did air quotes with my fingers—I’ve been revisiting some of my favorite shows—like 30 Rock and Parks And Recreation—and watching them from the beginning, binge-style.
AMBY: What’s an anecdote you haven’t published in any of your books that you could share with our readers?
Leslie Simon: For three days in the spring of 2005, Courtney Love wanted to be my best friend and stalked me all over Los Angeles. It was the best 72 hours of my life. Seriously.
AMBY: You said that you were determined to stalk and marry Michael Cera. Has he said yes yet?
Leslie Simon: I actually saw him about a year ago at a bar around the corner from my house and I was slightly underwhelmed. I’ve now set my sights on Ben Schwartz. He’s a tall drink of comedic water I’d like to pour in a glass and, like, sip with one of those cute striped paper straws… or something. If anyone knows him, hook a sista up!
AMBY: Any future plans or ideas in the works you’d like to share?
Leslie Simon: Like I mentioned earlier, I’m currently learning the craft of sitcom writing and I’m hoping to make my way into a writer’s room someday soon. Also, I’m working on my first YA novel, which is both exciting and terrifying at the same time.
AMBY: Lastly, what’s something about Leslie Simon that nobody knows yet?
Leslie Simon: I saved all the notes I was ever passed in high school and keep them in Ziploc bags, organized by year. I’m trying to decide if this fact makes me adorably nostalgic or weirdly hoard-ish. Jury’s still out.
Thank you Leslie Simon, for giving us your answers!
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Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout