This zine is dead and I’m still restless

I’m sitting in my parent’s house, catching up on The Great British Bake Off, while I wait for my car’s exhaust to be fixed. It doesn’t seem like a particularly gloomy Saturday morning, despite the thinning fog outside, but there’s a certain heaviness weighing on my heart. I’ve been wrestling with this feeling for weeks, months, maybe even a year now. Finally, it seems as if I’m able to accept the inevitable — TwoBeatsOff will be no longer.

I started this blog in 2008, back when I was still in sixth form, because I wanted to hear what girls thought about music, the punk rock scene, and everything in between. Five wonderful ladies that I met over the internet or at pop-punk shows helped me out, and it was great. I knew nobody was really reading it, but we were reading each others’ points of view, flexing our creative muscles and giving a big middle finger to anyone who said we were wasting our time. And, incidentally, I believe it was this blog that scored me a place at the University of Warwick, where I spent three of the best years of my life so far, meeting friends that I’ll keep for life, and getting to do some extra cool shit. For that, I will be eternally grateful.

While I was at uni, I kept this ship sailing, even though a lot of the girls who I was working on TBO with decided to move onto different things. I met the wonderful Kate, one of my favourite people on this planet, and we got a bit more ambitious. Together, we chased after our idols — I got to make a tit of myself in front of Matt Davies-Kreye and Ryan Richards from Funeral for a Friend, Sean Smith from The Blackout, and we helped out various up-and-coming Midlands bands along the way. I discovered some incredible bands, went to see some great shows, and thoroughly threw myself into the scene. Of course, it wouldn’t have been the same without a great team — I had some amazing writers in those years, and we reviewed some brilliant shows, records and everything else. But despite a flourishing relationship with PR agencies and record labels, it still wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be. As ever, my ambitions were greater than I could manage. If I was ever going to have time to make TBO pay for itself, or provide a stepping stone to a career in journalism, it would have been then. But I missed the boat — and it was time for the dream to shift.

I’ve never been good at dreams. I’ve always dropped them as soon as they’ve gotten too tough to handle. I’ve always settled for a safer option, retreated into a cosy world. I think I did a little bit of that with TBO. I didn’t take any risks, so it didn’t have any opportunity to grow. I could never afford better equipment, never had time to learn any new skills, and worried about my future far too much.

So I ended up going back to university to do a masters degree, because I didn’t know where else to go. I had the experience and the relationships to embark on a career in music journalism, but I didn’t want to move to London. The Midlands had always been my home, in little provincial towns where there were more fields than people. So I retreated into my safe haven, tapped away at my keyboard and stuck to doing reviews of records I wasn’t hugely into. Inevitably, the real world took over — I got a full-time job in marketing that I adore, but leaves me with no creative energy after-hours. My fiction writing has taken a backseat, I’ve been freaking out about how to get things ready on time, and generally, my team of writers has shrunk to being just me and my boyfriend Charlie (and for any Synth News fans out there, Charlie’s keytar hero for this month is himself, because he’s just bought a Roland AX Synth). It’s all just been a bit too much to handle, and I’m not giving this the time and attention it deserves any more. I always said that when it started to feel like a chore, I’d call it a day. And sadly, that day has come.

But I’m proud of what I’ve managed to achieve in TBO’s twilight years. Throughout the time this blog’s been running, I’ve featured a fair few bands before anyone else, who are now going on to be featured in all the big magazines. I managed to interview Andrew freaking McMahon, one of my absolute heroes, and got through the phone call without crying — a true achievement in itself. I like to think that I’ve always given new music a chance, and although I might not have had the authority to tackle issues in the scene head on, I hope that the comment I’ve given has meant something to someone.

There are a lot of people I have to thank for supporting this project throughout the years. Without their help, this blog wouldn’t have lasted a year, let alone six.

To all the PR agencies, record labels and distributors who have given us their time and patience, thank you. Thanks for taking a chance on us when we probably didn’t deserve it. I hope that we’ve done enough to get the word out about your bands and that you’ve taken our criticism and our adoration in the right way. In particular, huge thanks to Specialist Subject Records, Carry The 4, Paper + Plastick, Wall of Sound PR and Beartrap PR.

To all the bands that have ever emailed me, I wish that I’d been able to give you the coverage you deserve. If it was up to me, we’d have written about every single thing you put out, but I just didn’t have the resources. Again, I hope that you took our criticism in a constructive way — like Mary Berry does on Bake Off, I have always tried to find the positives in anything we’ve been given, even if it’s not quite to my taste.

To all the writers that have ever contributed to TBO in one way or another, I am indebted to you. This wouldn’t have kept going as long as it did without you. I hope that this provided a valuable platform for you to practice your writing, sharpen your criticism and get your work out there for the first time.

And to everyone who has ever read this — thank you so much. While TBO has never had the biggest or most vocal readership, it has been highly consistent. Thank you for letting us take chances on weird columns, giving new bands a chance and generally being great. Without you, there wouldn’t even be a point to this at all.

So what happens next? I’m going to find a way to archive all of the articles we’ve ever created, and then this will become a personal blog. I’m still mulling over a new domain name, so I’ll get back to you on that. I don’t want to ever stop writing, and I want to keep putting that writing out there, but I need to kick-start my creativity again and I don’t think it’s by giving myself review deadlines and making it feel like work. I hope that one day, this project will live on as a physical zine, but for now, it’s farewell from TwoBeatsOff. Thanks for the memories.

xoxo — Robyn


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