Well. It’s been a while.

It looks like not actually logging in and doing anything with your blog means that loads of unscrupulous bots try and hack it. Those gits. So maybe I’d better actually start updating it before the robots take over.

Any advice on firewalls, security etc would be greatly appreciated.

xoxo – Robyn

New Year, Never a New Me

Traditionally, I’ve never done change that well. Moving halfway down the country at an early age will do that to you. But throughout 2015, a lot changed, and I think I did pretty okay.

The first major event was moving in with Charlie. We’d been talking about it for a while, but we finally got the cajones to gather up some cash and make the big leap out. It was bittersweet for our parents, but these things have to happen. It’s been nice — really nice. Without getting too mushy about it, I’ve never been so sure that Charlie’s the one for me, even if his vegetarianism means never know the pure joy that is a slice of pepperoni pizza (trust me, that’s a lot of joy). And I’m always excited to see what the next day will have in store for us, whether that’s heading out to some far-flung show or snuggling up on the sofa to watch New Girl.

The other one was the passing of my grandma after a tough battle with cancer. Although my grandparents live hundreds of miles away, it’s left a more profound gap than I anticipated. It’s weird picking up the phone when I’m over at my mum and dad’s and finding it isn’t her on the other side. It’s also a bitter reminder that I was given too little time with my other grandparents as well, and I miss them all so dearly.

And finally, I turned 25. The quarter-century. Sounds like a Hunger Games event. So far, it’s alright.

I’ve got aspirations for the New Year, because everyone does and it’s the right thing to do. My first and foremost priority is to get my health in order, and in typically overdue fashion, shift some pounds. I hate exercise. I spent four hours playing Fallout 4 on the sofa, watching my character run and going ‘yes, good, sprint across the Commonwealth’, enjoying the fact that I didn’t have to exert any effort of my own. I am very good at shooting things on a television. I am at the peak of physical fitness in the virtual world, but I’m drastically out of shape in the real one, so I’m heading to the gym and attempting to stick at it. In the past year, I’ve tried various diets — Slimming World and the 5:2 stand out as the obvious ones — but it’s all bullshit unless you keep at it. I unfortunately like chocolate and bread-based dishes too much. I committed to buying new workout leggings at least, so we’ll see what happens this month.

I also want to make time to see the people that matter to me. I’m good at seeing my family, but my sister now lives three hours down the motorway and we don’t hang out unless she comes home. I’m phenomenally crap at seeing my friends, even when they live in the same town, so now that they’re all further away, I’m effectively a hermit. So I’m working on that, and it’d be great to keep in touch with some of my old university friends, and make more of an effort to make great memories.

My writing has taken a backseat since I moved out, and really, since I started getting a bit more responsibility at work. Although I’m not making any huge promises to myself, I’m going to try and pick up where I left off on TBO with a little column about what music I’m into that month. That’ll be nice, I think.

No matter what the world throws at me, I’m comforted by the fact some things will never change. Approximately one hour into 2016, I smacked my head on the cupboard door getting a glass out. I’m listening to an old Rival Schools record as I write this, rather than something new. I’ve got half a pizza waiting in the kitchen. I will probably stay in my pyjamas playing Fallout 4 until Charlie comes home. And that’s okay — now I’m in my mid-twenties, I’ve learned to cherish who I am. 2016 will come and go, and hopefully, it’ll be filled with all the things I like best — starting with that leftover pizza.

A New Beginning AKA How I Finally Learned To Let Go

My name is Robyn, and I write things. That’s really the crux of this blog, as it is with any blog, really — I wanted a self-proclaimed corner of the internet to massage my ego and let everybody know that I had Things To Say, and I wanted them to be heard. I write things professionally, as a junior marketing consultant, and I write them not professionally, as I have been doing since I first discovered Microsoft Publisher and realised that I could create newsletters for the kids in my street. From the crudely created four-page manifestos of a nine-year-old to the self-indulgent personal essays I used to post on my music blog, I have always needed to find a way to make my voice heard, and as my mouth doesn’t always like to connect with my brain, I decided that being a writer was ultimately, the thing I’ve always meant to be.

Whether I’m meant for writing or not has been the topic of the moment for the past few months. In a professional context, drafting web copy for spa hotels and social media posts about motorsport events has become second nature. But finding the same energy and drive to do it at home, in coffee shops, on trains and aeroplanes has been a constant struggle. I wrote a novel when I was 15, attempted NaNoWriMo numerous times throughout my teens, and was a prolific fiction writer throughout my university years, but over the past twelve months, it feels like the magic’s gone, the imagination’s dried up and the fountain of ideas is long since barren. And that terrifies me.

So, I decided that I had to take positive steps to get my writing life back on track. Nobody was going to do it for me, after all. It meant letting go of broken projects, being stricter with my time and giving myself the creative space I needed to breathe. So, blog — ta dah!

I used to have a website called TwoBeatsOff. It was a music blog, which had a revolving team of contributors, and I worked on it for seven solid years (I thought it was six — I was wrong!) before I decided that I needed to cut ties. And it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. I agonised over that one more than I agonised over breaking up with my high school boyfriend. It had been my pet project for years, and although I am not afraid for writing to feel like work, I just couldn’t bring myself to review crappy pop-punk EPs for zero money. I’ve never felt that writing as a whole has to earn me anything, but in that context, I wasn’t prepared to work for free any more. I wasn’t prepared to keep the whole thing floating in a vast sea of exactly the same fucking thing. I’ve archived all of the posts on here — if you feel like dipping into them, please do, there’s some great stuff! — but this blog serves a totally different purpose.

I hope to try and chronicle my way back into writing. I’m attempting to write more fiction, finish off a set of personal essays I started and maybe, just maybe, get into a novel. I play D&D on occasion, but I’d like to actually be the dungeon master for a change, so I’m starting to write my own scenarios and campaigns. I know I’ll never be able to stop writing about music in one way or another, but I plan on doing it on my own terms.

This has been a bit of a mission statement, but it’s good to finally get it all out on paper. Or screen. Or something. Here’s to a fresh start — and probably a good time to learn how to use the espresso machine.

Currently in the oven… come back soon.

Everything’s on the way – hold tight!

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