"Twenty- to forty-year-olds, online geeks who like to show off, the type of kids who wear the Adidas colour series, guys who wear T-shirts all the time ..."
I'm on the phone with Canadian magazine guru Aldo Parise, who is launching the online pop culture magazine August next week. From his Montreal office, Parise is straining to accurately describe the prototypical August reader. The character Parise sketches for me is a familiar one; the swaggering, show-going urban hipster with a bit of pocket money and lots of cred.
Parise pauses; rethinks. There are plenty of sites worldwide-from Montrealshows here in town to Pitchfork in the US-that indulge these scenesters' cooler-than-thou bravado. Parise hopes to win over the notoriously fickle urbanite audience by taking them down a notch. "You out-cool the cool guy," he reflects. "There's more involved in being cool than getting a fancy faux-hawk. We want to take the piss out of these guys, make fun of them. It's about being witty, being able to talk to them, being able to make fun of them in a way that they can respect."
To nibble coyly on the hand that feeds it-this is the mandate of August magazine.
August was born of August Surfing, a struggling California magazine that Parise bought from a friend this winter. Parise ditched all but the magazine's name and its trademark tongue-in-cheek wit, reorienting it to focus on the contemporary culture scene.
Parise also decided to save on printing costs by publishing August as a rich-media PDF. The magazine will retain the attractive design of a print glossy while increasing its interactivity-a piece on a band, for instance, could feature songs in the background and include a direct link to the band's MySpace page.
In his mind's eye, Parise sees August picking up where Rolling Stone left off after it sold out circa 1976, and filling the void that the original Creem left when it folded in 1988. Music writing has gone downhill over the last couple decades-becoming, as it were, all about the Benjamins-and Parise thinks August can refocus pop culture journalism on, well, pop culture.
"We want to bring culture back to the people who are doing it. We're demystifying the fact that it's not necessarily cool to have a band-it costs a lot of money. We start where other magazines finish." says Parise.
In a feature piece in August's debut issue, Sean Moeller takes a subtle swing at amateurish Pitchfork-style rock journalism by poking fun at a far-fetched comparison made between new Indiana band Margot & the Nuclear So & So's and Montreal's indie rock gods The Arcade Fire. That comparison is a shining example of the kind of formulaic, self-indulgent journalism Parise wants to avoid, mainly by working with experienced writers.
"With blogs and everyone with an iBook, you get strange types of journalists. We want to bring in writers who know what they're talking about," he assures me.
Parise's primary challenge will be to ensure that August-which claims to pop "the bubble of culture"-doesn't morph into a music magazine with the occasional film story. Several of the first issue's features-from the Rock Awards to a piece by Newfie rockers Hey Rosetta! on the trials and tribulations of keeping afloat in the indie scene-are explicitly music-focused. This is fair enough-the first issue is being touted as the "music" issue. But if August is to be billed as a pop culture mag, it'll have to include a heavy dose of art, lit, and lifestyle coverage alongside the CD reviews.
Once August's new-fangled cultural coverage has successfully won a regular group of local and international readers, Parise will consider publishing the magazine as a hard-copy print. But for now, he jokes that "starting a print magazine is nuts-it's the worst thing you can do," and explains that he hopes to spend his time and money producing high-quality content rather than fretting about ads and circulation.
Parise is also hoping to differentiate August from the competition by putting on regular shows. At the launch party next week, he's booked up-and-comers Trailer and This Awful Music, and plans to regularly hold similar events showcasing new talent. Moreover, Parise explains these events will be engaging evenings rather than straightforward indie rock shows. "There will be more entertainment, more interaction between artists and fans. I want the shows to be something out-of-the-ordinary, cabaret-style."
August is an adventure for Parise, and one he's certainly well-prepared for; he's been working in the magazine industry for sixteen years. Beginning as a writer, Parise then launched two publications-Riot, and the men's magazine Under Pressure-in the 1990s. For the last couple years, he's been working as the editor and publisher at Tidings, a Canadian food and wine magazine.
In the end, Parise is just taking a chance on a magazine he believes in. "I don't know if there's a need for August, but there's a need for me to do August," he says. "We're trying to create a commercial mag just for fun, just because we can.
The August launch party-August in August-goes down Wednesday August 16 at the Sala Rossa; check out the lineup at the August website. And head's up! The first ten people to email [email protected] will win a pair of tickets.