The Pitchfork Frankenstein Effect: Indie Powerhouse Now Spawns Bands in its Own Image

Beach Fossils have so far received consistently favorable coverage from the site, getting several of their songs written about over the course of the past six months and most recently earning a respectable 7.8 out of 10 for their first LP, out now from the small Brooklyn label Captured Tracks. The album did not make Best New Music, but the momentum the band has achieved—they’re about to tour all over the U.S., as well as Japan, Europe and Australia—has been stoked largely by Pitchfork’s sustained interest in them. 

Mr. Schreiber at this point has very little to do with the reviews posted on Pitchfork, though he has been attending about five shows a week ever since his recent move from Boerum Hill to Williamsburg. Most of his focus is on the site’s video component and “other projects” he would not discuss; editorial is still run almost entirely out of Chicago.

Ryan Dombal, 28, is the only Pitchfork writer in New York who actually comes into the office every day. On Thursday night he wore a tie and spoke appreciatively to a guy who recently graduated from college and has been writing an anonymous blog about Pitchfork in which he excitedly scrutinizes every review published on the site. In a recent post, the 21-year-old compared his five favorite writers on the Pitchfork staff to the starting lineup of the Los Angeles Lakers. Evidently, some of the writers wanted to meet the blogger in person, and Mr. Dombal emailed him an invitation to the party. (Full disclosure: The Observer came as his guest.)

“If you’re following Pitchfork since you’re 19 or whatever, it’s very—it’s beyond the moat,” the slender and unassuming Mr. Dombal said. “It’s this thing that’s castled up. And then you go to something like this and you’re like, these are regular guys, and they work in an office that’s kind of shitty, and they’re kind of approachable and awkward.”

“You guys are less awkward than I’d imagined,” said the blogger, who was standing nearby.

Awkward though they may be, Pitchfork writers are aware of their power—many of them because they themselves are longtime readers of the site, and are conscious of the profound effect it had on their taste growing up.

The consequence, Mr. Dombal reasoned, is that musicians who were in their 20s or younger when they started reading the site are making records directly inspired by Pitchfork itself. “It’s a perfect storm, you know?” he said.

Maybe not perfect: The truth is that Mr. Dombal is not Beach Fossils’ biggest fan in the world. Not that he dislikes them or anything. It’s just—”The people that I really love are these kind of larger-than-life figures—somebody like Lil’ Wayne, who’s, like, the same age as me,” Mr. Dombal said. “For me, loving somebody involves an element of unapproachability.” 

The Beach Fossils guys, in other words, are nice and everything, but it’s almost as if they fit the profile of a Pitchfork band too perfectly.

“They look like how I look,” Mr. Dombal said. “They went to similar schools as me. Similar backgrounds, similar references. It’s like talking to one of my friends. Which is O.K., but . . . that’s not what I want to really grab on to as far as music goes.”

Outside, back on the steps, Mr. Schreiber was talking about an earlier conversation with one of the boys in Beach Fossils.

“He was asking me questions about Pitchfork, which was interesting,” Mr. Schreiber said. “He was asking about old writers—he was asking about Jason Josephes, who wrote the Flaming Lips Zaireeka 0.0, and he was like, ‘I always really liked that review!'”

That review, one of only a handful of 0.0s that Pitchfork has ever bestowed, was published more than eight years ago, when Pitchfork was a very different Web site, and appears to have since been taken down.

“At that point, we were just like, a zine—no one was fucking reading us,” Mr. Schreiber said. “We didn’t give a shit what we said, so we would just do shit like that.”

The Beach Fossils kid remembered the review in detail. “It was cool,” Mr. Schreiber said.

Did he think the guys in the band felt any kind of funny about playing in this particular office, in front of these particular people?

“I dunno, man,” Mr. Schreiber said. “I try not to think about things too much from a band’s perspective, you know what I mean? You try to remain critical and distant, for sure. But I guess I would imagine that it’s pretty surreal more than anything. Like, just a weird thing, you know?”

lneyfakh@observer.com