Wannabe: A six-panel music blog by Chris Prunckle
Music and comics have long been a compatible medium for conceiving fictional anecdotes about your favourite band, or your favourite solo-artist. Bringing them into art form is just another way to give these stories a new lease of life.
The same can be said for Wannabe: a brand-new, original six-panel music blog by Chris Prunckle. Established last year, Wannabe offers readers a short and concise alternative to the wordy structures of standard music reviews by using a six-panel comic strip layout complete with aiding illustrations of the man himself, to offer a brief - but in-depth - analysis of a variety of different albums from Kate Tempest and Touché Amoré, to Car Seat Headrest and A Tribe Called Quest.
We spoke to Chris to gain a better understanding about Wannabe and what it can offer to the world of music reviews:
How did this idea come about? And what (if any) were the main inspirations for it?
"I started Wannabe four years ago, but it was originally a very different comic. I had tried my hand at a serialized web comic and ran into a lot of issues with the format and my readers, so decided to go for something simpler and came up with a very self-aware/self-depreciating idea where it was the voices inside my head (creative vs responsible adult) and the debates they had. I did this for about a year before I got bored. The second year became more autobiographical as I discussed the life of a creative person stuck in the advertising industry (my day job). After a year of that I was ready to pack it up. Nothing was hitting the right cord and I hadn’t found much of an audience."
"I was at a concert for one of my favorite bands, Two Cow Garage, and was talking to my buddy Shane (Sweeney, bass and vocals). I was telling him I was going to concentrate on some other ventures because except for the comic I had discussed them in, I just hadn’t felt like I found a voice and really saw myself dwelling too much on negativity. To his credit, he was the one that encouraged me to try making the comic about music. Figuring it couldn’t hurt to try, I gave it a shot."
"It took a little bit to find my angle. I tried interviews and general music conversations at first, but limiting myself to six panels, I just felt like these were falling flat. There wasn’t enough room to make the material breathe. It wasn’t until I did my first album review (American Aquarium’s “Wolves”) that I felt like I was onto something. From there, other formats lessened and I started doing more and more reviews. Slight tweaks have been made, but by the end of the first year I had dedicated the comic solely to album reviews."
We found the simplistic 'six-panel' format condenses the reviews, and makes for short but sweet reading. What encouraged you to utilise this method for reviewing music?
"The six-panel method came from issues I noticed with longer format web comics. Attention spans are short, especially on the internet. Hell, I’ve had people tell me that even at six-panels things were too wordy, so they didn’t read it. In a world were memes and emojis have become our main way of communicating ideas, it appears six-panels are even daunting to some. So the layout was decided before the music reviews even started. The main inspiration behind it was really newspaper comics and making sure I had strips that could stand on their own."
"When I started incorporating reviews into the layout, it was definitely limiting at first (and sometimes still is), but I also think the short and to the point style is part of the reason Wannabe has been a success. In an ADD society, long winded reviews can easily get overlooked. With the lack of space, my reviews are confined to sentences instead of paragraphs, meaning readers get to the point quickly without a lot of wasted time. It also probably helps that I tend to stay away from the technical aspects of the music, and really stick to the emotional resonance of the album and how it made me feel. As much as each comic is about the featured band, I guess a lot of it is about me too. Oh shit, I’m sounding like a narcissistic prick, hopefully people don’t take it that way. Music is just such a personal experience to me (I do the majority of my listening through headphones), that I feel the only honest way for me to discuss it is by relating it to my experience."
As an artist, music fan and reviewer, have you found this to be an effective way of applying your passion(s)? Why?
"I’d definitely say it is. The style of the comic isn’t my traditional style of art, but it’s helped bring a lot of notice to my other artistic ventures which then gives me new opportunities. So though Wannabe has a rather simplistic look, the recognition it has brought has opened so many new doors of artistic exploration. It’s also been a fun way to interact with the bands. The hollow eyes have definitely caused me the most controversy. There was just that old school comic strip feel to them that I really liked."
"In terms of being a music fan, this is where I find the greatest reward. I’ve always been extremely passionate about music, but I was finding it difficult to talk about it with people. As we get older, we have a tendency to grow stale in our musical tastes. So where I’ve always found it exciting to find and discuss new music, a lot of people around me had done their time in the trenches and were more than fine sticking to what they knew. With Wannabe, it has given my music world new life. Between fans and musicians sending me suggestions, it’s hard to keep up with all the new music being sent my way. Going through my inbox now has become such a flashback to my days in college going through the racks at the local record store. It’s absolutely thrilling."
"Reviewer is a tough one, cause yeah, it’s what I do, but I also have such a weird approach to it. I review music sure, but I will only talk about albums I like. Whenever an artist sends me music this is the first thing I tell them. I have no interest in doing negative reviews. Let’s face it, negativity rules the internet, and I just don’t want to be a part of that. Why would I want to waste my time saying why something isn’t worth your time? Not to mention, who am I to say if something is bad? That’s someone’s art, and just because it isn’t my thing, doesn’t mean that other people don’t have a right to enjoy it. So I just won’t talk about those albums, instead I focus on the stuff I really enjoy. Even then I don’t get to review all the music I like. I have a day job and other freelance work. Wannabe is a passion project. I wish it paid the bills but it doesn’t. I’d love to see the Wannabe brand grow, but the reward, for now at least, really comes from getting to talk about the music I like. And that’s a one guarantee I can give every reader, every review I write is an album I truly love and I believe others will too."