Tristra Yeager

Tristra Yeager

Rock Paper Scissors

I am a music and PR professional with nearly two decades of experience working with music startups, indie music enterprises, and artists. Fun fact: I am also a fiction writer and scholar of Siberian history, complete with PhD.

Where are you based?

A tiny town outside glamorous Bloomington, Indiana. You’ve likely flown over it.

Where do you work? What do you do?

I work for Rock Paper Scissors, a music innovation PR firm that also runs Music Tectonics, an annual conference in LA and a podcast. In my past life, I worked for a New York concert presenter and did PR for international artists.

What are you listening to?

Everything I can find! I am a massive musical omnivore and am constantly searching out and diving into new music from all over. At the moment, I’m into all the new reimaginings of the goth stuff I’ve loved forever (such as darkwave), random music from Eastern Europe, and some funk and soul, among many other things.

How do you discover new music?

I am a rabbit-holer and a repeat listener. So I tend to do my own research, starting with something that I’m obsessed with and running with that, digging around until I get the feels from a new song or track. I find similar artists more useful than playlists or algorithmic recommendations. I also read a lot of substacks by writers working in genres that can be hard to navigate (Shawn Reynaldo and Michaelangelo Matos, for example, have solid electronic/club/bass music recommendations) and I love getting ideas of what to listen to from places like Music X and the Water & Music member discord. I also listen to a lot of video game and meme-related music thanks to my kids, and I go out of my way to listen to music that is meaningful to my younger colleagues, just so I can appreciate what moves them.

What formats do you usually listen to? LP, CD, Cassette, Digital, Streaming Services? Why?

I am a Spotify superuser, though I like to dabble in Bandcamp for certain kinds of music (experimental jazz, dark ambient, certain folk scenes). I did recently get to have the pleasure of taking my oldest kid to our local record store to buy a bunch of LPs. It was amazing to watch him discover the joy of listening to a whole side of an album. I am sure I’ve listened to a CD in the past year, but they are no longer a big part of my life.

That connection between movement and music is, for me, the source of all joy and a means to achieve greater listening focus and music appreciation.”

Where do you do most of your music listening?

I listen to music while moving for the most part. I usually take several walks a day with my extremely energetic dog, and I also run and work out to music. That connection between movement and music is, for me, the source of all joy and a means to achieve greater listening focus and music appreciation. Like most Americans, I also drive quite a bit, so I also listen to music in the car. 

Music is also a huge part of my writing practice. Ideas come easily with the right track, especially if I’m also in motion.

How do you find and listen to pre-release music?

Most of the pre-release stuff I get to hear comes from friends I made when we were still working directly with artists on PR. Back in those days, I listened to a ton of pre-release music in a professional context, to allow me to create press materials, but that’s not really part of my work life any more.

What are your frustrations with listening to music digitally? Any benefits?

Like a lot of music lovers, I wish it were easier when using DSPs, to find more based on credits or labels. That’s one thing I love about Bandcamp: You can get on a label’s radar and really dig into its aesthetic and artists.

How do you keep track of everything you are listening to?

I create very messy playlists that I go back and organize, getting that Mari Kondo-level joy of tidying up along with that charge of finding the perfect sequence that I used to get from making mixed tapes as a teenager.

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Do you tip other people off to new music? How?

I am that annoying friend who’s always sending Spotify or YouTube links to people, usually via text or DM. I’ve also been known to corner someone in person and gush about music I love.

Anything you want to “promote”?

My good friend from Pakistan, Mekaal Hasan, has put out a whole series of collaborative recordings with working-class Pakistani musicians he knows called Rivayat (“tradition” in Urdu). The secular qawwali track “Tobah” is a true banger.

If you’re an early 4AD fan like me, you will likely love this wildly underappreciated release from a project called Meridiane, which includes musicians from Clan of Xymox and His Name is Alive.

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