In 2009, a 19 year-old Rachel Frank accepted an internship that would change her life forever. Frank interned at 91X radio station in San Diego to learn the ins and outs of the music business. Music had always been a passion of hers and before the end of the internship Frank found herself onstage, dancing in a panda suit with The Flaming Lips.
“It was probably the best summer of my life,” she recalls. “I completely fell in love with the music scene. I’ve always loved music but there was a turning point that summer when I realized that whatever I do, it has to involve music.”
Now, at age 26, it is evident Frank was correct. The San Diego-based music blogger and entrepreneur is the Founder and Host of ListenSD, the city’s own online music news blog devoted to music journalism, album reviews, and showcasing San Diego’s best local music.
As for the future, Frank’s aspirations include hosting her own music festival. “I’m working on this festival idea but nothing is set in stone. I’m not sure if it’s going to happen…wait, yeah it’s gonna happen.” she says eagerly. “This music festival is going to happen.”
Q: How did you fall in love with music?
Rachel Frank: When I was 15 years old I threw this outrageous party. I’m from the Bay Area and growing up my parents were pretty strict. When my parents found out about the party they grounded me for 4 months — they took away my phone, internet, I couldn’t go outside without a chaperone, they made me switch schools …it was just really, really intense. But they let me keep my radio so I literally just sat in my room and listened to my radio for 4 months straight — that’s when I really fell in love with music.
Q: What is the story behind the panda suit?
Frank: My friend and I were joking around one day, watching an episode of Jackass and I was like I have to get a panda suit … so I don’t know, I just got on Ebay and bought one. [laughs] I started wearing the suit to parties at SDSU [San Diego State University] and I made so many friends that way. One day when I was interning at 91X we were doing an interview with the Flaming Lips and Wayne Coyne was late. I was working at the booth and talking to their manager and she was like, “Do you want to dance on stage with the Flaming Lips?” I was like, “Are you serious?” They put me on stage … I danced in the panda suit in front of 20,000 people and I was like, “This is it.” I don’t know what it is but I needed to be involved in music somehow.
Frank: When I graduated college I got a job working at a health insurance company that was really boring. [laughs] I felt like I was slowly dying working at this insurance company. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I would go intern at KPRi [a radio station in San Diego] and help out with the morning show from 6:00 am to 9:00 am… then I would go to work at the insurance company from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm. I was doing 12 hour days twice a week but I made it work because I had to be a part of this music scene. I did that for about 7 months and then I applied for a job at one of my favorite venues in San Diego. I didn’t get the job and I was just really upset. But I thought, I’ll just start my own thing and that was ListenSD.
Q: Did you expect that ListenSD would get this big?
Frank: Don’t get me wrong — I don’t do it alone. I work with 2 other girls and they are amazing — Summer and Amanda. Summer completely designs the website — she is an amazing photographer and videographer. And Amanda is the best writer ever — she is our editor and she’s super smart. We all kind of manage it together and we have a team of about 10 writers and photographers that contribute to the blog, so I definitely don’t do it alone. I think it’s crazy that I started this blog about 3 years ago and now it’s gotten to a certain level where people know about it and we get free tickets to almost every show.
Q: What is it like covering the music scene in San Diego?
Frank: I love it. It is really fun because it is such a small community of people so everyone knows everyone. I know a lot of people complain that the SD music scene isn’t that big but people need to go support each other and go to more shows. I feel like more recently there is a sense of community developing and people are starting to support one another more. It is cool to see that community because when I first started I felt like no one took me seriously …they were like, “Who is this person?” But there has been a shift — it used to feel more territorial and now it’s more like, “C’mon let’s do this.” It’s been fun, it’s crazy, I’ve met a lot of cool people, and I’m still learning a lot.
Q: What blogs do you follow?
Q: Who is your favorite artist?
Frank: Julian Casabalancas, I love him.
Q: Who is the coolest local artist that you have worked with?
Frank: I’ve met a lot of cool musicians, but I recently did an interview with Kim and The Created right outside of Soda Bar while wearing my panda suit. She puts on one of the best live performances… it’s almost like she gets taken over and her body experiences some kind of exorcism when she is performing.
Q: What has been one of your craziest moments working working with Listen SD?
Frank: Well…I just got kicked out of the Belly Up for the first time — that was funny. [laughs] I was crowd surfing at Ty Segall … and at Beach Goth I got to stage dive in the panda suit. I don’t know, ListenSD has opened up a lot of doors for me — I get photo passes and backstage passes and the chance to be around all these rockstars.
Q: Who are you listening to right now?
Frank: I booked a show with this band, Corners — they’re from LA. They are playing our show at the Casbah on January 31st so I’ve been listening to them. I’m obsessed with Spotify’s Discover Weekly feature and this girl Kacy Hill just came up … she has such a pretty voice so I’ve been listening to her. Ty Segall just came to town and I feel like my listening habits go with bands that I see live. Oh, and The Gloomies. They are a local band and they have a Monday night at Soda Bar. They’re really, really good if you have a chance to see them.
Q: What has changed most about the industry since you first started?
Frank: The art scene is growing and there is more of a connection between music and art now. There is this whole scene in Barrio Logan that’s awesome — I just went to this art party and there was live music and each show was overtaken by art. But I’m all about Mexico. There is this huge scene in Mexico with bands coming up from Tijuana to San Diego. What ListenSD is doing with some of the shows that we’re throwing is building setlists that feature artists from LA, Mexico and SD. Coming together is what will really push SD to have a bigger music scene.
Q: What or who is your biggest inspiration to keep creating?
Frank: Gosh, partly it’s the Flaming Lips. Wayne…man he is just out of control. I think that meeting him and dancing on stage just set something off in me. He’s just like completely out of his mind where it’s just like okay to be a panda and wear a panda costume and go to concerts and crowd surf. I think that’s why I like going to concerts so much — you can just loose your mind and it’s okay. No one is judging you — you’re just there for the music.
You can check out ListenSD here: http://listensd.com
Come out to their show this Sunday, January 31st at 9pm and rock out at the Casbah!
*Photos courtesy of Rachel Frank