Bringing indie rock down-to-earth


    In the world of indie rock, Austin-based musician John Vanderslice is an anomaly.Over the past decade he has established himself as a jack of many trades through his accomplishments as a meticulous musician, prolific photographer and owner of the successful Tiny Telephone recording studio.

    After the 2005 release of “Pixel Revolt,” his fifth full-length album, Vanderslice toured Europe with rising stars Death Cab for Cutie before returning home for a handful of shows at last week’s SXSW music conference.

    While the touring schedule may seem intense, Vanderslice admits he stays pretty busy on the road.

    “I spend more time on tour shooting photos than playing music,” Vanderslice said.

    Much of Vanderslice’s photography focuses on the minute details amongst the grandiose. He seems to prefer the floor of an ancient cathedral or the beams of a skyscraper to the greater whole.

    “Photography seems to me to be about selecting tiny windows of your visual and emotional life,” said Vanderslice.

    Fortunately for fans, Vanderslice’s photography, in addition to his music and blog updates, can be accessed online at, a Web site dedicated to all of Vanderslice’s creative endeavors.

    When he’s not touring or taking photographs, Vanderslice returns to Tiny Telephone, his sought-after analog recording studio in San Francisco’s Mission district.

    Established in 1997, Tiny Telephone boasts an impressive collection of hi-fi analog recording equipment in addition to a growing clientele comprised of reputable record labels such as Matador, Merge, Saddle Creek and Sub Pop.

    Tiny Telephone provides financial security for more risky artistic ventures, Vanderslice said.

    “Tiny Telephone has allowed me to be more disorganized and more fussy,” said Vanderslice. “And because it’s now a semi-successful business I don’t have to worry as much as I used to about paying rent and overhead for touring.”

    Vanderslice’s two most recent albums, “Cellar Door” and “Pixel Revolt,” were recorded and mixed at Tiny Telephone by longtime collaborator and friend Scott Solter.

    Unlike other artists he’s worked with, Vanderslice is always trying out new instruments and sounds, Solter said.

    “It’s an egoless event,” Solter said. “Where he’s song writing, I’m sound designing, and there’s a lot of bleeding over.”

    His humble attitude seems to extend to his personal demeanor as well. In an October article in the East Bay Express, Michael Alan Goldberg said Vanderslice “has a well-deserved reputation as one of the nicest, friendliest, most down-to-earth musicians in all indie popdom.”

    With the respect and admiration of numerous fans and fellow artists, Vanderslice has successfully carved out his unique niche in indie rock.

    Does the notoriously do-it-yourself have any advice for aspiring musicians?

    “Record quickly, and with resolve,” Vanderslice said.