This week we’re in Melbourne with Kimberley Thomson, editor of Australian music indie Swampland. The fourth issue of the distinctive, yellow-branded magazine has just been published.
Tell us about your typical Monday journey to work
As we are an independent publication, I don’t have a typical schedule (coffee is probably involved though.) I balance my life working as a journalist while acting as the managing editor for Swampland. However, today the rest of the Swampland team (Creative director Alan Weedon and Deputy editor Kelsey Oldham) and I are meeting with our designer, Hayden Daniel, in his studio in Collingwood.
Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your office
Generally, my desk is a bit of a shit show. Low key mess makes me feel comfortable. I often have a stack of books and magazines lying around as well as a collection of steadily decaying houseplants.
Which magazine do you first remember?
I was obsessed with the newsagents as a kid. I gravitated from an Australian kids’ magazine called K-Zone to Australian Football League magazines to teen girl mags Dolly and Girlfriend and then eventually NME and Rolling Stone.
Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
I mostly read the long-form journalism of the New Yorker and the Australian equivalent, The Monthly. In the music context, guitar magazine She Shreds does great stuff — they aim to broaden the idea of who should read and appear in guitar mags. I wish I had access to that as a teenager!
Can you describe your magazine in three words?
Intelligent, eclectic, good-looking.
Where did the idea of Swampland emerge from?
We felt like there wasn’t enough coverage of Australian music, especially in an in-depth format. The music that is made here is world-class and very diverse and there are many strong independent music scenes and community radio stations. We wanted to celebrate this in a print format. The name “Swampland” comes from a song by the Australian punk band The Scientists. As well as referencing a classic tune, the moniker acts as a good stand in for the way Australia is sometimes viewed by the rest of the world: a strange, far-away backwater.
Swampland’s articles are written as pieces of longform journalism. How have readers responded to this in an era where consumers are driven by brevity?
We always wanted to go for long-form pieces as this is what we felt was lacking in the music journalism landscape. Death to listicles! Our plan was to cherry-pick our favourite parts of existing music magazines, which for all of us is the meaty features. (As we are a biannual publication, we also have to be mindful of how pieces age, hence no reviews.) Our readership seems to really appreciate the focus on long-form—an antidote to brief online coverage.
We see many magazines from Australia – do you feel that you’re part of an Australian indie mag scene?
The independent publishing scene over here is really strong. The three of us met while working on a literary magazine called Voiceworks, which is long-running publication that champions writing (and editing) from young Australians. The Lifted Brow is another lit publication based in Melbourne and there are plenty of other great indie titles—Gusher, based in Sydney, also publishes music journalism, written from a female and gender diverse perspective.
What Australian music would you recommend for a first-time listener?
Something that Swampland aims to do is to highlight the breadth of music and identities in this country. We are an incredibly diverse nation although for a long time the music industry has overwhelmingly centred white, male narratives (pub-rock, etc.). At the moment, it seems like dynamics are starting to change and as a publication we want to document these shifts. There’s a big grassroots push—across many genres, punk, electronic and hip-hop—to make things more inclusive. Read Swampland for playlist tips! Our issue four cover star Sampa the Great is a good place to start.
What are you worrying about at work this week?
Things are going pretty well at the moment. We are two weeks off sending issue four to the printers and (for once) it is smooth sailing. Touch wood. We are in the process of booking the line-up for our launch for the issue—a gig at Melbourne’s Gasometer. Each issue, we throw a big party that includes artists in the magazine, which is a lot of fun, but the planning can sometimes be a little stressful.
What’s going to be the highlight of the week for you?
Proofreading! As we are all card-carrying word nerds, we get off on the process of scouring for typos and it’s satisfying to absorb the content laid out on the page for the first time. Also, lots of snacks are on hand.
What will you be doing after this chat?
Hunkering down at The Tote and hiding from a crazy, incoming Melbourne cold snap.