Alyxandra Vesey is Assistant Professor of Journalism and Creative Media at the University of Alabama, and the book reviews editor for the Journal of Popular Music Studies. She’s been published recently in a wide variety of places, including Flow, New Review of Film and Television Studies, and Journal of Cinema and Media Studies.
How did you get to where you are today, professionally?
I can trace my career as a popular music scholar back to four transitional objects: the clock radio I got for Christmas when I was 10, the SPIN Alternative Record Guide I got for my 13th birthday, the Rolling Stone subscription I bought with my allowance money, and the personal computer my stepdad built for me in high school. These were lifelines for a kid who grew up in a rural suburb 30 miles south of Houston at the height of the CD era. The radio—specifically the local Top 40, modern rock, and hip-hop stations—let me tap into the city’s rich music culture. SPIN and Rolling Stone helped me lean on critics’ assessments of inaccessible music. I needed Ann Powers to describe what Bikini Kill sounded like because I couldn’t find Pussy Whipped at the Sam Goody in the Baybrook Mall and I didn’t know about mail-order distribution. Finally, the PC let me fiddle with a new file-sharing platform called Napster and stream Rice University’s station over RealAudio when my clock radio couldn’t pick up the signal.
Then I moved to Austin for college and stuck around until my late 20s. At UT, my music fandom was broadened by becoming a deejay at the university station, KVRX, and by joining Alliance for a Feminist Option, a feminist sorority co-founded by the host of KVRX’s grrrl punk show. At KVRX, I dug deeper into music by going to shows, writing album reviews, and interviewing musicians. I also met my husband, Chi Chi Thalken, who runs the indie hip-hop zine Scratched Vinyl. But I also encountered a lot of sexism, particularly from predatory male listeners who harassed female college students over the phone. The members of AFO refined my indignation with feminist criticism, protests, and event planning. They also held dance parties after our weekly meetings, which changed my understanding of people’s collective embodied capacity for pleasure, work, and political action. I also never had to justify my love for synth pop on the dancefloor.