Songs & Cigarettes is nothing and yet it is everything. A site dedicated to whatever its contributors think is interesting, Songs & Cigarettes is a collective made up of people who like cool things and are good at finding (and talking about) them. Some awesome artist from the UK? A rant about Rob Ford’s library fiasco? Bonding time with your dad? It doesn’t really matter what it is, but if Braden Rosner, Aislinn Malszecki and Neil Rimmer think it’s interesting, chances are it’ll end up on their site. The three 20-something guys, who became friends in university, also make a podcast called Podthrash (but more on that later). Together, with contributing minds scattered all over the place, Rosner, Malszecki and Rimmer have created a site that is equal parts chaos and organization; equal parts frenzy and calm. There’s no theme to their site, and crazily enough, that’s why it works.
Sara Harowitz: How did Songs & Cigarettes come about?
Braden Rosner: I started it as a school project in 2007 just at BlogSpot. I had a job at a nuclear power plant at the time and needed some sort of
outlet because I wanted to get into writing again, so yeah, I just kind of used it as that. And then eventually, Aislinn and I talked about turning it into something bigger. And about a year and a half ago, the three of us got together and then we turned it into this.
SH: How much work do each of you put into the site?
Neil Rimmer: We’re probably averaging 15 hours each. And that’s a matter of maintaining the site, editing, gathering contributors, editing photos, uploading photos, Podthrash.
SH: What made you decide to start Podthrash?
NR: I think we were inspired by what we listened to. We sort of listened to some amazing podcasts and started thinking, ‘Well, why couldn’t we do that?’. The podcast now is sort of one of our staples. We just do it as an extra element to the website, sort of to add some characters as who we are because I think a lot of times websites don’t have a face. So at least this sort of offers more interaction with the viewers, listeners, readers, whatever. And it’s also fucking awesome to do; it’s so fun.
BR: The idea of talk radio, I think, is still amazing. You feel like you learn something.
SH: How has Toronto been an influence on you guys?
NR: I think a lot of our inspiration comes from where we live. I mean, it’s to sort of hard to ignore the cultural influence that Toronto has. I think maybe it’s just me being 24 and in the city but now more than ever I think I recognize all the talent. A lot of the success of our site is based on content. So the people who write it are from Toronto; we don’t have a lot of contributors who aren’t Toronto-based. I also love this city.
BR: That was kind of the whole intention, almost like a cityscape collective in a sense. So we try to encapsulate the parts of the city that define it or us in that sense. We’re launching our event series, Songs & Cigarettes TV, in a few months, and that’s kind of been the intent: basically show the side of Toronto that’s, at least digitally, not represented very well.
SH: What’s the event series going to be?
BR: I think the idea is to have these pop-ups. We’ll do a show at one point, we want to do a barbeque thing obviously, but the whole idea is to not really plan things yet have our signature on them. Have them in different areas, different times, with no real sense of organization.
AM: We’re not trying to create any kind of community around our site; it’s just kind of adding to all the awesome things that are happening. We just want to be part of that; invite some good people.
SH: This issue of OTM is all about not being afraid to take a risk to better yourself and your craft. Can you think of a situation where you took that kind of risk?
BR: The idea of incorporating the site, like actually creating a business out of it, which is what we’ve done and what made sense, is a risk. I had a pretty strong readership and some good opportunities when I was running the blog alone, but basically I’m surrounded by people who are much more competent than me so the idea was to take a risk and throw that out and let these guys run with it.
SH: What’s required to be outright bat-shit crazy?
AM: Do you think we’re crazy?!
SH: It’s on your site; you call yourselves that!
AM: That’s true.
BR: Aislinn goes to Detroit with a disposable camera to take pictures; [contributor] Tim Shitty shoots a fish with a harpoon gun on top of a boat at four in the morning drunk in Australia.
AM: I fell off a two-storey garage like a month ago.
BR: That was weird actually; I thought you were dead.
AM: I like broke my foot. I did. I haven’t gotten it fixed.
NR: The “bat-shit crazy” term just sort of means that like, our writers are from anywhere and anything.
AM: We’re ultimately a miscellaneous blog; it doesn’t make any sense. But somehow everything aligns and it does have a voice. And that’s kind of crazy. It’s just kind of a crazy voice.