In Record Collecting for Girls, Courtney E. Smith writes about love and coming-of-age through music.
You talk about feeling strangely annoyed when a band that you loved—the Shins—hit it big in the film Garden State. Will this ring true for casual music fans?
It's different for everyone. That's the beautiful part about the way you relate to music. Some people want to stay really small. When I was in college, I interned on a radio show that was the "alternative to alternative." People would call in and berate my friend Josh for playing their favorite bands on the radio because they didn't want other people to know about them. He'd let them talk and then explain that your favorite band didn't get into music to not be heard. They want to be successful, and you should want that for them if you're really a fan. And there are plenty of other people who, before Garden State, would have never heard of the Shins, and that movie was their introduction. So there was nothing for them to get mad about. Those were the people that the Shins might be the most out-there album in their record collections.
In terms of cool soundtracks to own for your generation, did Baz Luhrman's Romeo + Juliet kick off the craze?
It's the one I remember. Clueless came before that, but it wasn't cool to own. There wasn't that congruency to it, and I don't know if it had a music supervisor in the same way Romeo + Juliet did. I was surprised when I was researching this section how many of the cool artists who are on the Twilight soundtracks referenced the Romeo + Juliet one. It kept coming up. I felt the cultural impact when it came out because I owned it, all the girls in my dorm owned it, and it seemed like "the thing." But looking back on it now, it seems so much bigger than it did at the time, much more influential.
How do you think the concept of the music collector changes in the digital age?
The concept has changed, but I think you can still have really special things, mostly because so many more bands exist now. The new collector is that person who can actually find things before they're going to be popular. And those people are, by and large, music bloggers. They're the people who are the real record collectors in the digital age.
Ever consider an entire book of music-themed dating advice?
It's so hard because everybody's personality is different. And I don't think everyone should avoid boys who like the Smiths too much. There are probably girls who are perfect for those boys. I am not one of them. But telling you the right bands would be hard because, like I describe in the introduction, I had a crush on a boy who loved Yo La Tengo and was then surprised that he was totally awful to me. I didn't understand! It's Yo La Tengo: you can't get less confrontational than that. So those boys will surprise you every time and it's hard. But the Smiths thing is getting more and more universal the further and further away from the Smiths existing as a band we get. There's a time and a place for the Smiths. But it's the people who like them way too much. Those are the scary ones.