Hipster Runoff Explained (Maybe)

A (possibly) illuminating chat with Carles, the Internet's latest mystery man

Altbros, altbags, blipstaz, "blog house" enthusiasts, Tumblr addicts, and uneasy rock critics alike have for the past two years found themselves in thrall to Hipster Runoff, a sardonic music blog run by "Carles," a mysterious and quite possibly messianic figure whose bizarre mixture of puerile humor, savage satire, goofy nauvete, and profound cultural critique has left everyone enthralled, terrorized, and completely confused.

Whether brutally deconstructing alternative DJs, "personal brands," TV on the Radio, or the concept of Girls' Night Out, Carles mixes juvenile text-speak ("Is it ALT 2 watch the Super Bowl?") with provocative armchair sociology: The epic post "Animal Collective Is a Band Created By/For/On the Internet" attracted a particularly great deal of both deification and derision. Was its blunt assessment of the self-perpetuating and notoriously insecure Internet hype machine-i.e., the "bros who pretend to only care about judging music based on 'how it sounds' but secretly check P4k rankings on a weekly basis to construct what they 'like' based on how they perceive the masses are digesting new content"-a revelatory breakthrough or old news dressed up with new jokes? Did he even mean it? Is he laughing at us? With us? Who the hell is he, and what does he want?

Recently, Carles agreed to an IM interview (his preferred medium) to shed light on these and other salient topics. I'm not quite certain if any light got shed or not.

We asked for a photo, and this is what he sent us.
Davis Ayer
We asked for a photo, and this is what he sent us.

Who are you?

That's probably the most difficult question you could ask. I have been pretty anonymous up to this point in terms of "who I am" and "my relationship with what I blog about," but I think that is part of the conceptual execution of HRO.

Anything you can reveal? Where do you live? What do you do all day besides . . . this?

I am a pretty standard bro. I grew up in suburbia and recently graduated from business school. I now have a "job that I hate" and doesn't really "allow me to express myself." But my day is pretty much taken up by my "real job." I am hoping that ad money will enable me to quit soon.

What do the scare quotes there signify? Sarcasm?

I think sometimes I just feel disconnected from my own words/world. When I type things out, they seem cliched and/or insignificant. It might just be a bad habit, though.

Do you think people would be surprised by what you're like "in real life," or are you pretty much what they'd probably expect?

I think people would expect me to be "loud" and have a "strong personal brand." Just to be some excessively alternative guy with "a sad life." But I think I probably have "a sad life" in a different way that's a little bit more mainstream and means having a salaried job.

You'd told me you're not in New York, right? Do you get out here at all? Do you interact regularly, or at all, with "altbros" and "altbags"? Or is your study of them mostly confined to the Internet?

I am in a relatively "alt" area, but I think the whole concept of the site is "being able to justify your alternative existence" by monitoring websites that are theoretically on the bleeding edge of culture. So while a tween may be disconnected from "fitting in" at his local high school with kids who shop at the local mall, he can find acceptance on the Internet through alternative websites, blogs, social networks, and e-commerce shops. That's sort of why I feel like the "Carles" part of HRO is insignificant, and it probably makes the site easier to digest without "some dude" attached to it. It's more of a naive, bro-like, third-person omniscient tone.

What percentage of what you do is completely sarcastic, as opposed to mostly sarcastic? Are you basically "playing a character"? Are you "in character" now?

I think that right now, I am "out of character, but guarded, but also feel pressure to perform and not alienate potential new readers who might not be interested in this anonymous asshole." I am not sure if I would describe HRO as "sarcastic"-probably more like "too real." I just like the fact that different types of people can come to the site with very different expectations. People who read too many blogs will enjoy its place in the blogosphere as "something different," while I can imagine some teen coming to it as a bible/justification for their alternative lifestyle and attitude problems.

So to what degree did you "mean" that Animal Collective post? A lot of people I know have raved about it-were you surprised at how much attention it got? Did you intend for it to be seen as this epic manifesto?

I think that the "moral fabric" of my site is probably in the musical criticism. I started out as "just another MP3 blog" who eventually got on Hype Machine, but then realized that people can only value a free MP3 so much. When I write about music, I try to write from an identifiable consumer perspective. I think that the Animal Collective post was pretty serious, and maybe just more of a reflection of the era that we have kind of grown into. The post wasn't really even a good post about AnCo, but just more of a timeline of our collective consumer perception since the alternative population started using the Internet to find the "best new music."

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