You know what makes a lot more logical and logistical sense than Lonely Boy and his mousy-sexy English teacher getting busy in the costume closet before the senior play? Music and the Internets! Josh Schwartz understands that. In between working on his already-established television shows (Gossip Girl, The O.C., Chuck), which all function as idiot-box crack to its fans, he has been toiling on a little hypertube gem called Rockville, CA with Alexandra Patsavas, the music supervisor on all his current projects. The web-only series chronicles the obsessive fans, musicians, and industry insiders that frequent a certain divey-yet-charming venue. And each four-six minute episode features a performance by bands some blog already told you to love (i.e. Passion Pit, the Kooks, and the Broken West). So yesterday, we stole a few minutes of Schwartz’s time to ask him about SXSW, the forthcoming Gossip Girl spin-off, and how making Rockville helped him recapture his early twenties.–Sharon Steel
Rockville debuted last week on thewb.com. How do you think it did?
The reaction’s been super positive. It’s been embraced by the both people in the TV world and the music world. We were just at SXSW promoting the show, and it got great feedback from people.
What else did you do at SXSW, besides look around for Kanye?
Alexandra Patsavas and her record label Chop Shop, they had had a session … panel? … party? I don’t know what they’re called–oh, showcase, that’s it–for Rockville. And a bunch of bands that were in Rockville played. The Little Ones, Anya Maria, as well as a couple of bands that weren’t in the show, like Little Boots and Janelle Monáe. And the cast was there, too.
How did you develop the idea for Rockville‘s storyline?
I did a pilot before The O.C. called Wall to Wall Records, which was about the music business. But that was a while ago, now, and obviously the business has changed in drastic ways. I wasn’t sure a show about it would have been as fun as it would have been eight or nine years ago. But something about the bands, something about a venue, a live music experience, felt like it would still be relevant today, and be a great use of the Internet as a medium.
Do you think a web-only show with very short episodes can capture audience the way The O.C., or Gossip Girl did? What are your hopes for it?
The storytelling is different, and the kinds of stories we’re telling, the length of the episodes, the availability of the episodes, is for a very different medium. To try to judge it in terms of whatever the metrics of success are, or even critically in the same way that you would judge an episode of TV, is inaccurate. The only criteria of success for me was really experimenting in this new medium, having the opportunity to do something that was music-driven, working with great bands, and creating a world and characters who I enjoyed hanging out with and who I hope other people enjoy hanging out with.
Rockville focuses on a social set that would have welcomed dudes like Seth Cohen or Dan Humphrey with open arms. What made you decide to write something that would put the underdog–in this case, Hunter–in his natural habitat?
I mean, the thing about being the underdog is, you feel like an underdog even in your most comfortable environment. Hunter can look at a guy like Sid, the bassist from some lousy band that keeps changing his name, who Deb is completely enamored with, and have him be like, the biggest adversary of his life.
Tell us a little bit more about the casting. In addition to Veronica Mars‘ Ryan Hansen, who plays Hunter, I counted two former stars of The N’s South of Nowhere making appearances. Were you a fan?
I have not seen that show. But all this cast is brand-new to me, including Ryan, who I loved and is actually in the Gossip Girl spin-off pilot.
Speaking of your Gossip Girl spin-off, where you at all surprised by how people have reacted to the idea of following a young Lily van der Woodsen instead of giving Lil Jenny Humphrey her own show?
[Jenny Humphrey] is who the books are about. Stephanie Savage and I are not fans of traditional spin-offs, and that idea didn’t excite us. But doing something like this–that excited us. It was a creative challenge and an opportunity to expand the Gossip Girl universe.
Rockville is set entirely at The Echoplex and the Echo in Silverlake. Many music fans can remember a period in their lives when everything revolved around concerts and what bands they’re going to see, and where, and with whom. Was that part of the feeling you were looking to evoke?
That was the idea. This is these characters’ home, and this is their lives. Some of them work more directly with bands in the music business, either in A&R or because they work at the clubs. Some of them are just like Hunter, who works in online music marketing, which, he doesn’t even know what that means, necessarily.
But was it also because you really missed The O.C.‘s Bait Shop?
It wasn’t so much about missing the Bait Shop as it was about me being nostalgic for the time in my life, in my early twenties, when I was able to go to shows all the time and hang out with a group of people who lived that life. This was a chance to recapture that.