My Idea of Fun - Johnstown, PA

One hour east of Pittsburg  resides the small town of Johnstown, PA, and in it, the not so small art and music collective: My Idea of Fun (MIoF).  Since 2007, MIoF has been speeding in the left lane of art making madness fueled by an unyeilding DIY ethic and 20-30 contributors.  Over the years they have managed to release a total of 259 projects ranging from CDs, photobooks, vinyl, novels, websites and digital downloads - one of thier most recent being an album by The Meets, a band comprised of 21 members and every stringed instrument under the sun.

Community, repetition and accumulation seem to be in the DNA of My Idea of Fun and
in the words of co-founder Brandon Locher (brother of Olivia Locher) there are

Here is an interview with various members of MIoF. - interview by Keba Robinson///photos & videos courtesy of MIoF

Why/when did My Idea of Fun start?
MIoF: Johnstown's not a very big place, and the art community is obviously even smaller. Ever since I started going to shows (probably about 2000 or 2001), the bands with similar ethics and taste were always very supportive and close. The older we all got, the more mediums some of us started working in, particularly photography. So, I guess MIoF was a way to show that we were more than just drummers or guitar players playing punk songs.

Brandon Locher, Jacob Koestler, and Cory Savit came up with the name and the idea to catalog their own stuff that weren't "proper" releases, and other people were invited in to up the quantity. That started in 2007, and since then, it's gone through lots of different evolutions to what it is now. I'm sure it'll be something else someday, too, depending on where everyone is artistically and geographically.

What is Johnstown, PA like? 
MIoF: It's a burned out steel town. We just celebrated 20 years as a Chapter 47 economically depressed city. Go J-town! Artistically, there are some other people in town doing techno stuff, jammy stuff, folkie stuff, hardcore stuff, and bluesy stuff musically, as well as a couple visual artists and writers with whom we don't have much contact. It's really cheap and nice to live here, though. Although a couple of cops did just get away with murder, literally.

Was there a preexisting community of artists in Johnstown or did  My Idea of Fun encourage people to start producing music and art? 
MIoF: There was a punk scene (still is) that we were a part of (some of us still are) where we all met and became friends. So the collective grew out of that. But, MIoF definitely serves as an outlet to release work for a lot of great artists who maybe never would have released anything if it weren't for the site.

What sorts of gatherings does My Idea of Fun have?
MIoF: We throw shows at a local venue, VOMA, for touring bands we know and love. We also do this thing called the Travelin' Javelin' Band, which is a party where a bunch of people show up, draw names out of a hat, start random bands, and write, perform, and record a song from scratch. It's my favorite thing we do, but we don't do enough stuff like that. It's usually just hanging out and drinking and smoking, which isn't very creative at all, really. I tried organizing some bigger things before, but it's really difficult to get everyone to work towards a common goal without some people feeling left out and others feeling overworked. But like I said, it always goes through phases.

How Many/ Who are the people involved? 
MIoF: Oh, I'd say there's about 30 people in town who make art together. Of those 30, probably only half have ever organized or envisioned anything to further the idea of the whole collective, which is fine. We all see the collective working in different ways. Then there's also some folks who live elsewhere that are still involved, and we've also been known to put some stuff we want to share by our friends on the site. I have a tendency to want everyone in the whole world to be involved with MIoF, ha.

Brandon Locher making sounds:

What do you think about countercultures surrounding art and is it easy for them to exist in the 21st century? 
MIoF: All art, good or bad, has something important to say about the whole world. I gravitate toward art that speaks more about the ugliness than the beauty out there. So, I think countercultures surrounding art should be more active in the community, instead of just self-indulgence and apathy. But, ya  know. We all see it different ways. Is it easy in the 21st century? Yeah, we're all about "easy" here at MIoF. The digital age is helpful for all artists, and especially for something like what we do. We basically make stuff, then shit it out on to share with anyone who goes to the site. It eliminates negative things like costs and self consciousness when you know you're able to just share your art without limitations or discretion. 

What do you want to accomplish with My Idea of Fun? 
MIoF: At this point, the best thing I can do is to keep encouraging my friends to make art and feel comforted by the fact that MIoF will release it and I will love it, no matter what it is. Someday, I'd love for people outside of Johnstown to understand each member's work, and know that if they like, for instance, Dan Oatman's stuff, then they can find at least 10 different albums where he's collaborating or involved with someone else's project. And those 10 projects can each take you to at least 10 more.  I'd like that a lot.

The Hit and Miss Engines throwin' down some grooves:

What has been your favorite project thus far? 
MIoF: A bunch for different reasons. Conceptually, Travelin' Javelin' Band 2 or 4. Emmett and Mary's S/T and Jacob Koestler's The Daily Camera 2009 rep the collective best, and Endless Mike and the Beagle Club is the most rewarding band I will ever be a part of, as far as what I want from a collective.

What is your favorite part of being a part of My Idea of Fun? 
MIoF: Total freedom to do anything I want and know at least a couple of my friends will support me.