Once upon a time, two Californian musicians named Nataly and Jack began recording together as Pomplamoose. They uploaded transparently do-it-yourself footage to YouTube and called them “Videosongs: a new medium with 2 rules: 1. What you see is what you hear (no lip-syncing for instruments or voice). 2. If you hear it, at some point you see it (no hidden sounds).” They became enamored with each other around the same time.
They mostly did covers or mashups of beloved hits, probably both for fun and for views. Most videos end with impromptu vlogs: life updates from the kitchen, ways to support them, rare live shows, Myspace links to locally-printed shirts, or soap home-made by Jack’s sister. I was instantly endeared.
And so they felt as transparent as their music production and as near to me as the screen. That was on purpose, but not in a manipulative way. And I didn’t yet take for granted their quirky-cute way of facing fans. It’s probably unfair to say that like it was a brand or affectation. It felt like they were just presenting themselves, but online.
I was keeping up close with Pomplamoose through high school, though they felt like a delivery from the YouTube of my childhood, when lots of users were making sketch comedy in their living rooms with a camcorder. Some of my faves, like Smosh and NigaHiga, would go on to become some of the biggest YouTubers, but that job hadn’t been invented yet. Whatever their ambitions, it was all pixely, messy, and necessarily just for fun.
Jack and Nataly kept making music together. Over time, they experimented with music videos and elaborate stunt variations on their Videosong format. It all looked like so much work and dedication. They took hiatuses and emerged with photoshoots. They moved, got engaged, and married, vlogging through life stages on side channels. I don’t know—I kind of stopped paying attention. At some point, Nataly did a solo album that I really liked. Jack made some dubstep stuff on his own too.
But his biggest move would be co-founding a crowdfunding site called Patreon, which reliably pays internet creators to produce content, from direct fan subscriptions. He has a great TED talk explaining how it works, and how the idea was inspired by Pomplamoose’s beginnings.
The idea is that the internet has evaporated every distance between creator and consumer—including the money in production and distribution systems that kept artists both paid and distant. Patreon is a way to make this new closeness profitable too.
These days, Pomplamoose is still in California studios, doing covers and mashups every week with beautiful session musicians, usually “feat.” other up-and-coming singer-songwriters. As of writing, they get $8,272 a month from 1,787 Patreon “Patrons.” They keep the talking to the vlog channels. I guess they still mostly conform to those Videosong rules Jack laid down a decade ago too.
I’m sorry: I know that this is mostly nostalgia, non-transferable between rememberer and reader. But re-watching their older videos feels like seeing a school play recording or an old science project—things are less impressive than they felt at the time, but somehow that only makes me more proud of what they were, and what’s changed.
And I feel somehow involved. I think this is what YouTube was and is for. I guess I was playing around with music in my parents’ basement too.
I don’t capital-S Support Jack or Nataly. But I do support them, in all the positive and passive ways we use that verb toward lives that never intersect with ours.
I use Patreon to Support only one thing—a podcast by two LA “Ex-vangelicals” called Good Christian Fun. It pokes fun at the wacky world of safe entertainment made by Christians and for Christians—which the hosts were raised with and still find nostalgia for. My subscription tier unlocks a bonus episode every week (a “Second Service”), which makes afternoons pass faster at work. It’s actually the only podcast I keep up with, and I’ve gotten embarrassingly dependent on it.
But really, I contribute because I feel what’s probably a common, embarrassing sensation: that my favorite podcast hosts feel like my friends. Or I feel like we would be friends, if our paths crossed. With relatable, conversational content, this is probably part intention, part consequence. Their show isn’t so much entertainment as company I keep.
As this year ends, so does the decade, and summarizers and list-makers are compelled by narratives and retrospectives, trying to explain away what’s changed. To me, something of the ‘10s are in the bookends of Pomplamoose’s uploads. Of course the internet “connects” us, but this is my small illustration of how that feels—the real and perceived accessibility of presenting online, and how that accessibility is constantly negotiated, encouraged, and used. It’s enough to crowdfund a career.