By JUSTIN HU
Tearaway’s future is in safe hands as its publishership is officially handed over to a new owner this week.
Long-time music columnist Erica McQueen broke the news to contributors that she would be taking on both publishing and editing responsibilities last Monday, taking the magazine into its 35th year of publication.
Hailing from Onehunga, Erica has contributed tens of thousands of words to Tearaway since 2013, starting off being the magazine’s on-the-ground photographer at gigs.
She’s also written for other publications like NZ Musician Magazine and AUT’s student magazine Debate, as well as online music publication Muzic.net.nz.
In her new position as both publisher and editor, I posed a few questions about the past and also the direction of where Tearaway is headed.
What do you do outside of writing for Tearaway?
For work, I primarily freelance as an event manager and virtual assistant. I also do a bit of concert photography, and work with musicians on everything from tour booking and organising shows to writing press releases and designing websites. I enjoy gardening, cooking and playing chess.
Looking through your bylines, you’re clearly super passionate about local artists here in Aotearoa — what got you into covering the local music scene?
From age eight, I grew up going to the Parachute Music Festival every year, until their last festival in 2014 (which I covered for Tearaway actually!).
This was my introduction to live music and also many local artists, but was only once a year. Turning 18 and being able to go to gigs was significant for me. I started going to shows regularly, and over time met a number of musicians, who became friends. I noticed that many bands that are just starting out get overwhelmed with the admin side of music – promoting themselves, getting their name out there, organising shows – they just want to play music! So I started writing and photographing shows as a way to support the local scene. Then went on to organising shows, and working on the publicity side of things.
How are you feeling about becoming editor?
In one word: excited!
Where do you think Tearaway fits in young people’s lives in 2020? As more youth get their news and information off social media than ever before.
Despite the changes in the way young people find and consume news, I think we still appreciate well-considered, engaging content.
Amidst the click-bait and memes, there’s still a place for thoughtful articles, op eds and well-researched pieces. Perhaps more than ever, surrounded by influencers and false news, we need to break through with thought provoking, quality content. But that’s not to say there isn’t a place for social media, I’m a big twitter user and that’s one of the main ways I find interesting articles to read.
I personally love long-form journalism and reading some of the articles that Tearaway has published over the years has been an awesome insight into the issues facing my peers — the youth of New Zealand.
With how volatile the media industry is today, what do you think the future of online magazines like Tearaway is going to be like?
I hope that there will always be a place for Tearaway, even if the form that takes changes over time. In a similar way to the revival of vinyl for music, I do think people are regaining interest in print media. But perhaps I’m just a bit of an old soul, I always buy books instead of e-books, print things out to read them, and love flicking through the local paper over a coffee at my local cafe.
To remain relevant, online mags need to be responsive. This is unique for Tearaway as our audience and contributors are always “the youth of New Zealand”. This is great because our team of Mavericks know best what their peers are interested in.
Our readership, and team of young contributors, changes every few years. Perhaps, unlike other publications, our readership doesn’t grow old with Tearaway. We continually get new readers and have to respond to how youth are engaging with societal issues, consuming entertainment and connecting online.
I don’t think we’ll be getting a Tearaway Tik-Tok anytime soon, but a podcast is in the works!
Is there any particular direction you want to take Tearaway in as editor?
I’ll be focusing on continuing the significant legacy of Tearaway. I’d love for teenagers to be as familiar with the mag these days as they were, say, 15 years ago.
It’s been an interesting journey for me, taking over as publisher. It’s often my friends in their 30s, and even my lawyer, who remember the ‘hey-day’ of Tearaway, when it was available for free in Burger King and many schools. I’d love to revive this familiarity. I love that Tearaway is “by youth and for youth” and am keen to continue providing a platform for young people to engage with issues they’re passionate about.
One thing I’d like to do is highlight more of the history of Tearaway. The website content only goes back six years, despite the magazine being almost 35 years old. Chris Traill, who photographed countless magazine covers and events for Tearaway over the years, spent lockdown going through his old film photos. I’d love to share some of the many photos he rediscovered, that were shot for Tearaway, particularly at Polyfest and Smokefree Rockquest.
What tips would you give to any aspiring Mavericks?
Go for it! I was so surprised to get my first assignment for Tearaway, I didn’t think I had good enough examples of my work or experience. I think I actually submitted some film photos I’d taken at Parachute.
But after that first assignment, I grew in confidence and from there learnt a lot and had so many great opportunities.
Where have you always wanted to visit but never have?Japan
Anything you’re binge-watching right now?
Still recovering from my Money Heist binge
What emoji do you use the most?
Describe yourself in only three words
Eat. Sleep. Repeat.