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May 10, 2010 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Shahlin Graves

While you’re at university, the editor of Coup De Main is interviewing that band you like. Salient feature writer Elle Hunt talks to Shahlin Graves.

This week, in online magazine Coup De Main ( a feature on Vampire Weekend’s gig in Auckland; a glowing review of the new Kate Nash album; and a guest blog written by indie rock band Clap Clap Riot. In other words—more or less business as usual for a webzine that prides itself on keeping abreast of popular culture in New Zealand. What sets Coup De Main apart from its thousands of contemporaries is its fresh, youthful energy, and the simple reason for this is that its editor is younger than you.

Well, that’s if you’re 22 or over: Shahlin Graves is 21. She is the co-founder and editor of Coup De Main, which was launched in February 2009, and now averages over 30,000 hits per week. She’s interviewed musicians that most people her age dream of seeing live, let alone meeting. And she achieved this before graduating with her Communications degree.

So, for those who are completely unfamiliar with Coup de Main, what do you do?

Coup De Main is an online pop-culture magazine. Our namesake is a military term that capitalises on surprise in a swift attack—and we take it to heart, in a war against lazy journalism, i.e. copying and pasting.

What prompted you to launch Coup De Main?

Dissatisfaction with the poor standards of music journalism was the main catalyst. Also, the serious lack of a local pop-culture reporter that was actually in sync with real-time—no one wants to be the last to know!—and happy to meet the whims of their readers, rather than only dictate bandwagons and force press releases at them.

What have been some of the successes you’ve experienced with Coup De Main?

There’s been too many to name. Every day is an adventure for us. We try not to stop and think about everything that has happened over the last year, because it’s literally the stuff that our dreams are made of.

I have a wall of Polaroid photos in my bedroom, which is a nice reminder of interview opportunities we have been lucky enough to secure. It’s really weird when you see someone like Florence + The Machine or The xx on the cover of a magazine you grew up reading, like NME, when you’ve also photographed and interviewed them.

What have been some of the difficulties?

Last year was a bit tough, because I was in my final year of my degree, and also juggling a part-time job at the same time. There was a lot of Coup De Main hustling and very, very little sleep. We’re a tiny team compared to all of the other local media organisations, but we don’t let that stop us from trying to better or out-do anything that anyone else posts or publishes.

In all honesty, though, I just feel like we are incredibly lucky. All of the publicists we work with look after us kindly, and for the most part, we’ve pulled off crazy concepts that people have really supported.

At 21, you’re a great deal younger than your competition. Have you found this to be an advantage, or a disadvantage?

It can be perceived a disadvantage in the sense that industry traditionalists sometimes find it difficult to take a 21-year-old seriously, but no, I haven’t ever found this to be an actual disadvantage, as everyone that we work with is amazingly supportive and patient.

I wouldn’t want to work with people that feel threatened by youth anyway. That’s terribly close-minded. I kind of welcome critics though: it keeps me on my toes and inspires me to work harder. I think that our accomplishments and success speak for themselves anyway. We’ve managed to get to a happy place where our reputation precedes us, so being 21 has become more of an impressive talking point than anything, I think.

What would your advice be for students who wanted to work in the media or music industries, or for those who wanted to start their own businesses?

You’re only ever as good as the last story you’ve written, the last campaign you’ve pulled off… I constantly worry about the complacency of our generation. Having gone through a Bachelor of Communications, I can honestly say that there were and are too many students who think that they are going to get their dream job handed to them on a silver platter with their degree. To get to where you want to go, you will need to work hard. Really hard. You might have to sacrifice many hours of procrastination to get there, but the sooner you wake up and realise that, the faster you will arrive!

As for me, I’m still not there yet. I procrastinate far too much. I’m content with myself, but I know that there’s still so much more that I could achieve if I prioritised better. Don’t be afraid to jump—what’s the worst that could happen? If anyone says ‘no’ to you, that just means you need to brainstorm an alternative.

Those interested in writing for
Coup De Main can contact Shahlin at


About the Author ()

Elle started out at Salient reviewing music. In 2010, she wrote features and Animal of The Week, which an informal poll revealed to be 40% of Victoria students' favourite part of the magazine. Alongside Uther Dean, she was co-editor for 2011. In 2012, she is chief features writer.

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