Genre Rants: Indie Music
I once got asked what the label ‘indie music’ actually umbrellas within the music industry. It stumped me, seeing as I am supposed to be this pretentious music critic and whatnot. I was baffled and slightly embarrassed because anything I would have said would have been my own opinion. I decided to Google (on the Internet, I know, how credible) what some indie artists today were. A site that once held the key to all music in the 1980s that Bowling For Soup started a religion for popped up. Yes, MTV informed me of the current indie artists, and I dare not name them because I left the bar before one of them sank in my head, and then I decided to go on a tangent about the definition of this genre. Welcome to Genre Rants, a brand new never before seen series in which I try and recall how I fell into discussing the genre at hand with excellent research that only a bunch of bloggers could provide me.
I was conscious enough to remember when I first the heard the term ‘indie’ music and it mainly was devoted to bands that were not part of a major label and more independently releasing their music. There was this really shitty website that allowed you to create a profile and upload recordings of yourself playing guitar to some cheap made back track to prove how great you were at being unoriginal enough to create your own art. I even considered myself an indie musician back then. Hell, my only fan was me! This was around the same time I was using the Internet to try and develop my personality before finding out what adults do with their, ugh, spare time at night.
My own idea about indie music was not far from the truth. At first the term began to describe actual labels that began signing bands that were mainly played through college radios. Then someone named Kurt Cobain happened and shifted the entire scene to this grungy, punk atmosphere, and apparently the term shifted as well. When the turn of the century came about and I became a little bit more aware of music as part of my identity, indie music began hoisting new flags of definitions upon itself.
The first band I ever listened to that was defined under this ‘indie’ monstrosity was Bright Eyes. For the next few years of my life every band that was emo-alt-light hearted-folk-using-multiple-instruments band I listened to fell under this category. This included bands that are now seen as mainstream successes like Death Cab For Cutie and Modest Mouse. I am here to tell you that anything that received an ‘indie’ label back then became pretty well known. It was the common sing-along songs that helped people feel better in life, but also could hold your dopamine just a little bit longer to make sure their depressing stuff hit you when you really were down.
Now the genre seems to have expanded more as the next decade wave of ‘indie’ bands turned their attention to even more instruments that include a symphonic ambiance to garnish a larger sound. I am not saying the previous wave of bands did not use electronic sounds to give more taste to their music, but they didn’t fully embrace it. (
Editor’s Note: No no, stop that, I know Digital Ash or whatever Conor Oberst did is electronic but I do not consider it something in my repertoire).
Now we have bands that alter their names by taking out vowels (PVRIS, MGMT) that helped inspire or whatever you call it other artists to take upon womping bass lines with fuzzy electronic sounds that add to the depth of the scale of music being played (Tegan & Sara, Vampire Weekend, Passion Pit) that have taken hold of the underground mainstream radio waves. That was a weird sentence to pay respect to, because indie has always been more of an ‘underground’ thing that just so happens to be commercially successful. These bands are often happy-go-lucky sounding but have a deeper and more simplistic meaning to their lyrics, not to mention cleverly titling their songs to be puns.
Where does that leave us now? Well, I am still confused. Is my spoken word project considered indie? If so, I want to see the light of fame and fortune because this entire genre is bullsh*t. Well, not the music, but how easily it is to get grouped under it. I guess every genre is like that, I mean I totally consider every guy who screams to be a ‘straight edge hardcore kid’ and every guy that rhymes to a beat is a ‘thug ass rapper’ right? Are we just going to continue to expand this genre’s core every time a change in the industry is made? Even the Queen of pop herself T-Swizzle took her sound to this wompy electro pop on her last great album 1989.
Basically, add some new pedals to your sound effects board and continue expanding your musical talent. Sooner or later all the whale noises that help you sleep at night as well as your obnoxious snoring can probably make it into a happy tune. Add a few catchy lyrics and then reap the wealth of the independent label scene, isn’t that how it goes?
Follow Sean on Twitter: @seanthecaptain