About a month ago Paste Magazine asked the questions, “Is Indie Dead?” I have since been asking myself that question and have been involved in an in depth conversation with other music blogs about the subject. Here is my input to the question, feel free to add to the conversation:
What is indie?
To me indie rock which describes the do-it-yourself attitudes of the artists and bands. The less major corporate labels are part of the decision-making processes, the more ‘indie’ and autonomous the music is. The spirit of indie rock is supposed to be free to explore sounds, emotions, and lyrical subjects that don’t appeal to the mainstream or mass profit. While mainstream music is, “What do people like now? Lets do more of that and milk this cash cow ’til it’s dry. Then we’ll find the next trend, dumb it down, and do the same. Over and over.” While with indie rock, “What do people like now? Who cares? We’re going to do what we like and hope people like it as much as we do.”
what has been done?
It’s been a slow process but I think with the internet, the recent collaborations with high profile artists with ‘indie’ acts, the rising success and commercialization of festivals, and sudden departure from traditional record distribution, bands that wouldn’t get exposure a decade ago are now getting recognized for their talent. However, we have a long way to go before we see Joanna Newsom playing the Grammys. Only time will tell what this all means.
what has it achieved?
With Vampire Weekend as #1 on the Billboard and the Twilight 2 soundtrack, the term ‘indie rock’ is being used as ‘music I don’t hear on the radio.’ The real achievement is that there is more hope that creativity is being more appreciated. This paves the way for more acts to experiment and emerge with some truly original ideas. Now is Vampire Weekend as #1 on the Billboard and the Twilight 2 soundtrack a good thing? The new VW is trite and annoying and the T2 soundtrack was boring aside from a handful of tracks…but it could be a whole lot worse. What I’d like to achieve is that we scrap the term indie rock and reserve it for the definition of the movement alone. I shouldn’t have to describe Grizzly Bear as indie rock, but as a mellow rock band. I cringe every time I have to use the term because it’s way too broad of a definition. I really don’t know what it’s going to take to phase it out, but I’m trying to do my part. (which I kind of fail at because I used it in my last post).
Where is it heading?
Gradually it’s heading in a good direction. Whether you like VW, AniCo, M.I.A., or The xx, it’s better than the current state of popular music and its eventual self destruction. My other thought is, “Do I want this music to be popular?” It’s kind of a high school mentality, but when I see The Swell Season play in San Fran to a sea of middle aged, over emotional, ex-hippies with disposable income….I can’t help but wish it wasn’t so. Actually,….you know what? …. I have no idea where it’s heading. But I have to admit, it’s a pretty exciting time.