so today at sunday lunch, my 13 year old baby bro and i had a conversation about the realm of indie music. i call it a realm because i feel as if there is so much to say on the subject. the conversation started out when i told him he was becoming a little "altbro". you know. those kids that create head bands out of the sleeves they cut off of their v-neck american apparel tees? yeah, those. or the girls that wear fake glasses and wear glittery gold leggings? yeah, those. don't get me wrong. i have plenty of friends that are like this, great people too. they're is absolutely nothing wrong with expressing yourself through dress. but it's become an epidemic. my baby bro. my sweet little baby brother. he is on his way man.
after explaining what this was, he insisted that he was an "indie kid"
which brought up a question ( and a slight shudder )... what are the kids his age now defining "indie" as? my friends and i are all fans of a huge range of genres of music, including independent music. its also safe to say that we all became friends through sharing the same love of undiscovered music (aka indie music, to us). and still now, we like to discover great artists and share them about. I asked sam what he meant by "indie kid" and he had trouble explaining it. the conversation went something like this:
me: so whats an "indie kid" sam?
him: i dunno, its..its just hard to explain.
me: go ahead, i have plenty of time.
him: well, see, indie is a whole way of thinking.
me: [ completely confused and kind of offended i respond, ] hmmmm...i don't follow you.
him: like indie kids are the ones that aren't willing to conform to anything. like you have those kids that wear all surf clothes, the ones that wear all abercrombie, then you have indie kids.
me: so, "indie kids" has to do with the way a person dresses?
him: kind of
me: so what do indie kids dress like?
him: you know, band tees, tight pants
me: so what about the music. is it even about the music?
him: of course. indie kids listen to indie music.
me: like who?
him: you know, like deathcab or feist.
me: well, technically, neither are indie rock.
me: both are signed to fiercely major labels. they're on commercials. they do good morning america. that isn't indie music!
him: i dunno, julia. its hard to explain...kinda like, Santogold. She's SO good.
me: yeahhhh. can't get into it.
him: really?!? she's so good. none of my friends have heard her yet. i think its unique.
me: * sigh * Ohhh, Sam....
The more i talked to him, the more i realized how much the whole realm of independent music has shifted. I understand what he meant when he said that "indie kids aren't willing to conform". it goes without saying that the whole point of independent music was to allow artists to have as much creative allowance as they wanted and didn't want to make gimmicky music - aka pop music. i explained to him that my generation of indie listeners are people of different shapes sizes colors etc. that my generation never made it a fashion movement or a holier than thou branding like it seems his generation of listeners has. for them, its almost a pride thing. for us, its about good - almost completely unadvertised music that we loved just as much as the new mayer album. that indie music could be rock, hip hop, experimental, classical, you name it. and that it more so describes the marketing of the music than it describes the style.
That was when it hit me -- Why wouldn't he and his friends have this "way of thinking" as he liked to put it? - indie music has become an industry in itself - commercials, tv show/movie sound tracks, contributions to major label artists, especially in the production aspect, young hollywood wearing band tees and going to shows and even starting bands themselves - all of which have contributed to independent music's rather ironic growth in popularity. and then you have the what i like to call, "gimmick bands". the bands that use borderline pop sensibility and/or out of the ordinary looks/band names to complete the indieness of their indie-essence, but REFUSE to be labeled as anything but indie. I mean come on? Santogold? Tilly & the Wall? Devendra Barnhart? The Black Kids? The Cool Kids? or maybe Girl Talk? why wouldn't his generation make it the new craze? it isn't about what sounds good. its all about the one up. its all about being the coolest kid. its all about conforming to the non-conformist way of thinking.
That being said, is indie music dead? i mean, lets get real, here. what has independent music become? the answer is: a whole gimmick in itself. i asked sam this and he argued that it absolutely was not, dead. that people are "just now getting into it". i mean, i'll admit. when i first started listening to great bands that no one had heard of, i felt good about it. i think a lot of people my age felt that way when we were new to the world of undiscovered (indie) music. the difference, however, is that it was never a culture to us. it wasn't the cool thing to "do". in fact - it wasn't a "do" at all.
For the record - 3 of my 5 favorite bands right now are signed to major labels. I am by no means an indie music snob - and to be honest...most of the indie music i hear, i can live without..
In closing, i did a little research i thought you all would enjoy. Please soak it in and stir it up. Maybe we could go make some cool american apparel tees that have a sweet message about bringing indie music back. Yeah? Didn't think so.
Rilo Kiley - Warner Brothers Records - Major label
Paramore - Fuled by Ramen - Indie Label
Bloc Party - Wichita Records/Atlantic (US) - half indie half major, probably a dist. deal with Atlantic
Nirvana - Sub Pop Records - Indie label
Rachel Yamagata - RCA Records - Major Label
Hanson - 3CG Records - Indie label
Remember, Mmm-Bop? Yeah yah do.