Op/Ed: Manufacturing “Indie”
“…Odds on, if you can’t relate to the noise somehow, neither can they…”
Your writer was at a loss for what to discuss today, before he happened upon this monstrosity of a Gumtree ad for an “indie” band in London, shared on Facebook by bastion of taste, the Quietus. Expecting, at the very least, a laugh, the link was clicked through, and this was what awaited at the other side.
We are an establishing indie/rock female band who formed a few months ago, and now have offers from two major labels. Material is written and only now need to be recorded to complete the contract. Our bassist had to leave due to lack of commitment. We are set to be a four piece band again asap, a lead singer/guitarist, rhythm guitarist, drummer and are now in search for a female bassist, who can also sing backing vocals. As the style, quality and image for this band is quite particular, we need band members who are:
• Flexible in dressing/image for stage performances, interviews, and anything else on the band. – We carry a touch of masculinity and carelessness in image and voice, the lead singer carries a low toned voice which requires similar expectations for backing vocals
• A small bust and an average to skinny figure (Has a look that could fit into the band drawing image)
• Between ages 19- 24
• 100% committed to the band
• Ambitious minded and confident
• Open minded to ideas and cooperative
• Willing to learn and perform material that has already been written (This is music aimed at the media, it is not completely about what we like)
Our influences include The Strokes, Young the Giant, Arctic Monkeys, Kings of Leon, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pearl Jam, Wolfmother and The Who. We vary by using fusions from eastern ragas, creating songs that familiarly fit into mainstream music, which is why we are on a roll. Our material and history has been temporarily hidden due to the search for new members.
The managers are aware that it is quite difficult to find female musicians who (?) the bass. If you have any musical background or even own one of these instruments and are ready to get to the top we are willing to cooperate and try it out with you.
If that doesn’t boil your blood, it might be suggested you might be part of the problem.
The “indie” construct is not a new one. Since the explosion of DIY music activity in the 1980s on both sides of the Atlantic, the scramble for cred and authenticity has been quite urgent among clueless industry hacks in search of the next cash cow. Husker Du‘s turn toward their classic pop influences in the late 1980s spun off all manner of pretenders co-opting the aspects of Mould, Hart and Norton’s incendiary racket that worked best for them, in a odious and vague mesh known as “college rock” that petered out with the vanilla likes of Deep Blue Something and Hootie and the Blowfish. When Nirvana beamed into the mainstream consciousness out of nowhere in 1991, it was even less time before labels were either sending trucks of cash to bands with the slightest hint of an edge to them, or worse, setting up fake indies as imprints to fool a newly-empowered listenership in dire need of something new. When that fallacy failed, it was immediately apparent that any number of knaves were willing, yet again, to take the worst elements of the music that “inspired” them, and turn it into further mediocrity: see also, Nickelback, Silverchair. Oasis and Blur? Cast, Kula Shaker, and any number of one-hit wonders. Deftones and System of a Down? Three Doors Down, Saliva, Trapt and the rest of post-grunge/nu-metal radio-rock car crash. Pretty much everything from 2000 on that the NME has raved on about, from the View to the Pigeon Detectives, have had a particularly brutal short-attention-lifespan.
So what’s the beef, then? This is nothing new, and if you ignore it, it’ll pass, right? What’s chilling here is the degree and surgical precision of the manufacture. Read it again. They’re looking for a chick with a small bust, and, apparently we all know chicks don’t play bass so we’ll work with ya for a while if you’re shit. But don’t contribute ideas you like because we want column inches. Or at all, in fact.
Managers and related staff exist to publicise and spread awareness of a band and help them run their affairs, NOT “create” a band for those purposes. They work for you, you don’t work for them. Band 101. Not only is it counter-productive to independent spirit, to creativity and to expression, it really doesn’t make you any better than a ragtag, bargain-bucket Louis Walsh. And anyone who reckons this shit is a ticket to musical credibility or any sort of lasting run in music ought to think again. Again, just look at the elephant’s graveyard of pretenders to broader musical movements over the years.
That this mentality exists is majorly down to the accepting attitudes to such horseshit mediocrity from the listening public, in particular, a growing swathe of casual listeners that leans toward “alternative” music and singer-songwriters. Look at the state of it: how many bands have emerged in the last three years that follow certain patterns? X and the Y, anyone? Strong female lead with a backing band specialising in breathy, uplifting, chorus-riddled pop. Florence, Marina, Niki? The like of Lana Del Rey? Pop rejects who read up on “hipster” “style” from five years ago, changed their tack and quickly donned the uniform to the amazement of a greater “alternative” listening public who fell for the guise. The Script? Former boyband gone Kings of Leon. Kings of Leon? Hackneyed indie-pop tropes adjusted slightly for square-jawed US bible-thumpers. It’s all so hackneyed and cliched, that it really is a disappointment more people don’t see these things coming. It’s no beef with the people listening, it’s what they’re being fed.
It is time for music to wise up and see the long-term damage scams like these are doing around the world – anyone with a few grand to spare can assemble a clutch of hapless kiddies imitating rockstars and quoting them verbatim out of context, buy ‘em a PR package and send them around. It takes real heart and soul, all of it, for you to come together with like-minded individuals, work each other out personally and artistically, and create something that comes from yourselves, before putting in the hard time to play out to people, record, and so forth. “Bands” like the example here, are a distraction, both for artists already finding it hard enough to establish themselves after all of their hard work, and for casual listeners, starved and continually starving for decent options. In a world full of distractions, it’s about time we stopped and took a moment for clarity.
Odds on, if you can’t relate to the noise somehow, neither can they.