New: Holy Balm – Fashion

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A few months back, Holy Balm showcased a new single they’d been working on in the Triple R Live Studios. Since seeing that video, I’ve been hounding for the release of a tangible single or record, something that isn’t a dodgy Youtube rip front ended by 30 seconds of jazz.

Well, today is the day – this otherwise uninteresting Wednesday marks the official release of new Holy Balm material. “Fashion” is a song that springs alive on the back of warring synths, one squelching like its trudging through a muddy field, the other buzzing like an organ on ecstasy. Both circle and bite, only coming together underneath the gorgeous vocals of Emma Ramsay, who’s ethereal voice stands high and mighty.  Altogether, it’s weird, and cool, and decidedly alien, especially when that climbing staircase of sax enters the picture. It forms Holy Balm as the house band for an intergalactic discotheque –  Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes hopped up on D.A.F. records – where the only surefire thing is that Holy Balm are far too cool and otherwordly to possibly have come from this planet.

“Fashion” is the first single from Active, the forthcoming sophomore album which will be out in August on Chapter Music.

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Gig Review: Volumes Festival 2015

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Saturday, August 29th @ Brighton Up Bar, Oxford Art Factory, Cliff Dive

It’s rare to walk into a venue at 3 o’clock in the arvo and see anything more than a few winos having a quiet beer. Maybe a couple of #ridiculouslydressed folks on a pub crawl for someone’s birthday. There’s certainly no expectation of seeing a packed house of clamouring music fans singing along to an album that hasn’t even been released yet. But, in the first incarnation of what’s sure to be a celebrated annual occurrence, VOLUMES Festival brought Sydney’s music fans out of their share houses and into venues, catering a fantastically eclectic showcase of Australian music.

VOLUMES Festival sure seemed like a gamble – for a local nerd like myself, the lineup was a wet dream. Relatively speaking, it was like a Star Wars geek getting to have lunch with a pre-sequels Lucas at Skywalker Ranch. Just viewing the bands playing, delight was being compressed into my brain at an unhealthy rate. The lineup was stocked with incredible acts, from the bigger names Jack Ladder & the Dreamlanders and Blank Realm, to sturdy up and comers such as FLOWERTRUCK, Low Lux and Gold Class. However, statistically speaking, these aren’t your typical headlining bands. In anticipated excitement over the festival, I would sputter and slobber about all these awesome names and would often be greeted with blank, occasionally hostile, stares. “Oi, can you fucking not spit in my face…and I don’t know who the fucking Laurels are, mate!” was a common response. It felt like this beautiful new thing that was taking over three of the most celebrated venues in Sydney – Oxford Art Factory, Cliff Dive and Brighton Up Bar – could be attended solely by music nerds with nothing better to do with their time (read: this ginger piece of shit with a keyboard).

Come 3pm, and bands that don’t even have full records out are busting out their jams to enthralled audiences. Big White serenaded with their off-kilter guitar pop, Death Bells shot daggers with their dark, infiltrating gaze of post-punk inflected dream pop, and The Pinheads engaged in all-out debauchery. Three bands in, and the senses have been driven into overdrive, particularly by The Pinheads, who make it their mission to risk their lives for the sake of our entertainment. Draped in thrift shop rock star outfits, shimmering with a Straight-Outta-Spotlight glamour, The Pinheads brand of overwhelming rock ‘n’ roll continually invades the audience and challenges the status quo of standing with your arms folded *nodding in solemn appreciation*. Bertolt Brecht would be proud.

It’s been said before, by folks much more eloquent/intelligible/handsome than myself, but FLOWERTRUCK are fucking sick, hey. Go-Betweens/Triffids meets Talking Heads with a dash of Factory Records pop aesthetic. Winner winner, chicken dinner. Although they’re usually a first-song-in-capture-the-whole-crowd group, the sound in the Gallery Bar seemed to irk the set towards the beginning – however, FLOWERTRUCK still commanded their half hour with the most impressive pop to come out of Sydney in a long time. Don’t get us wrong – the crowd was grooving hard, especially when cynic-evaporators “I Wanna Be With You” and “Sunshower” upended naysayers right in the pleasure gland. As their time stretched thin, the dance floor grew more heated, and sweat poured. This band is essential – don’t miss them next week, when they play the Junkyard-curated leg of King Street Crawl at the Botany View Hotel.

Holy Balm made a rare appearance, and quickly reminded why they’re one of Sydney’s favourites. They are a truly un-pigeonhole-able group, a threesome who’s influences stretch far, unveiling a sound that is equally at home in a nightclub as it is in the bedroom of a lonely soul. In the intimate Cliff Dive, Holy Balm quietly shone with dance music that’s unrivalled, beautifully delivered monologues bubbling over the top of incredible live production – whenever Holy Balm decide to next grace a stage, ensure that you are front and centre. Switch over to World Champion in the OAF main stage, where a very different kind of noise is being produced. BritPop sheen collides with skilful production, and bolstered by vivid visuals, the lean team of Julian Sudek and Will Campion make for a bustling performance reminiscent of Jagwar Ma’s live shows.

ONWARDS! A cinematic double-team of Shining Bird and Jack Ladder. Although both faced technical problems, the South Coast and Blue Mountains ensembles triumphed in their own way. Shining Bird are impossible to tear away from, and once they float into their groove of slow-burning psych pop hauled from a conk shell in Thirroul, there’s no backing away from the gems of the South Coast. Much like interrupting a sleepwalker, it’s better to just look on in bewilderment at the dream-cloaked happenings that city slickers would never be capable of pulling off. Meanwhile, Jack Ladder and co. simply pushed through the difficulty with brute force. Typically dressed to impress, Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders played admirably, but hardly at their most memorable. Whereas previous performances have left attendees in complete awe, sound issues plagued early portions, and the band didn’t seem to throw themselves in as much as they have previously. There isn’t much too complain about – any chance to witness “Cold Feet” and “Hurtsville” is always a pleasure that should be experienced by everyone, but tonight felt slightly crooked.

Segue into Brighton Up Bar, and the room is fixated on Melbourne’s Gold Class and their urgent post-punk. It’s a paradox, hearing such a confessional and committed singer, running around the stage, wrapped in his microphone, strapped to snarling, drenched music. It’s bleak stuff curdling upon sharp and searing punches of music that unwraps spectacularly. Seeing them made for a satisfying prequel to their debut album, which drops soon.

Unsurprisingly, Blank Realm were the highlight of VOLUMES. This band is easily the greatest band in Australia, firmly tied with Royal Headache. Do whatever is in your possible power to see this band, or buy their record…fuck it, do both. Their music is incredible, and just keep getting better. The festival provided an opportunity for Blank Realm to unleash a few songs from their upcoming masterpiece “Illegals in Heaven“. Not only is this album perfect in recorded form, but live, it does to the heart what a volcanic explosion would do to butter. “River of Longing”, “Palace of Love”, “No Views” – these are some goddamn hits! Sprinkle these amongst some bonafide classics from the Brisbanites back catalogue, you’ve got the best thing that’s happened to Oxford Street since the first Mardis Gras. How Blank Realm haven’t been scooped up by a multi-national corporation to be the face of contemporary music, showered in unruly decadence and a royal declaration of excellence, is beyond me. Maybe it’s because the subject matter is Schindler’s List-crossed-with-Lassie levels of heartbreak…but cut with the band’s wonky serving of pop and the group’s irrepressible live show ensure that anyone in hearing distance is cutting shapes and sweating harder than a 17 year old at their first Stereosonic. Seriously, Sarah Spencer is the coolest person in live music – her keytar moves are more inspiring than hearing Nelson Mandela and Ghandi swap stories. I’ll say it again – DO WHATEVER IT IS NECESSARY TO WITNESS THIS BAND! IT IS ESSENTIAL TO YOUR SURVIVAL AS A HUMAN BEING! YOU WILL BE BETTER OFF FOR IT! BLANK REALM ARE THE MCDONALDS SALADS OF BANDS – SURROUNDED BY FAKE BILE, THEY ARE GOOD AND GOOD FOR YOU! 🙂

Concluding the night are a couple of rock “elder” statesmen – Wollongong’s finest shredders Step-Panther and Sydney’s The Laurels. The former are criminally underrated, a South Coast three piece who drenched an adoring audience in fits of fuzz, and sporadic solos that should have splintered the fingers of frontman Steve Bourke. Although some wankstain, twat-faced ginger who probably runs a blog decided to ruin their otherwise spot on rendition of King Tuff’s “Headbanger”, the set was otherwise an encapsulation of everything there is to love about Step-Panther: unstoppable garage rock paired with a heads-down, lets-fucking-rock performance. It was enough to warrant abundant crowd surfing, which at Brighton Up Bar is a cock tease to Death, considering the giant hole in the middle of the room. People are actually willing to plunge to their execution at a Step-Panther show, what have you done lately? The Laurels finished the VOLUMES marathon with a tight set drawing from tracks off their legendary psych rock debut ‘Plains’, as well as material from their upcoming record. Paired with throbbing visuals, The Laurels went into shred territory, running the gauntlet of rock from the squealing charge of “Changing the Timeline” to the hypnotic “Tidal Wave”, and new jam “Zodiac K”.

It really can’t be overstated how important a festival like VOLUMES is – in the void of the incredible Sound Summit, it is instrumental that there is a festival that showcases everything there is to love about Sydney and Australian music. The lineup was extraordinarily well put together by music lovers for music lovers, covering far more bases than this review was capable of representing; for example, the electronic masterminds of friendships, Null and Lower Spectrum went unseen, as did the brutal Zeahorse. But the fact that it catered to more than just a guitar loving Aus music nerd, and managed to consistently serve up some of Sydney’s favourite rooms with punters itching to dance is proof that, even though it occasionally might not seem like it, people do care about Australian music. And why shouldn’t they – when the bands that played brought such great performances it’s hard not to pat Aussie music on the back, grin and say…fuck, we’re pretty alright.

VOLUMES FESTIVAL MIXTAPE

VOLUMES Festival – it’s next week mate. In approximately 10 days, this festival is gonna take over Oxford Street. Brighton Up Bar, Cliff Dive, Oxford Art Factory – combined into one sprawling pit of music. 50 metre radius. Unlimited good times.

There’s a shit tonne of bands playing this festival, but here’s the ones where you’ll see me bopping my strange-looking head at:

Jack Ladder & the Dreamlanders:

Four albums in, the man is still a sensual machine. Six feet tall, and all of that brimming with sorrow. A baritone that flattens cities. Backed by Donny Benet, Laurence Pike of PVT, and Kirin J Callinan. Dream team.

Blank Realm:

Hands down, the most underrated band in Australia. Everyone that knows them loves them, but that number is nowhere near high enough. That’s gonna change – they’ve got their album ‘Illegals in Heaven’ coming out September 4th, and the first two singles are some of the saddest blasts of pop music unveiled since Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream”.

Big White: 

Pop music made by university students for university students. Actually, the songs are for anyone with a beating heart. Jangly guitars soaked in glossy keys and lovesickness. Their song “You Know I Love You” would probably cheer up even Old Gill! It’s gonna be great.

Zeahorse:

Bone-snapping music, Zeahorse play shows pretty rarely these days. When they do venture to a stage, skulls are cracked. Their debut album ‘Pool’ was a dirty adrenaline shot of sludge pushed to the edge, and they’ve been working on some new stuff for a while now, which looks like it’s going to punish eardrums even more.

Step-Panther:

South Coast shredders venturing to the city again to open up our smoke-clogged pores. Watching Step-Panther do their thing is always an enormous pleasure; big riffs collide with self-deprecation for splintered rock ‘n’ roll delirium.

Holy Balm:

There’s a fair few electronic acts gracing the VOLUMES lineup, but Holy Balm are essential. This band is so fucking cool and weird. Not only is their music a concoction of left field electronic absurdity, but it all just unfolds fantastically live. You definitely need to see them.

FLOWERTRUCK:

Best new-ish band in Sydney – every show is better than the last, and they’ve just unleashed their new single “Sunshower”, which has been getting flogged on my iTunes Library. Their live shows are bonafide mirth-inducers, wherein their guitar pop music infects even the most unsavoury of individuals.

Day Ravies:

Sydney’s own band without a genre, Day Ravies are unclassifiable, only consistent in their ability to put out mesmerising music. Their new album, ‘Liminal Zones’, is a fluid pop affair that fluidly flits between whatever style happens to tickle the band’s fancy. The only guarantee is that it’ll be good.

Low Lux: 

Low Lux are pretty new, but managed to put on an absolutely incredible debut show. It was cinematic…epic…ambitious. Definetely an act to familiarise yourself with and witness, before they’re playing rooms that are suited to their grandiose stage shows.

Death Bells:

Another fairly new band who only have one single, but have impressed a hell of a lot of folks for that small amount of material. They’ve got a brand of dream-pop that has daggers in it, swirling with flashes of derangement. Live, they turn up the snarls and bellows to lung-puncturing levels. Get down early and catch ’em.

VOLUMES goes down 29th of August, in Sydney. Catch a plane, catch a train, I don’t give a shit, just be there. You can grab tickets to VOLUMES here.

New: The Rangoons – A Postcard From Rangoon Island

Hardly anything about this album makes sense – The Rangoons are entirely unpredictable in the truest sense of the word. Absolutely anything can appear, popping up like a gopher to look around quizzically, only to replaced just as quickly with another furry monstrosity. This quality, along with the fact that all three members have put in the hard yards in a few of Sydney’s most unique projects, has made The Rangoons a group worthy of rabid adoration.

Formed between Emma Ramsay (Holy Balm), Ela Stiles (Roamin’ Catholics, Songs, Bushwalking) and Jay Cruikshank (Home Run), The Rangoons resemble something far different than the aforementioned projects. There’s no real ‘thing’ that overlaps the recordings on this tape – it jumps around, a schizophrenic pogostick of ideas being mashed together in a blender of mushy genres.

The opening six minutes of “The Bath of Rangoon Island” utilises spindly guitars, perky flutes and riffs upon a stream-of-conscious that recalls a forgotten TV adventure show from the 60’s, albeit one more in lieu with the delirious strangeness Danger 5 or Saul of the Mole Men.

“Two Minds” and “Crimewave” follow – more traditional rock affairs, although the word ‘traditional’ fits in the same way that ‘family man’ would be used to describe Charles Manson. Throttling disortion, tribal chants, and lyrical ridiculousness are all par for the course. The tape finishes with the two-for-one deal of “Lunatic/Shadow”, which transforms from tickling, ambivalent pop to a speedy, crunchy thwack of amateur adrenaline. Best of all, there’s some truly disturbing words recited here (“Ela said she’d get me a gun/She knows I’m not well/Then I’ll shoot that boy in the leg/When he comes to ring your bell DING DONG!”) but they’re delivered with such joyful ambivalence, it inspires the urge to giggle rather than call a mental health line. For a band who have only been around a short time, and played a handful of shows, The Rangoons debut material is surprisingly well-rounded, exotic, and most importantly, interesting as hell.

Buy the tape from Paradise Daily Bandcamp here

Gig Review: At First Sight Festival

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Saturday, 20th July @ Carriageworks, Redfern

At First Sight Festival, a festival made up of local talent and co-presented by FBI Radio and the venue, was a good idea on paper, and an even better idea when seen in execution. Equal parts record fair and music festival, set in Redfern’s Carriageworks, it was an absolute awesome spectacle to take part in. It succeeded in an environment that has seen so many festivals fail. In the pst 12 months, OutsideIn Festival and At First Sight Festival are the only debut festivals in the Australian market that haven’t folded or completely fucked up. Movement, Parklife, Supafest-these are just some of the few that have been fucked. But At First Sight completely exceeded expectations and even managed to sell out it’s series of concerts, in it’s debut year nonetheless. It could’ve been the bands, made up of local acts either from Melbourne or Sydney, that gave a very communal and Australian feel to the festival. It could’ve been the relaxed and take-it-as-it-comes vibes that flowed the entire time, turning the crowd into a consistently respectful and appreciative audience. For example, when Marty from Twerps broke a string, a guitar from another band was instantly fed up to him, regardless of the fact that they had a back-up ready. It could’ve been the awesome unearthing atmosphere that surrounded the entire event, as in both the record fair, and festival, music fans of all persuasions dug up incredibly rare treasures. Or it could’ve been a culmination of all these things. Yeah, it was probably a culmination.

Unfortunately, I missed the first part of the festival, and although I’m kicking myself about that, I can’t continue without at least mentioning the great contingent of acts that swept past my gaze. Day Ravies, Holy Balm, Client Liaison, and Shining Bird are all awesome acts worthy of checking out, and I’m sure they all put on killer performances. However, I was too busy indulging in being a dickhead and eating brunch/scoring Pussy Galore’s ‘Dial M For Motherfucker’ for $20 to see them, and for that I am sorry, awesome Sydney/Melbourne bands.

So, for the first act of the day, Straight Arrows had to suffice. I say suffice, but in reality, they were a kick-arse, bruised balls start to a festival that no average coffee from a breakfast spot in Redfern could hope to replicate. Although the crowd was slightly sparse, Straight Arrows’ frontman Owen Penglis gave it his absolute all, shouting and screaming his raucous garage-punk with the tenacity of a stubborn Velociraptor, between half-retarded gimmicks to get the attendees to buy their shit…it worked. The set mostly veered towards the material off their debut ‘It’s Happening’, with ‘Bad Temper’, ‘Haunted Out’ and “Something Happens‘ standouts. However, new song ‘Never Enough’ did make an appearance, which was fuggin’ awesome.

Next was Songs, also from Sydney. They’ll be playing Splendour in the Grass next weekend, and one of their members used to be in Youth Group, who had that song/cover ‘Forever Young’ (don’t even fucking pretend you don’t know every word). However, the un-Google-able Songs don’t really play the pop-centric la-di-da of Youth Group (but then again, WHO DOES AMIRITE?). Songs are shoegaze with a cohesive edge, with slurred, rhythmic pulses shooting out from the band constantly. Live, songs like ‘Boy/Girl’ develop personality, with the body of the song shifting into overdriven waves that hit the audience with undeiniable energy. Although Songs hit a few bumps early on, with their opener conking out due to a lack of sound from singer Ela Stiles’ bass, their set steadily built into a highly enjoyable tale of purist sound.

After Songs came Super Wild Horses, from Melbun. Although the members Amy Franz and Hayley McKee started out with the premise of forming a band, and then learning instruments, their bare-bones rock n roll was something that would make Jack White drop his guts. Despite being pretty exposed, and sporting a case of bronchitis, Super Wild Horses were on top of their game. They shifted instruments, they were entertaining and friendly and their stage banter reflected a very down-to-earth band. Musically upbeat, and bluesy in the happiest way possible, recent hit ‘Alligators’ off their 2013 album ‘Crosswords’ proved to be a crowd favourite. Oh yeah, and they had the world’s tightest snare onstage. That thing could shatter glass it was so taught.

When Super WIld Horses finished up, Beaches took the stage. Beaches is a group of five ordinary girls who make amazing reverb-saturated shoegaze. If Songs were the shoegaze band that brought everything together in a body of music, then Beaches were the band that exploded that apart. Every member would shoot off a tendril with their own musical direction, creating a very complex and layered musical experience. Although it took them a while to hit the stage, due to one of the amps being blown, when they did, minds were blown. Beaches set mostly showed off a range of tracks from their recent album ‘She Beats’, including the amaze-balls ‘Send Them Away’ and ‘Distance’, and it was a blasphemously great experience. Although the mix was slightly fucked up, Beaches still delivered a killer performance, that see’s them out savaging Savages. Bonus points are awarded because one of the girls was wearing a Drown Under t-shirt.

After Beaches blistering set came Sydney pysch-garage band The Laurels. Having seen them previously in support of The Black Angels a month or so ago, I knew that we were in for a treat. Still, they brought more than the usual ragamuffin behaviour, with the band being everywhere at once on the small stage. Headbanging, pedals and washed out machinations of sound were the calling cards of the performance, as well as a stellar ‘Changing the Timeline’. It looked pretty fuggin’ brutal and exactly how I imagined a Burnt Ones show might go. Fuck me, I was very proud that a band of such awesome magnitude called Sydney home.

So, what better way to follow The Laurels psychedelic masterpiece than Twerps, the painfully original slacker pop band from Melbourne. Fun Fact: Twerps are Jessica Alba’s favourite band. Does that matter for anything? No, no it does not. Well, maybe it raises Jessica Alba from soul-sucking scum to mildly annoying piece of shit. Anyway, Twerps are a band that everyone who isn’t terrible should love. They sound like they don’t try, but end up up coming up as a better version of Camper van Beethoven, or the Australian Neutral Milk Hotel. Yes, they are better than Jeff Magnum. Maybe it’s because they’re uniquely Australian and it feels good to hear Australians sing about Australian shit, but it goes further than that, as every bit of material Twerps have put out in their very, very short career is absolutely amazing. They proved that straight away with both tracks off their Work It Out 7″ being amongst the first songs they played that night, as well as the closest thing Twerps would call a hit, ‘Dreamin’. All these tracks are supremely different: ‘Work it Out’ is the break-up anthem to end all break-up anthems (Morrissey can shut the hell up), ‘He’s In Stock’ a drug deal ode, and ‘Dreamin’ a modern, morbid Aussie fairytale. However, they all kick considerable butthole. There was even a trio of new songs, most of which remained un-named except for one with a ‘working title’ known as ‘something something something Bondi Junction’ (it was really fucking long, I couldn’t remember most of it). As for the band, well, cheap sweaters and plastic heart necklaces, goofy smiles and goofier cliche rock manoeuvres are all the standard in a Twerps performance. It was an actually an honour to witness the greatness of Twerps in live format, and blew my mind of all expectations, my brain littering the various expanses of the Carriageworks. Their closer of ‘Who Are You’, performed with the help of the ladies of Super Wild Horses and Beaches was a spectacular finish that was completely unexpected and very well received, the 3 bands rocking Sydney like only Melbournites could.

To finish out the night were headliners HTRK (pronounced Haterock, I guarantee you’ll feel like a twat once someone inevitably corrects you). Their doomy ‘n gloomy disco was highly divisive in my mind. Whilst at some points it seemed to muddle and drone on unnecessarily, the rest of HTRK’s set was composed of incredibly intoxicating electronica. There were a few moments, such as the gothy and drained ‘Synthetik’, in which my face involuntarily twisted into a shocked o-face. HTRK’s creepy loops and spine-tingling darkness shrouded their music in intrigue, but as a performance it was mediocre, and I checked the time a couple times extra than usual. Still, a HTRK performance was still a moment of triumph in a day’s worth of extraordinary and diverse music.

I’ll reiterate what I said in the introduction: At First Sight was a crowd-pleaser and was especially awesome at succeeding in the same area that so many others, with arguably much bigger and better lineups, had drastically failed. Then again, who needs Nas or 50 Cent when you’ve got Twerps on the lineup?

The Difference Between Indie & Interesting-An Essay

There is a facet of music that has annoyed me, and countless bands, for as long as popular music has existed: being pigeonholed. There is nothing worse than slaving over a piece of music, crafting a melody or a rhythm, re-imagining a sample, toiling on lyrics until you wake up in a pile of your own vomit from how amazing your poetry is (not speaking from personal experience), and proudly releasing your gift of musical beauty into the world…only to have it thrown back in your face as a categorised, labelled misconstruction, to be tossed up on a shelf with a bunch of bands that everyone will associate you with from now until when the Titans inevitably rule the Earth. Take the case of The Preset’s ‘My People’, a dance thumper about, I shit you not, boat people. However the political nature of the song was misinterpreted as a party anthem, and was shat out in all the clubs across the country. Or The Clash’s ‘Rock the Casbah’, a highly satirical song that viciously tore into the government, that has been reduced to being the song your parents awkwardly shuffle to in the living room. No, pigeonholing sucks balls. I’ll admit, that occasionally in reviews, I take a creative license and compare a band to something that might not spring to everyone’s mind when they here the song, such as when I recently compared X-Ray Charles to Beat Happening and The Modern Lovers. However, this is my website and my opinion….soooo, yeah fuck you  if you take personal offence to my comparisons between bands that I find have musical similarities for broader identification.

However, this is not simply about subtext or great bands past their heyday; this is about the highly negative effects of pigeonholing, namely throwing in bands of actual worth with the dreaded pseudonym of indie, or hipster depending on your cultural geography. It’s a brand that has a certain sting to it, one that recalls pasty kids in buttoned up floral shirts and way too tight pants, spouting how they ‘knew about this band before anyone else’, typing a post-romantic dramedy novella on a Macbook pro in a delicatessen on Broadway whilst sipping a flat-white cappuccino. Click here to visually comprehend if Lucifer was more of a douchebag. Although, for me personally, that doesn’t look like an astoundingly fun person, and they come off as rather cynical and two-dimensional, these indie scum do exist. They are the ones who scan Pitchfuck daily for bands they can worship before actually hearing anything, who single handedly keep Pabst Blue Ribbon in vogue, and made ridiculous clothing ‘cool’ (who the fuck likes fedoras?). But by far, their worst crime is the diluting of the indie genre.

Now before I continue, I would like to point out two things. Firstly, the inspiration for this essay was ‘How Did Indie Get So Safe’ on Fasterlouder by Edward Sharp-Paul; it’s a great, short essay (shorter than this one anyway) and it’s better than the majority of things you’ll read, besides Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Secondly, I’m about to insult a whole heap of indie bands that I find personally shitty. I understand that music is subjective, and this is not an argument about your personal music tastes. However, if you are one that enjoys the superfluously repulsive sounds of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Two Door Cinema Club, or Last Dinosaurs, I suggest you stop reading. Or not, you might find your new favourite band amongst those I find incestuous. Isn’t critiquing wonderful?

Anyway, there is a major problem with Indie music: it is too broad and too bland. When someone screams ‘OMG THIS BAND IS SAH INDIE’, it’s hard to know what they actually mean. Are they talking about Animal Collective, with their rich, multi-textured palettes of soundscapes, or the statistically terrible The Apples in Stereo? Did they mean Midnight Juggernauts’ pandering new album or Fugazi’s furious 1988 debut EP? It’s hard to know anymore. Then, there are so many sub-categories and niches, all with the title of indie slammed onto the front like an awkward boner sticking out of an 8th Grader’s pants: indie-rock, indie-pop, indie-electronica, indie-punk, indie-folk,indie-hip hop, indie-chill, indie-kill, indie-shank, indie-wank…the list goes on, and only about half of those are made up. Personally, you can chuck Phoenix, Passion Pit and Peter, Bjorn and John anywhere you want in there, it won’t change the fact that they’re shit. Most of these bands, despite declaring themselves indie, pander to a mainstream demographic. They play the dress up game and Domino Record Contract card, but the statistics speak for themselves. Vampire Weekend debuted their third album at no. 1 on the US Billboard Charts. Mumford and Sons won The Grammy for Album of the Year for ‘Babel’. Boy & Bear picked up 5 ARIA awards for their debut album, and will probably destroy the charts again this year, when they release their second album. Please, please do not misinterpret this as me saying that because these artists are ‘mainstream’ that they are shit. I’m merely pointing out that they have incredibly derivative music that in no way challenges the listener like independent music should. 

This brings me to my actual point, and I’m kind of sorry that it took so long to reach this statement. There are a fuckload of good bands out there that are getting thrown in with that indie tag. Just because a band is independent does not make them indie anymore. No, the cohesiveness of that identification got thrown out a long time ago, as soon as Interpol and The Strokes started getting popular. Both these bands are pretty good in their own way, however once they started and the indie ‘genre’ got picked up, about a million different bands started mimicking a sound and aesthetic similar to theirs that was in no way original, but was regardlessly hailed as being the next big thing. How many times can you open an NME or Rolling Stone and find them hailing ‘The Next Big Indie Thing’? Sure, it’s lovely for the band, but it has ruined all traction for the term indie. Initially, when the ‘indie scene’ popped up in America and Europe in the 1980’s, there was a certain amount of respect that came with the title. As Michael Azzerad’s biography of the 80’s indie scene, ‘Our Band Could Be Your Life’ describes, it was fucking hard to be indie. Bands like Black Flag and Dinosaur Jr. had to fight tooth and nail to get any exposure. Now, when the word indie pops up, all I can imagine is some Grizzly Bear sound-alike that will inspire absolutely no regard from anyone but the NME. Not that it matters too much to the band anyway, because they’re probably slathered in cocaine and bitches. Some bands, like San Cisco or Grouplove even come like pre-pacakged indie goods, ready made for the ‘indie addict’. However, it does matter to the independent bands that get slapped with the title of indie and hauled into a case of anonymity. There are now so many bands nowadays that consciously pander to the indie Triple J masses, that when a genuine band that comes around that happens to be independent and good, they are promptly blasted with ‘indie cred’, frothed over for approximately a week by hipsters, and then dropped by their ‘diehard new fans’ and left abandoned and disenchanted by their old ones.

There are a whole crop of new Australian acts that are legitimately interesting that I am fearful will get manhandled by indie-ness. Aussie Bands like Beaches, Dick Diver, Bleeding Knees Club, Royal Headache and Bored Nothing are all in close proximity to being swept in viva la indie, and promptly tossed into oblivion. Likewise, there’s international bands such as DIIV, Beach Fossils, King Tuff, and Savages who could suffer the same fate. For others, such as the cases of Flume, CHVRCHES, Tame Impala and Jagwar Ma, it’s probably too late, and it’ll only be a couple years before a ‘throwback’ reunion tour. This is fucked. Totally fucked. Firstly, because all of the bands mentioned above are bright young talents. It’s too early for them to go. It’s before their time. Secondly, these bands are not indie, and could be easily defined by other genres, if at all. Finally, it’s not fair to compare them to a band like Jinja Safari or Ball Park Music, each leaning strongly on obvious influences or mediocrity. The bands at the beginning of the paragraph are all highly interesting, highly capable acts worthy of a different attention that eschews Arcade Fire and Death Cab for Cutie Fans. Save your Augie March for when you’re bored on the bus. If you want something of captivating interest, check out Holy Balm, an electronica act that breaks all the rules of electronica. Or Ausmuteants, a band that could simply not give less of a shit. Or even Kirin J Callinan, the previous guitarist for Mercy Arms, Jack Ladder and Lost Animal, who recently tried to make a guy have a live seizure on stage at Sugar Mountain Festival earlier this year, all for the sake of art. These bands are all independent, Australian, and most importantly, interesting. They are not a bunch of acts to be randomly lumped in on an ‘indie playlist’ with the likes of Swim Deep or Father John Misty.

It’s 4 am on a Friday, and I don’t even really know what I’m saying anymore. Perhaps when I review and edit this tomorrow, it will make more sense. Perhaps it won’t. What I’m trying to say is this: I’m not going out of my way to insult the music taste of all the hipsters out there, I’m sure Snakadaktal’s debut album will be awesome. What I want to prove, like the Fasterlouder article, is that indie music has gotten quite safe and uninteresting, and I think that it has to do with the wide variety of ‘indie’ music, and the sea of music that most won’t bother to uncover. Indie isn’t indie anymore, that’s the problem. And if you try to make something not indie into indie, it will most probably get totally buried. Instead of hash tagging #indie to every band you hear on Triple J, perhaps take a listen first, and then figure out if they actually sound like The Postal Service and Modest Mouse, rather than just being new. And instead of buying the new Foster the People, spend your money on the new POND and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard albums. It’ll pay off in the long run.