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2010: The Year Indie Broke

February 16th, 2011

First off congratulations to the Arcade Fire on the big Grammy win the other night. The band I play in did a tour with them just before Christmas and I can honestly say that they are really nice people that are completely sincere and deserve all their success. But where does that leave the rest of us? Indie music is now as mainstream as Bieber. Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend, The National and Broken Social Scene are all on indie labels and all had top billboard albums in 2010. Countless indie bands have been featured heavily on the soundtracks of the biggest film and television properties of the last few years. And to top all of that, Arcade Fire then goes and walks of with mainstream music’s most prestigious prize; the Grammy for Album of the Year. Indie rock as a genre has ascended to the top tier.

Indie is an abbreviation for independent music and the term dates back to the early 80′s. A direct outgrowth of Punk and New Wave, it’s an umbrella term that encompasses a large number of genres that, while from disparate backgrounds, they are united by the common thread of not fitting into the mainstream. For instance, the English indie charts in the mid 80′s would have had everything from dreamy new wave of Cocteau Twins up to the punk stylings of the Exploited. As time went on the genre became more and more codified and the sonic diversity was stripped away until what was left is what we call now call indie rock.

This is not to say that all the bands I previously mentioned all sound the same, because they definitely don’t. But they all have far more in common then, say the Smiths and Crass. So I would argue that only a small fraction of the broadly termed indie music has actually experienced success and that it was only the bands that fit into the parameters that have come to define the specific sound that we call indie rock that have actually become the mainstream.

Indie music in the broad sense is still not a part of the mainstream. I mean, it is not like Trash Talk, Das Racist or Ariel Pink won a Grammy. This means that the things that make indie music so great are still intact: the community, the sense of empowerment, the sense of secrecy, etc. In order to keep this stuff going it is important that everyone takes an active role, because music is not a spectator sport. Everyone should go out and get involved. Start a band, help put on shows, put out records, silk screen shirts or make a zine (if you have no idea what the last two are don’t worry, I plan on covering them in future episodes).

Believe me, long before the Arcade Fire was a (nearly) household name they were folding their record’s covers. We make this culture and in order to keep it great we need to keep doing that.

Shout out to the Bovine Sex Club on their 20th anniversary. The infamous Toronto night spot has seen more than its fair share of crazy nights (including one that saw my band banned from there) and is truly a staple of Toronto. Happy anniversary Bovine!

*Keep on sending me links!!!

*Check out this video (WARNING NOT FOR THE FAINT AT HEART). I tried to get this on TV but it was a no go (for fairly obvious reasons). YonkersTyler the Creator

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