Intimate Indie, or Tweeting with your friendly neighborhood Indie Band

I’m not the first to claim that the last decade has been the Indie decade. And it’s not just because companies are increasingly using Indie songs in their commercials. Nor is it the Indie sound (though both are arguably driving forces). No, the hallmark of the rise of Indie is the connection. Call me sappy, but Indie bands know that their popularity starts with their audience. It’s the intimacy of the small venue that puts them on the level with their fans. However, until the last 5-10 years, that intimacy was limited to the the small venue, the record store, or the zealous band member who builds popularity one fan at a time.

Where am I going with this? (There is a point, promise). If intimacy with its fans drives Indie, then the rise of Indie should be attributed to the ever-incrasing opportunity digital media provides for the fan-band connection. I had one such experience this weekend. A band with sounds similar to the ones I commonly laud on Twitter named “Pawns or Kings” reached out to me and offered me their music for my personal delectation and critique. Sure, this is similar to basic media relations, but this was anything but the basic press package one would expect. No, It was selective and personal. It was a conversation, and one that turned me on to their music:

Now, one Twitter contact won’t build anyone a fan base, but knowing HOW to use social media will. And Pawns or Kings is only the latest in a line of Indie bands I’ve interacted with that take advantage of social media to show their fans of their fans, including Sugar and the Hi-LowsTen Out of Tenn, Vinyl Thief, Nick Waterhouse, and Pepper Rabbit.

And you know what helps? That their music is innovative and enjoyable. And to their credit, Pawns or Kings’ music is just that. At times frivolous and others deeply meaningful and moving, I’ve quite taken to their music. I’m particularly smitten with “Sister of the Sun”.

So, check out Pawns or Kings, and then Tweet your favorite Indie Band and see how they do in building a connection with you.

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Defining the Essence of Indie

Maybe you’re like me. Whenever I say I’m an Indie music fan, or I announce my favorite bands include Mates of State, The Great Lake Swimmers, and Freelance Whales, I am usually met with a confused expression. I have even met the occasional inculto who denounces Indie music as boring, low-fi dribble that is hardly listenable. Maybe Indie is an acquired taste, or maybe, most people just haven’t been properly educated beyond the Nick and Norah’s Playlists of Hollywood or the occasional television commercial:

Or maybe, most people have been brainwashed by the catchiness of the otherwise monotonous melodies and lyrical dribble of the so-called “radio playable” mainstream.

Of course, Indie-lovers will disagree with the mainstream mumbo jumbo that Indie is just low-fi boredom. But the problem of Indie may be even more complex for us aficionados. After all, ask 100 Indie fans what Indie is, and you’ll get 100 answers. Heck, ask one Indie fan what Indie and you’ll get 100 answers, or 100 bands, whichever comes first. Either way, none of the above helps anyone answer the question: How does one know if one is listening to Indie.

Strictly speaking, Indie music is music developed and produced by Independent artists (those either unsigned or represented by an Independent label). This definition presents a further problem: What if an Indie band is signed by a non-independent record label. Does said band thus forfeit its right to be Indie?

Of course, that’s ludicrous. So the only other answer is that there must be an Indie-ness to Indie Music—an essence that qualifies it as Indie. After all, Indie is neither Alternative Rock nor Bubble Gum Pop, but yet there is Indie Rock and Indie Pop.

Clearly, there is a need to conceptualize “Indie”. And, of course, it has to be more than whether the music was featured on the Juno Soundtrack or whether the band’s name looks like it was derived from random Wikipedia pages (i.e. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Ha Ha Tonka, and Architecture in Helsinki).

The heart of Indie may be in its rejection of the mainstream mundane, and though this has led to numerous permutations of what could be considered Indie, in this wake of musical revolution, some hallmarks of Indie may be notable, including its vocal variety, fusion of musical styles, instrumental innovation, and lyrical superiority to mainstream radio-playability.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be devoting this blog space to building a case for what constitutes Indie-ness, complete with legally FREE DOWNLOADS, which is also a hallmark of Indie. Stay tuned.

Indie Mash-ups: The Old, the New, the Borrowed, the Blue

The beauty of indie music is that the sphere of creative music is limitless. Indie is the realm of co-creation–where artist and technologically skilled fan can create something entirely new and undeniably original, benefiting both the artist and the fan. The indie sphere truly is interactive, which, I believe, has led to its growth and overwhelming acceptance by the diverse collective of those of us who consider ourselves Indie followers. Case in point: the following mash-up I recently found perusing Indie offerings.

How does the old marriage tradition go? Something old, Something new, Something borrowed, Something blue? Phoenix’s 1901 (the old) set to the rhythmic stylings of the Shins (the borrowed), producing a melancholic revision (something blue) of the original anthem that, in and of itself, is completely different, refreshing, and “something new”.

Download and enjoy.

Indie Music not for Jocks or Pretty Girls?

I always like to get your opinions on what Indie Music is and means to you…but, it’s nice to get opinions from the trenches, the people that are defining this new music revolution. I asked Andy Clockwise, whose free download I featured a few weeks ago,  on what Indie means to him, and  here’s what he told me:

1. What does Indie mean to you and where do you see yourself in the evolution of this amazing musical revolution?
Well I suppose it means everything. People finally don’t have to tow the line of the phenomenon of whats happening now, they can create whatever. Anarchy in art is to be embraced and rules are meant to be shunned….. I mean, I can see that sometimes the essence of the term could be bastardized by the powers that be, but the brilliance of the situation is that someone can come along and break it all down once again, thats the beauty of it, we have the tools, the means, the time, the avenues of which people can finally hear something that relates to them, not something that makes the jock or the pretty girls at school feel good on a Friday night. I also love that indie bands are covering such a huge musical and lyrical landscape…. they’re  doing everything that they want to hear…… & it rules!!!!

2. How do you define Indie music and your place in the “Indie sphere.”

Well I think we are delving deep into the arbitrary idea of indie music maybe in the way that they hijacked the term “alternative” in the 90’s. I mean, I suppose what indie has been defined to me over the years reflects me at 13 yrs old, lining up at Waterfront Records in Sydney before it opened trying to get a limited pressing of a 12 inch by some unknown hardcore band. Or sneaking out to festivals, dying my hair that morning and having blue hair dye all over my face. I suppose what we are trying to define is somewhat already done– a DIY attitude to what you are doing, not an obsession with the normal musical landscape but not an entire rejection of it either. Take a pinch of rejection and social awkwardness mix it with some honesty, add a half a cup of irony and sarcasm and mix it around in a bowl of amazing awesomeness…..I’m not sure if I am trying to make a recipe for us all, so we all know what the fuck we are doing!!!?

to the the posed question of where I think I fit in the indie sphere I would have to say I’ve never been much of a sphere guy i’m more into cubist stuff or even a dodechahedranist. 🙂



Good stuff, Andy, you make dodechahedranists everywhere proud!