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.

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I died three years ago…

I’m always fascinated by how social media has facilitated the Indie music explosion…and even more fascinated when one of us regular guys can do Indie just as good as the big name bands.

Case in point: John Watson, one of my favorite bloggers, who posts on all things eclectic, put together a wonderful little ditty entitled, “I died three years ago” full of satire, sarcasm, and Indie goodness. Frankly, minus the “mild” language, I think it’s as good as, if not better than, anything you can find on the Juno Soundtrack or Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.

Check it out and download it on his blog.

He’s inspired me to put some tracks together. Many don’t know this, but I have written a number of songs, including one I wrote to propose to my wife.

..but what about the Indie Personality?

It seems we Indie fans have been left out…again. Nevermind that Indie has earned mainstream recognition through Indie bands gone mainstream (like Death Cab for Cutie and the Decemberists), and nevermind that movies like Juno and the upcoming Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist rely on Indie music….

…but, a new study has defined personality through music taste.

Apparently, classical and jazz enthusiasts are creative, pop fans are hardworkers, and heavy metal fans are, get ready for this, “gentle”.

But what about Indie fans? Since Indie can overlap between pop, heavy rock, and even jazz, do we fit somewhere in between? Are we gentle hardworkers who are creative? Maybe we’re something else?

If I had to put my vote in, I’d say Indie music fans are motivated. A personality theorist I used to be a ghostwriter for believed that personality could be reduced to 4 main core drivers: Drive for power, closeness or intimacy, fun, and peace or absence of conflict. Now, these don’t really translate into the music personality theory reported above, and I don’t think you can say all Indie enthusiasts are motivated by power, or intimacy, or even fun…but I do think you’d find that Indie enthusiasts have common personality traits like motivations for uniqueness, to be different, hardworking (as in driven to get what they want, not as in working 60 hour weeks), and committed.

In other words, I’d sum up the main Indie personality trait as “driven”.

What do you think?

Juno

I have never been a fan of the life drama movies. They tend to be wayward, pointless, and altogether boring. I could lump a number of movies into this category, and one day, I’ll do a top 10 stupid life drama movies. Rest assured, this movie and this movie will top the list (I’ve never wished more that I could have any 3 hours of my life back than watching those movies).

That being said, Juno may have very likely turned everything around for me. Absolutely amazing movie. It’s not because of the dry humor, or the Indie music, or the ingenious one liners they give Ellen Page (though those are all great reasons to like it too). It’s because it’s real and it’s actually interesting. What’s more, the characters are complex, likable, and so gosh darn intriguing you can’t help but watch. In the end, the message is great: take responsibility for life (The reason the Indie Girl said it was such a good movie). If you haven’t seen Juno…definitely worth watching.

Incidentally…the song at the end of the movie is fantastic. Here’s the video (which WordPress won’t let me embed). Good lyrics…especially the line “we both have shiny happy fits of rage”.