Does "Indie Rock" Mean Anything At All Anymore?
Our colleague Shea Serrano has been doing brisk business with his Rap Round Table blogs, corralling local hip-hoppers into talking about events in their scene and in the world at large. No topics are off limits, and everyone is willing to talk.
So Rocks Off decided it was time for Houston's rockers to have their own platform, a place where we could periodically find out how things look from the punk/metal/hardcore/garage/indie side of things. Hopefully these will lead to bigger dialogues, or at least fiery flame wars in the comments section.
We picked people who would have maximum impact with their words, the ones who can turn a phrase and make you think. We want to include everyone, from every musical subset in town, not just a core clique of musicians. Ideas from all over should be thrown around, so if you want to be a part of the next session, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
This Week's Panel: Mario Rodriguez of Tax The Wolf, April Patrick from Girls Rock Houston and various gestating bands, lead guitarist Bill Fool of Hell City Kings, and Justin Nava, front man for The Last Place You Look.
Not Invited: Twitter Crybabies
This Week's Prompt: What is indie rock today, and what does it mean to you?
Mario Rodriguez: Indie rock is a mere title for a genre of music that doesn't seem to exist. Indie rock has become an ambiguous term, and it's the modern record labels and media that have twisted the simplicity and aesthetics behind what it once might of been. A sound that could be truly original and clever. It's a stamp on highly qualified candidates that may become the next great hit at Coachella or Weezer's new best friends.
The independent labels are now the most sought after by the most talented, vintage clothes and antique materials are now amongst the hip crowd, all music is now free of charge in some way or another through a pretty machine and "indie rock" may very well be a dead term for us musicians wanting to make something authentic.
Times have truly changed, and they're moving faster.
April Patrick: There was a time, two decades ago, when Indie Rock and I would walk down university sidewalks, breathing the burnt air from the Maxwell House plant, holding hands and believing that this sweater weather would last forever. But today, we are embroiled in a bitter divorce, the terms of which relegates my contact with Guided By Voices to weekends and holidays. It may as well be dead to me.
I know in the beginning, our affair consisted of a trail of clues directing me romantically from house shows to 7"s to Xeroxed zines. That used copy of Alien Lanes at CD Warehouse, the cassette of Bee Thousand in the clearance bin at the closing Rice Village Sam Goody, these were all cause for celebration (aka skipping class). Robert Pollard was psychically etching our love into my ears from his Snakepit in Dayton, Ohio.
I bring up GBV so much because today they are the only nearly pure example of Indie Rock I can defend and recommend. Yes, they put out some releases on TVT, but it didn't ruin them and they didn't become what the rest of Indie Rock has whole-hog succumbed to.
And what it succumbed to? Yikes. Over the last decade indie-rock went from overly mopey to overly accessible. Beautiful girls were telling us The Shins will change our lives while a corn-fed Midwest jock like Chuck "I Fucking Hate Him" Klosterman, was telling us in no uncertain terms that punk rock could not save anyone's life, while trumpeting the importance of Death Cab For Cutie.
Indie Rock went from a refuge for the artistically disaffected to a point of pride for the pseudo-clever soft boys and the cloying "she took her glasses off and she was hot all along" types like Zooey Deschanel. Christ, if you wanna know what happened to Indie Rock in the 2000s, just pretend She's All That was a prophetic metaphor.