What's Indie?

October 31, 2010

“When the chaperone crowned us the king and the queen, I knew that we’d arrived at a unified scene” – The Hold Steady, “Stay Positive”

(I’ll put some cool lyrics at the beginning of my entries that somewhat relate to what I’m bliggity blogging about.)

It’s a weird feeling.  I’ve been a freshman here at CMU for two months, and with the exception of Orientation, that interesting summer camp/team building hybrid that ended my summer vacation a few weeks early, I feel very old.

Some of my favorite bands are Green Day, System of a Down, My Chemical Romance, and Gnarls Barkley, but at the same time I love rap and pop.  I basically like everything—except country.  I hate that stuff.  But hearing about all these “indie” bands that were completely unfamiliar to me—The Dirty Projectors and Menomena, for two hip examples—makes me feel like there is this

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entire scene I know nothing about.  Does the term “indie” apply just to being signed to an independent label, or is there an “indie” sound?  Now that my intro is out of the way, I can ask my question: WHAT IS INDIE?

Does “indie” mean wearing thrift store button down, skinny ties, and glasses that make you look well read?  Is it about having concerts to sweaty, standing room only crowds in your basement?  Or is it discussing philosophy at a coffee house, not Starbucks, some place local and underground that rocks the chai?  With Weezer leaving Geffen Records after the lukewarm response to last year’s Raditude (despite single “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” being one of their catchiest, greatest songs to date) and releasing Hurley on independent label Epitaph Records, does that make them the newest addition to the “indie” genre?

It seems to me that the term “indie” is just another way to break down music genres, an oversaturated categorization process that makes every new band think they are unique.  It’s just another way for music snobs—be they metalheads, hardcore punks, or “all the sniffling indie kids” (that’s from Craig Finn of The Hold Steady, not me.  He writes the songs I want to write.  Maybe he’s stealing my ideas in some sort of Reverse Inception Scenario)—to get into arguments about how their music is so much better than everyone else’s.  While the sad truth is that it seems impossible that a unified music scene will ever exist—I know for a fact that, to my shame, I like music I discover for myself far more than music recommended to me—in a perfect world this subgenre comatose would come to an end and there would just be music.  But until that day, you gotta check out this new indie band.  They’re like NOTHING you’ve ever heard before.

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