College Writing Seminar: Indie-Rock Movement

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So I’ve decided to add another page with my writings from my College Writing Seminar which is focusing on the Indie-Rock Movement. I’m pretty much musically-challenged, as I like to say, but as a whole, I love music. I hope you enjoy!


Moshing 101

Five bands, amps all the way up at 11, moshing galore, 883 pictures, and three hours later and my ears were ringing like crazy.  On March 26, local bands Zeus, Altered State, Transgression, Broken Bodies, and The Guilt performed at the Kay Center in show organized by our own Carolyn Becker.  It wasn’t exactly my style of music, but I went anyway because one, it was music regardless and two, I love concert photography.  Carolyn had defined the bands as punk; I probably would have defined them as metal, but then again, I could be wrong.  In place of singing, there was screaming, and that’s always been the biggest issue I hold against that type of music.  I just don’t have any appreciation for bands that make a living off screaming.  If that were the case, then tantrum-prone children could start their own scream-o type band should they so choose.  For me personally, there’s no true talent in screaming into the microphone, but that aside the bands that night were full of energy and their own talents.

Zeus:  1   (on a scale of five; five being the best)

As one of my fellow cohorts said, they seemed to be like the ‘rugrats in concert.’  Indeed, just about the entire time they were performing I was wondering how old they were.  Two of the members still had braces.  Even if I did like this kind of music, they were horrible.  One can tell how good or bad a band is by the amount of moshing that occurs during their set.  There was only one outbreak of moshing, if at all during Zeus’s set.  They were just lacking energy as a whole, and that translated to the audience, and they, in turn, responded accordingly to that level of energy.  I was surprised, however, that their lead vocalist was a girl.  Not that that does not occur, but it was surprising nonetheless because with this type of music, the role of the lead vocalist seems to normally be filled by males.

Altered State: 2

This band was much better than Zeus and plus, their kick drum was pretty.  (Yes, I know that sounds girly, but it was sparkly and cool.)  This band had more energy than the previous one, but they were still lacking and that showed through the amount of moshing that took place, which was still at a minimum.  There was moment, however, that stood out heavily in my mind and that was when, during one of their instrumental break-downs, they started head banging in unison and I was reminded of the video that Neil made us watch in class when he was explaining what crab-core was.

Transgression: 3

It seemed as if the bands were getting progressively better as the night went along because, like Altered State was better than Zeus, this band was better than Altered State.  The moshing definitely picked up during this set.  This band surprised me too because once again there was a female vocalist, but not only that, but a female bassist as well.  Even though I couldn’t decipher how the bands sounded different from each other, I swelled with pride at that because I think that females are horribly underrepresented in the music industry.  It was a nice change.  At this point during the night, the audience seemed to stand only inches away from the performers, and when the moshing broke out, I genuinely feared for their lives even though they were probably used to it.  Their energy still wasn’t up to par with my standards, but the crowd seemed to like them more than the other two, and that’s why overall, they did better.

Broken Bodies: 5

Sound-wise, I had a difficult time the entire night seeing any difference between the bands, but that could be that my ears are not used to picking up those kinds of details because they’re unfamiliar with this type of music.  Nonetheless, this band was my all-time favorite that night.  They were charismatic—letting other people take the mic, the lead vocalist jumping out into the crowd, and the crowd went nuts, even little miss Carolyn.  The moshing picked up ten-fold and I was grateful that WVAU, who sponsored the show, let me stand behind the drummer while I was taking pictures.  Watching the crowd push and shove each other was fun, but I certainly wasn’t going to participate.  I would most likely meet my demise if I did.  I was so glad that this band was full of energy because for me, one of the most important aspects of a performance is energy.  Broken Bodies made up for what the previous bands lacked.

The Guilt: 4

This band was my second favorite as far as energy went.  Like Broken Bodies, the lead vocalist was very interactive with the audience and again, the crowd pretty much went nuts, though I think the moshing died down a little because people were getting tired.  The last two bands, I think, elevated the night into a success, but I will say one thing though, that The Guilt was lacking—they weren’t memorable.  I find that looking back, I can’t remember all that much about their performance except that I know that they played with high levels of energy.

While I did say that it was hard for me to appreciate metal, scream-o, whatever you want to call it, I can honestly say that even though the music didn’t strike my fancy, I had a lot of fun.  All personal biases towards this genre aside, I truly enjoyed myself there, and without a hint of hesitation I can tell you that I don’t regret going to Kay Center that night.


“Bo Rhap”
“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” The lyrics start to pour out of the speakers and the opening notes of the piano lilt out, and suddenly I’m hit with the inclination to serenade whoever is the room, just like every other time I put on Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I never give a second thought to belting out the song, trying to match the late Freddie Mercury note for note, but I realize I’ve never given a second thought as to what the song might mean either. Then I think some more and come to the conclusion, that there really seems to be no meaning nor do I truly care. It’s the feeling that the piano chords and guitar riffs strike within me that gives it meaning. And how can the lyrics mean anything if they jump from “Mama just killed a man” to “So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye”?
“Beelzebub has the devil put aside for me, for me, for me.” The infamous guitar solo commences and I’m taken back to the first time I heard the song in “Wayne’s World” where the song was immortalized in the lip-synching, head-banging scene in Wayne’s car. It’s the perpetuation of the song, like in “Wayne’s World,” and the fact that others old hold it just as dear in their heart, whether they choose to show it by head-banging just like Wayne and his friends or an artist performing a cover of the song, that make the song timeless. The song has been so treasured that in 2002, the song made number one in a poll conducted by Guinness World Records as the most popular single in Britain of all time, beating out John Lennon’s “Imagine” and The Beatles “Hey Jude”.
I may not fully understand or know everything about Queen or “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but I do know that it’s not necessarily the content, at least lyrically, that makes a song timeless or special. It’s the memories and the feelings that it incurs. For me, it’s that time when I heard the song for the first time that keeps me belting out the song whenever it comes on.


Addicted to Jealousy Curve’s Life As An Addict
The first time I heard Jealousy Curve, I was in the car with my parents, on my way to Philadelphia to celebrate Easter with some family. Stuck in traffic, the only thing keeping me occupied was what was on the radio. Suddenly, their song “Black Widow” came on, and immediately, I fell in love with the song (7, N.P.). My only problem: the radio has an awful knack for not telling its listeners who the artist is. All I had to go on was what I thought the name of the song was. Some months passed, and my initial fervent searches for the song slackened as more days passed and I wondered if I would ever hear it again. Finally, one day I came across Jealousy Curve’s Myspace and there it was (8, N.P.). I listened to it again, and then the other songs, and soon, I was hooked. They were unlike the other bands I listened to somehow; I tried to pinpoint what it was. I quickly bought their EP this is for your own destruction [sic] and full-length album Life As an Addict (7, N.P; 8, N.P.). Life As an Addict is a great album, but there’s also this indie quality to it that completes it, and lends to the band’s charm; not only is it indie due to the fact that that’s the kind of label the band is signed to, but also because there is a formula to its sound that makes it different from other music out there today.
“Bruise,” the first song on the record Life As an Addict, opens with a simple drum cadence, accompanied by the guitar strumming along, and a haunting voice chanting in the background, that is reminiscent of some tribal call to gather. “I fell for you, while you hear me yell ‘Bruise!,’” the lead vocalist bemoans. The sound then escalates to a full-on anthem of rock, complete with guitar solo, punctuated by vocalist Michael Leavy’s gut-wrenching scream, which sounds like a combination of Joe Anderson’s own yell on “Happiness is a Warm Gun” from the Across the Universe motion picture soundtrack and Jared Leto’s of Thirty Seconds to Mars on the song “The Kill” (14, N.P.; 15, N.P.) The fast-paced rhythm of the first few songs slows for songs like “The World Is You,” “Appreciated,” and “Day in the Sun,” which are more acoustic than electric guitar heavy, erstwhile picking up the pace again in between. One of those in between songs is “Gravity.” The beginning of the song has an underwater feel as vocalist Leavy belts out the first verse as if someone was stifling his true singing power. He goes back and forth from being released from his underwater prison to sound almost reminiscent of Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, without quite as rough of a voice. The guitars remain heavy throughout the song which helps contribute to the song’s dark feel, which is completed by equally heavy drum beats and the vocalist’s rougher than usual singing, and in some parts of the main guitar solo, one is reminded of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady’s” opening guitar notes (6, N.P.; 9, N.P.).
There’s no doubt an inordinate amount of articles about Jimi Hendrix, but any review or article about Jealousy Curve or the Jealousy’s sound is close to near impossible to find. The band seems to live in almost state of anonymity. But one of the few places to do a story on the band was Fox 29 News. Fox 29 News is a major news station in the city of Philadelphia. They report on everything from the weather to breaking news to entertainment, which includes music news (4, N.P.). In March of 2006, Fox did a profile on Jealousy Curve and several who were interviewed, tried to describe the band. One man said that “There really isn’t a formula for Jealousy Curve…,” and while it is difficult to peg Jealousy to one specific sound, it’s not completely impossible to formulate one, especially with all the sub-genres of music out there (3, N.P.). If there was a scientific formula for how Jealousy Curve sounds, this would probably be it: old rock (like The Beatles and Queen) + not quite so old rock (Nirvana) + new age rock (Thirty Seconds to Mars) = Jealousy Curve, or, if one wanted to simplify it even further, old + new= Jealousy Curve. If one wanted to give them a label like gypsy punk or ska, they’d probably be what their Myspace says they are— indie-alternative-rock (5, N.P.).
But there’s one label that Jealousy Curve can’t be placed within and that’s a major one. With major record labels becoming increasingly less appealing to sign to, a considerable amount of bands are opting to sign with independent labels. Philadelphia-based Jealousy Curve is no exception, and in true DIY-fashion, has taken it one step further and produced their records on Jealousy’s own guitarist, Steven LaFashia’s record producing company, Resonant Recording (13, N.P.). The blog “Blogs N’ Roses” is a site for “your daily source of music news and general music business fodder.” The site has been given the rating of a 9.3 by Blogged.com making it a top ten amongst music blogs (2, N.P.). When Jealousy Curve was interviewed on “Blogs N’ Roses,” the site asked why Jealousy hasn’t signed with a major label, since they received relatively decent exposure when they went on the Zippo Tour with The All American Rejects and The Academy Is…, this was their response: “We have seen so many of our friends’ bands go through the major label ringer…getting signed, taking years to get their record out, only to be dropped. We have been fortunate to make two records on our own with success and are looking forward to making the third” (1, N.P.; 3, N.P.). Due to the fact that Jealousy is signed their own label and they have the ability to produce their own records, they have the freedom to sound however they want, one of the greater appeals of the indie label, and it seems as if they have found that sound in embracing the old and the new.
“In the cold, underground, where there’s ruin to be found, so contagious, mask your face of disdain, and it’s driving me insane… I’ve been living in the rubble; you were bold enough to follow…,” are the opening words to the last song, “Letter to the Lonely,” which follows a simple, little guitar solo, and carries as much weight, and heart-felt emotion as the first song on the album. It’s a theme that is consistent throughout Life As an Addict, and it brings one back to the days of old rock and roll of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, without the sex and the drugs. Despite the title, “Letters” seems to carry a message of hope. The song picks up the pace and suddenly one is hit with the full force of the guitar solo which sounds like Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” tapering off into Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” There are guitar solos in just about every song on the album, something that Nick Hornby would certainly appreciate. Nick Hornby is an English novelist and has also been a music critic for the New Yorker (11, 55). In his book Songbook, a compilation of song/album reviews, Hornby is quoted as saying “I have learned to love solos; and, though of course it’s possible to find a great song which doesn’t have any kind of instrumental break, I would argue that a great song containing a great instrumental break is by definition superior to a great song without one.” This statement was made while he was providing commentary on the fact that no one seems to do solos anymore (5, 55). However, instrumental breaks are abound on Jealousy’s album, and combined the rest of the band’s sound and their indie appeal it makes for a great record. If one is a fan of the old, but also wants a taste of the new, then Jealousy Curve’s Life As an Addict is highly recommended. They just might become an Addict themselves (6, N.P.).


I have poured my heart and soul into this paper so I hope you enjoy!
“Drop It Like It’s Hotspur”
I arrive at the 9:30 Club early to see the band Hotspur. I’m anxious. One, because I just spent about $24, in a spur of the moment decision, to see a band that I hardly know, nor do I know if they’re good live, in the hopes that I can get an interview with them; two, because despite the fact that I don’t know the band, my love for concerts has me excited for tonight; and three, because there’s hardly anyone in line waiting for the doors to open. The doors open at five and I snag a spot at the front and wait for the fallout of my rash decision (Hotspur at the 9:30 Club).
I came back to my dorm a happy, albeit tired, girl with several guitar picks, two drumsticks (one signed), a signed free poster, two new CDs (Hotspur’s as it turned out) and a punk-rock rubber ducky covered in autographs—I fell in love that night. Hotspur’s music was catchy and full of energy. They got me to buy their merchandise and head-bang to their music. I can’t say that I’m a genuine critic of music, but there are certain things that I look for before I can truly deem a band worthy of my time and money—their sound, talent, ability to perform live, and ability to connect to the audience; in my book, Hotspur fit that bill.
When it comes to any musician that I like, I’m always interested in where they come from because a large part of where they’ve been shapes who they are as artists. Hotspur is a local band in Rockville, Maryland, and also in the D.C. area, but how did they come together? It’s simple, really. One day, Joe Mach (guitarist and lead vocals) met Dave Trichter (keyboardist) and went to a Ben Folds concert where they realized they had similar music tastes. They started writing songs together and when they had enough material, they started piecing together the rest of the band: Scott Robinson (percussionist), Dave “Coop” Cooper (bassist), and most recently, Evan Anderson (guitarist). From that point on, it seemed like there was no turning back for the five members of Hotspur. The band has been through their fair share of trials and tribulations ranging from no-show headlining bands for which Hotspur was opening, leaving the band to deal with the windfall, to break-ups with longtime girlfriends to come out seemingly on top (Hotspur). In 2005, they released their first EP followed by the first album, Beta, in 2006, of which eight out of the ten have landed on MTV shows (“Artist Information: Biography”; Karan 38). 2009 saw the release of the band’s most recent album, You Should Know Better By Now and since then, the band seems to be garnering even more press (“Artist Information: Biography”). In the August 2009 edition of Alternative Press, Hotspur was featured as one of the unsigned bands of the month in its feature, “AP & R: Our Unsigned Bands of the Month” (Karan 38). The band won mtvU’s “The Freshmen,” which resulted in the music video of their single “Chandelier” being put into rotation on the network (Hood). Also in 2009, they were named as one of the bands in Taco Bell’s “Feed the Beat” campaign among notable acts like Boys Like Girls and All-American Rejects (“Feed the Beat”), and just recently, they received the “New Artist of the Year” award at the 2010 Washington DC Area Music Awards that was held in February (citation), but none of it would have been possible without the band’s persistence and dedication to their craft.
It was this persistence and dedication that gained them five spots on the 2007 Warped Tour. The band entered a Smartpunk Battle of the Bands contest which decided the winner based on the number of votes from fans. The band constantly communicated with their fans on social networks telling them to vote, which led to them being in the top three when the contest ended (Horwitt). The band spends a lot of time on Myspace and Facebook (in fact, all of them have Facebook and Twitter accounts) promoting their shows (Hotspur), and if one has gone to a show in the D.C. area, they might have seen a band member or one of their street team members pushing their music to the line waiting outside the venue for the doors to open. And unlike some bands where only one or two members are calling the shots, all five of the members are equally invested. Joe Mach works with all of the graphic design for the band as well as some of the video editing; Dave Trichter handles the PR, and until recently, Dave Cooper handled booking venues before the band signed with a booking agency. The entire band works tirelessly to promote their upcoming shows (Hotspur). With all the effort they put in, the band rarely gets to sit back and truly enjoy the fruits of their labor. When they first found out they won mtvU’s “The Freshmen,” they were asleep and according to lead vocalist Joe Mach, it didn’t really sink in until a week later. “You get so wrapped up in the process it’s hard to actually let it sink in,” he went on to say (Hotspur). Fortunately, the band wasn’t so busy that they couldn’t enjoy their time at the 9:30 Club. Vocalist Joe Mach stated that the show ranked among their best concert experiences (Hotspur).
Since Hotspur’s performance at the 9:30 Club, I’ve seen them perform two more times—one time at George Washington University and the other at Shamrock Fest in RFK Stadium. Both times there were less than favorable conditions. For instance, the GWU show had a small crowd (making the 9:30 crowd seem even more immense) and pouring rain at Shamrock Fest shorted out the keyboard, leaving keyboardist Dave Trichter fumbling to help out in any way he could (Hotspur at GWU; Hotspur at Shamrock Fest). But there was one constant in every single one of their shows and that was they were consistently energetic. When they performed at the 9:30 Club they hopped about all over the stage and at various points during their set Joe Mach and Evan Anderson leapt into the crowd to meet the eager faces and hands of the crowd that was feeding off their high energy and then reciprocating it ten-fold (Hotspur at the 9:30 Club). According to Joe Mach, their energy is one of most important aspects of their performance. Whether the person is a Hotspur fan or is a potential fan, “people came to be entertained and so it’s always been on us to put as much as we can into the show and really give people their money’s worth, even at a free show” (Hotspur). With that mentality and the fact that the band was headlining at 9:30 that night, the evening was filled with a tangible raw energy that pervaded the senses.
After their performance at the 9:30 Club and listening to my newly acquired Hotspur CDs, I found it wasn’t just their energy that pervaded the senses, but also their music. Their songs got stuck in my head like paper to super-strength glue. They were unabashedly pop rock much like Metro Station (who’ve they’ve performed with), Forever the Sickest Kids, and All Time Low, who combine synthesizers and dance music with elements of rock, but with more grit, like the band Muse or The Killers, who is one of their bigger influences. When Joe Mach was speaking about music influences he spoke about how he had bought Maroon 5’s Songs About Jane, The Killers’ Hot Fuss, and Muse’s Absolution and wanted to create a fusion of those albums for the band’s sound (Hotspur). Maroon 5 seems to be more absent than the other two, but the fusion appears to be successful. Fans don’t seem to be complaining.
Their lyrics have a lot more grit and heartfelt emotion than most pop music out there. According to Joe Mach, “five or six of the last songs that were written on the album [You Should Know Better By Now], Dave [Trichter] and I had broken up with our long-term girlfriends, a lot of just dealing with touring and being broke and all that, and so there’s kind of an undercurrent of desperation to a lot of the songs on the album and… still a very polished sound…” Even though the band was going through some rough times, it helped that they had connections like Bryan Russsel (Envy on the Coast, Straylight Run), who produced their sophomore effort, You Should Know Better By Now, and Paul Leavitt (All Time Low, Senses Fail), who actually went to high school with drummer Scott Robinson and has known Robinson for a long time (Hotspur). With the contributions of both Russel and Leavitt, the final product for You Should Know Better By Now came out pristine. The songs seemed to flow flawlessly into each other and the sound overall was very clean, but not so much that one loses the overall tone of the songs, which vary from love to desperation and longing.
No stranger to love and desperation, or at least in some of his novels, author Nick Horny writes in book Songbook about the kind of pop songs that make a lasting impression. “But the truly great songs, the ones that age and golden-oldies radio stations cannot wither, are about our romantic feelings… it’s just that romance, with its dips and its turns and glooms and highs, its swoops and swoons and blues, is a natural metaphor for music itself” (Hornby 52). With their lyrics overwrought with commentary on relationships, it seems as if Hotspur has the potential to make those songs that can age and stand the test of time, and especially make it big, which is a goal that the band has expressed. The band believes it’s necessary to have major label support to be able to push to radio and play at bigger venues, but at the same time the band has changed their focus to making it big locally. Hotspur is realistic in the sense that they’re well aware that bands get dropped from labels all the time. Their belief is that “if there are a thousand people in D.C. ready to come to your show, whether you’re on a label or not, you can sustain yourself” (Hotspur). But it’s difficult being in a band and trying to balance your priorities.
But balancing their priorities isn’t the only obstacle they face. Like most bands, Hotspur struggles to find out what hasn’t been done already to push the envelope, much like autotune has done for vocal effects. As lead singer Joe Mach put it, “We’ve been on the search for the next autotune, like what’s going to be the next thing for a while? But we have not yet found it.” Or perhaps they have, for drummer Scott Robinson quips in with “3-D music” (Hotspur)? I know I’d be game if an artist wrote 3-D music. In a writing period right now, the band has faced some difficulty with the age-old problem: whom they should write their music for since getting a little bigger? “I think that even both records were just like ‘I’m going to write about whatever’s on my mind or whatever I’m going through’ and then once you suddenly have a room full of fans, you start being like, ‘Well, what do they wanna hear? What should I write for them?’ And you sort of have to distance yourself from the music you made in the first place, so then you have to sort of, as far as the future of the music we’re making, sort of getting back to that” (Hotspur). But if Hotspur wants to attain any kind of major label-dom, then they’re going to have to find some kind of balance between what they want to do and what their fans want to hear, a price that many an artist has had to pay to be a part of the mainstream. No one is going to want listen to the same music if a musician continues to write for themselves and a musician trying to make it big is never going to make it if they don’t at least consider their fans when they’re writing their songs. U2 certainly learned their lesson when they released their third album, Pop, a departure from their normal style of music, and it flopped, but if Hotspur can manage to find the happy medium between writing for themselves and writing for their fans, then perhaps they can truly “Drop It Like It’s Hotspur.”

Works Cited for Essay 2


The following letter is to Barry of High Fidelity… In an imaginary situation, we were to write to him as if he just told us that the indie movement was over.  The letters were to be our rebuttals.

Barry,

When you walked into our classroom today and told us that indie rock was over, you not insulted me and my classmates, but also the rock gods.  May the gods have mercy on your soul when you try to explain why you took it upon yourself to end an influential part of music history.  You say that indie rock doesn’t matter anymore.  Well, I say it does.  Music has been such a huge part of our culture and more recently the indie rock movement has revolutionized the way we look at being signed to a major label, which used to be the ultimate goal to obtain when one entered the music industry, but now there are so many different sub-genres that it has something to offer to everyone and that’s one of the beauties of the development of the indie rock movement, so you can just bite your tongue if you’re about to say that’s “sentimental, tacky crap.”  Have you ever heard of iwrestledabearonce or Jealousy Curve or Hotspur?  Yeah… I didn’t think so…  Well, they’re all indie, and the best part is stylistically, they all provide something different.  Indier than thou, my ass…

And on another note, none of the artists that we have come to love so dearly would have made it if they didn’t make their start somewhere.  The Righteous Brothers initially wanted to play in Las Vegas show lounges, and now their song ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ remains as the most played in the history of American radio (“bio”).  Katherine and the Waves’ ‘Walking on Sunshine’ was a Top 10 hit in the UK and in the USA, as well as other places, and now, there’s a cover of it done by the lovely Disney ladies Aly & AJ (“Band History”).  Taking it a step further, when The Beatles created Apple Corps and started releasing their songs through it, it made them independent in a sense.  When you stand there and tell us that the indie rock movement is over, that’s like saying that The Beatles are over, and that’s never going to happen.  But, because I’m a nice person, I created a little something just for you:

My Top Five Crimes Against Music:

  1. Saying that any part of any movement in music is over
  2. Placing judgment on someone for their musical tastes
  3. Pretending to be more knowledgeable about music
  4. Dissing musicians (Can we say, Stevie Wonder?)
  5. Playing ‘Walking on Sunshine’ on a Monday morning

I hope this letter finds you well.

Sincerely,

Rachel

One comment on “College Writing Seminar: Indie-Rock Movement”

  1. A truly beneficial publish by you my good friend. We have bookmarked this web page and can are available back again following several days to verify for almost any new posts that you just make.


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