Is American Emo the Future for British Indie?
What can Britain learn from its friends across the water?
As an English indie music fan, it's easy to find yourself stuck in the same routine of listening to the same guitar-pop bands on repeat.
The Arctic Monkeys, The 1975, Catfish and the Bottlemen—these bands form the crux of the Great British indie music scene. There's very little in the way of diversity in sound within this group; something which has gone seemingly unnoticed as more and more publications (here's looking at you, NME) abandon originality in favour of click-baiting articles, and pandering to the bright new things—as long as those bright new things look, sound, and act like the Gallaghers.
British indie has been shaped a great deal by Oasis, Blur, Pulp and the Battle of Britpop, and it's to the detriment of the quality of music found on these isles. If no one tries anything different, will anything ever change. Music's a perfect example of how pop culture evolves to represent the counter culture, or the youth of a nation. Bar the odd underground punk pocket bubbling in towns and cities (usually in the North), the alternative scene in the UK hasn't developed beyond jangly guitars and faux-southern accents.
Bands like Maximo Park—so influential in the early 2000s—are still releasing music and touring, headlining decent-sized venues, without reimagining their sound or style. And, that's fine. They're a perfectly palatable outfit, and one that I, amongst many others, happen to enjoy. However, to see bands releasing album after album for 15 years, without evolving or changing their sound, is concerning.
Bloc Party, once the golden boys of the scene, reinvented itself—working towards a more ethereal, electronic sound. Its later albums were unsuccessful, and it struggled to get away from the sound that made it so popular.
The 1975, to its credit, has managed to incorporate their early pop-punk sound within a Prince-like jazz pop. But, attempts like this are few and far between. For every "I Love It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It," there's another "AM."
Compare this with the scene in America, which, while dominated by the usual Coldplay-esque suspects, actually encourages independent labels, bands, and venues.
Labels like Near Mint and Counter Intuitive Records release strong contenders for album of the year, in spite of being about as DIY as they come. Bands like The Obsessives, Mom Jeans, and Prince Daddy and the Hyenas tour small bars and houses, playing for groups in their tens. However, they're producing great music that holds up as great modern emo.
The US's indie music doesn't necessarily fix the issue of diversity as a whole; it's still telling the story of white, lower-middle class men, but it's a far cry from the "laddish" culture that dominates our own.
Indie and emo have very common roots; The Smiths, The Cure, and Joy Division laid the foundations for emo's massive success in the early 90s, onwards. So, a return to the start could revolutionise the way the genre sees itself and where it's heading.
You only have to look at projects like Crywank in the UK to see just how indie and emo can marry, forming a near transcendent semi-genre that speaks to those in a wide range of circumstances, as well as those in very specific situations. The DIY feel and James's willingness to perform for small parties of people, make this kind of art truly accessible—all while seeming exclusive to those involved.
Just check out a few of these bands. Take a look at other scenes. We might all be pleasantly surprised.