Thursday, August 2, 2012

Questions about Indie!

After writing my post about Canadian Indie artists I was again sitting in my office listening to CBC radio 3.

Now I still stand by what I said that a lot of the good music out there is Indie music. I still however have to point out that there is a lot of junk out there as well. This is where the Indie scene gets tricky for me. I lose my attention very quickly when I get bored! At least mainstream they are filtered through and (most of the time) the best prevail. This doesn’t happen in Indie. The junk stays and there is LOTS of it!

This is where I struggle with indie music. Luckily I have enough friends who are interested in it and can give me some direction on artists they think I like.

I have some hefty playlists made on my CBC account which is mostly what I stick to. I listen to the artists I know and like, then get recommendations from other people and build on these playlists.

Today however I put it on the main station and suffered a bit for it. I added maybe 5 songs to my playlists out of 30+.

The part that gets me a lot of the time is the quality of the recording. I am not an audiophile by any means but I can’t get into lo-fi. If it sounds like shit, It’s not a selling point for me. I’ll pass.

Also, what is it about all of the two piece bands out there now? Now I’m a fan of the White Stripes, and I don’t mind the Black Keys and Japandroids. But part of me wonders what it would sound like with the addition of the bass. Bass is so important to good sound in my opinion and I think it would only improve the sound. Sure it’s cool that it can be done with two but still. I find it way more impressive with the full band. If you want to impress, play all the instruments like the best! You can do anything in the studio! Add more tracks! Do it!

Now back to the lo-fi. Maybe it will click with me someday and I’ll realize what it is about it that attracts people. But it still puzzles me why people love it so much.

Even some of my best friends like Keltie have favorite bands that record lo-fi. You won’t find a bigger Eric’s Trip or Elevator to Hell fan than Keltie (hell ask Mark, Julie and Rick themselves.. they all know who their biggest fan is). I loved being dragged to these concerts with Keltie when I was younger and to this day am still a fan. But it still baffles me that somebody so obsessed with sound quality as Keltie is so impressed with the lo-fi.

And I’m not attacking Keltie, I’m actually asking the question as I know he will love to set me straight with a response to this post! I love the responses Keltie! You’re my teacher and the one that got me hooked on this music hoarding in the first place!

So aside from all the junk out there I still think the indie scene currently has more great music than mainstream as of late. The best thing about it is that it introduces me to some very interesting music. Besides being annoyed by the lack of bass and the lo-fi recording.. at the same time something intrigues me about it and keeps drawing me back.. I just have to figure out what it is.

Keltie's response:

AHHH Brad, I KNEW i was a bad influence on you, haha!! :-)

Ok, I should be packing for Sappyfest but need to take a break.  Yes I can be picky when it comes to sound & recording quality.  But what drew me to the love of the lo-fi sound?  Hell I don't really know but I can explore some options.

I guess the whole idea of doing it yourself, at home (or wherever) appealed to me.  Bucking the trend of renting a studio, and having someone else's ears dictate your sound.  While being an engineer & producer myself, I always ask my artist "what are you aiming for in terms of sound". And having a love of all music, hi-fi & lo-fi certainly helps.  But sometimes stuff captured in a studio doesn't match stuff recorded on a 4-track at home, in terms of feel, ambience or performance.  The studio take may be perfect in sound & execution, but if the FEEL isn't there, then that particular piece of music may seem totally limp. 

Knowing that an artist has recorded lo-fi gives that song or record a particular intimacy, a very personal connection.  And again, going back to artistic control.  Some of Eric's Trip's recorded output would drive some folks away.  But I look beyond the tape hiss, the sometimes very primitive recording techniques, and see each song as a piece of art.  Musical art.  When an artist has the urge to create, sometimes just setting up a single mic and getting the ideas down on tape while its fresh matter more than trying to get it sounding "right".  So, the sound on a particular song may sound lousy to the common person but its "right" for the artist, the song & the artist's vision. And an artist's finances too. Recording on a 4-track at home is definitely cheaper than the cost of going to a studio. 
Its about being real.  And knowing that something is real makes it all the more special. 
The Black Keys (whose last 2 records I can't stand) recorded their EXCELLENT first albums using home-based Tascam 1/4 inch 8 track tape machines.  They wanted a certain sound, a raw-ness, and whenever I listen to their debut "The Big Come-Up", I get excited.  This is real.  Raw, unpolished, totally unpretentious.

Another reason why I think the lo-fi esthetic as prevailed is that many alternative artists and punk artists are influenced by garage rock & early proto-punk & early punk itself.  For example, if it wasn't for the groundbreaking (and poorly recorded) album "The Velvet Underground & Nico" many now influential artists would have never been inspired to try to replicate the sound & feel of that classic album.  Artists are influenced by what they hear, and cutting your teeth on classic raw slabs by The Sonics (60's heavy garage from Washington) or Sonic Youth really can make an impact.
Now with the ease of recording at home with a computer & a few good mics, at-home recording has come a long way.  So the aesthetic of DIY & following your own vision is still alive.  Yes there are bands that still use old cassette 4-tracks, and that's cool.  Whatever works for you, your band and your vision.

If that makes sense, then I'm happy to have shared my thoughts.  If I was just rambling, well, that's OK too.  I'm writing by the seat of my pants here.

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