What does “indie” even mean anymore? Not a whole lot, according to Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig and Carles, the erstwhile proprietor of famed indie blog Hipster Runoff. The Fader facilitated an scare-quote-filled email conversation between the two on everyone’s favorite buzzword topics of “indie,” “authenticity,” and “content.” “Indie never existed,” Carles says. “What people believe ‘sounds’ like indie still lives on in the fringes of Bandcamps, content farms of yesteryear, and in the hearts of regretful thirtysomethings…The people ‘still trying to be into indie’ are into ceremonial internet album cycles of yesteryear, where they can’t even tell that ‘the artists themselves’ are tired of projecting a ‘new self’ or even an ‘actualizing self.'” He elaborates:
I think ‘indie’ was about romanticizing amateurism in music and media [via ‘blogs’]. But the bands that were actually successful cared about being ‘masters’ and never really were THAT amateur. And now we can romanticize amateurism with the false construct of the modern artisan: you can have it at your local coffee shop or ‘downtown district’ restaurant, places where you are served by people in chambray aprons with leather pockets.
Why must we empower people who are trying to convince us that ‘a lo-fi sheen’ is real? Let’s face it — Selena Gomez doing a Lana Del Rey impression is really all we need to be fulfilled if you are into commodified content markets.
The amateur/professional dichotomy is just about destroyed now. The biggest celebrities now show the openness/vulnerability/’realness’ that was once associated with ‘confessional’ ‘bedroom’ indie. The smallest artists now rely on big corporate money to get started. All the old dualities are jumbled.
I don’t know how ‘indie’ fits into this new era. I guess you’re right — similar to the modern artisan, ‘indie’ feels like a ‘false construct.’ It neither leans into the dominant narrative of late-capitalist-Information-Age-celebrity nor challenges it. It’s like the musical form of the hated ‘moderate liberal.’
The conversation is a bit all over the place, touching briefly on all sorts of interrelated subjects. On the topic of whether or not larger-than-life celebrity is back, Ezra says, “I advise everyone to pursue larger-than-life celebrity. It just feels right in 2015. The world has spoken, and it prefers genuine fakes to fake genuines. Mid-2000s indie was full of fake genuines. I won’t name names.” And regarding the proliferation of content: “Yes, there is more content today. Content is the commodified form of thoughts/information, and in our hyper-capitalist era everything moves towards pure commodity. The person becomes the personal brand, and ideas become content. We all watch this process every day.”
I’ll leave you with Ezra’s idea for a post-artisan coffee shop: “The post-artisan cafe vibe wave we’re seeing in L.A./N.Y.C./London is less old-timey shit and more Scandinavian/art gallery minimalism. My cafe would take this to its logical extreme: all-white, backless benches and one large brewed pot of coffee today (when it’s done, it’s done). I would play the Billboard Top 10 singles on loop all day.”
Read the full conversation here.
UPDATE: Koenig has shared the ending of his conversation with Carles that The Fader edited out of the piece.
not mad at fader's editing at all but here's the original ending to my "conversation" with Carles (4 the heads) pic.twitter.com/9zqApCbvEJ
— Ezra Koenig (@arzE) October 9, 2015