That’s right. Never one to be short of entrepreneurial spirit, rapper Snoop Dogg has hit upon a promotional move which is either genius or ghastly (dependent on your tolerance for self-aggrandisation – which, let’s face it, is another of Snoop’s patented quirks). He’s just released a new ‘smokeable’ songbook. That’s right: you can peruse (perizzle?) the lyrics of Snoop at your leisure, before tearing out the cigarette-paper page, rolling up a smoke, striking a match on the flammable spine and contemplating the whole darn thing over a nice bout of potential lung cancer.
A crazy PR stunt? Absolutely. But Snoop is simply continuing a fine, multi-layered heritage of such nonsense. Here are a few more mad music promotional exercises from the archives …
The Imperial Stars Deliberately Block A Highway
Heard of the Imperial Stars? No? Well, chances are you’d be more than familiar with them if you happened to be cruising L.A’s 101 freeway last year. The self-styled “hard core hip hop band from Orange County” thought it would be a good idea to park a truck across the busy lanes and treat commuters to a blast of their single ‘Traffic Jam 101′. Number of other people who thought this was a good idea? Take a wild guess (clue: it begins with ‘zero’).
Michael Jackson Builds A Massive Statue Of Himself Then Floats It Down A River
During his legendary (for both good and bad reasons) career, Michael Jackson was often accused of being a rampant, out-of-touch egomaniac. His riposte? He ordered the construction of a giant statue of himself, then had it hauled down London’s River Thames before the gaze of bewildered tourists and workers. Just think – if this statue had been on the island in ‘Lost’, things would have been even weirder. And the ending would probably have been better.
Madonna Kisses Britney
There have rarely been two women so devoted to the act of self-promotion, so whatever point they were trying to make with this ‘shocking’ display at the MTV Music Awards has been lost to the annals of history. We’re guessing it was probably along the lines of ‘LOOK AT US! LOOK AT US! PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD LOOK AT US!’ though.
Eminem And Bruno
Another incident from the MTV Awards, and one which begs the question: what’s worse than an outrageous PR stunt? An outrageous PR stunt that – despite attempting to appear ‘real’ and ‘edgy’ – was clearly a nicely rehearsed celebrity love-in. Did anyone buy the whole ‘Eminem storms out of ceremony’ thing for a second?
Lady Gaga’s Meat Dress
Fun fact: ‘shocking behavior’ does not compensate for lack of any good tunes on a second album.
Pascal Terstappen must be a happy man. Despite still being a student, his productions under the Applescal moniker have been widely acclaimed throughout the global techno community, gaining Applescal attention from influential blogs such as XLR8R and Pitchfork (not to mention his tracks being played by dance music icons such as Sasha, Hernan Cattanaeo and Laurent Garnier). In between playing live sets at the 5 Days Off festival among others – and readying his third Applescal LP – he’s also found the time to deliver a nine track album under his new Yoshiba 87 alias: Beaming Flowers From India, a loose collection of tunes that wouldn’t fit the mould he created for Applescal in recent years.
Despite the many styles collected on this album, two principle qualities attributed to Terstappen’s work remain: texture and melody. The album’s cohesion comes from using a pallette of warm synthpads and ringing leads that flow freely throughout this album no matter what rhythmic patterns drive the tracks. Meanwhile Terstappen tries his hand at inert trip-hop beats , glitches, chiming ambient house … all while mixing programmed and live drums with ease. There’s no four-to-the-floor kicks to be found anywhere on the album, a clear indication that this is not Applescal territory. Yoshiba 87 is the perfect moniker for Terstappen to really show the full scale of his production skills.
Perhaps the most notable track here is his collaboration with singer Pien Feith, an artist widely known for her enthusiasm when it comes to collaborations. You’re The Best Thing Ever largely revolves around her cut-up and processed vocals, built upon a looming trip-hop groove that could be mistaken for a Floating Points production. A Message From Tuvalu is a foray into glitch-hop, while Nineteen 8 + 7 is a lighthearted UK bass production. Both are well executed and fun to listen, but somehow lack context here. Terstappen is keeping so close to respective stylistic boundaries that they become a little anonymous in the process. Meanwhile, the uptempo electronica of Earthly Vibes and the ambient We Are Still Alive hug a little closer to Applescal territory, but fit much better with the ambient intermezzo’s on the album. Gravity Hackers takes a few cues from M83’s Midnight City and Walls’ Heat Haze but turns out much less overstated and baroque than its progenitor. It’s the perfect blend between ambient and indiepop aesthetics.
In the end, Beaming Flowers From India does much more than simply kill the time in between Applescal albums. Rather, one could call it Pascal Terstappen’s coming out as a full-fledged, boundlessly unlimited producer. It opens up a whole new field of possibilities, ranging from Damon Albarn-esque (or Pien Feith-like) artistic promiscuity to the kind of pop-electronic crossovers we’ve seen from the likes of Apparat, Air and M83. These are big big names in the field of electronic music, but based on his recent output, Terstappen isn’t far behind. With this album and the new Yoshiba 87 moniker Terstappen takes another big leap towards the zenith of electronic music making. Hopefully the positive reception of Beaming Flowers From India will prompt him to flex his muscles even more.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get my pompons and start cheering under Terstappen’s bedroom window. (Editor’s note: BAMM.TV takes no responsibility for any nightmares incurred by the thought of Jasper dressed as a cheerleader).
Here’s another one of our occasional in-depth articles by Zakia Uddin, looking at various elements of the music industry. This time around, Zakia analyses the phenomenon of brands taking over the duties of record labels. What does this mean for independent music?
“I just want to make music that people want to dance to in their Converse”. It seems like the perfect strapline – even more so for being uttered by musician Beth Corsetino in an interview in 2010 about her collaboration with the shoemaker. The lead singer of former buzzband Best Coast was almost disarming in her honesty and her directness. Its hard to imagine any of her musical precursors such as Sleator-Kinney, or All Girl Summer Fun Band even having sponsors, let alone name-checking them of their free will. However, the music industry has radically changed in the past three years. Record sales are at an all-time low, more acts are dependent on touring, and audiences’ attentions are seriously fragmented. Music labels have been slow to push their acts in innovative ways. With increasingly low margins for marketing, and promotion, bands are having to rethink the classic slow-burn indie trajectory. Arguably, the future of indie music could be dependent on getting rid of the notion of “selling out” and embracing “opting in”.
When Kurt Cobain sang ‘Radio Friendly Unit Shifter’, large corporate record companies were perceived as the enemy (though the band was acknowledging their own signing to a major). Comparatively, brands are coming off well, despite having been a taboo prospect for anyone but the biggest artists. Even Annie Lennox once said: “There are artists that promote Pepsi and there are artists that simply won’t.” This was at a time when there were God-like musicians such as Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, who conferred their success onto their carefully chosen sponsor, rather than the other way around. The power relations have now reversed between brands and bands, with much recent talk about brands being the new “patrons”. The benign use of the word “patron” may not be completely disingenuous. It’s even possible to ask in some instances: what’s in it for the brand?
More brands are offering services to bands and challenging the roles of record companies in identifying new acts, and nurturing, developing and publicizing bands. Established names such as Converse and Red Bull are becoming involved right from the start, by trying to find new talent. This arguably gives the corporation an edge, while simultaneously breaking down the idea of corporations as primarily self-interested. Two good examples of innovative sponsorship in the form of “services” have been Motel 6’s Rock Yourself to Sleep and Taco Bell’s Feed the Beat. US budget chain Motel 6 provides beds to bands taking part in its nationwide tour, while Taco Bell presents selected bands with $500 worth of Taco Bell Bucks for the road.
Some of the alumni of the Taco Bell deal may surprise followers of indie music. Hyped artists and bands Andrew WK, The Drums, Waaves, and Kreayshawn have all been sponsored by the eatery. Music publishing and talent management company Primary Wave collaborated with Motel 6 to select bands for the annual Rock Yourself to Sleep tour, which was designed to promote emerging talent and reduce the costs of doing the all-important cross-country promotion. Commenting on what brands have to offer bands, Gareth Newman of the Hospital Club said at Internet Week Europe last year: “There are so many services that you can aggregate, and you can offer much better returns, even from content retail. If brands are in it for the long term, they can develop those sorts of relationships and have meaningful growth with those bands as they develop.” In non-marketing talk, meaningful growth means more credibility and an emotional connection with a broader range of potential customers than before. Converse’s Rubber Tracks venture aims to give specially selected acts the chance to record for free in its studio. Most bands – new and hyped – would be foolhardy to resist free food, accommodation and free recording time in a studio which has been patronized by established stars.
Novelist and music critic Nick Hornby wrote in 31 Songs that the younger generation will never know what it is like to hunt out new music or to wait for a specific time in the day to listen to a record. Instead, we can listen to any music any time we want on Spotify or download a new album just before our daily commute, or search out free mixtapes online. Music becomes background, rather than a discrete experience. Some might perceive ubiquity to be death of music as a spiritual experience, but brands may actually be the key to arresting the rot.
One of the biggest changes brought about the increasing presence of corporate names is the change to the musical year. Rather than continuing with the traditional three singles and build-up to the big album schedule, brands are helping push the idea of “a little, more often” by popular artists. Blogging on Universal’s site about singer Ellie Goulding’s “collaboration” with Nike, Polydor’s senior digital campaign manager Aaron Bogucki said that the partnership had given fans a new way of connecting with the rising star. He added that it was “still about the music” as they had remixed an EP by her and made the songs into a running soundtrack. Project-derived releases give artists the chance of repeated exposure outside of the usual press cycle. Also, material on the web remains there indefinitely – meaning that it can always be rediscovered by new sets of fans. Anyone who has looked up a video out of nostalgia on YouTube has had the experience of being startled by comments underneath dating from the same day or hour. The more material, the better for the artist.
Creative marketing campaigns might again bring back the sense of occasion lost by the rock and pop industry when it releases new material by popular artists. Those averse to hearing music described as a “loss-leader” to sell iPods or other bits of technology may be appalled by the idea of it being a “passion-point” (according to one speaker at the Internet Week Europe conference) to sell any kind of product, ranging from running shoes to soft drinks. However, the use of music in collaborations and promotions gives artists the opportunity to find new audiences and more attention in a crowded marketplace, through capitalizing on the relationships already built up by the brand.
Brands may also present a kind of salvation to musicians faced with more oppressive deals from record companies desperate to recoup cash lost from dwindling record sales. The infamous “360 deal” is intended to cover profits from every use of an artist’s music or image, which means companies can claim profits from lucrative ringtone profits and merchandise sales, amongst other ventures. If music is seen primarily as a loss-leader by brands, then bands may paradoxically have more to gain. Artist management agencies are increasingly offering the flexibility and skills artists need to navigate the fragmented and tricky market – especially when it comes to sponsorship.
OK Go, who were mostly known as “the band who did the video on the running machines”, formed their own imprint Paracadute after being dropped from EMI, in order to negotiate sponsorship deals which will allow them to realise some of their creative ambitions. Rather than disappearing from the music scene altogether, the band have found their niche as a partner in creative projects with big brands such as Range Rover. Manager Mike Rosenthal told the Guardian’s Behind the Music last year: “[Ok Go] had a lot of marketing campaigns and support from Capitol Records that helped people focus on them, but now they can pursue whatever projects come into their heads instead of having to think about how you drive it back to the sale of recorded media. I don’t think the band would consider ever signing another record deal – or if that would even be an option. They’re just too interested in other things. Especially now that it doesn’t all have to culminate in the release of a piece of plastic that has their music on it. That model is dead for good.”
Chromeo, who came to prominence as a blog favourite, released their dancefloor filler ‘Night by Night’ on Mountain Dew’s Green Label Sound, but opted for Atlantic to release their debut album. Bands may choose a mix and match approach, utilising the strength of labels, and taking advantage of the willingness of brands to supply money for videos and other publicity tools. Realistically, signing to a brand may give an artist more creative control than signing to a label. Phil Holiday, head of sport and entertainment at OMD’s branded content division, told Marketing Week: “Music acts have effectively become media owners and as a result can offer brands direct access to their audience, particularly through social media and experiential executions.”
So what are the downsides for bands? When will companies start expecting more direct involvement in the creative process and demanding name-checks in songs? Will the diversity in independent guitar-based music drop off as more bands aim for sponsorship in place of record deals? Labels can be assured – a survey by Digital Music and Reverb Nation last year found that 75 per cent of artists and bands still see a deal with a major as their main goal.
A broader criticism of artists that collaborate with brands has been the willingness to ignore dodgy work ethics by the company in question. Chris Kaskie of Pitchfork raised the objection when speaking to the New York Times, only to clarify afterwards that he was not using Nike as an example because of the controversy behind their production. However, it is unlikely that artists will stop making political statements, especially in these troubled times. Last year, even Disney scion Miley Cyrus was moved to sing in support of the Wall Street Occupation.
Another question is whether labels will only support buzzbands in the future. There have always been bands that have fluked their way to success despite not being obviously “cool”, but the spirit of innovation in music and style may dissipate as bands become tactical in gaining sponsorship. However, bands might be able to wield more control over their image than ever before if they use the powerful social media tools already at their disposal. Speaking at Internet Week Europe, Joey Swarbric of Alley Cat Music told the audience about his discovery of the teen duo Rizzle Kicks. He said: “When I started managing them at 17, when I discovered them, they didn’t have very much music. They had a backing tape, where they rapped over Christina Aguilera, the Strokes etc, they had a MySpace. What stood out for me was that they were so savvy online, they started it themselves, they didn’t wait for management or label. That’s what attracted me to them. We didn’t go to a manager, but the visuals and the music were in sync already.”
Swarbric also suggested at the same talk that there are bigger changes in the nature of music itself which brands might be able to handle better than monolithic record labels. He pointed out the music dominating the charts was mainly hip-hop and dance – and it was “no coincidence” that these genres were at the top. Indie artists have a much slower turnaround than dance and hip-hop artists, such as Chris Brown, Lil’Wayne and David Guetta. During that time, fans are likely to lose interest. Artists that willingly collaborate with brands can provide more “points of interest” and keep fans hooked. Rap, which exults in brand names, has not suffered in terms of musical credibility – is the notion of “selling out” holding back indie music and making it less appealing to younger people looking for music that really reflects the pace of their own life?
Arguably, there will always be artists who refuse to be sponsored by Pepsi or any brand, and they will find it increasingly harder to get their music to stand out on social networks. But there is always room for new exciting music and brands and platforms are still in the palm of followers and fans (in the Facebook sense), whose tastes aren’t entirely predictable. What has definitely changed is the way we listen to music and brands may be in the best position to make listening feel special again. People are listening to more music than ever, but on their own terms, as a way of measuring out their day and engaging with their friends and networks. Why not use music as a starting-point to sell them goods that reflect their other passions and aspirations?
When bands and brands get together…
Here are some examples of what’s worked and what has failed dismally.
1. Groove Armanda signed with Bacardi in 2008.
The band already had form with the use of their hit song ‘I see you baby’ by carmaker Renault Megane. Their decision to pair with the drinks brand was prompted by Bacardi’s new focus on live music and sponsored tours, organised through the company’s entertainment arm B-Live. Groove Armanda are also contracted to write songs for promos and adverts, while their singles could be distributed for free by the brand’s music venture ‘B-Live Share’. The video called ‘The Good Virus’, brings together the idea of sharing music online for free, and acknowledging the importance of social networks for disseminating new music. Unlike some of the other acts listed here, Groove Armada have always had songs that sounded like commercial anthems. Are some bands simply more suited to working with brands than others? In the future, will bands tailor themselves to certain brands, in the same way that artists before aspired to be on certain record labels?
2.Ok Go/Paracadute -Range Rover
Ok Go made their mark with the treadmills video, scoring to date ten million hits on YouTube. Subsequent efforts sunk with the band eventually being dropped from EMI. However, Ok Go decided to take a sideways move and form their own imprint focusing primarily on one-off projects and creative brand collaborations. One of its biggest projects so far has been working with Range Rover as one of their ‘City Shapers’ – the band organised a musical parade through Los Angeles which was estimated to be eight miles long. While Ok Go never had much artistic credibility, they may have found their place through doing feelgood quirky commercials.
3. Fiat and Faithless – ‘Feelin’ Good’
This unusual collaboration saw Fiat funding a three minute pop music video called ‘Feelin’ Good’ by Faithless, in which the Punto made a brief appearance. In the video, the interior of the car is shown by reflections in the front mirror, under which hang puppets of Sister Bliss and Maxi Jazz. This does not at all reflect Faithless’s subconscious feelings about collaborating with Fiat, we are informed. The project gave birth to what Fiat called a “prommercial” with the video being aired during a commercial break, potentially baffling viewers with its lack of obvious product placement or branding. Following the premiere-like showing of the prommercial, the song was integrated into a conventional advert form which featured a 30 second snatch of the song. Commenting on the venture and the band’s distribution through Tesco’s music arm, Bliss told The Independent: “You do what you can to get your music out there. People who get up in arms about these things obviously have no idea about how desperately difficult it is to put records out now and make any sort of living out of it, especially in this period of excessive [free] downloading.”
4. Nelly ‘Air Force Ones’
The best example of what can go wrong when brands appear to have some direct involvement in the song-writing process. Amazingly, Nelly’s ‘Air Force Ones’ even features a reference to Foot Locker, as well as verses outlining his opinion on each variant on the trainer. The song is in the lineage of music about favourite footwear. The Pack’s ‘Vans’ was a heartfelt tribute to feeling confident when wearing your sneakers. Run DMC enthusiastically celebrated wearing Adidas in the imaginatively-titled ‘My Adidas’ back in 1985, inspiring fans to lift their trainers in the air like they just don’t care. However, ‘Air Force’ Ones may have not have done the artist and brand any favours. Sample lyrics include: “I’m just a sneaker pro/I love pumas and shell toes/(Big boy) but cant nothing compare to a fresh crispy white pair (big boy)”.
5. Jack White ‘What Goes Around Comes Around’
Made in 2006, one of the earliest collaborations on the list and possibly one of the most surprising. Jack White wrote ‘What Goes Around Comes Around’ for the Nagi Noda-directed Coke ad, commissioned by ad agency Mother. At the time White Stripes were taken as the resurgence of a kind of home-grown DIY rock, with the duo bringing together mystique and style in one neat package. At the time, Noel Gallagher of Oasis accused White of selling out for penning the song. However, White claimed that he had always been a fan of the brand, and had previously written 100-second songs intended to be used for Coca-Cola adverts, even as a teenager. In concord, the brand made use of White’s trademark red outfits to insist that the singer and guitarist’s love of Coca-Cola stretches to wearing its colours. The ad also became an event in its own right. Coca-Cola aired the 100-second long promotional video in an ad break for Channel 4’s The Chart Show.
6. Kid Cudi, Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino and Rostam of Vampire Weekend ‘All Summer’
One of the most notable releases to come out of Converse’s Rubber Tracks studio. The shoemaker brought together three very different and much blogged artists voices to create this strange track, which sounds like when you accidentally layer YouTube tracks by opening several browsers at once. This song got a lot of blogging attention because of its off-kilter feel. ‘All Summer’ utilises Cosentino’s sweet hook against Cudi’s rhymes. Bethany Cosentino told the New York Times that there was no brief from Converse, other than to create a summery vibe with the track. Could there be more collaborations such as this in the future? Rather than the organic relationships we see develop between bands, brands could be instrumental in bringing together buzzbands and artists. Who is to argue that it doesn’t yield creative work? Artists could also find that collaborating is a way of raising their own stock and reaching the ears of music lovers that would be otherwise closed off to different genres. Feeding into audience’s tastes for new material and up-dates, Converse also documented the recording process with some behind-the-scenes footage. The brand’s music projects are a way of capitalising more strategically on their long presence in the history of indie and alternative music.
7. Taco Bell’s Feed the Beat and New Found Glory
New Found Glory rant about the trials of touring in ‘Truck Stop Blues’ – but they don’t have to worry about food with their Taco Bell Bucks. Singer Jordan Pundik gurns into the camera complaining about being in a different state every night, where each truck stop providing the same bland food opportunities. Midway, the Taco Bell Truck appears like manna from heaven, only witnessed by one of the band members, who runs to eat his meal secretly in the bathroom. A giant Taco Bell logo is evident only for a few seconds on the very left of the screen, but it registers. For a second it feels like an advert, but even then the line is drawn by the fact that New Found Glory would probably be too abrasive for regular television audiences (even though the YouTube comments are peppered with debates on the relative authenticity of Blink 182 and Bowling for Soup). It’s not known whether the song was inspired by the Taco Bell Truck or whether the its title provided a handy opportunity for synthesis. Pop-punkers New Found Glory are signed to the legendary independent label Epitaph, and no doubt the label could do with some Taco Bell Bucks. It’s a long way since label founder Brett Gurewitz set up Epitaph as a P.O.Box and a logo in order to distribute his band Bad Religion’s records.
We’ve been losing far too many musical icons in recent months. First came the untimely death of Monkees pop maestro Davy Jones, then – only last week – we bid farewell to all-American country legend Earl Scruggs. Now we’re sad to say goodbye to another pivotal music figurehead: Jim Marshall, the creator of the Marshall amp, and the self-made ‘father of loud’. If you’ve ever had the neighbors complain because your jamming session is shaking their floor like a tectonic plate, chances are it was because of old Jim’s technology.
Marshall Amps released the following statement:
“It is with profound sorrow that we announce the passing of our beloved founder and leader for the past 50 years, Jim Marshall. While mourning the Guv’nor though, we also salute a legendary man who led a full and truly remarkable life.
“Jim’s ascent into the history books as ‘the Father of Loud’ and the man responsible for ‘the Sound of Rock’ is a true rags-to-riches tale. Cruelly robbed of his youth by tubercular bones, Jim rose to become one of the four forefathers responsible for creating the tools that allowed rock guitar as we know and love it today to be born. The groundbreaking quartet also includes the late, great trio of Leo Fender, Les Paul and Seth Lover – together with Jim, they truly are the cornerstones of all things rock.
“In addition to the creation of the amps chosen by countless guitar heroes and game-changing bands, Jim was also an incredibly humble and generous man who, over the past several decades, has quietly donated many millions of pounds to worthy causes.
“While the entire Marshall Amplification family mourns Jim’s passing and will miss him tremendously, we all feel richer for having known him and are happy in the knowledge that he is now in a much better place which has just got a whole lot louder!
“Rest in Peace & thank you Jim. Your memory; the music and joy your amps have brought to countless millions for the past five decades; and that world-famous, omnipresent script logo that proudly bears your name will always live on.”
Capeman are the kind of rock outfit who really wear their cocky, boyish charm well. It’s a trait often associated with Amsterdam natives. Britpop enthusiasts might remember it from their 90’s icons, or perhaps modern-day acolytes Kasabian. Whatever you might call it, singer-guitarist Darko Tadic and his motley crue have plenty of it.
It’s what makes them a particularly exciting live act, even though they’ve definitely dialed things down from their earlier exploits as The Darko. Their previous entity was all energy; Capeman employ a different, more dynamic approach to songwriting and also boast the added bonus of a fourth member, guitarist/soundscapist Ymer Marinus. With plenty of stage time under their belts and harboring a new musical direction, they’re as confident as ever, a fact bolstered by the aptly titled debut album Stand Out Cause Trouble.
Of course, the first question is: how does all this on-stage energy translate to their studio efforts? Well, the pumping rhythm section of Martin Von Lier and Sin Banovic definitely holds it own on record, driving the band’s staccato grooves home to great effect. Oddly enough, it’s not the muscular cuts that hit home the hardest. Aggressive riffs like those in Mass Destructo or Shed Some Light feel transitional, as if there’s a residue of The Darko they can’t seem to shake off. A shame, as such pumped up rock songs can’t help but feel … well … dated. We Got Glue is a notable exception, thanks to it’s Bloc Party-esque guitars shreds and it’s haunting synthpads.
Thankfully, the majority of the album leaves the band with more room to breath. As it turns out, Capeman have found their comfort zone in spacious mid-tempo songs with plenty of influences, ranging from new wave to electro. Here the slick production works to their advantage, pushing tracks Mongolian Oil and single Science to above average performances. But the absolute standout here must be Televisions. It’s by far the best composition, beautifully arranged and produced, with plenty of room for Tadic’s vocals to take the limelight. Combine that with the excellent hook in the chorus, and you could be mistaken for thinking it’s the next big single from Foster The People.
Overall, Stand Out Cause Trouble is much friendlier than the title might suggest. It’s rock tendencies feel more like leftovers from a bygone age, while their more indie/electro inspired tunes have all the potential to take alternative radio stations by storm. If they exercise a little more restraint, and keep playing to their strengths (as well as awesome live shows), Capeman could well become a strong contender for festival slots and greater exposure in the Benelux and beyond. A promising debut, all in all. Look out for Capeman’s session on BAMM.tv in the next few weeks, as we’ll be releasing the sessions recorded by BAMM.tv at Desmet Studio’s in Amsterdam last January.
Oh yeah. Two titles for a post. We’re getting literary on your asses. As the kids on the interwebs like to say, this is SERIOUS BUSINESS.
The Twitterheads among you may have noticed a certain hashtag-fuelled flurry of activity over the last couple of days – one which draws attention to the oddly sad story of Brit-rock outfit Viva Brother. Here’s the story in a handy bite-sized capsule (look, we’re not getting too literary on your asses): in early 2011 a swaggering bunch of lads called Brother deemed themselves to be the future of rock and roll. They had a monumental hype machine behind them, courtesy of Geffen Records, which only served to bolster their arrogance. A short while later, they changed their name to ‘Viva Brother’ after another band called Brother threatened to sue them. Then – on April 1st 2012 – they split up. And … erm … that’s it.
The most interesting thing about Viva Brother was the reaction they provoked. There was an initial push across all media fronts, with once-respected outlets like the NME immediately hurling them on the cover and heralding their rise as the ‘return of the great British guitar band’. Several other publications followed suit, diving headfirst into the whirlwind of Geffen-sponsored hype.
Then – perhaps quicker than ever before – the backlash began. It seemed that Viva Brother were almost universally disliked, to the point of viciousness. Tim Jonze at The Guardian called them ‘unintentionally hilarious’ – a sentiment which seemed almost tame in the wake of the debut album reviews which followed.
Let’s just say that reaction to ‘Famous First Words’ (cringe) wasn’t pretty. Drowned In Sound ranted that ‘Geffen’s belief that this lot represent the future of UK guitar music defies comprehension’, The Observer claimed that they set back guitar music ‘a good 20 years’, and The Quietus put the boot in by saying ‘this is manufactured rebellion for the X Factor generation and that’s just not good enough in times like these. Devoid of hunger, anger and sex, Viva Brother are about as anaemic and pale as music gets.’
And – with the news of their split – reaction ceased to be any less hostile. Holy Moly mock-mourned the passing of ‘the country’s most hilarious band’, while The Guardian simply asked ‘Viva Brother, Where Art Thou’? Dancing atop the gravestone had officially commenced.
Buuuuuuut – here’s the thing. There’s no point in denying the obvious. Viva Brother were a truly terrible band. Not only did their arrogance during interviews prove to have zero backing talent-wise, but they made the fatal mistake of trying to revive Britpop. Seriously. Britpop. For American readers who might not be aware, Britpop was a mid-90s musical fad in Britain, during which guitar bands ditched all pretense of intellect and tried to appeal to a grotesque, beer-swilling archetype of the working class. This was coupled with a strange, almost xenophobic ‘patriotism’ which involved covering every available surface with Union Jack flags.
Entire books have been written on how crap Britpop was. Entire films have been made about it too. It was the godawful period during which Blur released their worst music, Pulp unfairly became associated with the scene and went on to have a nervous breakdown, and Oasis released a couple of albums which are kind of okay if you want something forgettable to soundtrack a summer’s day barbeque. While it will undoubtedly experience a revival one day – everything does, for better or worse – Viva Brother’s attempt to do so was a hideously misjudged.
Yet … one can’t help but feel that’s not the only reason behind the unprecedented backlash. Bands have long been hyped to the hills by major labels, and have long crashed and burned without attaining the world-conquering success they ‘deserved’. Remember Gallows? Terris? Gay Dad? Course you don’t. However .. with the strange delight many have in the failure of Viva Brother … is there another factor involved? A turning of the tide, maybe? A cultural shift?
No-one is pretending that the major labels are bereft of influence. Adele didn’t get to be a global superstar by sheer hard work – there was a massive corporate machine behind her. Yet modern-day 18-34 year olds – the golden ticket for the music industry – are savvier, more enabled and more clued-up pop-culture-wise than any generation before them. There are so many ways to discover new music now, and listeners can choose with their clicks. Digital consumption – while not reinventing the wheel – has introduced a new meritocracy to the system. If your bedroom-recorded tracks are good enough, and enough people share them online, you’ll be discovered. Sometimes the backing of a huge label isn’t necessary. Infact, when it comes to genres in which corporate approval is seen as a blow to credibility, it’s a positive bonus.
The major labels aren’t going away. And if they happen to discover an astonishing new act and share it with the world, more power to them. But the days of them being able to dig up any old crap and convince the public that it’s worth buying might be coming to an end – at least outside the bubblegum pop sphere. The Emperor’s New Clothes have been sent to the dry cleaners.
What do you guys think? Does the failure of Geffen’s pet project ‘Viva Brother’ herald an industry/consumer change? Or is it just a case of history repeating the sort of high-profile screw-up we’ll undoubtedly see time and time again?
Eclectic Belgian pop/rock outfitAbsynthe Minded are a household name in the Benelux area with plenty of experience abroad. They’re on the verge of releasing their fifth studio album in eight years … no small feat! In the run-up to their album they’ve released a new single, Space, which you can listen to below.
In order to get radio airplay outside their specialist sphere of influence, they’ve come up with a particularly devious plan – they’ve launched something called The Most Exclusive Video Ever for their new single. How does it work? Well, as they explain in the short vid on the website dedicated to this phenomenon, they’re monitoring radio stations across Europe searching for their single to be played. For every time they pick up on airplay for their single, the video will be played once. So, as they say, the only way to see the video is to request the single at your local radio station.
So far, only 174 people out of some 1300 visitors have seen the video. We’re not sure whether this will actually benefit Absynthe Minded’s self-proclaimed “plans for world domination”, but with almost 50.000 Facebook fans aching to see their latest video, we wouldn’t be surprised if the band will be whipping up a storm of requests at local radio stations across Europe. If you’re lucky enough to catch the video, please let us know what you think! Oh, and if you’re stuck without anything to do in the meantime, you can also check out this acoustic version of Envoi, taken from their previous self-titled album.