With some of the biggest bands of the 2000s releasing new music this year, and a wave of new bands embracing the era’s trippy electronic pop and strummy guitars, indie fever is officially back
Picture this: The year is 2006. You head to Madame Jojos in Soho, past the wide-eyed revelers and into the bathroom where a pair of guys in Henry Holland shirts are doing MCAT lines out of the swamp. It’s the era of seedy bars and DIY places; cheap trilbies and sneakers with Sharpie doodles; tattooed mustaches on the index fingers; amateur flash photography taken in front of dirty mirrors and sightings of Alexa Chung in Camden.
Indie is making a comeback, but not in the way you think. The mid-2000s style was touted to make a comeback under the label sleazy indie last year, as teenagers flocked to TikTok to debut a Tumblr-inspired aesthetic pulled from the recesses of an Effy Stonem mood board. Although the aesthetic has resurfaced to some extent – Miu Miu ballet flats are the fall item du jour, as is black eye makeup – the trend has yet to fully trickle down from the internet to IRL.
What returned, however, was the ertrippy electronic pop and catchy guitar bands. Artists who originally appeared in the 2000s such as The Arctic Monkeys, Uffie, MIA, Santigold and Hotchip have all released new music this year, while new artists like Pixel Grip, Bad Waitress, Jockstrap and Static Dress make music inspired by electroclash and bloghouse, where roaring guitars and woozy synths evoke the distinct, danceable sound of the era. Not to mention the maximalist mashups popularized by Girl Talk, which are akin to the sprawling pop remix on TikTok today. As it stands, we’re only a Razorlight “America” away from any revival of indie music nostalgia.
“It’s been enough time where we can see the era as a whole. The style, the music and the debauchery. It’s amazing that a new generation is discovering it and actually embracing it. I think in an era of such a penchant for social and online presence, people really appreciate how raw it was back then and all the live party music that was rampant back then “says Luke Pritchard, the leader of the Kooks. “I think the fever just came back,” nods Gordon Raphaelproducer of The Strokes and author of The world will love this. “I saw the Strokes in Glasgow last month (TRNSMIT) and it shocked me to see 50,000 people – many super young fans actually, singing every guitar riff, solo and lyric at the top of their lungs.”
In the underground, the cringe of the last generation is quickly becoming this generation’s treasure. A younger generation of ravers ironically repurpose samples of “Mr Brightside” between deconstructed club editions, while Two Shell drops “Sex Is On Fire” during a Boiler Room set, its anthemic hooks serving as a memey antidote to the overly serious club culture that prevailed in European cities before the pandemic. Growing up in a decade where the accessibility of music technology has made even the most popular pop hifi, punctuated by booming 808s and sleek production, everything doubles as club music, even pop. Indie music, its DIY approach and its (intentionally?) shitty production is a response to that.
It makes sense that we are seeing a return to DIY culture after the pandemic. “People want something that will wake them up, shake things up, and make them feel alive and present,” agrees Olivia, the administrator behind the @indiesleaze Instagram account. “The music was so fun, lively, experimental, fluid and collaborative. It was a very communal time in the music scene, and I think that’s something people crave after years of confinement.
“People want something that will wake them up, shake things up and make them feel alive and present” – Olivia, @indiesleaze
Double the sound of a new generation at the time, indie music was the next step after new wave and alternative rock of the 90s; the growing presence of the Internet meant that anyone (usually a middle-class-looking young white man with a haircut) could pick up a guitar and start a band – and get rid of the middleman industry for the first time. “The Wild West of the online world and mp3 sharing has opened up limitless possibilities and increased creativity. The little guy had the power over their artistry and the record companies were scratching their heads,” she explains.
Olivia points out the parallels between the debauched atmosphere that gave birth to the scene and our post-pandemic lives. Young people these days are choosing chaos, trading the sleek, austere image of That Girl in exchange for a more messy goblin-mode existence. They don maximalist and ironic outfits and slather on black mascara. Imperfection, with all its aesthetic quirks, has become the new status quo. Olivia adds: “The recession made it impossible, people were celebrating for their lives as a break from what we were bombarded with on a daily basis. Going out to a club or a party was therapeutic in many ways.
But there was a more sinister side to the indie scene. In an era of peak media misogyny, the groups dominating the circuit were predominantly male and white, sexism was rampant, and queer representation was nearly non-existent. It’s an uncomfortable mirror of our current society, where Andrew Tate is amassing billions of views on TikTok and anti-revival rhetoric sits alongside traditionalist values, creating a sinister strain of conservatism that vanity lounge James Pogue writer recently called the New Right. “Especially compared to the international music scenes of the 2010s, it was still pretty much a boys club. God bless Karen O, Alison Mosshart, Meg White and Beth Ditto, but in reality the music industry, production and bands were male dominated,” Raphael says.
That said, if the TikTok revival of emo and goth is any indication, subcultures that were largely associated with whiteness are diversifying, so what about the same with indie? Also, online and in pop culture, indie fever is creeping back into the minds of the cultural hive. Last month, Azealia Banks took to Instagram stories claiming to be Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos, before expressing her appreciation for MIA’s Vicki Leekx, while Sam Levinson is releasing a movie called The idol with the tagline “Hollywood’s most sordid history”, featuring independent horror filmmaker Eli Roth. Then there’s Yung Lean sporting a deep V-neck in his “Happinessmusic video alongside FKA Twigs. Get ready: the indie revival is coming, whether we like it or not.