Let be known that I am a HUGE FAN of posts like this – posts that evoke such intelligent and insightful comments from everybody who reads what I write. Seriously… thanks for all the interaction. Super cool.
I think the best plan in continuing the discussion is to select my favorite quotes from the comments and respond to them. I’ll put the comments in italics and respond to each one individually. Feel free to chime in on the discussion further if you think there’s more to add.
It should also be noted that Pavement, while influential to many bands, was never and still isn’t a “popular” band. The most timeless bands I think have Pavement’s humanness but also Yes’s or Rush’s “otherworldliness” and technical prowess. Bands like Nirvana and the Beatles have this immense accessibility because they straddle that line. That’s a crude oversimplification of why those two bands are what they are, but it still proves my point I think. – Chris Morrissey
I love the logic of Pavement’s influence contrasted with their popularity. A lot of you mentioned Pavement’s sound and approach as a rejection of 80’s over-production, which is probably accurate. That rejection, along with other bands of the time, fueled and inspired a massive shift in rock music, but Pavement themselves are left being largely irrelevant to MOST listeners. My theory is that this irrelevance results from their lack of facility on the technical side of the medium they use to make their art. (Also, Chris made a great point when he questioned my use of the term “musicianship”… he’s right on… “facility” is a better term.)
What I do know is that they (Wheat) were capable, at least in the studio and from what I could tell at the 7th Street Entry, of making a Pop record. For them the other records feel like more of a “decision” as far as the imperfections go – the “why take it again when it feels so sincere?” mentality. – Aaron Ankrum
Aaron’s got a great point here. There are bands that intentionally ignore mistakes and/or “bad playing” because of the sincerity and feel behind the performance. I hear this from many of the folk and alt-country artists I like: Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Wilco, etc. However, it seems like many Indie bands use this not-uncommon “loose” feel as an excuse to be loose themselves, when in reality they lack the ability to do anything that resembles “tight.” This is speculative on my part, but I feel like I can really HEAR the difference between an honest and intentionally-flawed performance, and a just plain crappy one – and I bet a lot of other people can hear it too.
There is something about Indie music that captures me, and the best way I can describe it is that it’s a genre that lives and dies by vibe. If it evokes an emotional response, whether it’s joy or anger, it’s effective. That’s the artistic piece of it. So much of adult pop, modern rock, and CCM is pretty artless. It doesn’t make me feel anything, no matter how good the musicians are. Of course, the best of the Indie bands are the ones that do both. – Lars Stromberg
Yes Yes Yes. Art should affect us on an emotional level, and I think Indie bands know this and try hard to do this. Lars is so right that a lot of the commercial music world has no real artistic value, despite what the sales might indicate. But, does a band have to suck at playing their instruments in order to be emotionally powerful? My gut says no. The transcendent music that results from BOTH potent art and competent instrumentalists seems to be the best goal.
I agree that poor musicianship does not mean bad music, but it takes a rare chemistry/combination of a group of people to make good music with poor musicianship…and THIS is what I think a lot of “Indie Rock” people forget. Just because it’s sloppy and/or executed poorly with bad sounding recordings doesn’t make it automatically cool. – Nate Babbs
Nate again brings up the notion that some bands are INTENTIONALLY sloppy in order to utilize the loose feel in accomplishing the sound they want. But it’s so true that this is far more difficult to actually pull off than one might imagine. I feel like the Free Jazz world also suffers from this issue.
Maybe I can add one thought to the studio player mentality. I don’t think it’s totally a mindless, come in and play well and put no creativity into it thing. I believe the creativity is coming out in different ways. The effort is put into finding “appropriate fills” that fit the song. Not fills that drummers will appreciate. Also, the feel is creativity on every note to create the right vibe. – Kevin Holvig
I agree with this, but I think this is only what GOOD session players do. Not all session players do this. In fact, this is a big issue because it’s basically the heart of the whole thing. Every genre and sub-genre has a different game… a different target to aim for. The GOOD studio player should make sure he gives the music what it needs, while also being true to the nature of art, which is creative. My main point in this whole topic is to ask Indie bands to do the same thing, but in the opposite direction. Good art should (in my opinion) be both creative/emotional and controlled/intentional. The end result suffers when either side of the spectrum is overly stressed. Which leads me to the last comment quote…
Like people have been saying, there are many great indie bands who find ways to explore new things in music and still be excellent musically. – Danny Warnock