Thursday, January 28

What is "indy"?

What a difficult question. "Indy" has come to define so much in the last few years. It's a musical phase (more on that later), a fashion, a "look" in movies and design, there's even cliques in high schools that refer to themselves as the "Indy" crowd. But what are we talking about, exactly? The color between blue and violet? A slang word for Native Americans? Some kind of tea? WTF?!

So what IS Indy???

Literally, "indy" is short for "independent;" when talking about music, it means your band/act is independent from the support and influence of a major record label. And I say major record label because pretty much anyone with a computer nowadays can record you and call their operation So-and-So Records. You're pretty much on your own, in other words. And this can be both good and bad:

Good – complete artistic freedom. Unfettered, uncensored expression. The best art is natural and uninhibited.
Bad – no help promoting your act, no media exposure (aka: payola). In a vacuum, no one can hear you make music.

So when talking about independent music, the best example that comes to my mind is this little band that hailed from Albuquerqe, NM circa 1990's. They started off as Flake Music.

flake music
Look tall, boys, you're on Independent Lens.

Their sound was so fresh and unique they soon developed quite a following. A few single releases and EP's later, Flake Music was Indy music gold. But all of a sudden they disappeared without a trace. They would later reemerge as a re-invented, re-vitalized band and take the underground music scene by storm. Indy geeks will now recognize them as The Shins.

It is worth noting, however, that once a band signs on to a major record label (in this case, Sub Pop) it is technically NOT Indy anymore. Their sound and style may not change that much, but given that they become beholden to record label procedures and requirements they are no longer an independent act. This is why it is erroneous to call "Indy" a genre of music... because it is more like a phase a band goes through. Unless, of course, it never gets a record deal :p.

Nevertheless, we feel attached to their Indy roots. And for a time, at least, we remain referring to The Shins as "Indy." I guess you can call it having street cred.

So there you have it, kids; I hope it's been enlightening... and that next time your cool hipster friends say "that looks indy," you won't be thinking of Indiana.

Must download:
"Blast Valve" by Flake Music

Ness PJ's ~avian


Touch Tone Telephone (indie rock cumbia reggae electro funk) from the El Paso / Cd Juarez border area

independent organizations

Chubby Pencil