Posted December 7, 2017 by Mike Mineo in Features

Indie bands keep breaking up only to start making up!

No One Ever Really Dies


Over the last 15 years, some incredible bands have been heard, making indie-geeks of us all. Fans complain and applaud each time a possible reunion makes the news relatively equally, but the trend of breaking up only to start making up has certainly accelerated. Bands are getting back together after only a few years apart, and often just after making a big final tour to say goodbye -albeit a very profitable one.


A great example of this is the LCD Soundsystem. Back in 2011, the band’s final show was announced, to take place at Madison Square Garden, and it was immortalised in the movie Shut Up and Play the Hits. Fast-forward four years on, however, and a new song gets released, Christmas Will Break Your Heart. A big reunion tour followed, then a new album got released, their first to make it to the Number One spot in the USA, and another tour quickly followed. Mike Skinner has just announced yet another tour!


This is Perhaps Thanks to Options Narrowing


While it is easy to turn a cynical eye to these kinds of maneuvers, and take in a game of real money slots rather than pay attention to the latest news from these fickle musicians, options for indie bands have narrowed considerably. The genre is seeing a downturn both commercially and critically, and popular culture is far more focused on artists with powerful visual identities who conduct a love/hate relationship with the mainstream.


Musicians Need the Money


When you take this into account, it is easier to see why some musicians are reforming bands so quickly. Will Rees, guitarist for the Mystery Jets, a band from London who got well-known in the middle 2000s, says that this is as a result of musicians needing to make money.


The Mystery Jets came very close to breaking point after they struggled to incite much interest around their fourth album, Radlands, and seriously considered calling the whole thing off. Happily, however, things picked up again after the release of their fifth record, Curve of the Earth. Before that, however, they were an indie band with a costly pursuit and ever-dwindling rewards. Rees added that solo artists could work in small writing rooms with a MacBook Pro and a couple of synths, but bands needed more money and more time than this to get their stuff out there.


Live Music is Not the Only Problem for Bands


The problem indie bands are facing right now goes beyond live music: fewer records are being released each week, and not least because Top of the Pops is gone and tech trends are changing. There is no weekly music press either, and no Saturday morning music shows that used to support the weekly churn.


The music we are seeing on TV and such is being played at festivals or award shows, and is categorised as massive, once-off, flashy performances, each one a standalone event in its own right. And it makes sense that people have tired of watching the same bands touring the same venues repeatedly. Fans want energy and excitement: big tours featuring multiple acts and big production offer the feeling of being able to experience something never-to-be-repeated.


Rees concluded that this was all a part of the fake news and hypernormalisation that is trending currently. Things are not what they seem, things aren’t real. While bands may well fully intend to split up, it may be just a few short years before we see them again -no one ever really dies.

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound. I used to write for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine. Send your music to [email protected].