Hitting the mainstream is the dream for many a muso, but more often than not they lose their roots and their originality plummets as their bank account sky rockets and they become bezzies with David Guetta. Every music fan can sympathise with that sinking feeling you get when your favourite underground artist suddenly has three million hits on Youtube followed by mainstream radio airplay, not to mention their forthcoming support slot for Coldplay’s US tour (I’m looking at you Metronomy). In your own world, you feel a little sense of ownership and pride when you introduce ‘this sick new act’ to your mates and they all think you are mega wicked cool for discovering them first. Bask in the glory while it lasts; potty-mouthed Azaelia Banks is being played regularly on Radio 1 now, however the radio friendly ‘clean version’ of 212 has essentially seen a third of the song silenced. Boo.
When I washed up on the shores of the UK in 2010, there was a big buzz surrounding Biffy Clyro’s most recent album Only Revolutions. Having never heard of the band before, I expected it to be an incendiary piece of work for all the hoo-hah. Incendiary it wasn’t. It was fluffy and a bit poncey, and seemed to be the kind of album that die hard fans would buy blind. So I never gave Biffy the time of day again, until I unintentionally stumbled across their second and third albums, Vertigo of Bliss and Infinity Land and found that this is the perfect example of a band who consistently produced the goods when they were young and wild and then seemingly grew up, had a shave, developed feelings and made some heart warming, pass-the-bucket soft rock.
Not such a contrasting example are alt-rock-post-grunge-indie act The Subways. The band hurled themselves up the rungs of rock with a mixture of self-production, demo-mailouts and playing stinky pubs in Essex. High school sweethearts Billy Lunn and Charlotte Cooper formed the band at a young age and made the agreement that the band would always come before the relationship. They split during the production of their second album All or Nothing. History has taught us that inter-band turmoil makes for good music, take Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours or, er.. Abba. Produced by Butch Vig (Nirvana, Jimmy Eat World), All or Nothing proved to be a highly promising record that propelled The Subways forward from Essex locals to T in the Park, Download Festival and Reading and Leeds. Sure enough, their recent album Money and Celebrity doesn’t come close, now that they’re both happy with new partners and all.
You’ve heard it, you loved it and now you hate it. Now It’s Just a Song That You Used To Like. Gotye once was the moody, sombre art music maverick of Australia. Now he seems to be the most covered artist of all time – it’s already out there enough, stop bloody covering it! From humble beginnings, he had several independent releases, both individually and with his former indie band The Basics. His second album under the name Goyte was Like Drawing Blood, which was recorded over a long period as Wouter ‘Wally’ De Backer (his brilliant real name) moved from house to house, shifting his home recording studio to ever-changing environments with different acoustic qualities. He received national acclaim for this album, winning Most Outstanding New Independent Artist. Wally earned enough money to buy some face paint, sampled Baa Baa Black Sheep, got Kimbra round and made the record that now has over two hundred million views on Youtube.