The difference between North American and UK Indie Music

Jason Rule, DJ extraordinaire and host of Astral Traveling shared a great video with me this morning. It’s a six minute clip of Beardyman, an amazing musical improvisor, giving a seminar/impromptu mini-concert at The Udderbelly. Beardyman’s specialty is dubstep, but he has a keen awareness of other genres.

In the video below, he completely slaughters the indie music genre by improvising a typical UK indie song using nothing but his mic, loop pedals, and voice modulators. Admittedly, it sounds better than the majority of music that comes out of the independent music scene in Canada. But it got me thinking – is it really fair to generalize that all indie music is bad?

When you think about it, indie is really an umbrella term that can be used to describe a wide variety of musical styles. In fact, I find that the term is generally applied to products, brands, and music that cater to a certain individual – the “indie”-vidual if you will.

Understandably, the kind of person that gravitates towards indie music will vary considerably depending on cultural background. Beardyman makes a great point about the predictability of formulaic songwriting, but it seems to me UK indie music is actually closer to North American pop-punk. Then again, the US and UK have similar but different definitions of what constitutes a Mars bar, so I’m not that surprised that their definitions of the indie genre would also vary.

Watch the video and decide for yourself.

Read more about Beardyman’s full show, Unshaved.

One thought on “The difference between North American and UK Indie Music

  1. That’s probably a pretty fair characterization of a good chunk of what might be considered “indie”, but I’d argue that indie is more of a mindset or philosophy than it is a musical genre. Aside from the obvious connotation that it’s related to unsigned acts, who have to independently produce their own music, it relies on a DIY ethos that drives artists to follow their own artistic path rather than bend to popular or industry tastes.

    Sure, a lot of it might sound like Beardyman’s parody, but then a lot of it is produced by 20 yr olds in their parents’ basement with whatever equipment is readily available. Within the spectrum of music we play on mbtrg is a wide swath of DYI music that ranges from garage rock similar to what’s heard in that clip, to folk artists whose strength is in poetry and lyricism, or electronic artists like the Junior Boys who’s craft is in tinkering with synthesized sounds.

    He’s got an interesting perspective, sure, but I’ll confess, I rolled my eyes as soon as I read the words “dubstep,” (sounds like D&B had a lovechild with IDM to me) because I have much the same impressions about that “genre” (or club music as a whole) as he does about popular conceptions about “indie.”

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