Written by : Hannah Zwick
Photo Credits : LADY D
Memories of 2013 indie fan culture, for those who experienced it, are likely a blur of images; Pixelated bubble quotes, low quality photos of band members (the lower the quality, the better) and an abundance of ripped jeans clogged disenchanted teens’ Tumblr feeds. The biggest albums of that year were arguably Arctic Monkeys’s AM, Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City, Lorde’s Pure Heroine, Haim’s Days Are Gone, and The 1975’s The 1975. While Lorde and Haim finally delivered follow-up albums last year, the men of the bunch have waited until 2018 to debut new material.
Arctic Monkeys released Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino in May to mixed reactions from fans and critics, all of whom likely expected something in the vein of AM’s perfected British rock and not a concept album of lounge music about a hotel on the moon. The 1975 put out a new single in May as well, with “Give Yourself a Try” receiving a similar amount of initial confusion but a higher amount of critical and fan praise. Vampire Weekend have yet to release anything beyond some festival slots and a smorgasbord of Instagram content, but we can assume they’ll follow the trend of creating something unexpected.
Even if, in retrospect, it makes sense that after five years a band would craft a new sound, fans still prepared for these new releases as a revival of 2013 indie culture. A tweet reading “leather jacket: on / cigarette: lit / hair: slicked back / new arctic monkeys album: out may 11th” has 8,300 retweets and 26,000 likes. Another says “both arctic monkeys and the 1975 are having a comeback this year i feel like its 2013 again and people are making flower crown edits and indie 8tracks playlists are we ready lads.” It has 61,000 retweets and 189,000 likes. 2013 stands out in fans’ minds because not only was the music truly great, it was likely the first time a lot of them felt so passionate about music.
That passion was predicated and supported by a massive online community of other fans who were photoshopping flower crowns onto lead singers and drawing the AM waveform on everything because they could. The internet’s standards for graphic design have risen, but then it was cool to look low quality – anyone who wanted to could be an artist. There was a way to dress: the aforementioned ripped jeans, Doc Martens, and too much American Apparel for anyone’s own good. It was an identity that felt clear and achievable; different from the other kids at school but uniform online. It’s easy to laugh at the lack of individuality now, but as in any trend cycle, it felt personal when it first began.
Fashion is cyclical, and while the music of the era may be revived, the style and culture surrounding it shouldn’t be. There hasn’t been enough space to go back to it. It’s been soaked in irony, absorbed by a meme culture that wasn’t as unforgiving then. While the two tweets mentioned earlier were jokes, there’s still a hint of sincerity and real excitement at the possibility of a revival. It was an earnest, unironic culture of teenageness. It was one born of the Rookie Mag generation, teens who valued teenagehood, and bands that, for the most part, took themselves seriously. The 1975 made sure that everything in their image was in black & white and Matty Healy talked about their album as if it was the next Thriller. Alex Turner was slick and cool and for the first time unfunny in the AM era. Vampire Weekend have always been the most self-aware of the three, but Modern Vampires was their most ambitious work yet and it was presented as so. Now, Matty’s toned down his ego (a bit) and embraced his emo past. Alex has dropped the act (a bit) as well and is back to writing lyrics like “good morning, cheeseburger.” Vampire Weekend are posting Seinfeld/Vampire Weekend crossover content on their Instagram.
This is to say, it’s different now, and that’s not bad! “Give Yourself a Try” and Tranquility Base are both weird and unexpected, but good and enjoyable works. Most importantly, they’re both still earnest. While they may exist in a now far more meme-y culture that they inevitably have to contend with, they’re both still born of passion and a desire to connect. To quote 2013 indie favorite Lorde quoting Joan Didion for the purposes of her own 2018 renaissance, “the themes are always the same.” So even if the flower crown edits and the poorly made collages aren’t destined to make a return, the simplicity and sincerity of them can.