March 05, 2007

Will Arcade Fire Turn Indie Mainstream?

The Arcade Fire may just be the band to put indie music into your average mainstream household. And by 'indie' I mean artists on an independent label, in this instance, Merge Records. AF's new album, Neon Bible, is good, even better than Funeral, but it feels kind of mainstream to me and that's because of Win Butler's songwriting, the guy's edgy enough, but his music isn't from the edge, it's much closer to the middle, the mainstream. AF are kind of the opposite of another band with a forthcoming album, Modest Mouse. AF are an indie band who sound kind of mainstream while Modest Mouse are a major label mainstream act who sound like an indie band. Once again that's due mainly to the band's (Modest Mouse's) leader in voice and verse, Isaac Brock. Ranging from his off-the-wall softer talk-singing to his phlegmy barking shout, the guy just sounds 'indie'. Although that won't hold them back too much, as their upcoming record, We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, has several cases of viral music encoded upon itself. Starting with the obvious "Dashboard", and continuing with "Parting Of The Sensory", "Missed The Boat", and "We've Got Everything", these songs will draw new fans into the mouse hole.

So, I'm going to predict that the combination of Modest Mouse's great new 'indie' sounding mainsteam record and Arcade Fire's very good 'mainstream' sounding indie record will bring even more people, whose musical tastes have been, and continue to be, formed by whitewashed radio, exposure to a deep, deep well of great indie music. Will this be good for independent music? What? The massively bleeding from the gut major label recording industry sending their sharks into the quiet freshwater lakes of indie music, good? No. Someone (or something) is going to get hurt. But I'm not blaming any indie bands for what I'm predicting, to me the villain here is money and that's in the hands of the major labels. But it was bound to happen after The O.C.-ing of indie and the Garden State-ing of The Shins, plus independent bands like Death Cab For Cutie and The Decemberists getting major label deals. Big money is moving in and along with it what it does... good and bad.

Modest Mouse from We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank [March 20th]
we've got everything Link Removed [mp3] BUY

Arcade Fire from Neon Bible [March 6th] BUY
Find Arcade Fire MP3s here.
Find Modest Mouse MP3s here.
Download Arcade Fire's Neon Bible and/or Funeral with eMusic's free trial offer.


  1. I'm glad I checked the site this morning. I just interviewed Nate Query and reiterated this whole post to him to get his take.

    For argument's sake though, I've got to say -- hasn't it already happened to some extent? When I read the subject line, my first thought was "No, because indie has already been turned mainstream." And I think you cite some of the examples... The OC, Garden State, even Modest Mouse's last album. But I'm hard-pressed to come up with a band or artist that proves it. I think there's definitely a focus on indie from the mainstream, but is there an indie artist out there yet who has mainstream success? I mean, middle-American moms know the name Chris Daughtry and the band Hinder, but they likely haven't heard the name Isaac Brock. Blah. Sorry. I'm rambling.

  2. nick,
    yeah, it has already happened in a small way. And i'm saying (again) that arcade fire will be the band to really see mainstream success as indie artists.

    and btw, who is chris daughtry? and hinder? never heard of them, seriously.

  3. Daughtry's an American Idol guy. And Hinder do that "Lips of an Angel" song. Maybe those weren't good examples. Ha.

  4. I made a post about indie v. mainstream here
    Honestly, if you really searched whyindie bands becoming mainstream bothers you, you'll notice that it's because you don't want teeny boppers and thirteen year old girls with braces getting their sticky little hands on it. Mostly I don't think becoming popular hasn't really changed anyone. As was mentioned, The Shins became a household name after Zac Braff got a hold of them, but it hasn't changed them. I like Wincing the night Away as much as I like Oh Inverted World.
    Personally, I think we should be happy for bands that experience success. Wincing the Night Away sold as many copies in it's first week as Chutes Too Narrow sold in five months. I'm happy for them (except I will admit that with success comes higher ticket prices to see them live, because I paid 40$ for my Shins ticket the other day).
    On the subject of Neon Bible, I think that is an album that will have to grow on me. The more I listen to it, the more I like it, but I definitely think Funeral was better.

  5. brooke,
    it has nothing at all to do with thirteen year old girls, or braces. i've been listening to music, enthusiastically, for almost forty years (i'm 48) and i've grown sick of what the major labels do to music... what they force onto radio programmers.

    what i feel is much more honest and pure in the music which indie acts self-release, or release on independent labels, that's the music which moves me today. it all comes down to me equating major labels with crap and i don't like crap getting on the indie music i love.

    As for change, I'm not saying these artists will be changed, it's the independent industry which will be changed. I don't want it getting more like the majors, that is definitely the wrong road to go down.

  6. Indie going mainstream doesn't really bother me at all. I think alan made some good points about the lines blurring. Modest Mouse sounds like an indie band and they're on a major. Arcade Fire could be an indie band to garner mainstream popularity. And there are lots of other examples...

    I'll say it again, indie going mainstream doesn't bother me. I don't care if 13 year old girls are into the music as well. If I'm into a certain band or sound and young kids like it, good for them. I'm glad for them and the band. What I don't like is when an indie band goes to a major label (or even gains a larger audience while on an indie label) and then the sound changes.

    ...Or more precisely, changes in a direction I don't like. I've got to say, I like bands who continue to modify and progress their sound. But there are bands that get a bigger audience or a major label budget and loose certain aspects of themselves/their sound for whatever reason. Maybe it was forced on them. Maybe they like the cleaner sound they can now afford. Whatever. Maybe they're writing with the audience in mind, whereas before they were writing for themselves.

    But, yeah... I don't care who "gets their hands on it." I don't only like a band until a point where so many others like that band and then I'm through with them. That would be stupid.

    And all I've heard from Neon Bible is "Black Mirror," which I don't really like all that much.

  7. isnt indie already mainstream? think about it. silverchair played a small show. why wouldnt they play arena rock? maybe because indie is in right now? it kinda pisses me off to tell u the truth. especially when bands like the killers claim their indie. by the way wasnt metric the biggest indie success to date?

  8. "by the way wasnt metric the biggest indie success to date?"

    i think that would be the arctic monkeys.

  9. it truly saddens me that "indie" has become the new it isn't good in my opinion...i feel like i have to change my life constantly trying to avoid the has become harder and harder as MTV does it job.