Everyone’s favorite film lecturer/ Southern folk artist, Sam Beam; promo photo by Emily Wilson
Indie rock (in the broadest of senses) lives and dies on credibility, so much so that â€˜indie credâ€™ is a common phrase. Sure image helps and gimmicks help and music/ songwriting ability may also help, but cred is very important. People still cry sell out if artists appear to be cashing in on their music. Subtler still are fans turning away when artists grasp at music that may not lend itself to credibility.
And yet, indie rockers often take on genres they are not intimately familiar with or don’t have some born right to play. That is, they lack immediate credibility. Beirut takes on Balkan brass music. Iron & Wine (or Will Oldham’s or…) takes on Southern/ Appalachian folk.
Even when indie rockers are not taking on other genres, they are often tackling music that is, in some way, new to the listener. Sufjanâ€™s epic folk, Joanna Newsomeâ€™s weird harp screeching, Andrew Birdâ€™s experimental, looped violin pop and Neutral Milk Hotelâ€™s emotive fuzz pop are all examples.
What do these artists have in common? Unique voices. And none of them lack credibility. A significant audience wholeheartedly buys into what they’re doing.
The unique voices lead to the listener to view these artists with more authenticity than otherwise. If they not going to sing “normal” then they must mean it, the listener thinks.
Iâ€™m not sure this is a conscious thought on the artists part. Perhaps they just want to differentiate themselves from other artists or that’s the voice they’ve always sung with.