By Janelle Abad
2011: The year of planking, Charlie Sheen’s #winning campaign, the peak of the triangles and galaxy print trend, and the release of the ever iconic Rebecca Black video of “Friday” (along with all of the parodies that came with it). Despite the wackiness of all of the items listed above, they all have one thing in common – they went viral on social media. Tumblr culture had exploded on the world. Meanwhile, churning in the background is Instagram, just gaining momentum, Twitter exploding as a new news source and the birth of Snapchat in April of that year. The dawn of the world puzzling together how to handle all of the new social platforms led to musicians and record labels finding their own visual aesthetic. All five of these acts significantly rose to the top of the “indie” music scene amidst all of the changes media was undergoing five years ago and have seemingly disappeared from everyone’s radar… until this year’s 15th anniversary of Austin City Limits.
1. The Naked and Famous
The dreamy synth-pop act made their appearances on this year’s Austin City Limits line-up, performing on the Cirrus Logic stage. The New Zealand quintet is widely known for their exhilarating singles “Punching In A Dream” and “Young Blood” from their 2011 debut album Passive Me, Aggressive You. The album’s release received high praise from indie-alternative outlets and landed them six New Zealand Music Awards nominations. The singles have been loved by fellow musicians, including British singer/songwriter Birdy, covering “Young Blood” in her debut cover album.
The timing of their appearance at ACL this weekend is appropriate. Within the past few months they have been teasing artwork for the new record and releasing singles beginning with “Higher” (July 7), “Laid Low” (August 24) and most recently “The Runners”, released the first day of ACL, Sept. 30. The singles still resonate the same empowering message layered over their signature pulsing arpeggiated synth. The album Simple Forms, is due to release Oct. 14.
2. Two Door Cinema Club
Let’s be real, if you didn’t recognize the starry eyed cat from a mile away, were you really an “indie” music fan back in 2011? Tourist History was an iconic album for many an ACL 2016 fan. The pretty Irish boys hit the peak in their career with their single “What You Know” off of Tourist History. Any millennial that was in tune with the “indie” community in 2011 will be able to tell you the specific moment they first saw the music video for “What You Know”, and the proof still stands. The video to date has over 33 million views. This year marked the trio’s third appearance at ACL in honor of the release of their 80’s-pop inspired third full length, Gameshow.
3. Ra Ra Riot
Although they got their start in 2006, Ra Ra Riot’s wild success sparked with their string and bass heavy single “Boy” from their second studio album The Orchard. The track got its success from its multiple TV cameos including the fall 2011 Honda Civic commercial, an episode of “The History of Violins” from the TV show Royal Pains, and an episode of Shameless. Despite the release of four studio albums to date, The Orchard still stands as the most successful with it reaching #36 on the US charts and staying within the top ten in the US Alternative and Indie charts.
4. Band of Horses
Unlike the others mentioned, Band of Horses have a history of steady success in their beginnings with their first heart-wrenching hit, “The Funeral” off of their debut album Everything All the Time released in 2006. The South Carolina natives really hit their stride in 2011, not just with the release of their third album Infinite Arms, but with the vast amount of touring, especially at top tier festivals like Austin’s very own SXSW, Sasquatch, Splendour in the Grass, Reading, and even ACL (2010). This was partially due to the quintet leaving the very reputable Sup-Pop records and signing onto major label Columbia Records. Infinite Arms eventually landed them a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Album.
5. Mumford & Sons
Ah, the infamous banjo slayin’, up-right bass thumpin’, foot stompin’ mega group that is Mumford & Sons… Just as the Band of Horses, Mumford & Sons’ career peaked after signing to major indie labels and distribution Island Records and Glassnote Records in 2009. After the signing, the London quartet bulldozed their way through countless of press opportunities and TV appearances earning two Grammy Award nominations in 2010, which led to a 99% increase in sales of Sigh No More in February of 2011.
Their roaring success planted Mumford & Sons as a leader in the mainstream popularity of fellow indie-folk favorites Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. This new love for the genre in the pop and alternative radio world opened doors 2016’s mainstream folk acts like The Lumineers and Of Monsters and Men.
Despite all of the Mumford memes and parodies that have graced the internet over the years, how can you deny their enthusiasm? Lead man Marcus Mumford exclaimed with a warm smile on his face “Who just saw Willie Nelson play? We can all die happy now!” With the final crowd of the entire 15th anniversary of ACL in their hands, they brought out Gregory Porter and the Haim sisters for an appropriate sing-along to “With A Little Help From My Friends.”
Updated on Oct. 13 at 10:53 p.m.