The Rise of DIY Music

todayMarch 27, 2019 124 1

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By Caitlin Dunn
Music Journalist

Unprofessional, imperfect and chill is the recipe for Lo-fi music. This abbreviation is coined from the term low fidelity, fidelity meaning the quality of the music. Lo-fi is an aesthetic of recording music in which the quality of the sound is lower than high fidelity contemporary sounds and where imperfections of the recording are audible.

The ‘90s saw the explosion of this new genre emerging from underground house music, from bands such as Sonic Youth, Pixies, and R.E.M. Lo-fi is also associated with DIY (Do It Yourself) music which has been on the rise in recent years. Though DIY music origins date back to the mid-1970s punk rock scene, this mixed with lo-fi is what has been reeling the indie-music fans in. It developed as a way for the artist to tailor their music to not be a part of the mainstream music industry. These bands record and produce their own music in a small setting which allows for a tremendous amount of creative freedom. They controlled the entire production and distribution of the music, which led to DIY bands developing a closer relationship between the musicians and fans. This music trend is linked to artists having full control over the final product without help from record labels.

Nowadays DIY music continues to give all the control to the artist and with the help of new age technology, it is even easier for these artists to expand their horizon. These bands today are recording their own music in their homes as well as making home movie like music videos to promote themselves.

With DIY music gaining more traction over the past couple of years, there has been a surge of new artists coming to light. One of the major contributors to this music trend that comes to mind is Brockhampton. In 2015, this American collective formed in San Marcos, Texas. Though they partly formed through the “KanyeToThe” online forum, they gathered here in San Marcos where they soon defined themselves as a boy band. In recent years they have gained more recognition with their music. Their fan base has grown and so has their music, leading them to put out their first album in 2016 and three albums in 2017. With this increasing amount of fame they have repeated themselves in interviews saying they are redefining the word “boy band,” as they do not fit the stereotypical boy band.

Brockhampton is a hip-hop collective with 13 members as of this year. Not all members partake in the vocals but are considered a part of the boy band. This group consists of six vocalists Kevin Abstract, Matt Champion, Merlyn Wood, and Dom McLennon as well as Joba and Bearface who are producers too. The other seven are producers Romil Hemnani, Jabari Manwa and Kiko Merley. Graphic designer Henock “HK” Sileshi, photographer Ashlan Grey, web designer Roberto Ontenient and manager Jon Nunes. This collective is known for discussing rape culture, being gay, and inclusivity through their lyrics. All this brings me back to the question: is the rise of DIY music leading to redefining what we consider a boy band?

With Brockhampton being one of the biggest DIY boy bands in recent years, it has influenced the emergence of more eager DIY boy bands. PNTHN (pronounced Pantheon) is another boy band that gathered in San Marcos for their start. This hip-hop/rap collective consists of ten members: six rappers, one who also produces, two full-time producers, one DJ, and one manager who is also the photographer and designer of the group. PNTHN formed in March of 2017 in central Texas, San Marcos. Here is where they mix sounds of southern rap and 90s hip-hop giving this region a new sound.

Members of PNTHN posing for a group picture.
Members of PNTHN. Photo courtesy of Adam Hamze.

Just like Brockhampton, PNTHN is a large collaboration of different creative minds coming together to make music. Though their sound is categorized as hip-hop/rap, they also fall into the lo-fi genre. They make and produce their own music, as well as their music videos. This group just like Brockhampton has the DIY aspect to it all; these groups do not need a recording label because they are producing and mixing their music themselves, bringing them closer to their listeners and supporters.

Though these DIY bands are not all rap based like Brockhampton and PNTHN they are still changing what we consider boy bands. One pop boy band that got their start in summer 2017 is Laundry Day. A New York-based band made up of five high schoolers Jude Lipkin (vocals), Etai (drums), Henry (bass), Sawyer Nunes (vocals, guitar, piano) and another Henry (guitar). They soon spent the next year developing their sound and created a full-length album, Trumpet Boy which was released in March of 2018.

Members of LAUNDRY DAY in a bouncy house.
Members of Laundry Day. Photo courtesy of Camilla Ffrench.

Just like Brockhampton’s first album, they had a lot of work to do, but the dedication to their craft was shown through their music. Since the beginning of this year, they have been putting out fire tracks such as “CHA” and “Harvard” which was released Feb. 21.

Every member of the group is involved in all creative aspects, whether that be the instruments, vocals, or mixing/mastering. DIY bands do everything themselves, they get no help from record labels, they even market themselves and their music.

One of the most prominent ways these bands market themselves is through YouTube videos and social media. They have to be their own hype man, dropping videos to announce the drop of a new song or album. Another marketing tactic for these DIY bands is to document their time and dedication spent making their albums. Laundry Day’s documentary shows five teenagers jamming out and shredding on the guitar. Through their documentary you can see just how inspired they are by Brockhampton, as they play “HOTTIE” (a song off Brockhampton’s fourth album) once they finish their first album Trumpet Boy.

These boy bands are showing us just how easy it is to make music with the new age of technology. We can download an app and soon be mixing and mastering our own music. The music industry evolves rapidly, but that will never cease the desire to make music. The web and technology have changed the way music is made, distributed and promoted. Nevertheless, music fans remain to be the most important aspect of the DIY music scene. If the artist brings a good show, fans will spread their music and support them. The DIY music scene is on a rise and pulling no stops with the new bands and sounds that are coming with it. In the next decade, these DIY musicians will need to be multi-tasking performers in order to survive.

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