THE REBIRTH OF INDIE

 

With Britpop nearing its end and Sony pulling the shutters over Creation Records, Geoff Travis re-launched Rough Trade and took the music world by storm as they unveiled their new signing, The Strokes in 1999.

A New York band with impeccable vintage style, they looked like a gang, they performed like a gang, girls flocked to them and they instantly gained worldwide stardom. Rough Trade were, once again, popular. Bands wanted to sign to them and the independent scene didn’t look quite as bleak as everyone had expected.

 

At midnight, in some dingy pub in Camden, Pete Doherty and Carl Barat stumbled on to stage, unaware of what was to come. Compared to The Beatles in Hamburg, 1961, The Libertines, just like The Strokes, hit instant stardom. Signed to Rough Trade for next to nothing, they were under the influence that nothing could be too shocking. Given unprecedented amounts of freedom, there was a real feeling that something could change. The Libertines went viral before people knew what going viral was. They used the internet to connect with their fans, they invited people on stage with them, played parties in their houses, the rules had been thrown out the window. The old ways of, playing a good gig and then another good gig and then getting an agent had gone. Rough Trade had gone from being important, to becoming hip. Pete Doherty may have stolen the headlines throughout with various antics and a very public drug problem, whilst The Libertines relationship with Rough Trade became hostile, but it didn’t matter. Rough Trade had created something. Guitars were important again. Indie music was once again popular.

At the other end of the UK, in a warehouse in Glasgow, Franz Ferdinand were unaware of the buzz they were creating. Set out to play music for their friends, artists started appearing and publishing their work on the walls, DJs tuned up and played throughout the night, wild parties were happening and people were starting to notice. Franz Ferdinand, like every other band, created this to make music, not money. Labels frequently made the long trip up to Glasgow to speak to the band offering to buy them pints, packets of crisps, luring for that signature. But it was Domino, a relatively small label ran by Laurence Bell, that captured Franz. With this signing, Domino proved that the majors had competition and that they were here for good, kind of.

Laurence knew that if Franz’s first album flopped then he and Domino were done. If they went down, he went down with them, but in life the best decisions are the reckless ones and Franz Ferdinand’s ‘Franz Ferdinand’ secured instant international stardom and multi platinum selling albums. Franz Ferdinand were a hit and Domino had, just like Rough Trade, showed a middle finger to the majors with their sheer brutality in signing these un-heard of bands and turning them in to worldwide superstars overnight.   

With The Strokes, The Libertines and Franz Ferdinand’s successes, independent labels were thriving. Indie was, once again, reborn. With the famous words ‘don’t believe the hype’, the Arctic Monkeys created the ‘post Libertines generation’ and flooded the independent scene with their ‘laddish’ behaviour, born from the streets of Sheffield. Extorting the birth of combining music and the internet, the Arctic Monkeys flooded the teenage mind and soon enough they were everywhere. Joined up to Domino, they believed, as did Laurence Bell, that they could repeat this trick all over again and that Domino, wasn’t a one trick pony. They chose to work with a small team, as did Franz, and it paid off. Indie kid or not, it cannot be denied, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not’ and ‘Franz Ferdinand’ were impeccable albums. Created to show that Indie was still alive and thriving, these four bands held the torch and helped nurture a wave where it made being a misfit less uncomfortable and the original idea of ‘rebellion’ was admired and treasured, providing that glow of feeling different.        

 

 

   

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