You can achieve a lot, listening to music. You can find a like-minded artist with similar experience, you can relieve your angst, you can ruminate about your life or dance till you drop. But then there is indie-pop with its whimsical aura that makes your mind wander to some dreamy lands. The same way our $1000 prize for the Best Pop and Hip-Hop Song of December 2018 wandered into the hands of “indie-dream-pop-whatever band” — For Keeps.
photo: Wendy Wei
Release It Yourself
We’re all about independent music here in Louder.me. But it surely went through a lot of transitions since that DIY guitar-pop era and the release of Buzzcocks’ Spiral Scratch EP in 1977. That event in a short while determined an emergence of independent labels. Rough Trade, Factory and Mute Records all were created a year after. They will later become game-changers in the music industry, with Rough Trade signing the Manchester melancholic prodigy The Smiths, Factory Records releasing groundbreaking Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division, and Mute bringing into the world Just Can’t Get Enough by Depeche Mode.
It was the time when Murmur — an independently released debut album by R.E.M. — won Rolling Stone’s Album Of The Year award over Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The days of infinite opportunities, indeed.
From Underground To Mainstream
Time passed by and indie bands kept on becoming the major players on the world scene. It’s no wonder: these artists were able to experiment all they wished staying literally independent from major labels. At the same time, these experiments were highly appreciated by the masses, because they were different and fresh.
This vague genre has no exact stylistic limits and was mostly driven by the current realities the artists lived in. That’s why angry, tired, and confused ‘90s had gifted us with grunge, for example. But when the noughties came as a breath of fresh air — it was time for Arctic Monkeys to appear.
photo: Natalie Perea
At the same time, the similar experiences brought along inescapable trends. Which basically created a different meaning for indie music from different decades. So how can we describe it now? Some will argue the genre itself is already dead. On the other hand, haven’t the streaming services brought the new wave of DIY-ness in the industry? At the end of the day, we do live at a time when you need no label to become famous. All you need is a decent internet connection. What’s more independent than that?
Modern indie music sure is different. It has more baggage and has a wider range of influences. And For Keeps is a great example of what are we talking about.
A four-piece outfit from Toronto was created almost accidentally. As Julia Allen recalls in their interview from the last year “About a year ago, Bradley [Bradley McClure] and I decided that we wanted to record. Just as a little project; a couple of songs I had written about two years prior. Bradley works as an audio engineer and he thought it would be a fun experiment, but halfway through the process, we were like, ‘Damn, these are really fun. It would be kind of a shame if no one heard them’.”
photo: Sam Sheldon
Doesn’t really sound like conquering the world. But after rummaging through the mutual friends for a while a drummer — Cameron MacDonald, and a bass player — Jeff Hurst were found.
A State Of Gentle Nostalgia
As a genuine indie band For Keeps is all about the ambiance it creates. As the promising description on their Bandcamp says “Equipped with tender lyricism and atmospheric jangle, these 90s-infused melodies will lull you into a state of gentle nostalgia.” And that’s the thing. We are now officially living in a world where people are nostalgic for the ‘90s and list emo-bands as their influencers.
photo: Wendy Wei
But all jokes aside they do sound nostalgic with their distinctive echoing guitar and Julia Allen’s childish voice on vocals. But this nostalgy is very light, kindhearted, and maybe a little naive. And though the lyrics often seem to be heartbreaking: You thought / That you could pull a fast one on me / And you were right — there’s always hope. It is bitter, but this bitterness is taken philosophically.
Their influences sure vary. Every member of the band has a different background, whether it’s punk, emo or ‘70s dad rock, which they try to implement in their own music. They do emphasize two particular artists though: Canadian indie-pop band Alvvays and American singer-songwriter Frankie Cosmos a.k.a. Greta Kline.
“She’s honestly a huge inspiration to me.” — says Allen. “I love her honest lyricism and how she has no shame and sings openly about her dead dog. I was thinking if Greta Kline can write a song about her dead dog and have people feel it, then I can write a song about anything. She was definitely a huge lyrical inspiration.”
They Just Want To Have Some Fun
But what makes For Keeps truly stand out in the indie scene is their approach to music and performing in general. They don’t try to pose or act cool — they just play music and genuinely have fun.
“We played our first show in April and did two shows before the month was over, and we immediately started getting feedback about how happy we were on stage.” — Allen tells.
“Like ‘Your bassist had this shit-eating grin on his face the whole time, but it’s so authentic’. I guess people really like to watch us perform live and think we have some kind of authenticity that maybe they feel is lacking in other bands. I love watching bands have fun and I think that sometimes in the indie scene, there’s this pressure to love what you do but not so much…”
Let’s take a special moment to pay the extra attention to the fact that these guys won a $1000 prize in Louder.me Tournament just having fun, that’s literally how easy it is. Something to think about next time you’ll be feeling a little bored.