‘Indie’: a much used term and one which my ears have become increasingly accustomed to in the past few years. Until now, though, my understanding of it has been fairly hazy. For me, Indie has always meant a particular type of person: someone beyond the mainstream; wearing quite a bit of denim; Docs perhaps; a few piercings here and there; eschewing Chart pop in favour of obscure guitar bands. An abbreviation of ‘individual.’
I was partly right. Perusing Wikipedia for more information, the words ‘outside of mainstream’ crop up several times. But the term is less anthropocentric than I first thought, at least if we take it at its original definition. It surprises me to find that Indie is actually derived from ‘independent’, having been coined in the mid-1900’s when more and more bands were signing to independent record labels. The Velvet Underground, Pixies, The Smiths, etcetera.
Now I know that many of you, having lived through that era (no offence- it sounds quite a good one), are already aware of this, but I’m not so ignorant as I seem. From what I can deduce, Indie is more of a label today than it ever was when used primarily to classify types of records. Although the ‘Indie kid’ has existed from the beginning, rising alongside its favourite bands and becoming a subculture in its own right, it now seems to have swallowed up the term’s original meaning. To your average teenager in 21st century Britain, Indie may have musical undertones, but it relies to a greater extent on other information (dress sense, drug preferences, favourite films, blah blah.) Indie is predominantly a person.
And it’s also a bad thing.
You see, although approximately a quarter of the country’s young people could now be comfortably described as Indie, the term is generally used as an accusation rather than the positive acknowledgement of style that it once was. ‘He’s so Indie,’ or more commonly, ‘He thinks he’s so Indie,’ are as defaming as allegations of chavdom. Its sharp incline into the mainstream, which began in the 90’s, has tainted the term with unsavoury whiffs of wannabe.
And so, for the very reason of its popularity, Indie has now become one of the most unpopular labels out there. Nobody wants to be associated with it. Even those who are so neck-deep in vinyl that they can’t reach this week’s copy of NME would rather break their Rickenbacker than have you accuse them of being Indie. Especially them, in fact. Former self-declared Indie kids, those that were happy to bear the once-revered label, are turning on their own style; in hitting the mainstream it has become everything that it shouldn’t be.
But Wikipedia needn’t change its definition just yet: Indie culture is headed for a sharp decline and will soon find itself ‘outside of mainstream’ once again.