“….either grow up, or have a wank.”
You’ve been listening to the band for the past few years. You love them, you’re their number one fan. You watch them play every possible opportunity and love the fact that the gigs they do are in such small venues you could literally touch the singer if you wanted to. After their third record they sign to a major label, get a single out with a high budget video and pretty soon every little prick who watches KERRANG! are telling you how much they love your favourite band. So what do you do? What else can you do? You turn on the computer, get on the googles and start posting on every possible blog you can about how the band have “sold out the REAL fans” and that you “were there since day one” and remember when they only “played basement shows, instead of high capacity venues.” You denounce the band and verbally insult them as much as you possibly can over the internet because HOW DARE your favourite band sell out? If you’ve just read that and feel you completely agree and can relate to that situation so much, then you either haven’t had sex in so long the pent up energy is too much and you’re finding any way to release the pressure, or you have the mind of a selfish child. So either grow up, or have a wank.
Admittedly, I should of wrote this a while a go, when these issues had just come out, but I didn’t and I still feel they’re relevant as they still come up in conversation and the points I’m putting forward can be adapted to most situations of bands “selling out.”
The first band I’d like to bring attention to is Against Me! who have got a lot a shit in recent years, ever since the release of “New Wave” and intensifying with the latest album “White Crosses.” I’d like to first point out that these are both REALLY good albums, but neither of them are my favoured album by the band. In most cases, with most bands, I do prefer the older, more raw sounding releases. But this isn’t the point. The band Against Me! have been called “sell outs” by countless supposed fans because the later releases are far too commercial and not sticking with the punk rock ethos that they began with. This is because, and it might shock the readers who are pissed at Against Me! and their current sound, the band started in 1997 and it is now 2011. As crazy as it might sound, people can change their likes, views and aspirations in the space of over a decade. Can you honestly say that you think and feel the exact same way as you did in 1997? If you can, you’re a liar or you live in a cave with no access to anything in the form of media, be it books, television, radio, etc. In fact, singer Tom Gabel actually clarifies my point in White Crosses first single, “I Was a Teenage Anarchist,” when he sings the lines “I was a teenage anarchist, but then the scene got too rigid. It was a mob mentality, they set their rifle sights on me. Narrow visions of autonomy, you want me to surrender my identity” and though yes, this is in reference to Anarchism, not Punk Rock music, the point is that Gabel is openly expressing his development throughout his life as a person, a change of his views and beliefs and goals as an artist and a human. But even all of this is irrelevant, because the point is this, musically Against Me! ARE pretty much the same band they always have been. It is still simple, four chord punk, with aggressive vocals, a hard hitting back beat and politically tinged lyrics. The only difference is now the band can actually afford to go into a studio and record, instead of using someone’s garage. That is basically the only difference. They haven’t signed to a major label and been told to write hit after hit and change their sound, they’ve done it because they wanted to not because they were made to, and any change in sound or style is the bands decision entirely. I’ll leave the Against Me! factors with a quote from an April 2010 interview with Brendan Kelly of the Lawrence Arms as we discussed these very things, “It’s the people in the fucking band that go ‘you know what I want to broaden our appeal. We’ll sign to a major label, because that’s an opportunity we have, and we are going to write songs that are more populist as a result of our new found ambitions’.”
The next band I’d like to call upon is Alkaline Trio, and I’m gonna focus on the fact that the band brought out a shoe in cahoots with Nike. My main point is, so fucking what? I’ve seen many posts and such about how Alk3 have “sold out” because they have signed merchandise deals with the likes of Nike, Hurley, etc. It really is irrelevant because it doesn’t affect the actual song writing process in any way. The fact they have merchandise deals with big name clothing companies isn’t going to influence how they make music, the next Trio album won’t be called “Go Out and Buy Our Nike Trainers” and it won’t feature songs such as “Eighty Dollar Hurley Jeans.” They’ll still be writing songs of a punk rock sound with darkly tinged lyrics, and if they don’t, it will be because they have wanted to change their sound, not because Nike have told them too (an Alkaline Trio cover of the Misfit’s Nike A Go-Go would be fucking brilliant right about now.) The band KISS, whose ultimate arsehole sexpest singer Gene Simmons is the image for this article, have “sold out” more than any band in terms of merchandising with items such as KISS Kondoms, KISS hot pants, a KISS leather embroidered cheque book, KISS doormats and of course, the ever popular, KISS Kasket for a trip to Satan’s doorstep that’s “Hotter Than Hell” (bad joke, I know.) The point is, KISS have all this bullshit, pointless waste of money crap for the more pea-brained of fans to buy and you know what? It hasn’t changed the band as a musical unit one bit. They still do kick ass live shows and rock harder than practically all of the cordial bands that have appeared in past ten years. Their merchandise has absolutely fuck all to do with the band as a band. Not one iota. And to be honest, if Nike came up to me and said, “HEY! Wanna make you’re own fucking shoe? It won’t cost you anything, in fact, you’ll make some money and you’ll have YOUR OWN FUCKING SHOE!” I’d totally do it.
Now that’s not to say bands don’t ever sell out musically. I’m pretty sure the Offspring releasing songs like “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” and “Original Prankster” isn’t the band wanting to take a new musical step so they can express themselves as musicians in a way they have been previously unable to, but in fact, releasing some trite radio play horseshit to make megabucks whilst compromising their music (though the point remains, even though they did this, THEY did this, not the label. THEY still wrote the songs.) My point is don’t be another fucking moron who, as soon as a band has more than four fans and doesn’t record in a ditch, calls their once favourite bands arseholes over the internet because THEY don’t like the new direction the band has taken. I’m all up for freedom of speech but goddamn it’s wasted on some people. I’ll end with a quote from the previously mentioned Californian outfit the Offspring, “….and if it offends you, just don’t listen to it.”