Picture a game. “Choose Your Own Adventure: Musician Edition”. Making the decisions and deciding between paths many artists face: sign to a major or stay independent, Stratocaster or Telecaster, to cocaine or not to cocaine. You know, make or break kind of things. Whichever path you choose, hopefully, the outcome will result in music that’ll touch the lives of many and bring happiness……oh, and money. Before reaching those destinations, the beginning path you’ll dwell on for a moment, start a band or DIY Solo.
Anyone who is interested in playing music, whether professionally or just or fun, had had the vision of being in a band. Meeting in the garage, trading off lyrics and riffs, having your bassists’ parents tell you: “SHUT THE FUCK UP, IT’S LATE”. Touring in a van and sharing the love and dream of making it big. Sadly, that reality can’t play out as some creatives envision. Not everyone can form permanent bands for various reasons: creative differences, maybe their area doesn’t; have a music scene, introverted-ness could prevent them from reaching out, they prefer to keep it a personal venture, or maybe they’re just assholes. Whichever the reason, it all leads to a one-person team.
Musical Projects or monikers, entering the 2010s, we’ve seen a rise in the Do-It-All artist, especially in the indie scene. One artist goes under a moniker that gives general the impression that who they’re listening to is a band. Prior to where it felt a majority of the artists in popular culture were either in a band or a solo who went by their own stage name. Think Prince or Tyler, the Creator…you get the picture I’m sketching. The Foo Fighters started off in that direction. Before becoming… well, the Foo Fighters, the band we all come to know, it was just Dave Ghrol. After the death of Kurt Cobain and the abrupt ending of Nirvana, he isolate himself from making music but after awhile he decided to use it as a coping mechanism and recorded all of his music/instrumentations and lyrics by himself and we were given the first tape.
Now, in the time of Indie Music, we see countless DIY bands: Current Joys is Nick Rattigan of Surf Curse, Makeout Videotape used to be some guy named Mac DeMarco, Television Blonde (Gabe Beckles), Blood Orange (Dev Hynes), Toro y Moi’s (Chaz Bear), Washed Out (Ernest Greene), etc etc. On stage, it’s a full band but in the studio, it’s just one person. Yes, I know Tame Impala is just one guy.
Now, what do a lot of these people have in common: talent (possibly), equipment (perhaps), however, being in an era where we see everyone able to do it themselves is pretty tight. The motivation that can give inspiring artists to say “Fuck It”. Not everyone can form bands due to reasons: A, B, C, and D, as previously stated but it should never stop the drive. Accessibility is in our hands more than the previous generations. Whether trying to learn an instrument, producing, mixing, engineering, designing, or writing, we can learn for ourselves. Even if you’re not a multi-instrumentalist that makes Jonny Greenwood proud, there are still alternatives to help you fill in the gaps you may need. Be your own band. Of course, there’s a joyful connection with creating art with friends that shouldn’t be understated. The energy of a jam session is one of a kind.
While you’re hidden under a name, your artistry shouldn’t be something to hide. Kevin Parker told Rick Rubin on the Broken Record Podcast, why he hid being a solo project to eventually owning it. To Paraphrase: He was shy and he came from a music scene where bands/communal scenes were the norm so being a solo project felt wrong of some sort. To quote him: “I wanted people to know that it was more of a solo recording project because I realized solo artists get away with changing then sound a lot more than bands do”. There’s a great amount of respect for DIY artists and like what Kevin Impale said, there’s leeway doing it on your own. Adapt from sound to sound only having to follow your creative heart.