By: Aaron Grey
Erica and I have both been involved in the underground punk and post-punk scenes for more than half of our lives now. I'm pretty confident that I speak for both of us when I say that even among the DIY punk scene, we have felt a little like outsiders. I wanted to write something about what it means to us and why we want to help to perpetuate the genre and the ethics we believe it represents.
Post-punk has traditionally been described as a genre to rise out of the first wave of the punk rock movement in the late 1970s. The genre is stylistically diverse; This diversity is due to musicians reexamining and challenging the formal strictures of the punk orthodoxy. Musicians started to explore dynamics, dance beats, electronics, and to push the boundaries of the pop rock of the time.
Outside the norm, this music was initially named “new musick” or “art-punk.” At the very end of 70s, many bands were categorized under “new wave,“ with many music enthusiasts interchanging the words. As time progressed, post-punk’s style became more defined and differentiated from other terms like new wave, new romantic, or gothic rock.
Some of the early contributors and some of our favorites include such bands as Joy Division, The Chameleons, Gang of Four, Au Pairs, The Slits, The Fall, The Cure, Killing Joke, Wire, or even Pere Ubu.
Those same early Sex Pistols shows that inspired bands to grab guitars and start pounding out three-chord punk rock anthems also inspired similar do-it-yourself artists to get weirder and go further. Much like punk, the post-punk movement never really stopped in its pursuit of freedom and high ideals.
This music scene is a place where thoughtful, self-aware artists can thrive. Musicians can write the type of politically informed music that they want. They don’t have to worry about adhering to anyone else's ideas of what the music should sound like.
Taking the word “modernist” in a less specific sense, the postpunk bands were firmly committed to the idea of making modern music. They were totally confident that there were still places to go with rock, a whole new future to invent. For the post-punk vanguard, punk had failed because it attempted to overthrow rock’s status quo using conventional music (fifties rock ’n’ roll, garage punk, mod) that actually predated dinosaur megabands like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. The postpunks set forth with the belief that “radical content demands radical form." --Simon Reynolds, Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984, 2005
Post-punk supplied the starting point for other genres like deathrock, gothic rock, industrial music, darkwave, new wave, and even a more eclectic reimagining of the pop band. Without the post-punk movement, we likely wouldn’t have had the alternative rock bands of the 1990s either.
The genre came back to prominence in the early 2000s with bands like Editors, The Stills, White Lies, Moving Units, and Interpol. These bands all enjoyed much more commercial success as pop groups than the original post-punk movement. These bands still maintained the sounds and a lot of the personal content of their clear earlier post-punk influences.
Erica and I cherish that this music has never really left the underground, but it is again springing to new life. We love it and want to be part of it. We love getting to see current bands like Shadow Age, Arcane, Silent Age, Rituel Veil, Lithics, Bambara, Bootblacks, Arctic Flowers, and so many more.
This genre of misfits among misfits is where we fit in. While we understand and appreciate the punk tradition, the post-punk and darkwave scenes are the shadows we call home. We have been propped up and supported by these sounds, and they have given us what we needed to succeed in this world.
It is our goal to nurture this tradition of music and politics and freedom of expression, to foster the idea of self-expression without limitation in a safe, meaningful way. And of course, we always want to help to move more people to dance.
Now go start your own post-punk band!