Writer. Adventurer. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a series of steampunk novels and short stories.

Emo, Indie, and Writing

Last week I caught an interesting radio show during my lunch hour. The radio host was lamenting the demise of true emo rock and the rise of indie rock and alt rock. His argument was that emo rock was all about feelings and that indie rock does not have any of that passion. He says that alt rock has sold out to the point that it should stop pretending it isn’t pop rock. He was so negative and whined so much that I have decided to not link to his website. I’m not rewarding him for bad behavior.

For the most part, I think he is full of crap. This isn’t the end of music, and fighting against change is only going to give you ulcers.

There are two factors at work here: 1. Evolution of music, and 2. Growing up. Music is going to change over time. It is like a sponge, soaking up bits of everything as it meanders through the social landscape. This is also the reason why country sounds like pop rock, and why pop rock now sounds like electronica. Emo grew into indie rock and alt rock.

As the mother of a two-year-old no longer counting her 29th birthday for the first time, it has occurred to me that I’m getting older too. Songs about making eye contact across a crowded room don’t resonate with me the same way they used to do. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still enjoy the same kind of musicality, but the subject matter needs to be deeper than epic puppy love.

Elliott – Drive on to Me

Teenage angst is something I remember well, and it is a hallmark of emo rock. I spent way too much time wanted to kick and scream and rage because, dammit, I felt ways about things. (Forgive me for the inside joke. In the Futurama episode Luck of the Fryish, Fry finds his record of The Breakfast Club soundtrack. He hugs it to his chest and says, “I can’t wait until I’m old enough to feel ways about things.”)

Jimmy Eat World – The Middle

Indie and alternative rock are the big brothers of emo rock. Alt rock got a hair cut, a real job, and is someone you can take home to Mom. Indie is still “keeping it real” with a job in food & beverage and a second job in social media marketing every moment of his life.  I think emo rock had to grow up because the wave of kids listening to music after us were into electronica, which is the antithesis of the garage rock sounds of emo.

I enjoy discussing music, but I’m no more an expert on it than anyone else.  I don’t think ten years of piano lessons qualifies me for much.  However, I would like to think that if I was in a rock band, I’d be freaking good at it.

“I must have my share in the conversation if you are speaking of music. There are few people in England, I suppose, who have more true enjoyment of music than myself, or a better natural taste. If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.” Lady Catherine in Pride and Prejudice

As I’ve said before, music is important to me.  It helps fuel my heart and my imagination, perfect for when I am struggling at the keyboard.  Music reminds me of old experiences, or it can help me dream up new adventures.  It always amazes me because you can say so much more with so many fewer words than it takes me to say in prose writing.  /shakes fist at talented wordsmiths

A Silent Film – Danny, Dakota, and the Wishing Well

I want to write stories about this song. All the stories, then hug them to my chest and whisper to myself, “I can’t wait until I’m old enough to feel ways about things.”

7 comments on “Emo, Indie, and Writing

  1. Christi
    February 25, 2013

    It’s pretty amazing how certain songs can take you back in time to a specific era in your life. Also, I love the Lady Catherine quote! That one has always made me laugh. :-)

    • tracycembor
      February 26, 2013

      Gosh yes, there’s some songs I can remember where I was the first time I heard it. Smashing Pumpkin’s “Tonight, Tonight” is one of them.

      I wish I had more opportunities to use Lady Catherine quotes. It’s really hard to work them into everyday conversation.

  2. Przemek Kucia
    February 25, 2013

    I believe Joe Strummer from The Clash is the one who said that “there is time with techno and without techno” or something similar – obviously we’re in time with techno/electronica/electro-pop… But who today listens to “mainstream” channels? I think that the most of this “mainstream” is hyped by the same people, and that means they’re old and not in touch with consumers like me. I’m looking now on spotify polish rankings and I see crowd perfectly divided between mainstream, “indiestream/popular rock” and “rough-rocky-sounds” which are my “what the hell happened with music”. The point I’m trying to make is that music is like fashion – 90s will eventually come back ;)

    • tracycembor
      February 26, 2013

      I don’t mind the techno, but I do mind that all the songs sound the same. All the singers sound the same. Blah, blah, blah. I can’t believe all these young singers are letting themselves be autotuned. I’d rather listen to Cage the Elephant; at least Matthew Shultz sounds unique.

      So what is most popular on the Polish Spotify rankings?

      Bruno Mars just brought back the 80s, so you’re probably right that the 90s aren’t far behind. Better find my flannel shirts!

      • Przemek Kucia
        February 26, 2013

        Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love Daft Punk, Justice, Kavinsky and others or soundtracks of Pixel Junk games (indie PSN games, I especially like ost from Eden). And yeah apart from some indie bands that I like – Bloc Party, Whitest Boy Alive, Elbow, some track of Vampire Weekend I notice the pressure for making more “radio friendly” tracks if you know what I mean. But forget that, tell me is Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever to tell album still rock, indie maybe or already todays pop-rock?

        Polish spotify album ranking contains ost to Django, Nirvana, The Offspring, Metalica, Foo Fighters, LP with Meteora, Queen, Radiohead, Blur, Gorillaz, Bon Jovi, Rolling Stones and many more in first 100 :) Spotify is in here 2 weeks, and to have it you need to be well educated with internets, so – I reckon – young people – hipsters, people wearing hoods everywhere, university students and “normal” people, maybe there is a chance that for them rock isn’t dead. What we need is some serious talents and record companies managed by some fresh blood, or new business model for artists :) What I need the most is The White Stripes, Greenhornes, Flat Duo Jets reincarnating quickly ;)

  3. Gus Sanchez
    February 25, 2013

    This particular post resonates pretty well with me right now. I’ve been editing some past blogs for my upcoming anthology, and the topic of emo/indie rock and “teenage angst” was something I’d touched upon, and I was struck by how I was once really irritated by the entire notion of “angst” in lyrics, especially after Kurt Cobain’s suicide. Now that I’m old (really), I find myself becoming more drawn to the angst-ier side of lyrics.

    • tracycembor
      February 27, 2013

      Teenage angst is a polarizing issue. It makes people “feel ways about things.”

      Angst is a normal feeling (though it shouldn’t be a common one), and it isn’t wrong to have music about it. However, when people that music to create a toxic environment, there is something troubling there. I don’t have any solutions, but listening to music that expresses the way I feel isn’t the core problem.

      No worries about growing older. It happens to everyone. Everyday.

Comments are closed.


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Posting Schedule for 2014-15

Monday through Friday I will be posting about writing as business and craft, the science of creativity, all things steampunk, and progress on The Dreamless City.

Weekends are reserved for my Music Playlist.

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About the Author

Tracy Cembor attempts to juggle a preschooler and a baby, a full-time job, random geekery, and the writing life. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a steampunk urban fantasy novel. Come join the adventure.
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