We Asked an Expert If Shoegaze Is Really Making a Comeback
Don’t throw away your reverb pedals and Moose records just yet.
Image: A Place to Bury Strangers (Wikipedia)
This article originally appeared on Noisey Australia.
Over the last five years, a substantial number of shoegaze bands including the Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Swervedriver, and, most recently, Lush have reformed to tour or record new material. But is it a true shoegaze revivial or just a bunch of dour aging musicians dragging out their reverb pedals and cashing in on some early 90s nostalgia?
If anyone would know, it’d be Steve Wide, a radio announcer who hosts the long running UK indie program Far and Wide on the excellent Melbourne community station Triple R. Steve has been involved in shoegaze since it's formation so we reached out to see what he thought about the genre's new found popularity.
Noisey: Are we experiencing a shoegaze revival?
Steve Wide: I’d say that we are totally going through a revival. At the time, in the late 80s and early 90s, it peaked at maybe two or three years and then was largely forgotten. It certainly went out of style and although people still carried a torch for My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Swervedriver, many of the bands who made up the bulk of the scene like Lush, Revolver, Moose, Telescopes, Slowdive, Pale Saints etc. were largely forgotten.
What are the reasons for the revival?
It’s partly a sense of timing. A lot of 90s genres are being revived now in some way and contemporary music is certainly obsessed with the past. At first it was mashing up the styles, now there is a real interest in the purity of a style. The immersive nature of the sound and the “outsider” attitude is very relevant to today’s counterculture and, as it was at the time, a good antidote to a pervasive chart sounds. Add the fact that the people who were into it when they were going up are getting all nostalgic for it and the bands have reformed off the back of that (or maybe never officially broke up) then the movement is reborn.
Besides My Bloody Valentine are there any other reformed shoegaze artists that have released good albums?
I can only think of Swervedriver who put out a good LP recently, but Ride have reformed and will put out a record this year and Lush just released a new single with an album to follow, so classic shoegaze will be everywhere. The Lush single sounds more like their earlier period, when they were influenced by Cocteau Twins, rather than their later, more pop sound.
Has advancements in production affected the music?
New production techniques have made recording, especially in home studios, much cheaper and easier. Shoegaze was about lo-fi anyway so over-production could be said to be an enemy unless you are into more electronic and lush sounds like M83 or Maps.
The Jesus and Mary Chain and Suicide, and maybe Throbbing Gristle, influenced most of the original shoegaze bands. These bands that got on stage and shuffled around looking at the floor with really intense music. Psychedelia was also a major influence.
What new shoegaze have you been digging?
I love The KVB and M83 are always reliable. Maps and The Radio Dept are also awesome, as are Cheatahs, DIIV, Yuck, and Beach House—although it’s debatable as to whether you’d call those shoegaze. I quite like Lusts as well.
Grouper, Deafheaven, The KVB, and even Sweet Trip have changed what it means to be a shoegazer in 2016. Are bands like these essential to the evolution of a genre?
Simply imitating a sound is pretty pointless, so I would agree that reshaping the sound, making it more contemporary or even introducing new elements is very important. If someone takes the sound and makes it there own then it can be seen as influence more than just copying.
Are there any initial phase shoegaze bands you’d like to see reform?
Most of the shoegaze bands already have reformed! It’s especially great for me to see Ride and Lush back making new music again. I’d love to hear new material from The Telescopes or Spaceman 3, and a new record from Slowdive would be great too!
Listen/stream Far and Wide Fridays from 2pm on RRR FM.