Hipster Runoff Explained (Maybe)

A (possibly) illuminating chat with Carles, the Internet's latest mystery man

Do you, out of character, "like" Animal Collective?

Yeah. I have only liked them since Sung Tongs, though. I am not THAT authentic.

Per that timeline, it's been true for awhile that popularity on the Internet doesn't mean commercial success, and that "branding" and "coolness" are crucial to a band's success. What makes AC different? What makes them the first real "Internet band"?

We asked for a photo, and this is what he sent us.
Davis Ayer
We asked for a photo, and this is what he sent us.

I think that AnCo is probably a band that maintained the praise of people who formulate the perception of what is "authentic" over an extended period of time. We have now reached a perfect storm where "the blogs/online mags" and "printed magazines" created perfect hype synergy. I guess it also helps to "take a step back" and realize that they actually have a good product. I also like how they have underwhelming personal brands. While their music is "weird," none of the members really had an overt personal brand that overshadowed the music, or became "the bigger news story"/"blurbable music-news-website meme" that overshadowed the band as "legitimate artists." I am not sure if they are spaced out, or probably just care about different things than their fans value, but they sort of transcend "the current state of independent-ish music."

That's gotta be deliberate, though-they take great pains to come across as boring, normal, humble guys. Everyone's seized on that "I don't mean to seem like I care about material things" line. . . . In a sense, that's a "style," too, though, right?

Yeah. It's pretty weird. They sing about family values and their kids, but I just don't see why that is so "identifiable" to who I would generalize as their target market. But maybe that's "what we all want inside," and they have tapped into something that we don't even "realize is inside of us."

It seems like music critics particularly, and apparently I'm one of them, are somewhat fascinated with HRO-are you the future of music criticism? Are you the death of music criticism?

I think that the "music criticism economy" has changed somewhat in "the Internet age," though I don't even really remember life before the Internet. There are always going to be people who appreciate high-level analysis, but I don't think the generations after Gen-Y will have the intellectual capacity or even just the "ability to pay attention to something for more than 30 seconds." The perception of music criticism seems to have shifted to a "product review by someone who cares too much." It's pretty interesting to think about everything as a product listed on Amazon.com, and what information you need to evaluate that product to become an "educated consumer." I think that while our search for authentic, relevant music has never been more intense, we can't really help but view artists, albums, and concerts like they are a product on Amazon. I think I am just kind of like a link between "high-level ideas" and "people who only have a high school education."

So a woman I know owns a dress she says she can't wear anymore because it's too similar to something someone's wearing in one of the pics of your "Girls' Night Out" post. Is that part of your intention at all, to shame people?

I don't think I'm looking to "shame" people. I just think that "being yourself" is a bold decision. However, the decision to declare "yourself" can leave you vulnerable to criticism. Not sure if that has to do with our modern world or if it has "always been that way." So whether you attach yourself to a band, an idea, a fashion sense, or a general aesthetic, I feel like we're all open to criticism and analysis from various perspectives. I just feel like in our world, "how you present yourself" matters more than ever to everyone else but you.

There's definitely an element of disdain, though-like your podcast, where you're talking in this deadpan voice, like, "I have so much more to share. I feel closer to you. This is a chance to show you who I really am," and then you play George Michael's "Father Figure." Is there an element of self-loathing to that, kind of a rejection of the notion of actually being serious about blogging/being a critic/caring about music on the Internet?

I think maybe that's where "shame" comes in. I generally feel "ashamed" that I am "part of humanity" who is "searching for something meaningful." (Not ashamed of humanity like I want to go on a school-shooting spree-more like I have been trained to think that my life is more inherently meaningful than every one else's.) Or like maybe I am "ashamed" that I bought the Matchbox 20/Third Eye Blind albums when I was a kid. And maybe I am "ashamed" of myself for having that in common with all of the other kids who were growing up at the time. And I might be "ashamed" that I found that meaningful. While I did listen to the AnCo song "Visiting Friends" on a winter drive with a group of people whom I love, maybe I am "uncomfortable"/"ashamed" with that meaning something. But then I kind of look back on my life as a consumer, and Amazon.com will recommend new purchases for me to create more meaningful experiences/my identity based upon previous purchases.

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