The rise of the “Project” and the slow death of the group
In the old days two years ago we heard acclaimed albums from â€œbandsâ€ like Japanese Breakfast, Tame Impala, US Girls, Perfume Genius, Soccer Mommy, Caribou, Waxahatchee and St. Vincent; the musical output of this cohort ranges from psychedelic rock to scintillating synth-pop, and rustic country-folk to edgy art-punk. In general, they don’t look much alike. But what they have in common is that they’re not really bands. Some of these bands have fixed members who perform with the band live and appear on a few records in a row, but all of them are essentially solo projects presented under a banner that is less of a band name than a brand name.
This is not a new phenomenon, but it has become more common over the past decade. For much of rock history, bands had individual musicians whose distinct styles were an integral part of a whole: The Beatles, U2, The Who, REM, Fleetwood Mac and many more were identified not only by who sang what, but also by the character of the instruments. . It was important to know who was playing what. Keith Moon’s drums were nothing like Ringo Starr’s, and Edge’s guitar approach was a far cry from that of Peter Buck.
But the need for a stable group with multiple identifiable personalities seems to be fading. Why? Much of this change stems from how and why an aspiring artist first makes music. The archetypal setting of early music was once the garage. Young bands would get together privately and dream of doing concerts and then, one day, probably much later, of making a record. The band came first, then the songs and the arrangements.
Now, when recording software is preinstalled on personal computers and even smartphones, the bedroom is where new music is born, and the writing and arranging often precedes the performance. With the right software, inexpensive hardware, and some technical know-how, a single person can make a recording that sounds as a group. And a computer isn’t just a recording device: By uploading to a platform like YouTube and SoundCloud, a singer-songwriter can distribute music and grow audiences without involving anyone else. or without ever performing in front of a crowd. How to play music live, and who will play it, is something to find out later.