It’s 62° F in my mom’s kitchen and I’m 45, wearing a scarf and an apron, browning onions. I never wanted to look like an indie rocker which is why I’m so good at it — people stop me on the streets every day in this small, medieval village thinking I look like someone and I probably do.
The look, like all the best looks, is a look that doesn’t look like it’s trying to be a look but rather, like I’ve been caught in the middle of something urgent that won’t come out but probably should.
It’s hard to express, hard to put words to, but worth spending money on.
It’s this feeling I’m out of time, having the folk sensitivity of the 60s, the angst of the 70s, the self-indulgence of the 80s, the need to understand what really happened in the 90s.
“Indie rock”: it’s hard to put words to, hard to say what it is, but like other movements, it’s easier to say what it isn’t, easier to define it as a non-something: non-commercial, non-success, non-corporate. It’s non-corporate but if you wait long enough, corporate will do it better and you’ll need to start something new, a new place to pout in your latte art and your poetry and shiver in the shadows looking cool.
No, the indie rocker is an educated white male who wears snowboarder beanies with ear flaps that probably look nerdy on most and still look nerdy on him. The indie rocker has to work hard to unlearn his privilege and access the pain that hides inside himself and his IPA, the rot-gut pain that comes from the blues, from killing someone and then singing about it and regretting it, from reading just enough Kierkegaard to know something’s happening but you don’t know what it is, from watching the best minds of his generation destroyed by YouTube, from feeling he’s going nowhere but guaranteed to be late.
The indie rocker white male sings beards without borders, rents a room with no irons, a bathroom with many mirrors, has a hardened look like a river rock that could be a jewel to a child or a polished piece of glass, has the knobby texture of a farm root you wouldn’t put in the mouth of a dog, lets his hair go unwashed and waxy like a crayon, spends a lot of time so he can look like he’s spent none.
The indie rocker, like the hippy and the punk is best defined by what he’s trying to avoid.
Our dog wobbles as she squats on a patch of earth and looks like a rocket trying to launch herself, leaves her remains on the ground to blend in over time. We conform to the shape of our scene and after a while become indistinguishable from it — and that’s the goal of independence, to free ourselves of something, anything, so we can understand at last where we belong, on our own.