IT’S LIKE THAT: Where’s the B-B-Bass in Indie Rock?

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Whenever I think of the word “bass” (the sound, not the fish), I automatically hear Public Enemy’s Chuck D in my head, distinctly proclaiming, “B-B-BASS!” His voice has been sampled so many times, even if you don’t know who Chuck D is, you might be familiar with the “B-B-BASS” snippet. As a nation, bass is something that we embrace. When teenagers are looking to buy their first automobiles, they could give a crap about how many cylinders are in the engine or if the vehicle has front or rear-wheel steering. All that matters is if the car has a boomin’ system. If so–sold!

Some people love bass so much, they’ve cut out treble from their lives completely. How many times have you been at a stop-light next to a car with a bone-trembling system and tried to figure out what song was emitting from their stereo? Get music-whiz Matt Pinfield in a car and even he might be unable to identify a song if the bass is played loud enough.

I’ve always been a fan of bass. Let’s face it, hip-hop wouldn’t exist without bass–neither would funk (nothing to slap). Where would electronic/dance music be without bass? No booties are going to be shakin’ in Miami with a bunch of treble and mid-ranges. Though guitar is the “sexy” instrument of rock-n-roll, let us not forget that the bass has given us stars like Paul McCartney, Sting, and Flea (don’t be telling me Sting ain’t sexy). Today’s current bass pin-up, Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz, has also been known to get his share of “oohs” and “ahs” from the young ladies.


If bass is such a good thing, why has it become such a no-no for several indie rock bands? Why have groups like The White Stripes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Kills, and The Black Keys (among many others) sworn off bass players? From my rock knowledge, drummers are the difficult ones to deal with, bassists are usually more than happy to sit back and play the supporting role. If two heads are better than one, wouldn’t logic lead us to believe that three heads are better than two? Strength comes in numbers, right?

Well, if you’re a shy indie kid, numbers probably scare the crap out of you. There’s also a certain comfort in having intimate friendships. That’s why a lot of us only marry one partner–and let’s face it–all couples get into arguments, but if you find the right person, they’re going to love you on your worst day the same as your best day. Maybe that’s the appeal of not adding an extra band member? Though the White Stripes’ frontman Jack White has more talent in his belt buckle than most bands combined, it took hiding behind an under-average drummer (sorry Meg), for him to muster up the courage to step into the spotlight. If there was a bass player messing with the Stripes’ chemistry, there’s a good chance Jack could still be upholstering furniture in Detroit.

The Kills, the duo comprised of Hotel and VV, began as an innocent overseas pen-pal correspondence. The two awkward art enthusiasts eventually found strength in each other, created a band, and have been side-stepping “…are you two going out with each other?” questions ever since. If Hotel and VV had a third wheel, we probably wouldn’t be talking about them right now (and they’d be known as Jamie and Alison instead of Hotel and VV).

You’d think that after a band gets over their initial wave of self-consciousness, they’d be more open to adding another member to the group. However, for anyone who has ever played in a band, you know that’s not as easy as it sounds. At the most recent SXSW I asked the duo of Matt & Kim if they would ever consider adding a third member to their ranks, and Kim’s response was, “I don’t think our fans would like it.” It’s no secret that enthusiasts of indie music do not like to share. If a band jumps to a major label, it’s usually their most die-hard supporter that’s first to cry “sell-out.” Mess around with a band’s line-up and you may never have a good blog written about you again.

I’m actually a big supporter of all the bass-less bands mentioned above, and it’s pretty amazing to think about how far they’ve come without a bass player (which at one time was a necessary ingredient for rock-n-roll success). Where would The Beatles have gone if they were only a two-piece? Would Green Day be selling out stadium shows if their line-up consisted of just Billie Joe Armstrong and Tre Cool? What’s really scary to think about is where these low-end-intolerant bands could be right now with a bass player to fill in the missing grooves. Considering mainstream America loves its “B-B-BASS”, here’s how things could have turned out for indie rock music:

Mates of State and the Dresden Dolls support The Black Keys (the world’s “loudest” power-trio) on their 30-date sold-out arena tour of the United States. Pat Carney is injured when he falls 60 feet from his drum-kit, which was suspended in mid-air during a “big rock” drum solo. In the ER, Carney mumbles, “If we never recruited a bass player, we would have never gotten this huge, and I would have never been talked into doing a Tommy Lee-like drum solo.”

The Kills’ Midnight Boom albums sells 1.5 million copies in its opening week. The band sees little of the income as their manager and a jealous bass player (who claims Hotel and VV never pay attention to him) flee town with their money–and drum machine.

Matt, Kim & Steve (their bassist) sign the most lucrative recording contract in the history of music. Michael Bay agrees to direct their next music video and claims that it will have, “more explosions and CGI graphics than Transformers.”

After their mega-platinum-success from their Fever to Tell and Show Your Bones albums, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs appear on American Idol, prepping contestants to perform their music. David Archuleta sings “Maps”, which causes Paula Abdul to break down in tears.

The White Stripes finish their third straight sold-out stadium tour of the world (and ooh goodness do “Seven Nation Army” and “Blue Orchid” sound nice with a bass-line!) . Following the tour, the band announces its breakup. Jack White buys a monkey, gets plastic surgery, and builds an amusement park in his backyard. Some critics begin referring to him as “The New Jacko the Whacko”.

Okay, so maybe bass isn’t the answer to everything.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.