BEN & JIM: Pop-Punk & Emo vs. Indie Rock

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Let me introduce you to Ben.

Ben is my sister-in-law’s brother, and ever since we met, we’ve talked about music. The first time I met Ben, he approached me with various questions on what I’ve seen and done in the music industry. Being a former VJ for a well-known music television station, I’ll occasionally find myself knee-deep in these types of situations.

Many times, it seems, people will prod a little to see if I’m really into music, or if I am just a talking head with no clue. More times than not, the conversation will cut straight to the heart of independent music.

That’s where I thought Ben was headed with his series of questions. No doubt the kid had a vast knowledge of music, but I was surprised to find out–when the conversation went full tilt–that Ben was throwing out names embraced by the pop-punk and emo rock world. As I vigorously and passionately threw out names familiar to the readers of Pitchfork Media, Ben did the same for frequent visitors to Absolute Punk. What we had here wasn’t necessarily an argument about whose taste in music was better, it was a dialog about each other’s musical interests, likes, and dislikes.

Do I favor indie-minded acts over bands that frequent the Bamboozle Festival? Absolutely. However, am I still interested in what’s happening on that side of the world? Indeed I am–I just don’t have the patience to sift through piles of albums until I find that one pop-punk gem that I love.

So that’s where Ben comes in. Since we’ve known each other, he has become my one-man, Warped Tour-lovin’ focus group. Because we usually end up talking about music every time we see each other, I thought it would be a good idea–and beneficial to some of our indie music die-hards who don’t know what’s going on outside their own music circles–to share our back-and-forth discourse with all of you:

I stopped going to the Warped Tour a few years ago. The tight-jean, over-grown bang wearing bands became a little too much for me to handle. I’m assuming you attend regularly? Right now, sell me on the Warped Tour. Why should I go?

I went to Warped Tour in ’06 and ’07, but I didn’t go this year. I didn’t go because I wasn’t happy with the lineup playing at my date. I’m not going to spend all day outside listening to bands I don’t enjoy and neither should you. The only reason anybody should go is if they like who is playing.

Bamboozle is a freakin’ 3-day commitment, how are you going to get me to go to that?

First, I am going to make you walk outside of your apartment, because once you do you are practically there. Then I’ll probably tell you that Bamboozle is not neccesarily a 3-day commitment. Bamboozle takes place on Saturday and Sunday, and the festival called “Hoodwink” takes place Friday night. Hoodwink is a group of about 20 bands that play under fake names. You can also buy tickets for just Sunday or Saturday.

Anyway the reason you should go is simple–there are nine stages with incredibly talented bands from all different genres. If you went this year you would have been able to see everything from The Hush Sound and Every Time I Die to Jimmy Eat World, Snoop Dogg, Bret Michaels, Thrice, Lydia, Valencia, etc. There is something for everybody.

When I was in college–crap, you were probably only four or five years old–emo music was an underground thing that occasionally popped up on college radio. A handful of years ago it surfaced to the mainstream. Just for clarification, I’m going to say that “emo” is a brand of music featuring sweet, sing-songy-high-pitched verses, with gruff, Cookie Monster-like choruses–or just to keep with the theme here–emotive choruses. I have a few questions for you, here’s my first, why do you think so many emo bands never wanted to embrace the term emo?

A while ago some kid made a myspace called “Emo Sucks,” or something like that. He friended Hawthorne Heights and then made a blog post bashing them for being friends with someone who hates “Emo”. Hawthorne Heights responded with a blog explaining that they don’t consider themselves emo, because they don’t make “emo” music. They said that emo is basically a subgenre of hardcore punk that became popular in the mid 80’s and ended in the early 90’s. So Hawthorne Heights didn’t want to be defined as something they are not, and I’m sure other bands don’t as well. It also doesn’t help that the word “emo” has such a negative aura about it.

Yeah, but you gotta admit that just a few years ago there was a surplus of bands that had the formula of sing-songy verses with hardcore-choruses, Hawthorne Heights included. Like it or not, they were playing what was defined as “emo” music. Gangsta Rap has a zillion negative connotations and you never heard Dr. Dre or Ice Cube complaining about it.

Yeah, but can’t you say that about every music genre? Turn on any mainstream rock radio station and try to tell me the majority of those bands don’t sound very, very similar.

And I would classify most of those bands as “modern rock radio” groups, but we’ll save the Hinder and Saving Abel conversation for another day. Here’s my second part of the question, is the term “emo” even applicable anymore? If an indie music critic wanted to quickly write off a band by using the term “emo,” would that be lazy of him or her?

I don’t think it’s an appropriate term anymore. It can be used to describe so many different bands in so many different genres. It would definitely be lazy to lump a band into a group with a bunch of other bands that it doesn’t sound like.

Over the last few years, what groups do you think were unjustly given the “emo” tag?

Pretty much every band that has gained the tag after the mid ’90’s. Emo was originally used to describe bands like Rites of Spring and Inkwell. Then it was used to describe post-hardcore/indie bands like Sunny Day Real Estate and Mineral. Now in the 21st century it is used to describe pretty much every single pop-punk/pop-rock band that has somewhat emotional lyrics.

Back to indie critics, I know many of them would consider a lot of the bands you listen to as training wheels for more important bands that you’ll get into once your musical education develops. What would you say to this?

I would say that sounds pretty elitist. I may one day enjoy bands that people deem to be “important,” but that would never mean the talented bands I listen to now aren’t important. I’d also say that those people need to open their eyes and ears because there are a lot of talented bands out there that may not be important or mainstream enough for them to enjoy.

Believe it or not, I have not lost my love for pop-punk. If done right, I can appreciate any type of music. In your opinion, what pop-punk or emo (post-emo?) bands should I be listening to right now?

Fall Out Boy, Take This To Your Grave
Valencia, We All Need a Reason to Believe
Hit The Lights, This is a Stick Up…Don’t Make it a Murder
Four Year Strong, Rise or Die Trying

Alright, what bands are rubbish?

Well generally speaking I dislike it when bands do everything in their power to market their music to pre-teen girls. Bands like Boys Like Girls, Metro Station, and Cute Is What We Aim For certainly fall under that category.

Are there any bands hailed in certain indie rock circles that you think are pure rubbish right now?

There are definitely indie bands I am not a fan of, but I don’t have the knowledge of indie music to be able to neccessarily distinguish the great from not so great. I’ve listened to enough pop-rock/pop-punk/whatever-you-want-to-call-it, to be able to tell you that one band does it much better than another.

But isn’t there one or two hailed indie bands that you’ve heard and thought, “Wow, this totally doesn’t do it for me”?

Radiohead’s Kid A doesn’t do it for me

Me neither, although “Idioteque” is a pretty damn good song.


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.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.