I’m surprised that this isn’t talked about a little more in the industry. Don’t get me wrong, we have a solid, dedicated foundation of punk bands that continue to make great punk music such as Four Year Strong, The Wonder Years and bands like Neck Deep and Real Friends. But it’s hard to ignore where a lot of bands seem to be going nowadays.
For example, Relient K’s “Collapsible Lung,” though still a decent album, is very different than what they have produced in the past. It’s by far the furthest from punk/pop-punk genre that they’ve ever been. Paramore’s recent album was poppy enough to be covered on Fearless Record’s new Pop Goes Punk: Volume 6; it’s NOT hard to say that there is a MASSIVE difference between Riot and their self-titled EP from 2013. At least, this is my opinion. Some people may believe that Paramore is still making punk music. This doesn’t even mention what Taylor Swift (though she was never punk, but still did the genre flip in a similar direction) is doing with her most recent album.
Quick disclaimer, I'm not saying Relient K or Paramore's recent albums are bad. Just that they are different and not near in the punk genre that they used to be. Also, props to Taylor Swift, she seems to have pulled it off really well.
Moving on, we have bands rising at an exponential rate claiming to be pop-punk like 5 Seconds of Summer that are clearly very detached from what has been considered specific to the genre for a long time. (No hate here, just saying they’re certainly more pop than they are punk)
Furthermore, a good portion of bands in the punk scene seem to either be dying out or switching the band from full-time touring to a part-time hobby.
So why are these bands switching their genres all of the sudden, we asked a few of our good friends to open the discussion:
1) Trying to be More Creative to Gain a Wider Variety of Fans
Third String Productions, Kristen Baker claims that bands are merely adding other genres or incorporating dancier/poppier music to gain a wider array of fans.
The Dallas based promoter is responsible for bringing larger punk bands like Hawthorne Heights, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Four Year Strong and more in to Austin and it’s surrounding cities. So if anyone has seen the trend of what bands are doing, it’s them. They see the bands and their growing fan bases come and go in different varieties every day.
“You have to look at the essence of what the punk genre actually began as; heavy bass lines, filthy guitar riffs, and politically driven lyrics, were the foundation for most bands in the punk world. From that, bands realized that there were only so many fans, incredibly dedicated fans, in that genre so they wanted to blend themselves into something that could transition into a more mainstream sound. Still having the diluted punk undertones and bass lines, yet adding more upbeat and ‘dancier’ melodies along with catchy hooks. They realized they could still get their dedicated fans coming to shows but have now opened the door for a younger, pop loving fan base you wouldn’t think would cross into our world. That’s where we are at now in our industry you have to be able to blend into many different genres, that’s the only way to grow. Bands have realized this and are capitalizing on it.”
2) Hating the Blurred Lines
Expanding on the wider variety of fans, through time, the genre definitions might be getting blurred and the new bands hitting the scene are coming up with different ways to express their creativity. Angela Mastrogiacomo of Infectious Magazine/Muddy Paw PR seems to think just that.
Infectious Magazine is home to many punk bands news, interviews and reviews. Angela is the owner of both the magazine and Muddy Paw PR, which takes on punk bands to try and push them out to the masses through the media. She lives in the punk scene and thus we feel she has the credibility for this opinion:
“I think it’s interesting and maybe even a little unfortunate how much the term “punk” has changed. I know at its root it’s meant to be an attitude and outlook more than a “sound” and in that respect everything is fair game. But when I think “punk” I think bands like The Dead Boys, The Sex Pistols, The Damned, The Ramones. But these days, it’s thrown into everything, and so much of what it’s used on I’d consider just rock (or one of its many sub genres.) It’s kind of similar for the term “pop.” What does that even mean anymore? Does it mean Beyonce? Does it mean Jason Mraz? Does it mean John Mayer? Macklemore and Ryan Lewis? I have no idea. Everyone has their own definitions and none of them match. So I’m not sure if it’s so much a matter of punk bands jumping ship as much as the genre definitions and expectations constantly changing, and those bands attempting to adapt and grow.”
3) They’re Just Bored!
Maybe it’s none of these things, maybe we’re just thinking, over thinking. It wouldn’t be the first time that an artist got bored with what they were doing; they feel they’ve mastered their genre, and decided to move on to different horizons. Maybe, they’re just bored and trying something different. They are after all, artists! Josh Flores from Shadow of Whales is on that bandwagon.
Josh, pre-SoW, was in punk-alternative “Invisible Target” and as a producer, he works with many local punk bands; his most recent/upcoming project is with Belton’s, Calamity Jane. Shadow of Whales is more an example of current industry trends. They’re music features an array of different genres and that makes it hard to place them in a genre category as specific as punk or pop/punk; this brushes on what Angela and Kristen are talking about above.
“I believe that bands like RJA, FYS, etc. are fixed on one sound because well its what got them where they are today. Why change it? Pop Punk has changed so much from the time I started listening to it. I honestly don’t like the new metalcore/pop/punk as much as I used to. Its getting old. I think pop punk will always have a face. Notice, most of the people who like RJA and FYS are all in the 20’s now. It just means we are getting old. We are going to be the ones saying the same thing our parents said to us. “Remember when artists made good music”. Bands like Relient K and Paramore see that this old pop punk sound is dying out and needed to keep up with times. Sometimes its just an agreement to go in different directions. A lot of the time the artists get bored with playing the same sounding songs every night. Its very risky to change your sound up when you already have a following. But you have to get out of the wave once that genre has hit that peak.”
Maybe it’s just me, (or maybe it’s maybeline) but I feel that whatever the reason is, this trend will continue. What are your thoughts? I don’t want to feed the “Punk Is Dead” conspiracy theorists, I don’t think punk will ever be dead; but there’s definitely a transition or an evolution of some sort happening. I want to see what your opinion on it is.