Silent Drape Runners - New Vibes (resoundtracking The Little Mermaid)
I was sitting in a bar, on my way to see Balam Acab perform at a college show billed as a “Goth Prom.” We’d dressed up for the occasion - because hey, we like dressing up. Three of the people in attendance were in their late 20’s/early 30’s, and one was my age (22). We soon amusingly realized we were in a “punk bar” as kids with mohawks and ripped leather jackets started pouring in from the Harlem street, seemingly teleporting from the late 70’s, and suddenly our all-black attire set us in some heightened new wavers versus punk kids movie scene that I would be way too young to remember.
Even weirder - my bandmate was telling me about this new internet subculture/”music genre” he’d just discovered, and thought might vaguely describe the stuff we were starting to recognize as the art project our band was becoming. One of the non-punk kids who was playing pool overheard us and looked up, genuinely disturbed: “How the fuck do you know about seapunk?”
This was almost a year ago. #Seapunk became a big inside joke among my group of friends (both online and off). A lot of our jokes, though, tend to make their way into our reality. It’s more fun to appreciate things than to hate them, and I like playing around with new aesthetics styles, trends, slang, images, and seeing what meaning I can wring out of them. My band could be said to be part of the group of artists who were offended at Rihanna’s visuals on SNL this weekend. Seeing these images on TV, for such a massive audience, though surreal, didn’t surprise me. I work at a “trendy” media company, and I know many of the people I know who engage with internet culture do as well. It’s obvious how these ideas quickly spread from some teenager in the midwest to designers at big brands and pop stars stylists. This has been happening forever, now it just happens faster.
A month or two ago, a friend of mine (who also happens to do my band’s visuals) “joked” that seapunk “wasn’t a thing” anymore. I’m not sure if that’s a statement worth making - it’s as much a thing as it ever was. But I think he has a point - the variety of aesthetic tropes that make up #seapunk; net art, “new aesthetic,” witch house, et. all; are beginning to coalesce into something different and bigger, something that I am beginning to believe in. I’ve been attending the #TOP8 FRIENDS parties at 285 Kent in Brooklyn for the last few months. All these ideas/aesthetics are definitely present there - but are combined with blatantly subversive gender presentations. Think Party Monster meets Paris Is Burning for the social media generation.
I know some of you are feeling an urge to vomit. It’s ok to not be interested in this stuff, but I personally can’t get enough of it, both from a sociological and participatory perspective. This is the future, or part of it. A few years ago, in his essay wrapping up the first decade of the new millennium in music, Nitsuh Abebe wondered what was coming next for underground music culture. This last year has been the first time I’ve felt a glimmer of newness in culture since I began caring about it. Yes, there is a lot of recombining of older ideas (rave, new age, ball culture, drag, 90’s nostalgia), but I think what is emerging can be argued to transcend its influences. I think, I hope, it’s helping to open people up to exploring and examining the virtual world we now spend so much of our time inhabiting, and the fluidity and range of human experiences that can exist within and without it.