All posts tagged hipster

  • The Weekend Australian book review: ‘HipsterMattic’ by Matt Granfield, November 2011

    A book review for The Australian, reproduced in its entirety below.

    Retro types in pursuit of the vacuous

    HipsterMattic: One Man’s Quest to Become the Ultimate Hipster
    By Matt Granfield
    Allen & Unwin, 303pp, $24.95

    First a definition, for understanding this central premise is crucial. The 2000s-era wave of hipsterdom, Matt Granfield writes, began as a quiet and conscientious uprising that unfolded behind the scenes.

    “Long-forgotten styles of clothing, beer, cigarettes and music were becoming popular again. Retro was cool, the environment was precious and old was the new “new”. Kids . . . wanted to be recognised for being different — to diverge from the mainstream and carve a cultural niche all for themselves . . . The way to be cool wasn’t to look like a television star: it was to look as though you’d never seen television.”

    Thus, the modern hipster. In the wake of a crushing break-up, wherein his ex-girlfriend – who works for Triple J, “the biggest hipster radio station in the country” – accuses the author of not knowing his true identity at age 30, Granfield decides to “throw everything into becoming a particular brand of person”. It helps that he’s halfway there: in the words of his best friend Dave, the author is “probably the biggest f . . king hipster I know”.

    This is not a particularly strong foundation for a book, yet Granfield redeems himself after a tenuous start by sampling and experiencing a wide range of styles and activities enjoyed largely by the cooler kids. Almost all the action takes place in the inner-city suburbs of Brisbane which, as the author proves time and again, are fertile grounds for would-be hipsters. It’s helpful that he lives in New Farm, adjacent to the grungy nightlife hub of Fortitude Valley, “the sex shop and strip-joint capital of Australia”.

    By day, Granfield runs a social media and PR agency and writes and edits for the ABC’s The Drum and Marketing Magazine, yet his professional life is almost entirely ignored. This is a curious decision, as viewing the advertising industry through hipster-tinted glasses might have made for interesting reading.

    Instead, Granfield grows a beard, learns to knit, gets a tattoo, runs a fashion-oriented market stall (for one day), buys a fixed-gear bicycle online and takes a photography course using only his iPhone. All par for the hipster course.

    A visit to Ikea shows the author at his best: “In 5000 years when alien archaeologist anthropologists want to identify the point at which human society began to devolve, they will dig up a homemaker centre car park and find the skeletons of 2000 white lower middle-class suburbanites, loading flat-screen televisions they can’t afford into Hyundais they don’t own, buried and perfectly preserved under a volcano of interest-free store credit paperwork.”

    Such moments of brilliance are rare, unfortunately, though Granfield’s writing style, which flits between inner monologue and punchy dialogue, is enjoyable on the whole.

    Occasionally, he digs beneath the flimsy veneer of hipster culture and unearths some interesting points, such as how Triple J staff are sent so much new music by record companies that they don’t have time to discover anything for themselves; or how indie record labels aren’t interested in what’s cool, only in what will make them money, a process that relies on some hoodwinking of hipsters.

    The narrative draws to a close as Granfield explores drinking alcohol, trying to enjoy coffee (by drinking 12 shots in a single session) and alternative lifestyles. “There are three reasons why people choose to be vegetarians,” he writes. “The first is because they have a moral objection to eating animals. The second is for medical reasons. The third is because they’re trying to impress a girl.” Guess which category the author falls into?

    He also tries to start the ultimate hipster band, while making occasional references to past musical experiences. Like his advertising industry sidestep, this is another curious decision on Granfield’s part, as his history includes a stint in a relatively successful indie rock band. Another missed opportunity, perhaps.

    Fittingly, the photos that appear within these pages were all taken using the iPhone app Hipstamatic, which uses software filters to give off the effect that the images were taken using an antique film camera, not a smartphone.

    This kind of retro fakery is central to the conceit of hipsterdom. By holding a mirror up to hipster ideals through his pursuit of a new identity, Granfield convincingly exposes the true absurdity of it all.

    Andrew McMillen is a Brisbane-based freelance journalist.

    This review was published in The Weekend Australian Review on November 26. For more Matt Granfield, visit his website or follow him on Twitter.

  • The Vine interview: Ethan Kath of Crystal Castles, January 2011

    An interview for The Vine. Excerpt below.

    Interview – Crystal Castles

    A universal truism for music journalists: when a tour manager tells you to call back in 10 minutes because they “can’t find” your interviewee, it’s a bad sign.

    In this case, the interviewee is Ethan Kath, the producer and instrumental half of Canadian duo Crystal Castles. Kath has been dabbling with experimental electronica for over six years now, but it wasn’t until he discovered livewire vocalist Alice Glass – who, at the time, was in her late teens, fronting a noise punk band named Fetus Fatale, and spitting beer onto heckling middle-aged punks – that the act we now know as Crystal Castles took form. Since then, they’ve released two self-titled albums of glitchy, gaudy, distorted electronica, as well as the occasional beautiful pop song. See: ‘Celestica’, from last year’s Crystal Castles II – which rated highly on TheVine’s annual critics poll – and their most recent single, ‘Not In Love’, a song originally performed by Canadian new wave 80s band Platinum Blonde which was covered by Crystal Castles and featured The Cure singer Robert Smith on guest vocals. Powerful stuff.

    Which brings us up to date with the present. Which Ethan Kath isn’t in. This isn’t the first time a Crystal Castles member is missing from an interview: a 2008 feature in Toronto magazine Now was written largely around Alice’s absence. I alternate between thinking about that article and going over my intended questions, while I wait the requested 10 minutes before re-dialling the local phone exchange, re-entering the PIN, and re-entering the 13-digit phone number that connects me to a mobile handset located somewhere in Tokyo.

    “Hey, it’s Ethan,” says a voice; one that bears bad news, delivered in stilted tones.

    The bit you probably already know: Ethan tells me that Alice has a broken ankle. The bit that we published as a news story – rightfully, I might add – which cast Crystal Castles’ scheduled appearances on the Big Day Out 2011 tour in doubt. To wit:

    How was your day in Tokyo?

    A little bit stressful.

    Why’s that?

    Because Alice is injured.

    What happened?

    We’re at the hospital, having x-rays taken. It appears that she has a broken ankle.

    Oh shit. What will that mean for the Australian tour?

    I don’t know. Maybe she’ll be doing it in a wheelchair. I’m not sure.

    So this happened at last night’s show?

    No, it happened earlier.

    So to clarify, this is not going to affect your Australian tour?

    I don’t know. This is sort of a bad time to ask right now.

    Indeed. At the time, my mind was racing: Should I continue with the interview, given that Ethan’s right-hand lady is, right now, as we speak, getting her probably-broken ankle x-rayed? And…is this a scoop? I hadn’t heard about it anywhere else. (Afterwards, I’d check Twitter and find that a handful of Japanese fans had tweeted about it a few days earlier, but no other news outlets had reported it.)

    Having spent two hours earlier today researching dozens of past interviews with the band, I’ve been bracing myself for an unresponsive interview subject. I was right to. Admittedly, this was a difficult situation for Ethan to be in – attempting to answer questions about his music and career to an Australian journalist, while he’d probably rather be keeping an eye on Alice – but he didn’t sound too fussed about it all. I get the impression that he’s never fussed about anything much. I ask Ethan whether he wants to proceed with the interview. He says ‘OK’.

    For the full  interview, visit The Vine. For more Crystal Castles, visit their website. The music video for their song ‘Celestica‘ is embedded below.

    Sidenote: the initial news article about Alice’s broken ankle made it onto Hipster Runoff, which instantly became a career highlight for me. <3 U Carles.