Today I have a guest Blogger who I think has some valid incite into the new incarnations of the Naturalismo movement. His name is Brandev and he e-mailed me out of concern for what he sees as an emerging threat to the sincerity of the folk music movement. He has titled his article “Fake Folk”
For every new musical movement there are the pioneering artists who innovate and cultivate a new musical construct and sound. Inevitably, other artists are increasingly influenced by the founding artists contributions as their music is recognized on a wider level and the movement is fleshed out. Enter Naturalismo. The nearly spontaneous proliferation of folk music in 2001 sparked the beginning of what would become a full-fledged musical movement by 2004. Artists such as Devendra Banhart, Akron/Family, and Six Organs of Admittance were drinking the same tea and creating some of the most intriguing folk music heard in decades. A second wave of the “freak folk” movement was later proclaimed by the New York Times in mid 2006. Possibly just the natural evolution of the movement or maybe an overzealous music critic attempting to exploit the genre further by describing a discernable change in its sound. The new direction of freak folk was described as being darker and more experimental. Sincerity was still evident in the movement and artists such as Brightblack Morning Light perfectly embodied the new ideas and sound of the Freak Folk movement. With an onslaught of new albums by the originators (Vetiver, Akron/Family, etc.) the freak folk, or rather Naturalismo movement, was as healthy as ever. And it has been since, until recently when I started to question the intentions of what I am thinking is the oncoming thrid wave of Naturalismo… where artists are merely attempting to capitalize on the folk scenes creation. It’s not so much a movement, as it is a splinter in the bare feet of the artists who have poured their souls into their folk music and made Naturalismo what it is. If anything, I would call it Fake Folk. There’s one band that embodies this trend so well that It’s hard not to mention them and their misguided attempt at folk music. I don’t want this to be a personal attack on them, but it’s hard not to point out how absurd they are. My opinion of Winter Flowers solidified when I came across an interview with them from a few months ago that appeared in Prefix magazine. I am going to take several excerpts from the interview and try to explain why I think they’re being insincere and merely trying to capitalize on the movement.
Do you think there’s a reason this particular folk revival, or whatever we’re calling it, is happening right now? Is there something going on nationally or internationally that’s motivating it?
Certik: As far as world events go, I cannot imagine what would cause such a phenomenon.
It’s one thing to subtly respond to the current state of political affairs in America right now through an introspective and personal reflection of ones own way of dealing with them in their own life, but it’s another to be completely oblivious to the effects it has had on the movement and music. Espers, Greg Weeks describes it as, “Politics, meanwhile, tend to be expressed subtly, through the way people live rather than through explicit song lyrics.” Isn’t that part of the very essence of folk music? Well if Certik’s not reflecting on society at large, than surely he draws upon his inner thoughts to reveal his artistic expressions. I’m sure when he does, he merely wants a place where his artistic endeavors can be fully realized and understood by his supporters. I imagine that’s what any folk artist wants…
Certik, of Winter Flowers: “Certainly Los Angeles is one of those places that seems to many people to be the last place to nurture anything of actual artistic value. It’s definitely paradoxical, though I think so far it has been very accommodating. In San Francisco there was definitely a certain quality of life that allowed the band to get things rolling, but there is something about that town that is a tremendous hindrance to artists or any sort of would-be doers. Lovely as it is, it is kind of a black hole for creative people. One can get a certain amount done, but eventually one runs into a brick wall.
It is a generalization, of course, but somehow people tend to end up stuck there, mired in a community of lovely people in a lovely setting where the sense of possibility actually seems to diminish the longer one works. L.A., interestingly, has a helpful and inspiring quality of being a place where people come to realize a dream. And, of course, the cliche is true that this town is full of “industry” folks and people who genuinely like and care about music, some of whom can offer wonderful prospects to a band like us.
Translation: The authentic folk music scene in San Francisco could see right through our transparent attempt at faking authenticity. We moved away to make money on our routine and kitschy costumes.
“I would hope that no one is actually trying to resurrect the old narcissistic hippie ideology of the ’60s.” Says Certik of Winter Flowers
Look at that picture, look at the quote. Again. Alert, Irony, Alert. I found it difficult to take much of what Winter Flowers had to say seriously, to the point of questioning if they were joking or not. It reads like some folk post-modern take on This is Spinal Tap. The very ignorant hippie cliches they claimed to denounce were not only being embraced by the members of Winter Flowers, but being built upon. I could continue on discussing Winter Flowers posturing and ignorance, but I think that Toler has managed to sum up the Winter Flowers entire existence in a single response.
How literally are we to take the song “The End of the War”? Is there any political statement there?
Toler: It’s not meant to be a political song. It was actually a sort of meditation I would use to help myself fall asleep.
Well, your band is the epitome of irrelevance, conveniently postured to capitalize on the artistic gains of others and to parlay a few eccentric photos shoots into some buzz. That Winter Flowers must go on parading influences like the Fairport Convention while holding that their inclusion into a stylistic movement with the likes of Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom is mere cosmic coincidence is the real farce here. All while having the audacity to proclaim that your painfully obvious sources of influence merely must have had the same ideas as you. As for me, I think I’ll heed Toler’s advice and sleep this phenomena out.
I think Brandev touched on some interesting points. I also noticed some early inner-movement resentment by artists in regards to the other coasts seemingly inauthentic interest in the folk movement a few months ago. More specifically, the Williamsburg, New York over night interest in vinyl and obscure folk was called out by Joanna Newsome in a billboard interview. In the interview she expressed her heartache over seeing new artists exploit the genre as a trend. I look forward to hearing what people think this could mean for the movement. I honestly don’t think it’s a threat to the sincerity of artists who are genuine in composing their work and hope to continue seeing new talented folk artists emerge.