The Indelicates Talk Virtual Reality, Space Travel + the Music Industry
The Indelicates, a U.K.-based indie rock duo known for their devoutly DIY ethos, recently released what they believe might be the world’s first “virtual reality” pop single -- 'The Generation That Nobody Remembered,' out now on Corporate Records.
The past 12 months have seemingly been defined by artists searching for unique ways to release their music -- from Beyonce’s surprise album (released with no prior warning) to Jack White’s ultra-LP (featuring holograms and hidden tracks) to U2’s (ab)use of iTunes, there seems to be a new idea tried every couple of months, and to varying degrees of success. However, unlike these recent projects, the Indelicates' new single is clearly not a novelty intended to simply garner attention.
Diffuser recently had the chance to speak with the Indelicates, both guitarist/singer Simon Indelicate and keyboardist/singer Julia Indelicate, about their new single, space travel and the current state of the music industry.
Can you explain, in basic terms, exactly what your new single is?
Simon: To the layperson with no knowledge at all, there’s a thing called the Oculus Rift, which is basically a phone screen inside a box that you strap to your face. It knows which way you point your head and which way you move your head around. It projects 3D images, one for each eye, so it creates a sort of alternate reality on the screen. What we’ve done is made an environment that reacts to the music. It’s sort of like a pop video, but instead of watching it you can participate with it. You can walk around and the important events are all keyed to the music, so you feel like you’re there.
And as far as you know, this has never been done before?
Simon: There are people who have made similar things. Paul McCartney did a 360-degree video where you can look at the back of his head as he’s playing a gig. But as far as I know no one has done anything where you react with it like it’s a video game, where you walk around yourself and interact with things personally.
Where did the idea come from originally?
Simon: I’ve been sort of obsessed with the idea of virtual reality. It’s been about two years since the Oculus Rift started, and I’ve been thinking, "I want to buy one of those, that’s brilliant." I think I kind of came up with this idea because if we came up with a way of integrating music into the system, then I’d be allowed to buy one. And Julia has been working on a lot of stuff about space. It kind of feels like we’re on the edge of a second Space Age, with things like Oculus Rift, SpaceX, and Virgin Galactic.
Can you talk about the song itself?
Simon: It’s kind of like we’re the generation between two space ages, and when the history books come to be written, people will be like, "History, history, history, Space Age, then just nothing for about 40 years, and then another Space Age." So the whole song is about that sense of Generations X and Y sitting in the middle being ignored by history.
Julia: I’m very into space. I’ve always been really into space. I like the idea of writing an album themed around space. And I think you meet a lot of children around the age of 10 who are really into space again. It kind of skipped a generation. You haven’t seen kids wanting to be astronauts in the last few years, and now you’re starting to see that again. It’s almost like the 1950s and '60s again. It’s great because people like me have not been allowed to talk about our nerdy interests for ages, and now I can do it in my band.
When can we expect more new music from the band?
Julia: This is the lead single off the next album. The next album is not recorded yet though. We’ll record it [in 2015]. It probably will be called 'Elevator Music,' which is kind of a play on the “space elevator” idea -- the idea that you would use a very strong piece of material to get to space instead of rockets. Essentially, you would lift people up to the top and pop them through. I think it’s a good time to take the band in this direction because it's so much in the news. It’s starting to become fashionable. I think this single suggests what the album will be like. I’m not sure it will be quite a concept album, but more things around a common theme. We’ve got most of the music kind of finished, it just needs some polishing.
Have you noticed the music industry changing recently?
Simon: I think what we’ve seen is the wholesale destruction of the music industry -- and I think that’s a good thing. People used to say, "We hate the music industry, we’re going to do our own thing," and it turns out an awful lot of people didn’t mean that. I bought that when I was growing up though. In terms of new ways of releasing music, I think the actual value of music has collapsed to a zero point. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s basic economics. The demand for music is roughly the same as it has always been. But the number of people making music has vastly gone up. If supply explodes and demand stays the same, the price drops. If you’re someone like me or Julia, trying to make money at all, you have to kind of add value that is more than the music. It adds value to the transaction. If you make something worth having, people will buy it.
What’s your take on streaming?
Simon: I think Spotify is interesting. In a way I preferred the Pirate Bay, because with Spotify people feel justified that they’ve paid for the music, so that’s reasonable. When it was just the Pirate Bay, they’d happily rob music, but they might throw money to people who were struggling because they felt bad about it. But now they feel that they've paid Spotify, they've done their bit, they don’t have to feel bad about it. But they probably should still feel bad about it, because you just gave all that money to Bono and Taylor Swift -- well, not Taylor Swift anymore.
In a way, your virtual reality single is a throwback to days when people would focus on music instead of treating it like background noise.
Simon: I like what’s happened in technology, but I think there is something that has been lost. I used to like listening to a whole album or just concentrating on a record. I very rarely do that now. But one thing that is true is that when you put an Oculus Rift on you can't do anything else because you can't see your hands. That to me is an opportunity, you can make people concentrate on the music. It’s like a cool, high-tech version of having to be next to a record player because you don’t have any portable way of listening to music. It is recapturing the past.
Julia: In a sense it's like being taken to the theater by someone else and you don’t want to leave because it would be rude.
Simon: You have to be forced to listen to music. It’s reinventing something that was a necessity before. It’s a shame that we’ve lost it, but it's nice to have a reason to do again.