The consumerists have no future

One of a million bands emboldened by the laissez-faire possibilities of the internet and studio time, made possible by cheap home studio equipment, no-hopers ‘the consumerists’ are something of a contradiction.

With a name like “the consumerists” and lyrics such as “never fight, your world is wonderful, as long as you always give in,” from the ironic “Give In,” “middle-finger, closed doors” from “Waste Away”, or “endless lies, bitter truths, you are the product” from “The Product,” the band is trying to reach and inform a generation brought up on X-Factor, Facebook and shopping-mall consumerism.

But at the same time, an initial lack of any off-line distribution or online sales ensures that they probably won’t. Does this bother singer and song writer Pete Brand, and why name the band “the consumerists”?

Forced consumerism
It seemed a fun idea to name the band “the consumerists,” in a society of throwaway consumerism and material and identity destruction, of planned inbuilt obsolescence, that keeps the wheels turning, Pete Brand says.

“A brand is meant to complete the connection between consumer and product, to change it into something more than a mere physical manifestation. To sell meaning to the consumer instead of them finding their own. In a sense we are all more or less forced to be consumers, consumerists, products, and I wanted the band’s name to reflect this.”

In regard to potential sales, he is equally unapologetic and unenterprising.

“If we truly want to challenge both contemporary music and society, we need to a large extent to take money out of both human relations and out of music. And in a material sense, the band is unambitious. We don’t write songs that are meant to sell, and they probably won’t.”

With whatever was at hand
So, what informs the music and lyrics of this self-professed unambitious band, and isn’t their lack of ambition a mask for insecurity?

“I don’t think so, no, but you never know I suppose. I have always a bit of an outsider. I’ve always hated group mentality. The problem is that only through organizing as groups are we strong enough to challenge authority and change anything. But only through being individuals are we strong enough to challenge the authority of any group that seeks to mold us,” says Brand.

“I used to walk around the suburb where I grew up, dressed in copy-cat punk attire, trying to look individual, special, until I sort of figured out that the point was to be yourself, and being punkish and cool was just that. You cannot be cool and original by copying someone else. It’s about being yourself, regardless of what other people think. The way you look, the music you make, your ideas. Originality stems from that.”

And Brand has in fact been making music for years, he says, initially without being able to play an instrument, a fact that might have hindered him making “proper” music, but helped make the music he managed to create special in a sense.

”I started with a 4-track tape recorder, a synthesizer and an electric guitar (the latter “borrowed” from a church), and other bits and pieces. I had to make do with whatever was at hand. As a child, I was always building my own stuff out of old things and Lego. I would always much rather build something crap that I had done myself, than copy or build something from a formula that wasn’t.”

Attitude over aptitude
The band are, Brand says, inspired by punk’s DIY-ethic that to a large degree can be coupled with the possibilities of new, cheap technology.

“Punk said, ‘go out and do it.’ Make your own stuff. Here’s a chord, here’s another, here’s a third. Now form a band. Make your own records, sleeve designs, magazines. Punk encouraged the release of the talents of the talentless, like me. Computers and the internet have taken the hassle out of doing that, although I am not sure the fact that making music is so easy today has made it better or worse,” he says.

Recently, a mate of Brand’s started BigFarm Studios, enabling the pair to record and produce music more professionally, and thereby perhaps try and get some sort of message across. But doesn’t this dilute the sense of DIY-punkishness, according to Brand?

“I don’t think so, and I don’t think the DIY-thing should become a limitation. Many bands and artists produce their best work in the beginning, when they haven’t learnt the trade, so to speak, and they have something to say that is related to their real-life experience. Outside the insular, mirror cabinet of stardom and popular culture. This is perhaps more important,” he says.

Music as a first-hand experience
Bands like the consumerists are, in a sense, forced not to be sell-outs, something that Brand says suits him just fine.

“I am doing it for myself, because when you give people what they want it is business not art. The message is after all more important than the music,” he says.

“My music is pretty unoriginal, and perhaps my lyrics are too, but they are mine. Written to please me, not anyone else. And in a sense, failure is artistically more interesting than success, both as a topic for art and in real life, although failures always say that, I know. My main aim is to be a participant, not a spectator. That music should be a meaningful first-hand experience, and in this sense the band is already a success.”

The music of “the consumerists” can be bought via Spotify, iTunes, Amazon and other similar music outlets. All profits will be used to repay BigFarm Studios for hitherto abundant free studio time, Pete Brand says.


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