On April 30, bedroom-pop artist James Edwards, known onstage as Male Tears , made waves at the T.O.F.U. Birthday Bash, a predominantly punk show in Tustin, in his first live performance post-pandemic.
Around 60 people showed up at the B&B Music Studio, a bedroom-sized room tucked away in a strip mall on North Tustin Ave, a turnout that defied audience members’ expectations.
The lineup included local bands Kickz, Narc, Raccoon Union, Light Dazed, T.O.F.U., and Male Tears. The catchy 80’s synth tunes from his set contrasted the guitar-based grunge/punk bands that performed throughout the night. However, his place within the show made sense within the context of his career and style.
All of Edwards’ albums are released on vaporwave labels like Pacific Plaza, Business Casual, and Power Lunch. While many would hesitate to identify Male Tears music as belonging within the genre of vaporwave, Edwards felt as though he fit right into the emerging and highly relevant scene. His 80s inspired pop albums resemble many of the songs heavily sampled by vaporwave artists, and the community has welcomed him wholly.
In the same vein, while Edwards’ music does not fit squarely within the punk genre, his music has the same DIY quality that defines punk. He is constantly placing himself within genre-adjacent bands. On May 15, he opened for Camlann, a dark disco band hailing from Jakarta, Indonesia.
When asked about his position within the vaporwave scene, Edwards said, “I thought, “Yeah, this is the appropriate bandwagon, this is where I should plop myself.” I don’t think vaporwave is a very strict term, I mean vaporwave is an art movement. I think that anyone can just come in and succeed if they really want to.”
The idea for the concert took place when all three members of T.O.F.U. had their birthdays coincide within the same week. In accordance with the theme, the venue was littered with helium balloons and guests were handed cone hats as their tickets.
The event marked the second concert for the surf punk band born from a drunken night out at Denny’s.
“We all just show up and do whatever we want,” said T.O.F.U. member Genesis Gonzalez.
When they went on to perform, the crowd reacted positively to their improvisation and chaotic energy, forming mosh pits within the crowd.
Male Tears was the last act of the night. Originally intending to go on at 10 p.m., extended sets and delayed performances set his performance back until 1 a.m. The crowd had begun to wane, yet those who did stay brought high energy to the performance. In opposition to the mosh pits of earlier bands, Male Tears brought his audience to jump and dance to tracks from his latest self-titled album , released on February 14, 2021. One man went as far as to dance with his dog to the music. At the end of his set, the audience asked for an encore.
“It’s a way different thing than performing in front of the likes of people sitting at home in front of their computer, it can be a thousand times better or a thousands times worse,” Edwards said. “I happened to have lucked out today.”
In his post-show interview, Male Tears revealed that he was working on new music.
“The time is now for the second renaissance, now that we’ve all come out of the caves,” said Edwards, referring to a potential new wave of creativity emerging post-pandemic.
Many audience members remarked that they did not expect such a huge turn out. The enthusiasm for the bands that performed was a hopeful symbol of a return to normalcy as performers have been forced to conduct virtual performances throughout the pandemic.
It showed that there is a thirst amongst music enthusiasts to return to the live stage and feel the energy of the crowd again. The show marked the beginning of several performances Edwards planned for the coming months. He performed live at a small goth show in Los Angeles on May 16. He performs again at the Spring Dreams Music Fest on May 29.
“I’m pretty fulfilled,” said Edwards at the end of the night. “The people that understood came, and that was great. I’m glad that people were there liking it.”
Online COMMUNITIES SHIFTED BY A GLOBAL PANDEMIC: A LOOK AT ART MOVEMENT RESILIENCY & ADAPTABILITY THROUGH THE LENS OF VAPORWAVE
When the curtains closed on ElectroniCON & ElectroniCON 2, there was a promise of something more, something greater. Where was the scene headed? What was next on the docket? We as a community had made such extraordinary strides in so short a period of time, the next months and years were cause for excitement. Anticipation. And then the world ground to a halt. An entire planet in lockdown, with nowhere to go.
Some industries were able to weather the pandemic rather well, such as online retailers like Amazon. Others – like the movie industry – had a lot of problems to contend with, and very few solutions. How do you justify spending so much money to make films when your fledgling streaming platforms don’t stand a chance of recouping the loss? Some, like Warner, bit the bullet and chose to release their films through HBO Max. But this wasn’t a solution, merely an answer. This problem didn’t stop with cinema, though. How would the music industry, through which most artists make their living through touring, cope? While there was no shortage of creative solutions — major bands like Muse or Between the Buried and Me chose to take this time overhauling classic albums, providing brilliant new mixes- one of the fastest responses and most logical solutions came from…vaporwave. Online concerts sprang up rather quickly, and a movement that formed almost entirely on the internet had to return once more to that which gave life to it. So what were the takeaways from these last nightmarish months? What did we learn? What’s next?
PART 1: Return To Sender
In a way, vaporwave being forced from the real world back onto the internet was a homecoming. Starting in small groups on forums or Facebook, the vaporwave community, while very much niche, is tight-knit and passionate. Coming off of the crescendo provided by the aforementioned ElectroniCON’s, these myriad friendships that started digitally before pivoting to the real world were unceremoniously shoved back into a virtual space.
It would have been perfectly understandable for many labels or artists, or even fans to just throw their hands up in defeat, and hope that the community could weather the pandemic, coming out unscathed. But many in the scene had the incredible idea of just taking what we could from the in-person events and adapting them to the internet. What if we could still gather and come together as a community across the globe to see our favorite artists perform? What would that look like? Well, we didn’t have to wait long to find out.
Barely a month after the lockdown orders began for many in North America (around February 2020) we saw Syncup.World in collaboration with SPF420. Featuring Cash Wednesday (a Skylar Spence project), March 28th would mark the real opening of floodgates for the months ahead. Just two days later, Pacific Plaza Records would seamlessly pivot the Virtual Memory series to an online presentation with the sixth entry, alongside All Hell Breaks Loops. The good news is the series recently celebrated its twenty-fifth entry on May 30th! So this shift to online has been a success, to put it mildly. Here’s to twenty-five more!
While it took a little bit of time for the community to really get used to the idea of “attending live shows” on Twitch or YouTube, the relatively short period of downtime for vaporwave meant that things picked right back up again. As May 2020 rolled around, the community was present with an absolute deluge of events to choose from. First up was the 7th Anniversary Show for Business Casual on May 1st. Featuring sets from nanoshrine and Diskette Park among others, such a monumental event was quite the way to kick off the summer festivities. Shows in the month of May weren’t anywhere near finished either, as the end of the month brought the weekend spanning Pure Life Festival as well as Vaporspace Online, which raised $5,000 for charity.
And these events carried on for months and months, all the way up to now. Since the lockdown, it’s been nigh impossible to go more than a month without an incredible event. To just cherry pick a few, we had We Love DMT <3, a show of support for Vito, one of the most dedicated and important members of the community (featuring the likes of 猫 シ Corp., Dan Mason, and Bodyline) in July of 2020. Or how about Vapor95 Live 5.0 in February of 2021, which featured names like Lola Disco and desert sand feels warm at night. While many of the shows were smaller in scope, with only a handful of artists, some events swung for the fences with massive lineups that spanned multiple days. Like Late Night Lights, the lofi event (which Utopia District hosted and was heavily involved with alongside Gorgeous Lights) featuring luxury elite, telepath, and Hantasi to name just a few.
Why was this transition so seemingly easy for vaporwave? There are a number of reasons. Saying the scene started online is only a surface level analysis. There was also the opportunity to learn and grow. And grow we did; as the number of online shows expanded, so too did the quality. Many artists were provided the opportunity to take their real-world applications in the music scene, and convert them into an online space. Skeleton Lipstick for example had previously thrown the Terminally Chill vaporwave dance parties in Philadelphia. This prior experience with live events carries with it a certain know-how for magnetizing a community towards an event. That remains a useful skill when things pivot to an online community, as people still need to know where to go, right?
One big thing that certainly helps is the “hobbyist” nature of the community. Many of the musicians or visual artists (though of course not all) don’t involve themselves in vaporwave as a career, it’s more often a secondary (or tertiary) form of income, and generally more of a hobby. This was beneficial because not only did it mean many members of the scene were able to approach many different facets of putting on a show themselves, but there was also less red tape to contend with. With fewer hands in the cookie jar, the process of getting a show off and running could sometimes be as simple as asking.
But another major strength of our community is passion. Most folks involved in vaporwave do so from a place of love. There’s an indescribably passionate fan base built into this community, one built (shocking though it may be for an online group) on positive reinforcement and love. By the nature of vaporwave coming from a place of love, many of the shows were free. Which bears mention, as both showrunners and artists foregoing a fee for the sake of the community is…extraordinary. These events being passion projects meant the musicians and visual artists, and behind-the-scenes folks generally did everything for free, because if they didn’t, who would?
This passion covered every facet of the concert experience. These online shows were filling in for the opportunity to actually be at a show, so that created many conundrums that might not be immediately thought of. For instance, how do you make a stand in for a live venue? If you’re not really going somewhere, that doesn’t mean you can’t go anywhere. This is where some fantastic solutions show up. The long-gestating game Second Life plays a key role in helping those who want to have as close to a real concert experience as they can. You can take your in-game avatars to a club or two and enjoy the show in this venue, dancing to your heart’s content, talking to people, and everything in between. Sure, it’s a facsimile, but it’s a very creative one, and it offers some heightened sense of camaraderie. Why not head to Betamax, the brilliant vaporwave venue helmed by SNWCRSH (a friend of the site!). Or Ramb.ly! (Created by FoxBarrington)
Part 3: What’s In It For Me?
This passion and desire to put on these shows is all well and good, but what’s the point of it been? What did it do? The answer’s not all that dissimilar actually. Passion yet again rears its head, coming to the forefront. This tight knit community had come to appreciate and desire more of these events, but with the lockdown we had to find new ways to come together.
So at its most basic, continuing to put these events on allowed the community to continue expanding. More artists hopped on and performed, including some artists that might otherwise not have had the opportunity to do so: DATAGIRL, Skule Toyama, Donor Lens, TUPPERWAVE, bl00dwave, Seabaud, or Ducat to name but a few. With this global genre it can be hard to travel the globe for a show. Plus the presence of these vaporwave shows in the live streaming community get more eyes on them than otherwise might be the case. Those who might normally have skipped past or had no interest in seeing a vaporwave show in person, might tune into a broadcast and find that they were previously unaware of how much they loved the scene. That’s all it takes. One fortuitously timed moment, and you have another passionate newcomer feeling their way through this sprawling, ever-evolving scene. Besides, we’ve established this community is a driven one, and it’s even easier to simply click on a link to enjoy a show than fly or drive somewhere.
Plus the DIY nature of much of vaporwave means the barrier of entry tends to be lower. It’s more tied to your work drive and how motivated or interested you are in making something happen. And the online shows amidst that lockdown lowered those restrictions even more, as you no longer had to worry about going to a location, carrying gear, and every worry and hassle that go with traditional touring.
These online shows further still helped bring attention to areas that might often be overlooked or merely underappreciated. Thanks to the likes of PocariSweat, Skeleton Lipstick, Pacific Plaza Records, and more, themed afterparties joined the fray, allowing these glorious get togethers to linger even longer in everyone’s hearts and minds.
The opportunity to revisit shows is another underappreciated benefit. When you go to a live concert, you feel the electric atmosphere, drink in the sights and sounds, and when the show is over, those emotions, while they may linger, will eventually dissipate into nothing. Archives of live shows that include the chat transcripts, allow the moment in time these shows represent to be captured forever, with the same level of electricity and excitement as the moment they were happening. The same reactions, the same fidelity, the same electricity. Sure, you can sift through YouTube and find single songs here and there — captured poorly on someone’s phone, as normally the only recordings of high quality are professional ones, which of course cost money. This is yet another facet of vaporwave that is provided for free. The lack of obstacles between consuming and enjoying vaporwave are arguably the smallest they’ve ever been right now, ironically amidst a massively restrictive pandemic.
This ability to revisit shows also draws attention to one of the great unsung heroes of the live show: the visual artists. Visual artists provide exquisitely executed marriages twixt picture and sound, but for live shows, it’s more often than not a one-off. If the music it was crafted to pair with isn’t there, it may be an interesting collection of images, but you wouldn’t just sit down and watch them in silence. The archived shows remove that problem from the equation, allowing both repeat viewings of visual sets, as well an increased appreciation for them. It takes what might normally be a thankless job (or at least less appreciated than is deserved) and draws much-deserved attention back to it. So let’s draw a quick little bit of attention to some of the visual artists whose work caught our eyes during these festivals: VideodromeTV, Sleep Pattern, BootyWizard, Billy Galaxy, Pixel8ter, ///\/, and oh so many more!
Now, not only are these experiences free, they’re available in the same high quality as the live debut of the show. You can relive them in a way that you can’t with other shows. A live concert — unless the band specifically arranges for it — won’t be recorded to the same quality as a pro one. Just random phone camera clips scattered across YouTube. The massive wave of online shows allows concert viewing with regularity and quality rarely, if ever, seen — especially for free.
And then of course, at a very basic level, these events are great examples of “portfolio pieces.” The performers, the visual artists, the showrunners, all areas required to make one of these shows happen are pretty impressive things to be able to say you’ve pulled off. Is it so hard to believe that creating a live event could lead to greater opportunities both within and without?
The obvious question to ask next would be “what’s the next step?” Where do we go now, amidst a world at long last returning to normalcy?
The answer here and now is Worldwide.wav, happening right now, June 11th and 12th, a culmination of all the lessons we learned from the past year-plus of putting on and attending live shows. A truly global concert event, covering every timezone on the planet and running for an extraordinary 36 hours. We here at Utopia District are hosting a block in collaboration with My Pet Flamingo, representing one of six legs of this trans-global vaporwave celebration.
But what about beyond that? What’s the next next step? Well, given how the world is progressing, it seems only natural we return to live shows, no? The real question will be whether we pick up right where we left off, or if things will be more cautious at first. Or is the solution something else entirely? We as a community have made such tremendous strides these past months, it seems only fair we keep moving forward. What dimensions has vaporwave yet to breach? Are these upcoming destinations even in sight? When will we even know? Vaporwave is nothing if not open to experimentation, so it’s likely safe to assume that, no matter what comes next, its loving community will be along for the ride.
First Class Collective’s DMCA Strike, A Shrinking Habitat, and a new revolution
First Class Collective, a notable vaporwave record label, had their cassette release of Marina II by TUPPERWAVE shot down by a DMCA strike. This is, of course, due to uncleared samples— a looming threat that budding vaporwave producers dread and veterans have learned to ignore. While the issue of copyright has been a long-standing obstacle on the road to free artistic expression in vapor and its auxiliary communities, this content strike is by far the most staggering of its kind to take place in recent years.
Vaporwave has been a jaded genre since its conception, glazed with layers of irony and high-concept societal motives hiding behind the hazily delivered vocal samples and reverb-flooded drum sets we’ve come to know. Prominent among these motives is that of anti-consumerism: a hallmark of the genre inherited partially from one of its ancestors, plunderphonics. The use of samples in vaporwave has long been an indispensable part of the style and culture of the music, a unifier that binds together the countless microgenres that fall under the umbrella term. With the scene and climate surrounding the music shifting, though, this could change in coming years.
Reference any vapor classic you wish: your favorite vaportrap album, your pick for all-time best classic vapor track, the future-funk mix that you can’t get out of your head, or the one that you wish you’d never heard. Now ask yourself: Would it fly under the eye of copyright holders? The answer is probably a simple one: “No.” Sampling is a dangerous practice in this regard. Using even a small fragment of someone else’s work can open the door to total discrediting of the sampling creator. This problem isn’t limited to just the vaporwave community either: YouTube and much of the online art community are constantly embroiled in these issues of originality, copyright, and censorship. But how justifiable is it to strike down someone else’s work for the sake of your own?
The idea of “first come, first served” in regards to intellectual properties is borne of the competitive, free-for-all dynamics of capitalism. If I write something, the system mandates a subsequent and consequential need to monetize and protect my creation. This “protection” takes the form of copyright laws, where your ideas can be labeled as exclusively your own. You (or those who you sign with) are then given the right to enforce this fact. These explanations, of course, beg the question: “How does this relate to the current state of vaporwave?”
The point to be made here is that the current copyright system and the ways the protection of “intellectual property” is handled are entirely counterintuitive to the creative process, and, as Kagoshima Tangerine put it in their “🎍” (Bamboo) review, “really should be thrown out altogether.” Even the wording of the term “intellectual property” sounds sour. The bottom line is that artists don’t make art as a way of staking claim on some untapped fortune or hogging and gatekeeping other artists from creating their own work like gold-begging bridge trolls. The reasons artists create art are infinite, but creating just to spite and hold back other artists isn’t one of them.
The discussion of whether art can or should be used to “kill” other art is also an important one. As just stated, it is not a matter of instinct (in this context) when artists tear down other creations that they feel threaten the safety of their own; this behavior is instead prompted by the copyright system’s obsession with monetizing and controlling art. This format bears uncanny resemblances to things that it clearly shouldn’t like the US patenting system. Is this really how we want to go about marking our artistic territory? This raises a slew of other circling questions, all examining the rationality and ethics of art as a weapon to destroy other art. If an artist shoots down another work for violating the boundaries they have set for their own (like with the FCC release of Marina II) does that mean the “shooter’s” art is of more creative value? Do works created earlier simply hold more significance? If a work takes inspiration or uses other works as ingredients and is considered low-priority, does this mean that only deliberate originality directly equates to artistic value? At a basic level, art can coexist. It’s only when we introduce our extraneous systems that inject legality, ownership, and various other detritus into art that these ethical problems arise.
Of course, these queries and quandaries would take forever, quite literally, if we were to attempt to answer them. So I will leave you, dear reader, with this: If the goal of art is to freely express, then is it the duty of the artist to preserve this free expression within the community? Is the fight to preserve the free expression of the individual and not the community to which he belongs hypocritical or selfish? Or is it just a necessary evil? Like all art, these questions, too, are subjective.
From the first time this album flooded our speakers, we just knew we couldn’t review it conventionally. It simply isn’t possible to do this release justice with a standard review. Projects that inhabit this conceptual space are strange cases, exceptions to many rules. These experiences are deeply personal and anchor themselves within the pathoses of the listeners. They’re very much able to be talked about and rated just as any other piece of music, but that format simply isn’t able to convey the complexity of the affair. Such is the case with 🎍(Bamboo) by ⦓🍊⦔ タンジェリン (Kagoshima Tangerine). The oppressive emptiness of the project may strike a very eerie chord upon listening, but what motivates the creation of these crushing soundscapes? What roams through the mind of the sculptor who constructed these monuments to nothingness?
We at Utopia District found ourselves entangled in many such questions about the album, so we invited ⦓🍊⦔ タンジェリン to give us insight into their latest, and most intense musical endeavor.
Utopia District: We’re here in the District interviewing ⦓🍊⦔ タンジェリン on their latest release, 🎍! To start, I want to pick your brain on vaporwave and ambient music as genres. How does it feel to be an artist within the community?
Kagoshima Tangerine: It’s a very welcoming and accepting community, especially on Twitter. The broader ambient community can be very closed off and set in their ways, and that’s not the energy I get from the vaporwave people at all.
UD: I’m pleased to hear that. The ambient community isn’t one you hear from often, but the music is quite ubiquitous. Care to elaborate on your experiences with ambient music?
KT: It’s a genre I’ve circled around and bounced off of for many years. I have a great love for incidental music and muzak. As a listener, I found it hard to navigate the guides and recommendations [in the ambient community] as they seemed so very strict in what was and wasn’t ambient. Through this project and the acts I’ve been able to work and interact with, it’s been fun to revisit the genre with a fresh set of eyes, and rediscover it alongside them.
KT: Yes, that entire event shook the community somewhat, so it was hard to miss. The entire sound and process behind this project is thoroughly rooted in sampling, so I’m certainly not impartial… That being said, the way we currently handle copyright on a legal level isn’t conducive to musical progress, and really should be thrown out altogether. Aside from that, I leave it to every artist to look inside themselves and define what they consider transformative and worthwhile sample processing.
UD: It’s a shame that such creativity must be stifled by the legality of the art. Your most recent project is very different from anything coming out of the vapor scene right now. What did the creative process for this project look like, and what motivated the album’s intense, harrowing sound?
KT: On a technical level, the project came forth from the concept of applying slushwave-style processing techniques and an ambient vapor approach to a style of music (more classical and understated pieces) that the genre usually shies away from. An attempt to speak to a level of nostalgia that’s more primal. I also tried to tap into some of the more odd side of jazz that I love, such as The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation and Bohren & Der Club of Gore. After that, the project kind of took its own route and iterated on that concept through two entire cycles, and one very lengthy concept album. Of course, the current state of the world is intricately linked with the project too, both the sudden burst of free time and thorough sense of dread and isolation that we all share right now just resonated hard, and seeped into everything I was working on.
UD: You mention the world’s current condition being an important factor in the album’s creation. How have your life experiences shaped your musical style as a whole, and what role do things like the current viral pandemic play in the sound and overall message album?
KT: I think that even if we try not to make it obvious, the music we make reflects a bit of how we are feeling inside. I don’t think I could’ve found this particular style of music in any other circumstance, nor could it have found me. It’s something that worked incredibly well for me personally, both the process of creation and listening to it, to cope with everything that was going on in the world. In terms of a message, I think that is something deeply personal to both the listener and myself, but I hope there’s at least some comfort in the journey that we take together.
UD: 🎍 is a dark-ambient project, and some listeners have said that the project is reminiscent of The Caretaker’s music. What are your thoughts on this artist, and has their work impacted your own at all?
KT: From the moment I started sharing output from this project, people started comparing it heavily to The Caretaker! This isn’t that weird, considering that both in source material and techniques, there’s certainly overlap. It’s an act I was aware of due to glowing reviews, and just a lot of buzz around the artist. I’ve actually since, consciously tried to avoid listening to their music, as to not allow it to affect my own sound too much.
UD: I can respect that, trying to preserve originality among others who are similar. What does your creative process look like on any given day? What motivates you to create your art, and what advice do you have for anybody looking to break out into the scene?
KT: Generally, I do a lot of sample digging sessions, searching out new source material and chopping/tying it all together. Once I feel like I’ve got some pieces together that form a coherent sound, I’ll go through some of the combinations of effects and channels I’ve experimented with previously. I usually try to find one that best works with the samples, showcasing their unique tones and touches, and then I dig deeper from there. Generally, I have the music on for several days in the background, slowly tweaking, adding, and automating as I go, until it “clicks”. There’s a very zen-like meditative state there for anyone who chooses to look for it. Both as a creator, and as a listener, I find that [state] to be very rewarding in a way that tells us a lot about ourselves. The main advice I give is to focus on what works for you, and then take it from there. No amount of promo or copywriting will ever match sheer genuine emotions. As long as you’re being true to yourself, then every minute spent is a step in the right direction.
UD: Anything else you’d like readers to know?
KT: That I genuinely appreciate every minute they’ve spent with me thus far, and that I’m incredibly grateful for all the wonderful labels that i’ve been able to work with.
There you have it, folks. An exclusive look at 🎍 through the eyes of the creator themselves.
Is The Greatest Vaporwave Project of All Time Secretly a Rock Band?
Rebirth in Reprise
There are certain defining traits we can look to when trying to qualify the sound of vaporwave. Samples, appropriation of recognizable brands, great loops, pastel-based color palettes, hard to come by physical releases, and a Bandcamp presence are just a few of vaporwave’s core components. What if we told you there was a rock band that had all of these?
The Dear Hunter – not to be confused with Deerhunter— are a rock band originally from Providence, Rhode Island – now based out of Port Angeles, Washington — renowned for their ambitious album concepts, as well as the ability to seemingly mix genres at will to great success. Founded by former The Receiving End of Sirens vocalist/guitarist, Casey Crescenzo, the group has churned out an incredible array of inspired music, creating some of the best tunes, well, ever. The most well-known of their projects is The Acts, a five-album story spanning the life of a young man as he repeatedly makes poor decisions. There is also The Color Spectrum, an “album” consisting of 9 separate EP’s each covering a color on the visible spectrum, as well as black and white, with the intent of pairing a specific sound to a specific color.
That’s all well and good, they’re a very talented band. So what? What’s all this got to do with vaporwave? Well, it just so happens that the band adheres to many of the same principles as those artists that create vaporwave. Let’s dive in.
One of most commonly cited tenets of vaporwave is that of sampling. While it may play less of a role these days than it did in the movement’s infancy, it’s still very much a part of the scene. And this happens to be a practice The Dear Hunter adheres to. Honestly, we could come up with hundreds of examples, but we’ll just cherry-pick a couple. Let’s start with a track off of the closing album in their Acts story, Act V: Hymns With The Devil In Confessional. The closing track of the album, “A Beginning” is both a narrative and musical crescendo. A somber, retrospective on every track that led to this point in the story, the song concludes with a beautiful piano melody that runs from the 5:26 mark to the track’s conclusion. But what if we told you this piano piece was STOLEN. That’s right, you can find the very same piano piece on a completely different song by a completely diff…well, by a band. The melody can be heard in the song “Vital Vessels Vindicate” by a rock band called The Dear Hunter.
Starting at 5:43, you will hear the same piano track. Coincidence? Unlikely. And that’s to say nothing of some melodies that show up on Act V that are slightly changed from where they might be in their original form. A song titled “The March” on Act V has an eerily familiar vocal piece to it. Starting at 2:32 you hear the lyrics:
Was that there’s far too many ways to die
Far too many ways to die
Now those lyrics on their own could describe any number of songs, but if you compare it next to the sample of the source material, it sounds like it might be completely lifted from a track that existed prior to Act V. It’s eerily similar to a segment of the song “The Old Haunt,” (starting at the 1:01 mark) which as it turns out it sampled from the same band that made “Vital Vessel Vindicate.” That’s right, that track also comes from The Dear Hunter. Clearly, this band has a particular group they like to lift samples from.
Loops are another mainstay of the vaporwave movement. Look no further than some of the earliest pieces, like “Nobody Here” to get a feel for it. And that’s a feature of vapor music that, much like sampling, may not be as essential as it once was, but it’s still very much a part of things. For a perfect example of this let’s look at the track “A Night on the Town” off of The Dear Hunter’s Act IV: Rebirth in Reprise. The track opens with a blaring, in-your-face guitar riff. But here’s the thing, once the riff concludes, they play it again. I mean, do we even need to say anymore?
This one’s a little trickier and took some exhaustive investigative journalism on our part. There are certain brands intimately associated both with vaporwave music, as well as its general aesthetic. Brands such as Arizona Iced Tea, or the example we’ll be talking about now: Fiji Water. The iconic square packaging is the defining trait of the brand, but you know what the next most important thing about it is? Water. And there are multiple references to water strewn throughout the band’s discography. Let’s look at the album art for the Blue EP off of their Color Spectrum project.
Sure looks an awful lot like water to us. Just like what you can find inside of a coveted bottle of Fiji. What’s more, for anyone familiar with the geography of Fiji, it’s an island. And the above picture appears to be of a coastal region. A coastal region that might itself be an island.
But not so fast, we’re not done with that artwork. If you notice there are also quite a few shades of blue present in that artwork, some of them even look pastel. And as we know, pastel blues and pinks play a huge role in the vaporwave aesthetic. And wouldn’t you know it, they’ve also used pastel pinks before. Recently, a vinyl box set of all of The Acts was released, which included newly redesigned artwork for the first three albums. And on the album art for Act I: The Lake South, The River North, if you look hard enough you can find some pastel pink. We’ve taken the liberty of blowing up the image for you and circling the suspect area, don’t thank us.
Now, of course, not every vaporwave artist is required, nor are they necessarily expected to have a Bandcamp page. But having one doesn’t hurt. And wouldn’t you know it, The Dear Hunter has a Bandcamp page. Sure seems suspicious to us if they’re not a vaporwave group.
We think it’s safe to say we’ve provided ample reasons why you could make the argument that the greatest vaporwave act of all time is actually, secretly, The Dear Hunter. If you can’t arrive at the same conclusion that we have after this much irrefutable evidence, it’s out of our hands, but we hope you arrive at the same conclusion that we have.
Happy April 1st to all of our dear readers here at Utopia District! What’d you think? Did you fall for this for even a second? No?
Well, if you’re interested in digging a little deeper into what The Dear Hunter is really about, we’ll include some helpful links below. They’re a pretty incredible band -this writer’s favorite music group of all time in fact- and they deserve as much attention as they can get!
Ruminating on the exceptionally talented and impactful duo. So long, soldiers.
On February 22nd, a video titled “Epilogue” was shared to Daft Punk’s Youtube channel, an 8-minute clip taken from their 2006 film, Electroma. Daft Punk’s publicist would subsequently confirm the split-up shortly after, though no reason was provided. And just like that, after 28 years, Daft Punk was no more.
This tandem of legendary producers hardly need an introduction. One of the most important and influential musical acts of all time, the French duo comprising Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, and Thomas Bangalter changed music forever. And nowhere is that influence felt more than vaporwave, this wonderful corner of the musical world that likely wouldn’t exist at all were it not for these pioneers. And with that being said, we at Utopia District -with the help of a few friends- wanted to give something back. Join us as we share some parting thoughts on these two magnificent mechanical gods.
First things first. Daft Punk are (and probably always will be) my favorite artists of all time. I’ve been such a vocal fan for so long that, when they announced their break up, people acted like I lost a family member. “Hey, I heard the news. I’m sorry, man.” And while I’m not in some deep sorrow, I still took a minute to really take it in. I was always kind of holding out for 1 more album… 1 more single… 1 more live set. We’ve lived through a pandemic and insane political headlines but for some reason I did not expect to see this headline.
Through Kazaa and other peer-to-peer file-sharing sites, I was exposed to Daft Punk’s freshest sounds including “One More Time,” “Around The World,” and “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.” Having an older brother who was a lot more net-savvy than I was helped a lot on that front. My 3 brothers and I became obsessed with the duo and, in 2005, we received the entire Daft Punk discography for Christmas. It is probably one of my first real exposures to sampled music or, at least, music based around sample chops and electronic beats.
Daft Punk’s trick of making every album sound different and, yet, so very them has always blown me away. You can be bangin’, you can be fresh, you can be dirty, and you can be disco. I am still studying tracks from Homework and realising how simple yet addicting they are. Their loops are an artform. Don’t even get me started on Alive 2007, an album that even today still gives me goosebumps. It glues all the different eras of Daft Punk together into a literally perfect blend. I hold it up on its own as one of the best albums ever made.
Ahh, I can literally go on forever! Uhhh, Discovery is my favorite album; “Touch” is my favorite track. Random Access Memories is also one of the best albums ever made. Hit me up in the DMs for more Daft fanboy shit.
This one hurts, gang. I remember reading the news at work. It wasn’t a particularly bad day, but it immediately turned fairly blue. It is amazing to see how our community has come together to reflect on the Robots’ legacy. On an individual level, so many memories flash before me. I recall how creepy the “Around the World” music video seemed to me as a child. I recall scrolling by “Digital Love” on my first crush’s iPod, hoping one day I could mean that to her. Driving nowhere, I would jam to Random Access Memories when it first came out.
I miss going to concerts; I miss my sister, with whom I grew up. Daft Punk is unquestionably part of the soundtrack to our childhood. We’ll never see them live…
But it’s alright, gang. The music remains. (But, you know, just in case, keep those records in a different crate lest they self-destruct too.) The memories remain. Hold on.
If I can name one band who really defined my journey from childhood to adulthood, it would be Daft Punk. I remember back in high school, I was a lost person trying to see where my road was going to take me when graduation hit. I didn’t know where I belonged exactly. I spent the last two years trying to blend in with others and their music. I felt empty and hollow, it didn’t feel right for me…
The year was 2013. I was playing Grand Theft Auto 5, just cruising around and listening to the electronic station to hear something different. This mysterious song came on. It was disco in tone, but it felt very modern and different. I was enthralled by the words of “Music Sounds Better With You.” I needed more of this.
I was able to track down the lyrics to the band of Stardust and I was wondering where I could find more of this band. As it turns out, they only made one song, and I was disappointed. But the YouTube comments were talking about another band that the artists were involved in. It was called Daft Punk. I was very intrigued and searched for them on YouTube. The first thing that popped up was “One More Time.” The animation and music were just displaying pure joy and happiness, and it felt like me, finally. This version of electronic music was the thing I’d been searching for during my childhood.
The style and journey of this electronic duo really showed that you can explore and create new things without barriers. They were able to achieve crazy projects like making an anime movie, making LEDs go beyond anything anyone ever thought in 2007, and creating a live movie about their characters.
So, when I saw the final announcement, I was anxious and nervous. Could it mean a new song, an album or something coming along? As I saw the date and the duo walking along the desert, something was wrong. As the video progressed to seeing Guy activate the destruction sequence for Thomas, I knew this was the end. Guy walking away in that sunset and hearing a different version of “Touch” gave that cinematic ending to their journey and I didn’t notice a tear rolling down my face. It’s like seeing your best friend going off to another place and you don’t know where they are going to end up or if you will ever see them again…
I’m trying to think of the good times that their songs and creations have brought me in the last decade, how their work morphed me into a person who thinks music can always be an extension of the soul and how it can mean so much for others.
Thank you, Guy-Manuel and Thomas, for breaking barriers and making us all voyagers and bringing “life back to music” for me.
Daft Punk was one of the first bands I ever listened to seriously; Discovery was the first CD I ever owned. I can’t say their style of music impacted my own production very much (that being said, I’ve tried to remix them for years with no luck), but I’ve always been a fan! Random Access Memories is an album everyone in my family can enjoy; Homework is an album I’ve kept mostly to myself; I had Discovery downloaded on the Nintendo 3DS sound player that I carried with me daily to and from school; and a few singles from Human After All carried me through my high school years. I’m sure I subconsciously took inspiration from them when adopting my new mascot: a robot with a monitor for a head. I’ve never posted selfies on my public account, because I’m in love with the idea of going your whole career anonymously. Daft Punk has been a huge part of my music listening and taste for years. Given all the love I’ve seen for them on my Twitter feed, who doesn’t like Daft Punk? I’m a little sad this means we’re not getting any more music from them, but I’m very happy for what we’ve gotten!
When you’re a kid, you don’t really have much of a reason to say why you like something other than the satisfaction you get from it. But when you’re an adult you begin to reflect on how and why that satisfaction has made an impact on you. For me, hearing “One More Time” on the radio at the age of eight-going-on-nine always lifted my spirits and put a huge beaming smile on my face. But it wasn’t until I started high school that I would listen to Discovery’s full duration. That was when I reached what then felt like the zenith of musical euphoria. Though I was a wannabe edgy teen who mostly listened to metal and rock, Daft Punk always had a special place reserved in my heart.
After indulging in the infectiously funky finesse of Daft Punk for exactly two decades, as a guy in his late 20s who is now making music inspired by them, it’s extremely saddening to know that the duo who rightfully sit on the throne of House Music are no longer and that I, like millions of others, will never get to see them live. But my sadness ultimately doesn’t take away from the fact that Daft Punk have played a substantial role in music since their inception or that they’ve made some of the most monumental tracks in history; their music is electronic perfection and their material continues to age better than a bottle of Château Neuf-du-Pape. Thank you, Daft Punk, for your service in bringing da funk to the world.
My mid-2000s was adorned with the beats of Daft Punk. “Robot Rock,” “Technologic,” and “The Prime Time of Your Life” are a few of the songs that stick with me to this day. When I heard the news, I was transported back to my teen years, rocking out to Daft Punk while playing Diablo II on my beefy CRT monitor. Their Human After All album was my introduction to the group. The music video for “The Prime Time of Your Life” haunts me to this day. Feeling like a meat bag in a skeletal world tickled my edgy teen self. I still cringe at the sight of razor blades. Then comes an almost forgotten memory of the time my friend and I duct-taped a megaphone to his truck and drove around blasting “Robot Rock” in the middle of the night in all its crackling mono glory.
I only liked Daft Punk: I wouldn’t have praised them much openly; I wasn’t on the bandwagon when Tron: Legacy came out or their latest foray into the pop music charts. I had all but stopped listening to them, until the news spread that they were disbanding. A sad nostalgia filled me. I called my wife over and asked her if she ever saw the music video for “The Prime Time of Your Life.” She had not. It probably didn’t have the same effect on her, but I sat there and felt the same as I did back then, sitting in my parents’ house, contemplating a skeletal world. I never understood their music’s effect on me until recently. Of the infinite potential timelines that might exist, I was lucky enough to live in the one that gave us Daft Punk. Thanks for the memories.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but my first exposure to Daft Punk was a 2002 Flash animation called “Work It”. I’m going to have to tell my kids, “You see, a River City Ransom character dancing to Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger was my introduction to anything resembling funk.” None of them will know what on earth I’m talking about, and that’s OK. I probably won’t have kids anyway. Can you imagine the pain of giving birth to a glass-tiled baby?
From there, my elementary school playlist was populated with MP3s of Alive 2007, and Daft Punk plunged me further into the world of dance music. I didn’t think much of it because the complete Weird Al discography on that playlist hogged more of my attention. Not that I’m complaining!
Fast forward to 2013, and Daft Punk releases Random Access Memories. I was a light fan of the duo until I pressed play on “Give Life Back to Music” and changed my life. Mind you, I’m a bigger fan of 2001’s Discovery. But Random Access Memories was the closest Daft Punk ever came to capturing that pure disco sound, and it turned me into a Discoholic. I explored their discography, to see how they repainted the dance music landscape. They pioneered artistry not just sonically but theatrically: the robot personas, the worldbuilding, the live performances. You can’t name anyone who shook the world of dance music quite like these robots did; people still call me Daft Punk’s weird cousin with a disco ball for a head. I can always lean on them for someone to compare myself to during introductions. “Oh, yeah. Daft Punk’s cool. I’ll check out your beats on SoundCloud.” So long, Daft Punk. Maybe drop those unreleased songs you’ve worked on over the last decade. Please?
I remember Daft Punk from hearing “Around the World” for the first time on the radio as a kid and, later, as a teen getting crazy excited over my fav house track “One More Time” (which I loved for the track and the videoclip) being played on TV. They were my introduction to the french house sound and are a huge inspiration to the music I make myself today.
What can I say about Daft Punk that hasn’t already been said? Their legacy is having forever changed electronic music for the better. They showed people that you didn’t need to chase certain trends to be popular, that striving for excellence and artistic integrity was a motto worth living by, and that electronic music can tell a story and have a timeless grandeur.
I wouldn’t be here had it not been for Daft Punk’s music. They were the first band that resonated with me past just a love for their discography. No, it was much more than that. I loved what their project stood for. It motivated me so much that I decided to embark on my own journey as a musician, to find out what I could contribute to electronic music in my own way, to be a direct part of the artistic process. People who knew I was obsessed with French House in high school used to make fun of me and, somehow, I couldn’t care less about them; it was all just noise to me.
It’s actually really difficult for me to describe in words how important they were to my youth. Without their influence, I would never have started learning to produce. I would never have started FIBRE, nor would I ever have been a part of Future Society or all the other labels I’ve worked with. I would never have started Montaime.
Starting off, I wanted to be as cool as them. Nowadays, FIBRE and Montaime have taken on a new, more personal meaning to me, something that is uniquely a part of who I am and doesn’t compromise on artistic integrity. That motto that they started is something I will always carry with me for the rest of my life.
I remember watching Daft Punk debut 4 of their music videos from Discovery on Toonami’s Midnight Run on August 31, 2001. Soon after, I asked my mom to take me to Walmart to buy Discovery on CD, because I needed the full album and I only had a few songs I was able to download on Napster. From that moment on, I was hooked and Daft Punk kept my interest all throughout different periods of my life. When I was “only” into punk and metal in high school, Alive 2007 brought me right back. RAM reminded me what it was to break expectations. Daft Punk never did wrong by me and have opened up many other doors. And, in a sense, they’re responsible for so many other discoveries. All good things come to an end and I’m glad I got to experience and grow up with Daft Punk’s music. Thanks for the memories.
I was actually pretty late to the party when it came to Daft Punk. I grew up mostly listening to ‘70s rock, in large part thanks to my dad, and didn’t find that modern music left much of an impression. But I also loved movies and watched tons of them. And a movie I just happened to love was Tron. And as we all know, Tron received a sequel, an undeservedly maligned one at that. I loved Tron: Legacy almost immediately and a big part of that was the music. However, I wasn’t terribly familiar with Daft Punk yet. I’d heard “Around the World” and, uh, that’s about it. After I saw Tron: Legacy in theaters, I immediately went and bought the soundtrack on CD — still in my possession today — and proceeded to work my way through the entire discography of these geniuses in reverse order. I did not listen to much electronic/house/etc. in my youth, so Daft Punk were my first real introduction to that sound (with the exception of Eiffel 65, a story for another time). And that exposure is something that, until vaporwave, had never really expanded past Daft Punk. I realized there was a specific sound and philosophy I wanted out of the electronic music that clicked with me, and Daft Punk were for a long time the sole artists capable of delivering it for me. For better or worse, the only album of theirs I was excitedly anticipating along with the rest of the world was Random Access Memories which is, of course, a masterpiece almost unmatched in its diversity and scope. What an album to serve as a closing chapter, right?
Although Daft Punk are widely believed to make only French house music, their influence on the future funk community has been undeniable. Listeners can hear their sound-design and ingenuity endlessly rejuvenating the scene throughout their catalogue, with the overflowing examples of disco, funk, and house music being reimagined, chopped, and experimented on. It’s even possible to say that future funk uses anime as a visual backdrop so often in part because Daft Punk used their Interstella 5555 as the leading visual force in several music videos from their album Discovery in 2000.More evidence of their influence on future funk, a lot of producers discovered Daft Punk from the track One More Time, the first track from the album to have an anime debut! Audiences can hear Daft Punk’s influences on the work of artists like Discoholic, Pad Chennington, TANUKI, Skylar Spence and Night Tempo, just to name a few!
The legendary duo’s calling it quits after 28 years has certainly been heart-wrenching to the community, but let’s take this time to appreciate everything they’ve made and how many artists they will continue to inspire in future generations.
I hopped on the Daft Punk train pretty late. After a friend showed me their track “Voyager” in 2010, I knew I had to do a deep dive into their discography. I have fond memories of that summer: late nights with friends, and Discovery on full blast. Daft Punk brought a cohesive package of funk, house, disco and more to the masses. On a positive note, their legacy will continue thanks to the throngs of producers who have been influenced by Daft Punk in one way or another (Would future funk even exist without these guys?). Regardless, with such an important duo calling it quits, it’s a sad day in music history. Thank you, Daft Punk, for a summer I will never forget!
Daft Punk had a profound effect on me. I remember it vividly: 1998, the first day of grade 6. New school. New kids. A new setting. Looking for footing in a world of unknowns, searching for a sense of belonging and to be accepted by a new group of peers. Deciding to stay inside during lunch-hour, I happened upon a classroom of kids that also didn’t want to play outside, and got to just listen to music and play games instead. It was here I would first hear Daft Punk, and learn of their impact on the world; it was the unmistakable beginning of my understanding of how to share the experience of music with other humans. Music is powerful because of our ability to have and share experiences through it. So is art in general, for that matter. We listened to music together and played Starcraft at lunch and were taken aback by Daft Punk (a CD borrowed from someone’s older brother). A perfect cascade of happenings and trickle down effect: I had just got my first Discman for my birthday and one of the kids burned my first ‘mixtape’ CD which included a handful of Daft Punk tracks, especially “Around the World,” the song that truly exposed me to the sheer genius music can offer. It broke my understanding of what a song ‘had’ to be, exposed me to the world of sampling and DJing, presented me to the world of raving and dance and sincerely taught me what sharing a musical experience could be. I don’t know if my musical experience through life would have been the same without hearing and bonding over Daft Punk. Fingers crossed for 2027! 💗
The first memory I have of Daft Punk is of sitting in my parents Mitsubishi Expo minivan in the parking lot of a Dollar Tree, flipping the dial between the stations we had preprogrammed. The dial suddenly lands on a station I haven’t heard before, right at the very beginning of that bass thumping intro of “Around The World.” I think this was around ‘98, so this kind of sound was brand new to my ears as a kid. After that, I could not stop singing that chorus and, every time I was in the car with my family, they would tell me to stop singing that annoying robot song. Having older brothers growing up really shaped what music I got to listen to but discovering Daft Punk that day was how I came into my own taste. They’ve always been special to me, their sound growing as I grew, and seeing them go feels like losing an older relative you treasure.
It’s August 31, 2001, right around my bed time. Before heading to bed, I begged my father to hit record on the VCR so that I wouldn’t miss out on Adult Swim’s “Midnight Run: Special Edition” airing that night. What made this particular Midnight Run special was that it was an hour of animated music videos. Little did I know just how much impact this event would have on my music taste going forward.
The tape started with a short and dreary music video for Kenna’s “Hellbent.” Next came three music videos from Gorillaz’s stellar debut album. So far, I was ecstatic with all the new tunes I was hearing, but then the intro loop for “One More Time” faded in. As soon as I heard the first vocal and beat drop, I grabbed the TV remote and cranked it. They ended up airing nearly half of Interstella 5555, still in production at the time. Almost every night for the next few months, I was playing that VHS tape while air guitaring “Aerodynamic” and singing along to “Digital Love.” To say Daft Punk had an influence on my own music creations would be a massive understatement. Without Daft Punk, there’s a great chance I would never have started diving deeper into house/electronic music or even picked up a DAW, for that matter. Daft Punk will forever be one of my most cherished musical acts. I have since lost that VHS tape, but I will always have those memories and music to live on.
I remember exactly where I was when I heard Daft Punk the first time: in the car on the way back from baseball practice in elementary school and “One More Time” came on the radio.
At that age, besides listening to whatever my ‘rents had on around the house, all I did was listen to what was on the radio. And this? This was like nothing I had ever heard before. It was so adventurous and intergalactic! It was infectious!
Fast forward to high school: becoming obsessed with Discovery, showing my friends how to remake “One More Time” and “High Life” on “Virtual DJ”. I found the action of rebuilding tracks with their original samples to be the coolest thing ever; Daft Punk was that initial spark that got me so fascinated with sample-based production.
And then, in college, when that little teaser came out for Random Access Memories? The 10 second clip of “Get Lucky”? I played that shit over and over again for days!
I owe these damn robots so much.
Thanks for everything, Daft Punk. It’s amazing what you’ll find face to face!
I remember my first time (consciously) listening to Daft Punk in the seventh grade. A friend showed me “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” off his old 2003 dinky mp3 player. At that moment I was hooked. The song played endlessly on loop in my head the entire day; the memory alone was so loud I almost couldn’t hear things people were saying to me.
Daft Punk continues to be the biggest influence I’ve experienced in my life; the core reference point that shaped who I am today. The most important music to me, period.
Daft Punk is what first motivated me to make music. I rank my enjoyment of a piece of electronic music by evaluating how closely it resembles a song off the album Discovery. The opening track of my album was inspired by “Voyager” and “A Brief Encounter” is a slowed down take on “High Life.” The consistent use of the number 5 often in my brand is a direct Daft Punk influence from their film Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem.
Their album Discovery was so important for everyone, to be honest, but especially the future funk scene. In my opinion, it’s a genre defined by the blueprints of a single album. So much so that if it came out today no doubt people would call it future funk’s best album.
What they offered the world was true artistry: time tested music that still sounds like it’s from the future; storytelling through songs that evoked strong feelings and images in your head while still being accessible enough for anyone to enjoy, but finely crafted enough to forever be considered God Tier. THANK YOU!
In the summer of 2001, I had my first pre teen crush on a girl I met at a sports camp disco. I clearly remember seeing her for the first time, drinking the Kiwi flavor Virgin Soda that had just been released in Sweden at the time, while the DJ played Daft Punk’s “Digital Love.” The little love story with this girl lasted a couple of months. The love story I started with Daft Punk that evening is still blooming. Daft Punk was my first venture beyond mainstream pop music. I bought Discovery on CD, brought it to school and had the teacher play it during gym class. My classmates hated it. My parents hated it. I took on the nickname “Daftpunk_89” on the social media and chat rooms I used at the time. It’s really an understatement to say that “Daft Punk has meant a lot for me as a musician.”
What Daft Punk offered the world was more than just good music. They offered true artistry in a way that is rarely seen in the mainstream pop music world these days. They never seemed to adapt to current trends or made something purely for commercial reasons (except for maybe that GAP commercial, but I guess we all make mistakes). Daft Punk did the music, the videos and the artwork they wanted to do and didn’t consider external factors, and their entire brand was an homage to the music, art and movies they loved growing up, their childhood heroes. Now, my childhood heroes Daft Punk are passing the ball to the next generation, and I will do my best to carry on their legacy in my own work. So, whenever I find myself at a crossroad in my own musical journey, I’ll remind myself to stop and ask, “What would Daft Punk do?”
With the news of Daft Punk’s retirement, I’ve noticed how I can connect personally significant memories of time and place with incredible releases from the duo and their many “French Touch” projects.
I remember a rave at St. Louis’s Palace skating rink in 1997, hearing the hypnotic chorus of “Around the World” played by 3 different DJs. I remember my girlfriend purchasing Homework on CD after we broke up, hoping to make me jealous (we married in 2003). I remember attending a rave in 1998 and hearing Stardust’s “Music Sounds Better With You” again played over and over by multiple DJs.
I was studying in England in the winter of 2000 when “One More Time” was released and every Virgin Record store in the country had Daft Punk in their street-front window displays. I experienced the genuine thrill of seeing a favorite band (that I had regarded as my underground scene’s secret) become international pop sensations.
2005’s Human After All was one of the last electronica albums to make my collection before I stepped away from dance music for several years. They helped bring me back with the release of “Get Lucky” in early 2013, bouncing my newborn daughter on my knee, losing myself to dance, one more time.
Weeks ago, I happily marked the anniversary of my involvement with the vaporwave scene by catching the premier of Alive 2007, a board-recording of their Chicago Lollapalooza performance, thanks to an invitation from the future funk label Montaime. I didn’t realize it at the time but watching that epic live show with my ‘wave community was the perfect way to say goodbye to a duo that has marked so many special moments in my own life.
Thank you, Thomas and Guy-Manuel. Thank you for the music, and thank you for the memories.
The music upheaval of Daft Punk and their unmistakable impact were only escapable for a fleeting moment: amplified lines were drawn in defense of our musical tastes while growing up in New York City. The neighborhoods you frequented, along with live show nightlife and jukebox picks, was a firm part of your identity. French people making disco songs with computers had no relation to my scene and spoke little to how I was defining myself. Who were these two lifting Edwin Birdsong? These guys were just chopping up dance hits in pursuit of “Top 10” accolades. I didn’t listen to Daft Punk, and nobody in my circle did.
At the time, my hopes of electronic music innovation were in the chiptune scene flowing between New York City and Philadelphia. We were inspired by Europe and disregarding the mainstream. I was busy shifting parameters on a Gameboy while dismissing the popular Daft Punk notion of house music. For me, the stewards of sample culture were Zulu Nation and Afrika Bambaataa, and nobody’s helmet was going to change my mind. Nods to that same hip hop culture are how Daft Punk transmitted the secret invitation for me to finally open my eyes and inhabit their world. I went from denier to inspired. They left the gates wide open, luring me in with acid, techno, electro, indie rock and beyond. Their staple sound twisted me into their orbit despite my ungenerous stance against whatever imagined agenda I projected on them. I will never claim to have the deep love bestowed by true Daft Punk adherents. However, it was not long before I was attempting clumsy “Around the World” remixes on that Gameboy. Their tide has elevated us all and their like will never be seen again.
As a young child, the only music in my life was my parents’ James Taylor and ‘70s cock rock, whatever was on the radio when my mom took me and my brother on errands, and the Weird Al tapes my friends had convinced me to buy. It was pleasant enough to listen to (minus the ‘70s rock), but it was all just a way to fill time on long car rides and boring family visits when I’d rather have played video games. Thankfully, that changed one night in 2001 when a cartoon robot named TOM (you might have heard of him) played a bunch of animated music videos at midnight. For the rest of my teen years, Discovery was a pillar, alongside Gorillaz and the collected soundtracks by Yoko Kanno. Though they fell out of regular rotation some time in my early-to-mid-twenties, I’ll always remember sitting in the glow of the TV, fighting sleep as I finally discovered how it felt to be excited by music. Thank you, Daft Punk.
As the years drag on and new eras are ushered in, we have to come to terms with the fact that eventually all things must end; nothing gold can stay. Daft Punk exemplifies this fact. I will elect not to repeat what others have said (aside from the fact that “Robot Rock” is amazing and anybody who disagrees can fight me) for they can do much better, but now is an appropriate time to reflect on the past and ponder the future. Daft Punk is — Daft Punk was — larger than life, and their absence feels leagues larger. But at the same time, Daft Punk is but a small part of a bigger collection of artists, a part that we have appreciated for many years and will now mourn for many more. As the rate of turnover exponentially increases for the artists we have appreciated the most, new wounds will form. Some may scar over while others may never heal. It is important now that we maintain the memories of those who have stood unwavering at our sides as we venture through each new chapter.
With each loss, a fresh wound forms, but each new scar is a testament to what the artist means to us. Losing an artist can be likened to losing an old friend or beloved companion in that the end is cold and absolute. The bitterness poisons life, and the emptiness can hit like a truck. But, as the famous quote goes:
When I first heard Discovery in high school, my eyes lit up as I thought “If only I could do that! This is Digital Love at first sight! I finally Got Lucky and awoke something Beyond, Within me.” I ran out and bought MTV Music Generator and tried to make my own tunes, selling my first album to fellow students and teachers, hoping to make my friends’ heads spin Around the World like a Phœnix. Later in college, I discovered that Daft Punk was using Ableton to make music; I did everything I could, even Short Circuiting my situation, to get a copy of the High Fidelity digital-audio-workstation they used. It was time for me to start Doin’ It Right, and Give Life Back to Music. Diving into their Technologic approach, I felt so Alive, Da Funkin’ with my record-plunderin’, samplin’, loopin’, mixin’, and glitchin’, imagining Guy-Manuel and Thomas giving a Robot Rock thumbs-up approval as I created tracks on my Motherboard. Throughout all of my 회사AUTO creations, Daft Punk has been the Steam Machine standard of Emotion; they were the guiding light of music, Superheroes of creation to strive towards. They had to call it quits at some point and have a grand Finale; they are Human After All. I only wish I got to see them Face to Face. I’m forever grateful for the inspiration they gave me during the Prime Time of (My) Life.
Probably one of the earliest recognizable memories I have of dance music is hearing Daft Punk. I had never paid much attention up to that point. There was something about it that stuck with me, though. Later, these dudes were how I learned what filters were capable of. I probably learned a lot of other stuff from them without even realizing it, and for that I’m immensely grateful. They impacted so many others in the same way and their music will continue to live on and inspire. I’m sure of that.
While the duo may be no more, we will always have the music they unleashed upon an unsuspecting public. In the most magical of ways, they accomplished one of the greatest feats of all: they Gave Life Back To Music. And from the bottom of all of our hearts, now and forever, thank you Daft Punk.