Tag Archives: slowdive

The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of Shoegaze

“Hi we’re DIIV and we’re from New York City, this is a song called Human.” At Manchester’s Gorilla, Brooklyn based indie dream-pop outfit DIIV were performing to a sell-out crowd. Known for their jangly dreamy sound, DIIV are a band who aren’t afraid to display their musical influences. From Sonic Youth to Neu!, this is a band that know exactly who they are and what they want to be. All these factors result in DIIV essentially being a shoegaze band. Even though it might not be obvious at first when listening to their two albums, onstage they have copious amounts of pedals that are switched every ten seconds. However, when speaking to members of the audience, they seemed unaware of DIIV’s contribution to the genre. When asked, a girl in her mid-teens said “Isn’t that what them old bands like My Bloody Valentine used to do? The really noisy stuff?” Then a lad a couple years older said “I’ve never even heard of shoegaze.”

Even though some people may not be aware, there quite clearly is a revival. Bands such as Slowdive are back and are experiencing the height of their popularity. Ride’s reunion was so successful, that they had to extend their tour and announce even more dates to keep up with the demand. But what sparked this revival? To work this out, we must start from the beginning.

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, shoegaze was on the rise. Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Lush and Slowdive were gaining massive attention from the music press. Music journalist, and then Melody Maker writer, David Stubbs recalls what he thought of shoegaze at the time. “One of the earliest groups I was into was A.R. Kane. What I liked about them was that they used a lot of feedback and dub elements. It felt like an offshoot of very early [The Jesus &] Mary Chain. I saw them as a real prototype of the whole shoegaze scene. When the term shoegazing was being coined in the early 90s, I did find it very interesting. What I found interesting about the whole thing was the neo-psychedelic aspect of it and how they all seemed to be immersed in their own sound.”

However as time went by and Britpop became more popular, shoegaze began to decline. Even though it is inevitable that a genre dies down, Stubbs thinks it may have been a bit too soon. “It may have been killed off a bit prematurely by Britpop. It’s nice to be reminded that, contrary to what Britpop documentaries say, there was lots of interesting things happening in the 90s.”

One of the biggest and most significant casualties at the time was Reading shoegazers Slowdive. Speaking to bassist Nick Chaplin, he remembers when things started to change for the worst. “We had a period of time where we could do no wrong, but that was very short lived. Once that disappeared, it was hard to get people engaged. We sort of became a band that was a figure of fun.” So with huge backlash against the genre in the 90s, Nick never thought there would be a revival of this scale. “We knew there was an interest out there because Neil [the band’s co-frontman] would get asked all the time about Slowdive when he was doing his solo career. Wherever he went in the world, he was always asked what were the chances of Slowdive getting back together. I think it eventually wore him down and, at the back end 2012, Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona asked Neil if he fancied getting the band back together. Everything just fell into place after that, yet none of us knew how it was going to go. However when we sold out the Village Underground in two minutes, we knew something weird was going on. I think bands like Ride and Lush saw what we did and seemed heartened by it.”

But it’s not just the older bands getting back together that are to thank for the rebirth of the genre, current bands have also played their part. “There are newer bands that are coming out that are name checking bands like us. So maybe their fans are going out and seeking our music. That’s one reason why I think shoegaze has got more popular. It has become a legacy in a way.”

Despite this clear interest in shoegaze, Nick still thinks there is a long way to go. “A big test is going to be when bands such as us, and the others that have come back, start to release new material. We’re kind of in the final stages of getting a new record together, which we’re hoping we will complete over the next few months.”

Someone else currently experiencing the surge of shoegaze reunions first hand is Ride guitarist and vocalist Andy Bell. Also spending time over the years as the bassist of Oasis and Beady Eye, Bell believes that the improvement in equipment is a reason that shoegaze has come back. “Technology has advanced to the stage where we are able to be much better as a live band and realise a lot of the things that we were trying for in the 90s. Quiet vocal harmonies alongside roaring guitars can work much better when you are wearing in-ear monitors for example. I think there is a long way left to run with leftfield guitar music and I hope it continues to develop and spread.”

Since the initial wave and fall of shoegaze, the internet has come along and changed the music industry. Websites such as Pitchfork have become the place to find your new music and, as a publication, they openly love shoegaze. They’ve given My Bloody Valentine two perfect 10s, whilst giving Slowdive and Ride albums both high 9s. This praise on the internet doesn’t stop there. Within music forums, and chat threads such as Reddit, shoegaze has almost acquired a mythical status. A place where people from all around the world can discuss and share these bands whose careers were seemingly cut too short. There is even a Facebook group called ‘Shoegaze, Dream Pop & Nugaze’ that currently has over 26,000 members. Former admin of the group and long-time shoegaze fan Greg Wilson speaks about when he first came across the genre. “As a regular record store rat back in the early 90s, I’d pick up Melody Maker out of England from time to time to learn what was new and noteworthy. They started buzzing about My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Tremolo EP’ as something like a perfect blend of Cocteau Twins and Jesus & Mary Chain. I finally tracked down a copy, and never looked back.” Since then, Wilson has been a fan of shoegaze and has promoted the genre in any way he can. “I launched DKFM Shoegaze Radio in 2011 and joined the ‘Shoegaze, Dream Pop & Nugaze’ group in 2013. I didn’t think there were large Facebook groups dedicated to the scene and the sound, outside of When The Sun Hits blog and The Shoegaze Collective Twitter feed. I joined because I wanted to stay one step ahead of the revival. It’s a great place to learn about up-and-coming artists, which we can play on the station.”

As for the genre itself, Wilson believes that it was only logical that shoegaze became popular once again. “I think there is a natural 25-year cycle for re-exploration of lost music. I also think the renewed embrace of shoegaze and dream pop is a direct rejection of bland, formulaic pop-by-numbers that are so prevalent today.” However as a genre, he thinks that it should start moving forward into unexplored areas of sound. “I think with some of the reunion tours by the founders, and progenitors of ‘the sound’, we may have reached peak shoegaze. I think what’s next is a natural evolution of the sound into new, uncharted territory. When punk bands and rock bands start swiping aspects of the sound, I expect we’ll start to see new and creative hybrids we might never have anticipated.”

A band who have benefited from Wilson’s DKFM Shoegaze Radio and the rise of shoegaze internet groups is Toronto based outfit Indoor Voices. Having recently released their EP Auratic, frontman Jonathan Relph contemplates the rise of shoegaze. “I think the only revival in shoegaze is the attention it’s receiving again, which might help to expose it to a new generation. Maybe it’s popular because the world seems like a really sad and alienating place to be in right now. Maybe the discord of ‘shoegaze’ is an auditory mirror of that. A confused reaction in sound.”

So it seems that a lot has had to happen for shoegaze to come back. However, there was one thing that Nick Chaplin said that may sum up the whole revival. “Back in the 90s, people listened to what the music press told them listen to. But with the decline of the press, people are now no longer dictated by anybody on what music they should listen to. With that freedom, we sort of became cool again”

Liam Egan


The Best Albums of New Age Shoegaze

Listening to a new music genre can be a daunting task. You have various people telling you where to start and, before you know it, you’re swamped in suggested albums and artists. This is no different for shoegaze. Luckily it has been narrowed down by many to the ‘Holy Trinity’; Slowdive’s Souvlaki, Ride’s Nowhere and My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. But why should you have to start there? Why not live life on the edge? Here are the four (well five actually) albums from ‘new age’ shoegaze that you should start with.


The Horrors – Primary Colours (2009)

After ditching the goth-punk fashionista aesthetic that was plastered all over their debut album Strange House, The Horrors returned in 2009 with their career changing album Primary Colours. The Southend-on-Sea quintet were now creating vast multi-layered soundscapes that even Kevin Shields would be proud of. Tracks like Mirror’s Image channelled My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless and elements of I Only Think Of You wouldn’t got amiss on Slowdive’s Just For A Day. The album went on to getting nominated for the Mercury Prize award and introduced a whole new generation to shoegaze. Primary Colours isn’t just one of the best new age shoegaze albums, it’s one of the best shoegaze albums of all time.


M83 – Dead Cities, Read Seas & Lost Ghosts (2003)

Before they became known as ‘that band who do the Made In Chelsea song’, M83 started off as a shoegazing electronica group. Much like their recent releases, Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts boasts it’s orchestral prowess. However, DCRS&LG builds these electronic instrumentations into huge fuzzed filled goliaths that envelope the listener. The magnitude and intensity is ethereal and unlike anything you’ll ever hear on another shoegaze record.


DIIV – Oshin (2012)/Is The Is Are (2016)

Okay this may seem as a cop out, but there are cases for why both of DIIV’s albums should be considered as some of the best new age shoegaze. Starting as a solo project by Zachary Cole Smith, DIIV’s debut Oshin was the perfect execution of modern day shoegaze dream pop. Reverb drenched vocals buried beneath jangly guitars, DIIV saw mass critical acclaim with their first album. After four troubled years, DIIV came back with Is The Is Are. This double album follow up was an album of two halves. With the first half being more in the spirit of Oshin, the latter half is a much darker and twisted affair that really juxtaposes the side of shoegaze that DIIV are usually known for. This resulted in an album that really explores the multiple layers and sounds of shoegaze.


Deafheaven – Sunbather (2013)

The final album to reach your shoegaze enlightenment is the second album by the Californian black metal outfit Deafheaven. “But wait, did you say black metal?” Yes, but their album Sunbather is the definitive representation of post-shoegaze. Creating beautifully intricate walls of sound, mixed with disturbing black metal vocals, Sunbather is the most challenging and rewarding record on this list. With multiple tracks passing the ten minute mark, Deafheaven certainly know how to create a spectacle of epic proportions. If you can conquer this record, then the world of shoegaze is in the palm of your hand and is ready to be explored.


Liam Egan

Indoor Voices Interview

“I think the only revival in shoegaze is the attention it’s receiving again, which might help to expose it to a new generation. Maybe it’s popular because the world seems like a really sad and alienating place to be in right now. Maybe the discord of ‘shoegaze’ is an auditory mirror of that. A confused reaction in sound.” That was Jonathan Relph of Toronto’s Indoor Voices, one of leading bands in the apparent shoegaze revival. Having recently released their new EP Auratic, we discussed in length the process that Indoor Voices went through to complete their latest musical offering. “The songs on Auratic were pretty much complete before December 2013. [However] things got kind of sidelined after the birth of my daughter on November 24th of that year.”

The way Indoor Voices usually write, is that they revisit old sketches that didn’t make the cut on previous releases. But with Auratic, Jonathan recalls how this process is starting to change. “I think finishing S/T [the band’s last EP] was inspiring and I had developed a new approach to starting songs. There was a sort of spontaneous stream of new melodies coming to me. Auratic kind of came together really quickly and we only resorted to one old sketch ‘See Wish’, which was a recording of a loop from around 5 years ago. If you were to hear the original, you might only catch a glimpse of what it turned into.”

A key element of this new age shoegaze scene is that bands aren’t afraid to acknowledge the origins of the genre. With bands such as Lush, My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive being regularly name checked as influences, even with Indoor Voices. “I’d say we borrow brushstrokes from their work. Once it’s all together I don’t think it sounds anything like them, but there’s probably a similar emotional response based on the melodic structures and layering.”

As a genre, there isn’t many constraints to what shoegaze can be. Bands such as Deafheaven make epic black metal infused shoegaze that pummels the listen to the ground with relenting force. Then there was A.R. Kane, a band from the late 80s, whose music was a precursor to the shoegaze scene and used elements of dub. There are multiple avenues a band can explore in terms of shoegaze. On Auratic, Indoor Voices explored the more ethereal and ambient route of shoegaze. However this isn’t just something that they wanted to explore creatively, Jonathan’s affinity towards ambient music is much more deep-rooted. “When I first started listening to ambient instrumental stuff, it kind of started and stopped with Eno. However, over the last few years I’ve been really captivated by the rosters of Kranky and Erased Tapes. Projects such as A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Christina Vantzou, Atlas Sound, Nils Frahm and Ólafur Arnalds have all caught my attention. I’m not an expert on ambient music, far from it, but these artists get a lot of play in my home. So naturally they are going to make their way into my music in some shape or form.”

But what’s next for Indoor Voices? Usually a band would tour their new release to oblivion and then head back to the studio, but Indoor Voices are taking the more laid back approach. “We’ll probably make some new music at some point. Once we’re all done having babies”

You can stream and buy Indoor Voices latest EP Auratic over on their Bandcamp page below.


Liam Egan

Tripwires Interview

The other day I had the pleasure of talking to the UK Shoegaze band Tripwires and they were so kind to answer some questions about their upcoming second album. Enjoy!

Last time we spoke you said you were demoing and writing new tracks. Is this still the case? and how far along are you with writing album number 2?

We’ve now started recording the album, however a lot of the parts will be the original recordings from when they were very first written. That’s how this next album differs from Spacehopper; it will have been recorded piece by piece over a long period of time with some parts recorded in our bedrooms in London and others in Berlin. We never planned to do it this way but some things are just too hard to re-record… you’ll never love a second version of a song as much as the first.

In June you released a new track titled ‘Total Fascination Stuff’, how did that come about?

This was simply one of the first tracks we wrote after releasing Spacehopper and it turned out to be a good indication of what we wanted to do next. It’s very much tied into the video where we’ve included many of the people who were around us when it was written. This is why it will always stay very sentimental to us.


Being a Shoegaze band and with classic 90s Shoegaze bands such as Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine returning to the music scene, is there any Shoegaze bands in particular that you’d like to see return?

We don’t listen to much Shoegaze these days but we’d have to say that a Ride reformation would be pretty cool. We were very happy to see Slowdive return too. We somehow missed their London show in May so hoping to see them next time.
What bands are you currently listening to?

A lot of Angel Olsen, Women, Viet Cong, Parquet Courts and Chad Vangaalen…


Thank you again to Tripwires for taking their time answer my questions. If you want to check them out then their debut Spacehopper is out now and i’ll put links to their social media accounts below.






Liam Egan