Danielle celebrates the legacy of low-fi music zines with So Young, the subject of her latest ‘It’s this one thing’ post.
It’s funny, but—though I adore music, spend a significant amount of time carefully compiling playlists, and have enthusiastically jumped back into live gigs post(?)-pandemic—I don’t often find myself reading music magazines.
When I was a teen, I’d regularly pick up NME and Kerrang. Even the odd Smash Hits. But now? Not so much. A symptom of streaming culture? Of gig listings and tickets being available at our fingertips? The internet, period? No doubt.
Recently though one specifically guitar-led, indie music mag has been repeatedly catching my eye (ear?) It seems every issue has, on its cover, my and everyone around me’s, indie/post-punk band du jour. In recent months, Parquet Courts, Yard Act, Dry Cleaning, Wet Leg, Black Country, New Road, Goat Girl and, most recently, Porridge Radio, have all adorned the bold, cut-and-paste illustrated covers of So Young while, simultaneously, the very same bands sit on my app-based ‘watch list’ for gig tickets. (Which is how I managed to catch Yard Act in Hackney at the very last minute—and they were excellent).
A throwback to the punk-inspired, DIY music ‘fanzines of the past’, this ‘underground guitar music scene’ zine is, simply put, hitting the nail on the indie head right now. And perhaps, as we grow further tired of algorithm-orchestrated playlists and the now well-versed ethical issues with streaming corporations—Spotify ‘pays out, on average, an estimated four-tenths of a cent per stream, meaning that a thousand streams nets around four dollars’—we might once again turn back to the paper-based, musical grapevines of old?
‘Punk’s DIY rallying cries and the fervent belief in self-expression it championed were key factors in the proliferation of fanzines,’ the late, celebrated music critic Gavin Martin wrote for a piece on fanzine culture in 2016. ‘Xerox printing machines had become accessible to many, through one route or another, just as punk emerged. Almost anyone who cared to try to have a go and have their say could now, potentially, do so.’
In a similar vein, So Young (though not quite Xerox-printed) fervently continues with their aim to uncover the lesser known corners of the indie music scene. The pages of So Young are a physical space where music-minded people can choose to sidestep streaming services, the aforementioned algorithm, and come together to find out which basement-playing bands are worth getting sticky feet for, and—judging by their covers of late—which bands are about to be blasted off into the stratosphere.
As they make clear on their website, the magazine’s raison d’être is all about ‘documenting what is going on right now up and down the country in pubs, clubs, squats and living rooms.’ And, though the publication itself is at the core of everything So Young does, it’s also an intertwine-ing mass of musical stuff; with a record label, live shows and plenty of (excellent) merch, all providing ‘a creative platform to champion music and art from the underground up’.
As an aside, the magazine also provides fertile ground for up-and-coming illustrators to showcase their work; a key visual feature which successfully adds to the magazine’s overall ‘grassroots-y’ identity.
The current issue, #37, has Dana Margolin’s Brighton-born, post-punk band Porridge Radio on the cover; with Crows, Automatic, Folly Group, Gently Tender, The Dinner Party, Humour, Ethan P. Flynn, headboy, Tenderhost, Minor Conflict and more to be found inside. Even at 60 pages in-length, there’s plenty of treasure stuffed inside. Treasure, largely made up of interviews with each of the aforementioned acts.
Thumbing through the matte-but-vibrant, staple-bound mag, I’m reminded of the experience of reading NME or Kerrang as a teen. Of getting to know the people putting out the songs and lyrics that seem to so perfectly capture your own experience of the world. Rather than clicking on yet another ‘Chill mix’ or ‘Electronica Romantica’ playlist on (the more frequently vilified) Spotify, So Young offers up some of the finest, up-and-coming guitar-slinging artists, carefully curated by irl music journalists who are moving around in the thick of it.
Maybe it’s time I hit pause on my own streaming habit and make something of a conscious effort to get back into the music ‘zine scene? It’s worth noting that, as I’m wrapping up this edition of It’s This One Thing, a box of the brand new, heavyweight music mag Disco Pogo has just arrived at the magCulture shop.
A phoenix-from-the-ashes sort of publication created by those behind the (also fantastically named) 90s/00s British dance music magazine Jockey Slut, Disco Pogo explores another nook of the musical landscape: electronic artists—everything from Bonobo and Sault to Orbital and a cover feature on broadcaster, DJ and record collector, Gilles Peterson.
What’s become apparent after taking time to read So Young (and Disco Pogo) is that it’s allowed a moment to reflect on my love for music and, importantly, the ways in which I consume it day-to-day. I think most people would agree that music is one of life’s greatest gifts and one we shouldn’t take for granted.
Perhaps anyone willing to call themselves a veritable music lover needs to take a similar moment to consider their relationship with the precious stuff that their favourite artists are putting out and think on how best we might support them? No doubt.
Editor Sam Ford
Art director Josh Whettingsteel