The Cool Kids are one of those acts that, while I don’t turn to regularly in my day to day listening, hold a special place in my heart. 2008 was a weird time in life and in music, and the duo of Chuck Inglish and Mikey Rocks offered an earnest simplicity in the way they handled themselves both on and off the mic that somehow soothed something in my then 18-year-old soul.
In the midst of mounting a comeback to once again sooth the souls of those wound rubber band-tight by the current state of the world, Mikey and Chuck spoke with MTV News about their genesis and their plans moving forward. The piece is full of nostalgic eloquence and managed to dreamily paint a portrait of the Myspace-driven, Wild West era that produced The Cool Kids, and a short-lived musical revolution in the process.
Suddenly Ingersoll remembers exactly what it was that made it obvious, back in ’05, how The Cool Kids would have to distribute their music instead of shopping for a record deal. “You know what did it? Cassie’s ‘Me & U.’ When I went to every girl’s page and I saw that song, I was like, 'All right, this is what’s crackin’. This is the new radio.' And they got rid of that on purpose. You had the power and the control. People were creating the Top 10 songs. Now it’s like, they got marketing teams that make shit go viral."
The Cool Kids were instrumental in paving the way for music to reach droves of hungry listeners through unorthodox means, circumventing a label-driven system that had dominated music for decades, but had also just recently been dealt a near-fatal blow with the advent of illegal music sharing.
For those few sweet years, it was truly “anything goes.” In that short period of time, while corporations dedicated large portions of their annual budgets to defining and replicating virality, artists and songs became popular simply because people liked them.
That concept still exists to some extent, but it’s quickly being manipulated by corporate interests in an attempt to retain the illusion of choice while maximizing profit, a tactic The Cool Kids see right through.
“We’ll give it to these three YouTube stars, and they’re gonna do this dance…” Reed says, imitating a scheming A&R. “They’re acting like new artists are indie when they have a million-dollar budget. That’s the weirdest thing to me. ’Cause they know that kids hate it when there’s some manufactured artist shoved down their throats, so they’re like, Let’s say he’s not signed and just shove money behind it. It’s not the Wild Wild West anymore. It’s back to being corporate and policed. For a second they lost control, and they panicked. They scrambled around, and it took them a couple years, but they got it back."
There’s undoubtedly a whiff romanticization that occurs when many of us remember those years, but there is something to be said for that brief period of time where labels had no idea what the hell to do in the face of plummeting physical sales, and had yet to put enough stock into an increasingly vast digital presence to fully figure out how to capitalize off of it. That era eventually came and went, and labels figured out how to market the illusion of grassroots efforts, fading into the background but still very much in control. They managed to become the "cool" parents that let teenagers drink shitty gas station beer in their basement, but only if they stayed the night (and signed over their publishing rights).
Thanks to advancements in and accessibility to technology, today's new wave of artists have experienced at least the idea of digital freedom from day one, and Chuck Inglish for one thinks they will be the ones to usher in the true revolution.
That might change soon, Ingersoll adds. "This new wave of college kids that are coming in the next two years, they’re so intelligent because they’ve never lived without the internet and they can source everything on their own,” he says. “I believe they’re gonna start a revolution. They’re gonna be like, Where are we getting our music from? All right, fuck that. Like, where are you getting your music from? You’re getting your music from Twitter. You get music from memes.”
The Cool Kids envision a prolonged, if not permanent return of the almost anarchistic nature of the digital music scene they experienced in the years before the 2010s. Considering the validity of their foresight in 2008 when they released The Bake Sale, it’s not hard to take their prophecy and run with it, especially in the face of a constantly changing and complexifying digital landscape.
In 2007, it was Myspace that offered a reprieve from the rigidity of traditional music consumerism, and in 2017, it’s become Instagram and Snapchat. Are we on the cusp of seeing that next brick removed in the wall between creative freedom and accessibility? The Cool Kids seem to think so, and I’d have to agree.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Instagram