LV youth music: metal is good, diversity is better

Musicians in the Latrobe Valley’s youth music space, stand up! Especially if you’re anything but some form of metal. A call for more variety is going out.

Miranda at 2013 LV Battle of the Bands. Photo: Shadow Punk Photography.

The Latrobe Valley has many talented musicians, of all ages and across a range of genres.

However, it seems the music scene for and by young people has less diversity, which is of concern to at least some of the Valley’s youth population.

According to local music promoter Ben Fowler, “Metal seems most prevalent because places like Saloon Bar and the Dancing Banana music festivals host a lot of metal bands because of the audience they attract.”

Ben said there are many Latrobe Valley bands and artists working in genres including country, blues, jazz and rock. However in the youth scene, it is largely metal in its various forms including metalcore and death metal.

One Valley-based band that dared to be different was Crimson Drones, which until recently performed and recorded in the psychedelic and progressive areas of music. Something like a cross between Tame Impala and Pink Floyd, broadly speaking.

Sad to say, not everyone appreciated what Crimson Drones was doing. Sadder still is the fact that the band is no longer together.

Progressive metal band Aura won the 2015 LV heat of Battle of the Bands then the Gippsland regional final. Photo: Aura on Facebook.

Heats of the Push Start Battle of the Bands competition are run each year by the Latrobe FReeZA committee. They feature some of the Valley’s top bands, almost all of them a variation of the metal genre.

Following the recent 2015 heat, former Drones band member Regan McGowan took to Facebook to lament the lack of diversity in local youth music.

He began by complimenting the bands for the standard of their performances, especially Aura which he said deserved to win. He then turned to the issue of diversity in styles, or lack of it.

“I’m kind of sick of going to gigs where all I can hear is a thick layer of distortion which sound like a broken power-sander.

“I would really love to hear something refreshing and different, like a jazz-funk fusion band, a disco band or even a few dudes smashing out some decent synthwave. Unfortunately, people don’t want to see that kind of thing here; you have to go to the city to listen to bands that attempt to innovate.

“People just want to see metal and metalcore here, which is fine, but when it’s so saturated that the only bands in Battle of the Bands are variants of metal and metalcore, it feels a bit exclusive of other types of bands.

“In case you didn’t understand: I’m not saying the bands here are bad. They are actually very good, I’m just personally tired of hearing the same style.”

Voyage Media asked another former member of Crimson Drones, Oscar Machen, if he shared Regan’s views.

“I 100% agree with Regan that there isn’t much diversity in Gippsland bands and it’s a real shame.”

“I’d clarify that Regan and I aren’t trying to bash on bands like those who actually probably spend a lot of time writing music that they probably really like and enjoy. Don’t get me wrong on that.

“It’s just sad to see new band after new band take the stage at a local gig and play the same stuff and do the same things every time.

“It’s really telling that one of my favourite gigs as Crimson Drones was actually at the Warragul Arts Centre where I think we were the only band that played with electric instruments and had a full set-up.

“Doing something different is the whole point of music in my opinion and it sucks to see talented kids essentially reinventing the wheel in Gippsland.”

The issue was also raised in a recent radio interview on GOLD 1242 by Traralgon-based acoustic band Gardens of Arcadia.

“People like to perform metal and others like to go and mosh to metal at local gigs and they really get into it,” according to Gardens vocalist Tori Grace.

“Occasionally you’ll see someone performing acoustic stuff but the reason we don’t see too much of the other genres is that people are scared to do that thing now because metal is such a big thing.

“I was scared for us to enter Battle of the Bands because every other band was metal and the audience wouldn’t want to hear us.”

Fellow band member Cameron Brown said that at times they even felt intimidated by the big metal bands.

Gardens of Arcadia prefers to perform in Melbourne where there is a diversity of youth-oriented music, including the acoustic genre that they work in. Drummer Jay Doorty said they’re respected by other bands in the city.

Moe indie folk-pop performer Darcy Fox. Photo supplied.

The 2013 Battle of the Bands heat in the Latrobe Valley was an interesting case. Four metal bands competed, along with indie folk-pop singer/songwriter Darcy Fox.

The dilemma for judges was the fact that there was supposed to be only one winner. Darcy’s competency, experience and popstar-readiness made her the best on the night. However the judges felt it was important to acknowledge the metal bands which were also of a high standard and for which the crowd came to see.

Darcy was crowned the winner but the judges also decided to name a runner-up. A second prize of recording time at a local studio was quickly arranged.

Darcy went on to win at Gippsland regional level then won the Push Start Battle of the Bands state final. Going all the way through to Melbourne vindicated the decision of the Latrobe Valley judges.

Poster advertising the 2013 Latrobe Valley heat of Battle of the Bands

Genres other than metal do exist in Latrobe Valley’s youth music scene, according to Ben Fowler.

“Other genres of music are there but they have to be discovered, like hidden treasures,” he said.

“I have longed to see the day where all the different music groups of LV work together to make a diverse and complete music scene.

“As for the metal musicians themselves, I’ve noticed that a lot of the more confident youth tend to sway more to metal bands but a lot changes as they get older, often favouring blues (as I’ve observed many times!)

“Those who understand metal know there are sub-genres which, to a point, is diversity.

“Talking to these bands and asking their genre, you will very rarely get ‘metal’ as an answer. It’s always a sub-genre like metalcore, screamo, Djent or others,” said Ben.

“They also feel that there’s not much metal in the valley and that it’s all pub rock bands, so I suppose it’s who you ask!”