It takes one confident kid to hear the finger-defying intro of “Eruption” and think, That’s what I’m going to do when I grow up. Luckily for those of us less dexterous than the late great Eddie Van Halen, there’s plenty of real estate on the spectrum of musicality to lay claim to. Garage and punk rock pioneers set out to prove anyone who knew 3 chords and had a quarter-inch cable could plug in and make waves. But it wasn’t always easy to capture that lip-pierced lightning in a bottle.
Artists hoping to harness the energy of a Saturday night at CBGB’s would likely have to cut a record at a studio, immortalizing their do-it-yourself sound behind the padded walls of a million-dollar vault. Advancements in technology put an end to that necessity.
It’s never been easier to make a record. Anyone with a laptop can open up garage band, plug in their instrument of choice, and bring their ideas to life. The obvious innovation here is accessibility—people being able to record music who would’ve never had access to the means of production in the past. But these advancements aren’t just opening doors for artists. They’re changing the music being made.
Artists ranging from Dayglow to Billie Eilish are making music that resonates with a worldwide audience from the comfort of their respective bedrooms. Not just gritty, raw material that utilizes its humble creations as a springboard toward mass appeal. There are artfully crafted, polished songs coming into the world straight from rooms littered with dirty laundry and Dorito crumbs.
This new reality may garner scoffs from purists who grew up idolizing arena-filling acts like Van Halen and that makes sense. When you hear that music, you might imagine every one of those 10,000 hours manifesting itself under Eddie’s calloused fingertips. When you hear Mac Demarco, you might think, Welp…shit I could do that! And it’s easy to write the latter assessment off as lesser in the competition of musical supremacy. But isn’t the ultimate virtue to inspire people?
It’s easy to argue that mastering recording software requires every bit the amount of patience, time, and skill required to shred a 32nd-note lick over a 2-5-1. But most people can’t hear those words ring out in real time. They can’t appreciate what a pain in the ass it must be to double track vocals while your Mom makes a casserole downstairs. But they can enjoy listening to icons and introverts at the same time. They could even crack open a laptop and turn whatever melody comes to mind into a hit without leaving the house let alone signing with a label. And that’s a beautiful possibility.