In an era of overnight celebrity, we tend to take the difficult road for granted. It’s easy to listen to a track on Spotify and never know who the artist is, let alone their story. How many nights did they sleep in a dingy van, schlepping from town to town, trying to make ends meet while they slaved away producing new music that almost no one heard?
The Internet has offered aspiring artists an avenue to larger listenership, but our listening and sharing culture prioritizes the music over the artist (which may not be wrong) and generates little to know actual income for the tired hands behind the scenes. If someone gets big overnight, even through virality, you can almost assume that some serious money is behind them. Think Lorde was an organic hit? Think again. She was signed to Universal before anyone in the US had heard of her, and blew up once Sean Parker (of Facebook fame) shared “Royals” with his social media networks.
Junior Boys is a duo from Canada that originally formed in 1999, before going through some lineup changes and years of minor recognition. Eventually, they started getting some larger festival bookings and even had a successful solo tour (they’ve also toured in support of fellow Canadian Caribou). The last I heard of them was two years ago.
This is how it happens. A band bubbles up for a few moments, before fading away for good. It is at once inspiring and crushing; the dream is attainable, but not sustainable. And if you don’t have corporate backing, good luck. Every small band that bubbles up and eventually makes it to the big time gained that backing along the way. At least these days.
“So This Is Goodbye” came out in’08, the title track to an LP of the same name. When I hear it now, it sounds infinitely dated. The Internet is awash in music like this, bedroom beats with mediocre vocals. None of it gets me.
But this track does, because I know the story and care about the journey of not only this band, but of every artist. The plastic plucks of Junior Boys take on a new life, as I imagine them sitting in a dark studio in dark Canada, shaving in a truck stop bathroom, or playing to a constantly talking crowd. To succeed in art, you have to grind. Sure, connections help, but what really matters is the product. Junior Boys simply weren’t good enough or special enough to stand out.
And neither are 99% of the artists on this earth. That doesn’t me we shouldn’t celebrate them and their work. In fact, that work is often better and more personal than “successful” art. “So This Is Goodbye” will strike a cord with anyone who gave it a go before saying “fuck it” and filling out a W9.