Bands and their 'zines...

Fanzines, that’s the thing.

At one point, the humble ‘zine was the de facto means of communication for anything underground. Some text, a few photos and a photocopier was all that was required to launch a revolution, with both punk and Acid House using ‘zine culture to establish a theatre for debate amongst true believers.

The rise of the blog seemed to spell the end for the fanzine. For a while, it seemed that the entire ‘zine culture would die out, as the internet appeared to offer opportunities, lines of communication that the physical product could not. Yet somehow, the fanzine clung on and has enjoyed resurgence in profile over the past few years. Internet ennui has set it, with the sheer ubiquitous nature of the web seeming to send some users scurrying back towards pre-Web 2.0 forms of communication.

Summer Camp chose to launch their debut album with a fanzine. Available in limited numbers as a physical product, the ‘zine was also available digitally. Acting as a scrapbook for the band’s thoughts, Jeremy Warmsley told ClashMusic that the ‘zine began as a literal drawing board. “We were making the fanzine as we were doing the album, sort of like a mood board, or something that sounds less pretentious. Stories started forming in our heads until we felt like we could actually see the characters. It helped us so much, and we thought maybe people would like to read it. It's in no way a necessary component for listening to the album; it's like the directors commentary. “

A renowned blogger and social networking advocate, Warmsley’s decision to move into ‘zine culture could be viewed as a retrograde step. Yet the songwriter insists that the physical product offered much more than could be covered in a blog. “We write about scenes and stories and pictures, so it made sense to carry that through with the album. This is much more detailed than the blog is though, since we wrote articles, interviews, reviews, letters and diary entries to go along with it.”

The surprising thing about the nature of the ‘zine resurgence is just how it has escaped notice – almost as if a thousand minds have reached the same conclusion in completely separate locations. “We know Yuck did one but we haven't seen it” he says. “Not sure what has caused the comeback, but we are in favour. When Elizabeth was a kid she was a member of the Blur fanclub and they used to send out scrapbooks. It was just a nice thing to have. It's probably much nicer for the band to make than it is for people to buy. We kind of just wanted to get them printed up so we could have a copy.”

The mention of the Blur newsletter offers up another vein of inspiration. Los Campesinos! run their own fanzine, with Heat Rash becoming almost a bulletin from the Welsh collective. Frankie & The Heartstrings run a similar venture, which seems to flip the nature of the fanzine – instead of removing the mystique of the artist, it emphasises that being in a band encompasses much more than just producing mp3s. “We see it as a good way to give our fans something that we've created that isn't music” explains Frankie Francis. “Blogs and other web related stuff is fast and easy, we put time and thought into our fanzines.”

Sure there is a Luddite agenda here – the struggle implicit in the medium now wrapped in Romanticism – but it is virtually impossible not to be swept along by the vitality of Frankie & The Heartstrings’ ideals. “It allows people to understand you as people and shows to them people that like your music you are more than just a band” the singer states. “We will always make a fanzine as long as we are a band for people who give a fuck.”

Perhaps it was inevitable that the fanzine would enjoy resurgence. The two defining threads in modern guitar music – post-punk and indie-pop – both enshrined the ‘zine as a form of communication. Fanzine – the London band, this time – wear their influences on their sleeve: “Kit has a great book which collects together and talks about loads of fanzines which we dip into for inspiration. We're more into illustration and comics, so it was cool to look at things like Charles Burns' Sub Pop stuff because we're huge fans of Black Hole.”

Coincidentally, Sub Pop began life as a fanzine titled ‘Subterranean Pop’. Continuing, the band seem to typify the enthusiasm which underpins the modern ‘zine culture. “We wanted to have something people could take away and keep. We're quite into collectibles and stuff so it was a way to extend that enthusiasm to our fans I guess” they state. “It was just a fun way to put out our music, plus it gave us an excuse to do dumb drawings and stuff which is always fun. It's cheap too.”

A quick quote from long lost post-punk favourites Desperate Bicycles: “It was easy, it was cheap – go out and do it.”

All over again.

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