You know those bands that soundtracked your life when you used to model your hair on a badger that had had an unfortunate run-in with a can of Tresemme and made it your life’s mission to wear an entire Claire’s Accessories’ worth of studded belts? Ah, the MySpace era. The ‘scene’ that grew with the website all but died with it, but what happened to the musicians for whom it was a springboard to success?
In the name of serious investigation (and a bit of emo nostalgia) we tracked down some of our old favourites to find out. Scene kids – this one’s for you.
All the musicians we spoke to highlighted how important MySpace was as a promotional tool for DIY musicians. Ironically, it was the network’s ‘big break’ – being bought by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp in 2005 – that led to its decline; it positioned itself as a network exclusively for music, but lost the target audience of ordinary users to Facebook as it failed to keep up with the constantly evolving social media landscape. In 2011, it was sold to Specific Media and attempted to rebuild its reputation, but the ‘scene’ that thrived within it was already over.
No other network since has been as successful in creating not only a platform for emerging artists, but also a counter-culture in which they thrived. MySpace might have been responsible for a wave of bad hairdos, but it was also the way that many bands who’ve gone on to commercial success, including Bring Me The Horizon and New Years Day, got their break. MySpace itself might be dead, but its legacy is still alive.
“MySpace was everything!” says Brokencyde’s David ‘Sev’ Gallegos. “There was no Facebook or Twitter yet, and YouTube was barely a thing. For some ghetto kids from Albuquerque, MySpace was the key to our success. We got in touch with our first manager through MySpace which later on led to us quitting our day jobs and becoming a full time international touring act.”
In those halcyon days, Brokencyde toured with MySpace comrades Drop Dead, Gorgeous, appeared on MTV and the 2009 Warped Tour, and have the dubious accolade of releasing an EP as part of a Hot Topic promo campaign.
“We created a new look and sound that, whether people want to believe or not, paved the way for a lot of artists today,” says Sev. “We were the first of our kind and along with the new sound came a whole new crowd and scene – the crunk kids.”
So what are the godfathers of crunkcore up to today? “We’re still performing and recording new music. We’re no longer signed to a record label – we’re completely independent and free to say and do whatever we please. It’s just me and Mikl (Michael Shea, the other founding member) now, and if anything, the music is stronger and better than ever. We’re just trying to get the word out that Brokencyde is still around and still hitting it hard. We’d like to build a buzz first before we drop an album and hit the road again. Brokencyde will never die!”
One of the most well-known names among British scenesters was Penknifelovelife, who even gave rise to a record label – Small Town Records – when a guy called Pete saw them perform in Bradford and decided he wanted to release their music.
“MySpace was a huge reason, if not the only reason, that Penknifelovelife had any following at all,” says former frontman Ross Kenyon, who left the band to join American outfit Confide in 2006. “Myspace played a big role in the independent music scene and a lot of bands will tell you the same. If you weren’t signed and you needed to release music to a big audience, MySpace was the place to do it!”
It all seemed to be going so well – until it wasn’t. “I moved to the US and I know Penknifelovelife tried a different vocalist for a while, but things didn’t work out so they decided to call it quits,” Ross explains. “There was probably a little animosity toward me when I first left, but we’re all friends now and I’m very close with a few of the guys.”
According to their Facebook, Confide haven’t worked together as a group for ‘a couple of years’, but Ross says he’s got some solo work in the pipeline. “Since Confide took a break, I’ve been spending time with my wife and daughter but I recently started to write new music with a close friend and we’re planning to release something soon,” he says. He’s also busy running a clothing company, Agape Attire.
One band who didn’t respond to our request for comment was Attack! Attack! (not to be confused with American band Attack Attack!, who only used one exclamation mark). After becoming a fixture on the MySpace scene, they self-released their debut, self-titled album in 2008, before signing to Hassle Records and releasing The Latest Fashion in 2010 and their last record, The Long Road To Nowhere, in 2013.
Lead guitarist Neil Starr and bassist Will Davies have gone on to form emo-pop-punk outfit States And Empires, who released their debut album, Freedom, in 2015. Their drummer Johno Fisher left the band the same year, and their social media channels suggest they haven’t yet found a permanent replacement.
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Drop Dead, Gorgeous
Drop Dead, Gorgeous’s MySpace success saw them being signed to Rise Records and playing on the 2005 Warped Tour, before they removed their Facebook account in 2013. We caught up with drummer Danny Cooper to find out what happened.
“The MySpace scene was this cultural phenomenon that was centered around music and discovering new bands. There were so many ways for people to share and promote our music, whether it was a bulletin or being added to someone’s Top 8, and was entirely responsible for the success of Drop Dead, Gorgeous,” says Danny.
So what happened two years ago? “We felt we had accomplished everything we could with DDG and mutually agreed it was time to pursue other life goals and projects,” he explains. “But we’ve all stayed very close friends. [Myself], Danny Stills and Aaron Rothe started a new band called 888 and just released our debut EP. Kyle Browning is currently in Caramel Carmella, and Jacob Belcher is currently in Its Teeth and Bastards.”
The Old Romantic Killer Band
A bit of an anomaly in this list, due to their lack of technicolour hairstyles, is Leeds’ Old Romantic Killer Band. Frontman Harry Johns is now enjoying success in Brawlers, but back in 2007 when the Leeds alternative scene was coming to prominence, his duo The Old Romantic Killer Band was using MySpace to further their career.
"It was about the shows,” says Harry. “We thought, if we have loads of gigs [listed on MySpace], we’ll look like a band who’s serious. We did some cool stuff, we toured America, but The Old Romantic Killer Band only lasted about a year. There were a lot of two-piece blues bands coming out around that time. The Black Keys were still quite underground, and The White Stripes weren’t as huge as they were about to become, but I think we were just too white and English!”
When The Old Romantic Killer Band decided to call it a day, Harry was asked to join fellow Yorkshire outfit, Dinosaur Pile-Up. “We used to look at their MySpace page and think, woah, they’ve got less gigs than us but they’re really good shows. They announced a tour with Pixies on MySpace” he says. “Then suddenly, I was in the band I used to be jealous of! I don’t keep in touch with those guys – we had our own fallings out – but I realised that you can be putting all these cool gigs up online but it doesn’t mean anyone’s going to them. MySpace allowed you to look like you were doing better than you actually were.”