How Shoegaze Lived, Died, and Came Back to Influence a New Generation

Bryan Parys
September 12, 2019

If you like Coldplay, Beach House, or even the 1975, then you probably like shoegaze—even if you didn't know it.

Jilian Medford of the band IAN SWEET
Jilian Medford B.M. '15 of the band IAN SWEET
Image by Michael Tyrone Delaney

Shoegaze is an underground genre of rock 'n' roll that lived and seemingly died in the '90s and was defined by heavily effected guitars and ethereal vocals. To get a sense of what it sounds like, you needn’t look much further than most of the scene’s band names: Slowdive, Ride, Lush, Swervedriver, you get the idea—a wash of sound that takes the listener on dream-like sonic journeys. But shoegaze was also famously criticized by the music media as “the genre that celebrates itself.” And yet, 20 years on, the genre has been making headlines in major news outlets and inspiring independent and mainstream artists alike, from Beach House to the 1975.

In light of the genre’s influence and merits being reappraised, this episode of Sounds of Berklee looks at shoegaze and what its signature guitar sound teaches us about the relationship between the underground and the mainstream beyond the binary of major label versus independent. To help me parse this, I spoke with three members of the Berklee community: Susan Rogers, a professor in the Music Production and Engineering Department; student Blaise Eldred of the band RVRCT; and Jilian Medford B.M. '15, singer, guitarist, and founder of the band IAN SWEET.

Listen to our shoegaze playlist to hear some of the bands that helped create the genre as well as artists that draw heavily on its legacy.

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