One week ago, The New York Times dipped its toes into the rising micro-genre known as #seapunk, and said that “like LOLcats and pedobear, [#seapunk] is an inside Web joke that feeds off its own ridiculousness.”
Somehow we felt there was more to the story, so we hit up Coral Records Internazionale to get the straight dope on how seapunk made it from a hashtag to the storied pages of the Old Gray Lady. We didn't get much of a response, so we hit up the Twitter personae who created the term itself and asked them to tell us what the hell was going on. Two days later we had this incredible manifesto in our inbox.
SEAPUNK WASHES UP: THE UNTOLD STORY BEHIND THE MICRONICHE
"Fads swept the youth of the Sprawl at the speed of light; entire subcultures could rise overnight, thrive for a dozen weeks, and then vanish utterly." -William Gibson, Neuromancer
When the idea of #seapunk was born in a dream, neither nor myself predicted the #splash heard 'round the world. With varying degrees of amusement, amazement, and eventually eye-rolling distaste, we watched a tongue-in-cheekstyle/philosophy that defined our summer become a press tsunami. #Seapunk grew into a genre, a record label, a visual language, and a subculture, a ship steered on a very strange course by new and self-appointed captains. We have remained quiet through multiple, oddly aggressive attempts to rewrite history by those we thought were in on the joke, but our seas remain silent no longer.
Seapunk today is the ex-girlfriend we thought we knew, but then she cut her hair, dyed it turquoise, started listening to different music and untagged all her old Facebook photos. And while we don't so much relate to her anymore (what were we thinking?), we can't deny experiencing unprecedented levels of entertainment watching the process take place. Allow us to share the lulz with you.
We bring you the true tale of #seapunk, an accidental meme that became a scene, via an empirical timeline created through our own and others' memories, as well as a little help from the internet. While writing the story in the third person is the ultimate dickbag move, it does make for the best retelling.
Dive in! Just not too deep… shallow waters ahead.
THE DREAM + THE #
June 2011 - @LILINTERNET wakes up from a dream at 5am, tweets about a "seapunk" leather jacket encrusted with barnacles instead of studs (Fig. 1), and goes back to sleep. He tells @LILGOVERNMENT, who hashtags #seapunk for the first time (Fig. 2). Lil Internet and Lil Government just want to escape to the beach (Fig. 3)…and a meme is born.
THE BUZZ, THE IDEOLOGY + THE SECRET GROUP
Summer 2011- A loose-knit group of TWITTER users begins frequently tweeting #seapunk jokes back-and-forth to each other- crab claw earrings, fishnet, smoking hashtags and seaweed, etc. Cyberpunk elements enter the picture (Fig. 4); between talk of sitting on a beach with unlimited bandwidth and seasteading to escape government jurisdiction, the lines between the internet and the sea begin to blur. Albert Redwine (@ultrademon) forms a secret #seapunk Facebook group and invites the crew. The lulz continue.
THE FIRST ARTICLE
September 2011 -SuperSuper! Magazine in London has been listening in on (and participating in) the conversation, both via TWITTER and Facebook. Feeling the love, they publish the first print #seapunk article, immortalizing the original core group - (@LILINTERNET, @LILGOVERNMENT, @UNICORNKID, @ULTRADEMON, @ZOMBELLE_, @TTTEAMS). More exploratory than definitive, the piece included watery graphics, a shipwrecked mermaid mask, bits of good humored philosophy and an "essential listening" track list that includes Le1f, random trance, and "putting your ear to a seashell".
RIPPLES IN THE GLOBAL CLIMATE
Fall '11 -Dis Magazine asks "What is seapunk?“ Despite various and increasingly conflicting answers, the universal consciousness is tuning in. Soulja Boy is repping his own "Ocean Gang" with aquatic raps like "Came Out The Water," also tweeting both #seapunk and #splash hashtags. #Seapunk tweets pop up from the likes of Azealia Banks, Venus X, Franki Chan and Kreayshawn. Even Gaga's hair is conspicuously turquoise. Seapunk is alive and well on Tumblr and various blogs, including Mischka.
LINES ARE DRAWN IN THE SAND
September-October 2011- What was once a free-flowing exchange of quips, ideas, and imagery in the Seapunk secret group turns to squabbles about what "is" and "isn't" seapunk (Figs. 5, 6). Albert Redwine (producer Fire For Effect) wants to start a seapunk electronic music record label with contributions from original group members. However, Lil Internet and Lil Government are wary of the "us against them" mentality forming, the exact opposite of seapunk's initial lack of intention (Fig. 7). Original supporters (and musicians) like Le1f and Teams, who says "I stopped relating to seapunk when I realized it had surpassed a fun TWITTER joke/fashion style and turned into a club," are also disillusioned. Meanwhile, Redwine and Zombelle are (mis)appropriating punk terminology, pushing "#up_the_seapunks" and driving the ship full-throttle towards confusion. Mention of seapunk's point of origin is becoming conspicuously scarce.
#SEAPUNK GOES IRL: THE GENRE, LABEL + "SCENE"
November 2011-early 2012 - Seapunk, having achieved niche ubiquity, is now well on its way to being packaged and sold.Seapunk-billed parties go off in LA, NYC, Chicago and Minneapolis, to name a few. Redwine's label, Coral Records, begins putting out limited edition CD-Rs and mp3 releases with new "seapunk" electronic artists. He also begins issuing swift DMCA takedown requests to remove any free download links of Coral Records releases. Punk may be dead, but hypocrisy is alive and well via Redwine (Fig. 8) and Coral Records (Fig. 9).
"Everything is really wet, and I don't mean that in a sexual way. That's why we just use a mixer and no turntables because the water would fuck up our gear." Redwine says in a recent interview with Dazed and Confused. He would also "like to start a shop - it would include expensive French fisherman's rain gear," and goes on to say "my name doesn't actually relate to the sea either, but it's all alchemy because we're making gold here."
THE NEW YORK TIMES SPEAKS: "SEAPUNK, A WEB JOKE WITH MUSIC, HAS ITS MOMENT"
March 2012 -Making gold, indeed! New York Times writer Ben Detrick pens a piece about seapunk for the Sunday Styles section, interviewing Zombelle, Redwine, and Lil Internet. Redwine, wholied outright to Detrick that he did not have Lil Internet's contact information, added that "[Lil Internet] doesn't have anything to do with seapunk." Redwine is not quoted in the final article, while Zombelle shouts out Tumblr, disses Azealia Banks' pro-mermaid stance and complains that "no one will actually credit [seapunk] to us," throwing additional shade Detrick's way via TWITTER within hours of the interview taking place (Fig. 10). Thanks to Detrick's own journalistic sixth sense, he finds Lil Internet himself and includes him in the piece, thwarting a perplexingly blatant attempt to conceal seapunk's true origins.
GOODBYE, SEAPUNK; HELLO #WAVERAVE
Present- Zombelle no longer seems to be stressed out when interviewers ask her what seapunk is, as she and Redwine vie to be known as the true creators of seapunk. Coral Records continues to put out some amazing artists like Unknown, and we love watching seapunk influence continue to swim its way into current fashion. We (Lil Government and Lil Internet) are more than happy to let seapunk's second wave own the genre, the scene, the label, and the merchandise that they deserve full credit for creating- with one request. Might we recommend #waverave (Fig. 11) as a more appropriate blanket term for the "movement"? Or at the very least, a more original one.
It is with heavy hearts that we put #seapunk in its original form to rest, leaving you to bathe in the deep symphony of our summer '11 SEAPUNK AMBIENT SOUND PACK. The download, like Willy, is free.