Homegrown film: Documentary traces American roots of Indie Pop

Indie pop fiends: California based band the Sea Lions played Popfest 2011 and call their genre “underground hip pop,” a pretty accurate description of what to expect from indie pop groups as a whole.
Michael Sharkey

This music is from a different sort of British invasion.

With band names like “Close Lobsters,” “Math & Physics Club,” “Tigercats,” and “Alpaca Sports,” the international indie pop movement is getting its spotlight in Brooklyn once again, and newcomers to the festival called NYC Popfest can find out how the English trend became such a hit overseas in the States in a stand-out documentary about one of the musical genre’s earliest US record labels.

“Indie pop festivals have a strong following in the UK, and we thought it would be the perfect way for US fans to see their favorite bands and meet new people,” said Popfest co-founder DJ “Dr. Maz.”

In a free screening, the documentary “The Shield Around the K” at Williamsburg’s Videology profiles the rise and success of Calvin Johnson’s K Records, one of indie pop’s earliest US contributors. Johnson and his record label, based in Olympia, Wash., epitomize the world of indie pop. Committed to creating and sharing “homegrown” music, K Records helped artists get their music out there authentically.

Maz and his fellow co-founder of Popfest Clyde Barretto always wanted to screen a film at the festival, so when director Heather Rose Dominic asked them to show her film, they jumped at the opportunity.

“The influence K Records has had on indie pop is magnanimous,” said Maz. “So many great bands came out of the Pacific Northwest and we’ve been fortunate to have some of them perform at Popfest in past years.”

Indie pop began in the United Kingdom, and later in the United States, as a reaction to the punk scene, a musical alternative for people who weren’t hardcore, at least not in the way punk is usually thought about. They wanted to play music that reflected their own fairly normal lives and didn’t need to create particularly impressive music to do it.

After the film, fans can stick around for a question and answer session with the director, but the indie pop doesn’t stop there. There’s a live show at the Knitting Factory and the night ends, much like many nights of the festival do, with an indie pop dance party.

For NYC Popfest, coming from all over United States, Canada, Europe and New Zealand, artists are gathering in New York ready to share their work in all its emotional, authentic indie pop glory, from Thursday May 30 to Sunday June 2 at venues throughout Brooklyn.

“You may never get a chance to see Close Lobsters, The Wolfhounds, The Bats and The Monochrome Set again in the US or anywhere,” said Maz. “These are indie pop legends that rarely, if ever, play shows.”

“The Shield Around the K” at Videology [308 Bedford Ave. at S. First Street in Williamsburg, (718) 782–3468, www.nycpopfest.org]. May 31, 5 pm, free.

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