OP-ED Musicians Speak Out (Ben Jorgensen – Armor For Sleep)

Most recent album, Smile For them, frontman Ben Jorgensen takes on the hipster culture prominent in the borough of Brooklyn, New York, in the song “Williamsburg”. There’s a difference between being your “hipster” self and just following trends, though. Jorgensen wants everyone to know that putting down others just to feel cool happens in all 50 states – and it’s not acceptable anywhere.

  “I have been summoned from my grueling schedule of sitting around on tour bus to go on a rant describing in detail why I wrote a song berating a mystical placed called Williamsburg. Am I angry at Williamsburg, Virginia? Do the reenactments of Colonial American life really upset me that much? Well, honestly, they probably would if I had to witness the Colonial actors recite their lines about their grievances with England and how hard it is to churn their butter (or whatever else they feel like they have to act out to seventh grade students and tourists), but nope, I’m not talking about that Williamsburg. I’m talking about a place perhaps more sinister that any found in Virginia. The place I’m talking about is none other than Williamsburg, Brooklyn! What is my gripe with Williamsburg? Let me divulge.
What actually spurred the need for me to explain myself was a slightly angered fan who sent a slightly angry message to my personal MySpace account that reads: “Hey dude. I used to think you were the shit when you sang about being dead. Now you have to hate a town; that’s so lame, dude. Good job selling out.” Fuck. He totally got me!
The thing is, the song isn’t really about Williamsburg. The song is about a group of people I met at some parties in New York City and hung out with for a bit. The use of Williamsburg in the song is more symbolic than anything. Williamsburg in general is known to have a large “hipster” population. What, you ask, is a “hipster” exactly? As with most things in life, Wikipedia has an explanation:
“Use of the word ‘hipster’ in present day slang has developed distinct negative connotations, including: Identifying that a person may be superficially following recently mass-produced, homogeneous, urban fashion trends, overly concerned with their image and the contradictions of their identity, potentially anorexic, disingenuously appropriating a pseudo-artistic image or ‘a collage of other urban identities’ from the past, or simple an elitist.”
I sort of agree with this summation, although it is a little bit mean. I think that at one point in time, there were certain people who could literally only afford certain vintage clothing and who had real reasons for doing things which are now done just because they are associated with certain attitudes. I remember someone explaining to me why ‘thugs’ wore saggy jeans; it’s because in certain maximum-security prisons, the prison-guards would make the inmates remove their belts before walking around certain secure areas. When these inmates were released, wearing no belts and having saggy pants became a sign that they had served hard time. However, others who witnessed this most likely had no idea why the tougher guys were sagging their jeans. It just became a trend because of the attitude associated with the fashion of the people who started it. This is how trends develop.
I guess what started bothering me about certain people’s attitudes in New York City was that they needed to assert being above other people because they associated themselves with a subculture they wouldn’t feel a part of unless they proclaimed to be cooler than other people. I know how huge subcultures are for us. They give us a sense of identity and a sense of belonging to something that is recognizable by others who are in the know. I used to be punk rock. I would do everything in my power to make me feel like I was just as punk rock as the squatters who put on shows at NYC’s ABC No Rio. I understand this need in people to belong. But when people call themselves “hipsters” and identify themselves with a subculture that they think they can’t belong to unless they put down people and things not to list of what the Hipster Gods deem cool – that to me is aggravating. Yes, there are plenty of people who wear “hipster” clothing and listen to “hipster” bands who aren’t elitist; I don’t have a problem with these people whatsoever.
But this group of people I ran into in New York City, all they did was make fun of other people’s clothes, the music they listened to, the food they ate and the shows they watched. Maybe making everyone around them feel uncool was a way they cold all bond with each other, but I had to call them out on – and my voice is my songs.
My friend Rob Hitt [ex-Midtown/owner, I Surrender Records], who lives in Williamsburg, was one of my first to hear the song, and he sat me down to say, “Not everyone here is bad.” I agree 1 million percent! Again, the song is by no means about the entire city (even though in the song I say it is, but I was just being dramatic). The people I’m calling out are the ones who think it’s part of their identity to berate others for doing things that don’t fall under their cool umbrella (for instance, listening to emo), and who say, “Yes,, I am a hipster, but only because I know what’s cooler than you.”
That being said, I’m not interested in starting some subculture war. I just think there is something inherently lame about anyone claiming to be cooler than anyone else. That goes for hipsters, scenesters, football players – whoever. This song not taking shit from those who look down on you. It’s about realizing that the people who have the biggest flaws are the ones who are too afraid to be themselves.”

For more info, check www.armorforsleep.com.

SOURCE: Alternative Press

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