It is clear when looking at journalism that the definition of ‘news’ has changed. Luke Griffiths of False Heads agrees, adding, “It’s almost utterly useless now, isn’t it? It’s difficult sometimes to even differentiate between some divvy cunt on Facebook and an article for ANY major news source. Not just tabloids!” Here Luke makes a good point as anyone seems to be able to write an article and post it successfully online, regardless of how credible it is. He continues, “The BBC use clickbait just like The Sun or the Mail. It’s the age of the headline where actual content, sources or information seem irrelevant.”
With False Heads’ Gutter Press EP due to be released next month, I was keen to learn about the story behind the name as well as the use of the lyric within their new single Twenty Nothing: “When I say ‘Gutter Press’ though, I’m including everyone in that statement… Keyboard warriors on social media, mainstream media, myself, you. With the rise of social media and news outlets desperate to fit in with the rise of the internet, we’re all included in this horrible shit.” Keyboard warriors have definitely emerged as an inescapable force on social media, with Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds saturated with ‘news experts’ who refuse to allow any real debate. Luke found this to be particularly frustrating in relation to Brexit and the left wing/right wing battle: “I see just as much misinformed bollocks from so called ‘left wingers’ as I do from the right. You only need to look at Brexit and the way that was handled by both the Leave and Remain camp online – just petty name-calling and misinformation.” I pushed further, sensing this was a discussion that he had had many times before: “That’s how we absorb or don’t absorb information, that’s how we debate now. We insult each other then pat ourselves on the back like we’ve made a difference. And why not? When all we care about is a headline then there’s no wonder why we are satisfied with sharing an article, an insult and burying our heads in the sand to any real reason or debate.”
Social media platforms have certainly played a role in the dumbing down of news, a process that has been occurring for a while yet has sped up with the new technologies available. The fascination with the world of ‘celebrity’ has flooded social media with scandal junkies able to get their fix through sponsored posts in their feeds or ‘news’ articles from social media pages. Articles about a nude Kim Kardashian (again) or Brangelina’s split are no longer limited to women’s magazines or the tabloids; instead every ‘reputable’ news institution plasters their pages with clickbait headlines telling people that this is big news worthy of attention. World disasters are suddenly in the same news sphere as ‘celebs’. Luke interjects, “I’d kill ‘em all. That horrible, vapid world of reality TV. People that are famous for the sake of being famous. They’re worthless human beings. I find it depressing that scandals take so much precedent on main news sources. I honestly cannot work out if it’s people caring less about world news or if it is because the media force it down their throats.” Despite his strong views, Luke is obviously willing to engage in genuine debate and encourages others to do the same: “The people that annoy me more are the self-righteous, self-assured yet ignorant of any other worldview social media types who aren’t willing to have their mind changed.”
You have to wonder how much influence these people have on public opinion, these institutions that heavily feature clickbait articles and listicles. Buzzfeed is a main culprit, posting articles upon their website and social media with frown-inducing headlines like ‘Questions black people have for white people’ or ‘Cultural appropriation’: “Sites like LADbible and Buzzfeed make me want to gouge my eyes out. It’s not journalism. Call it whatever you want, but don’t call it journalism. It’s the way it’s presented as ‘news’ that irritates me. Bullshit opinions with no sources and nonsense of no consequence… The fact that you don’t need to source and back up your opinions with facts and evidence is why journalism is dying. People believe it, regardless of whether it’s true.”
The alterations have crossed into all aspects of journalism, including within music, and this has had an effect on upcoming bands like False Heads: “Major labels have more power than ever. I know bands that were trudging along, working for natural press/buzz, they sign to a major and they’re everywhere. Straight on a Radio 1 playlist and on every online publication. That’s the way it is.” As with news media, music journalism has become victim to this obsession with popularity, which is surely detrimental to budding young journalists eager to feature their favourite bands: “I know journos like this, that desperately try to get articles of new bands on DIY, Noisey, NME etc and just get told no and have very little freedom as to what they get to write about. It goes back to the structures that are in place now that are harder to manoeuvre around.”
Through sponsored posts and main features within all the major music publications, a band is able to create a real buzz and dominate the press. They are sure to find success if they are tipped for it, right? Luke isn’t so sure: “People I know who love music get sick of all the bands shoved down their throat all the time. They get nothing from them emotionally or think they’re just a bit mediocre. However, with some of those bands that just comes with being everywhere, having mass exposure and money behind you. If you throw enough shit at a wall, some of it will stick.” Luke doesn’t think that all music sites operate in this manner, however, admitting that “there are still good people out there working for big magazines/papers/sites that are trying to give a foot up to independent artists and people do take more notice when you get those big hitting features and airplay.” This was certainly the case for False Heads, who had a video premiere featured upon The Independent website, a sign that the mainstream media can still play a part for upcoming artists.
For any band working hard within an already money-manipulated scene and at a time when music journalism has become a game you must be willing to play, it is understandably a frustrating road to be on. This trio remains headstrong: “When a band as shit as The Hunna can become successful almost solely (it felt anyway) on a ridiculous advertising budget, it’s pretty depressing. But, ah well, you can moan about it or make some music and put it out there. I’ll just do both.” That is exactly what False Heads have been doing, with outspoken interviews, captivating lyrics and electric live performances showing the three-piece are a driven bunch that people will certainly be hearing more of: “When the 1975 can be so critically acclaimed and written about, I just end up lost for words. You end up with a bit of a chip on your shoulder or a ‘fuck this shit’ attitude that drives you forward.” Their anger will only make them stronger.
False Heads EP ‘Gutter Press’ is out on 10th March released on their record label 25 Hour Convenience Store
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Cover image by Gregory Hesse Wagner