I haven’t often mentioned it, but music gets me through the day. I very deeply love music, whether I’m walking to it or writing a paper or just listening to it for the sake of listening to it. I think, therefore, I’ll make this post about one of the most fascinating bands around: Gorillaz.
I first got into their music back in ’05, or maybe it was ’06, when I heard their most popular song, Feel Good Inc, on the radio. I was captivated immediately: I’d never heard anything quite like it, and I listened to a lot of alternative. Later that week, in my creative writing class (I went to an art school back then), I was listening to it on my mp3 player (this was well before I had an iPod) and a friend asked me what I was listening to. Turns out she was a huge fan of the band, and was able to tell me all about them.
I learned that they were a virtual band. A virtual band is a band whose public face is characters that don’t really exist, and virtual bands are often actually massive projects including large groups of constantly changing members– Gorillaz may well be the best example of this. The project was started by musician Damon Albarn and visual artist Jamie Hewlett, and, as has been mentioned, has included the work of a great many people. The characters, named 2-D, Murdoc, Noodle, and Russel, each have their own distinct personalities, and are, to put it mildly, very entertaining. And it shows in the fans– I dare you to find a more obsessive, devoted fanbase than that of Gorillaz. I mean, they’re characters, not real people, and yet they have larger personal followings than that of many living, human artists. This reflects the fact, of course, that they are the most successful virtual band.
There is nothing virtual about their music, though: it’s what lured me in, and it’s what kept me a fan. Albarn lent his voice to the project (in the guise of the virtual singer, 2-D), and his singing voice truly has a unique quality. Their music, too, is incredibly unique. It doesn’t even really fit into a single genre, and their music has evolved completely from album to album. The project’s willingness to risk popularity by changing from the kind of music that got them notoriety to a new kind of music is particularly impressive, in my opinion.
You might wonder how a band that doesn’t really exist shows itself to and interacts with the public. Well, the characters are seen in music videos, ads, radio shows, TV show episodes, live show DVDs, a book, and several truly impressive websites for fans to explore that feel more like adventure games. In other words, Albarn and Hewlett found ways of getting their characters out there. And it worked, remember those rabid fans I mentioned?
Sadly, according to the founding duo, that project that brought us such unique music has finally closed. Of course, coming from those two, it’s a maybe at best. They’ve said they were done before, and then came back to make two more albums.
Anyway, if you haven’t heard of Gorillaz or any of their music, check them out sometime. You might find it well worth the listen.