“Antifolk was and will always be an opportunity for anyone to get up and make a ridiculously holy racket, whatever that entails. An opportunity to become you on your own terms with all the rewards and consequences.”
There can be few more mythologised genres of music than Antifolk (or Anti-Folk, we’re not fussy). Was it a movement against folk music or was it inspired by it? Was it even a genre at all, or more a scene that didn’t know how to present itself? Did it even really ever exist and does it still exist now?
In many way’s the ethos of Antifolk is more akin to punk than it ever was to traditional folk. Jim Testa, writer of the influential Jersey Beat zine, described it as, “the willingness to follow your muse wherever it leads” and certainly freedom of expression is at the heart of whatever Antifolk was, or is. Other’s are however more keen to play up the influence of folk, seeing it as an attempt not to move away from folk, but to back to its rebellious routes. One of Britain’s most prominent Antifolk musician’s Filthy Pedro, described it as, “re-discovery of folk ethics and a reaction against the rigid genre that folk became in the 60s.” Perhaps in it’s creating, Antifolk was closer to the original ethos and message of folk, than anything the retro minded trad musicians had ever produced.
Perhaps, like Post-Punk was to Punk, Antifolk was the fascinating offspring of folk. A child birthed in a world of acoustic guitars, who wasn’t willing to slide into middle age gracefully. Antifolk was witty, cathartic, raw, honest and exciting, it knew all the rules of folk music, and it knew how to break all of them. Perhaps though as Jeffrey Lewis, in our opinion the king of Antifolk put it, “the fact that no one knows what it means, including me, makes it kind of mysterious.” Antifolk is quite possibly whatever you want it to be, and all the better for it.
One act often painted with the Antifolk brush are New York’s KLeyko & Patches. The duo from, “the fabled nautically placed woodland of Staten Island”, released their debut album, Animal Bones vol.1 back in December. The seven track offering was an intriguing collection, shifting from the rich brass-flourishes of Television to the more muted and downbeat feel of The Mosquito Effect. There’s playful and intriguing use of instrumentation throughout, whether it’s a glockenspiel or an accordion, a trumpet or a ukulele, everything seems to be selected with great thought to work with each track. At the forefront throughout is KLeyko’s vocal, generally given a pleasantly lo-fi production, there’s a touch of Karen O’s solo offerings or Laura Veirs about it. Ambitious and hard to pin down, KLeyko & Patches take ideas you know well and stitch them into new shapes, creating something quietly intriguing along the way.
The pair originally started working together as visual artists, and admit their next project is as likely to be a comic or a zine as another record, it would certainly be a shame if they’d didn’t explore music further, as Animal Bones vol.1 is one that certainly requires a second helping. Today KLeyko & Patches have put together a mixtape featuring some of their favourite danceable anti-folk tracks, although they’re keen to point out they themselves have no ill feelings towards any folks.
We’ve really embraced the anti-folk genre because it can kind of go anywhere, and “Catnip” inadvertently became kind of an old-timey tavern dance song. Here’s our playlist of other anti-folk tunes with a dance vibe.
1) Thomas Patrick Maguire – Don’t Want To Be Dead Soon
Probably the grooviest, most fun song you’ll ever hear about existential dread.
2) Pear Claw – Surfin’ the FDR Drive
A great blend of modern city imagery and classical folk, that chorus always makes us want to square dance in the streets of all 5 boroughs of NYC, except we don’t know how to.
3) Crazy & the Brains – Ice Cream
If you threw punk and Looney Tunes into a time machine, these guys would come out the other end. Head-banging syncopation with a bonus xylophone!
4) Youth Moose – The Tiny Cowboy
This is the story of the tiny cowboy. But is he too tiny to get you dancing? Oh you’ll see. Best 65 seconds you can spend considering a cowboy.
5) The Jeffrey Lewis and Peter Stampfel Band – Do You Know Who I Am? I’m %$&in’ Snooki!!
Two generations of East Village musical icons come together to tell the larger-than-life tale of the notorious, mythical… Snooki. You’ve never felt as connected to the Jersey shore as you will dancing to this song.
6) Admiral of the Narrow Seas – Lookin’ For You
A hidden gem that feels like jumping into a pop-up storybook and dancing to a sea shanty on the deck of a pirate ship run entirely by children and rabbits.
7) The Slits – I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Long before anti-folk was the hip-grooving genre-bending stylings of The Slits. Neither Marvin Gaye nor John Fogerty can hold a candle to Ari’s audacious vocals in this cover.
8) Pinc Louds – Shaking
If you’ve been wondering so far what “anti-folk” means, this song and video sums it up. If this doesn’t get you dancing, dreaming, and/or laughing, please consult your nearest wish fountain.
9) Schwervon! – Flaming Dragonfly
Fancy dancy sing along music that keeps it weird and simple at the same time. Part Buggles and part Daria.
10) Daniel Johnston – Sorry Entertainer
Try not to bop along to the dissonant drive of Daniel Johnston, one of our greatest influences and the unspoken ancestor of all things anti-folk.
11) Phoebe Blue and the Make Baleaves – Telepathic Guilt
Not only is this a fun song to get you moving, but the lyrics almost sound like dance instructions! (Song starts at 1:50, but the video’s fun too!)
12) True Dreams – The Scum
True Dreams is the delicate balance between The Powerpuff Girls and Pussy Riot. Scream, dance, write poetry, and fight crime to this one.
With credit to http://www.antifolk.com an excellent source of information for the intro.