The Vivian Girls Are Breaking Up: What Does it Mean for a Band to split?
Today, after seven years of playing together, Vivian Girls announced their breakup. Yes, you did read that last sentence right, and yes, it does say seven years. The indie rock girl band announced it on their website today, along with the dates of the two "farewell shows" they'll play.
Not to belittle what the band was — Vivian Girls was a great band of talented ladies who will continue to contribute to music through projects like La Sera, the Babies, and Upset. But it does feel a little silly to have to read a sentence that begins "Once key figures in the lo-fi revival of the late 2000s....", even if the band did release three albums during their time together. And combined with the recent breakup of the three-year-old Wild Flag, it does raise the question: what does a band breakup even mean anymore?
It happens often enough (so often that Stereogum makes memorial videos for it). And it seems like every year, well-known bands die younger and younger. In fact, many of the bands that called it quits this past year were formed after 2005: the aforementioned Vivian Girls and Wild Flag, Emeralds, The Virgins. Other bands, like Thee Oh Sees and The Walkmen, choose to go on a poorly-defined "hiatus."
While some bands break up, others make up. The past few years have seen a resurgence of artists that defined the '80s and '90s, like The Breeders, The Replacements, The Cure, and the recently-reunited Outkast. But a lot of these reunions feel empty when the artists don't release any new material, just reunite to tour. And it also makes band breakups less affecting; after all, why should breakups matter when the band will just eventually reunite anyways?
All of this makes for a much more cynical landscape for music fans. Sure, many young bands have broken up too soon, and many bands have also pointlessly reunited (here's looking at you, Rolling Stones). But in this magical internet age, fans are now inundated with this information, and not just for artists that have seen the better half of a Billboard chart. It makes for a depressing look at the life cycle of a band.
But instead of getting cynical, it would be better for audiences to get pragmatic. After all, musicians are just normal people, their jobs are just a lot more interesting than ours. So instead of using the relationship metaphor for a band breakup, think of it more are a change in occupation. Bands do it for usually the same reasons: sometimes it's not a good fit, or sometimes they just want to do something else. Sometimes they go on to do something even better, sometimes they come back. Sometimes it's a terrible idea, sometimes it's for the better.
So to the Vivian Girls: good luck in your new career ventures — hope you've updated your LinkedIn.