We Owe Everything to Bloghouse

We Owe Everything to Bloghouse

The year was 2008, and I showed up to my first day of junior year in a lamé skater dress and a rat’s nest that looked like a giant mushroom on my head. At the time, I was transitioning out of the Warped Tour emo circuit and entering a new era dedicated to copycatting all the “alt” girls I saw in Cobrasnake photos posted on Tumblr, and so my tote bag contained a pack of stolen Parliaments, a copy of Eeeee Eee Eeee and an iPod full of Sébastien Tellier, Crystal Castles, Klaxons, Uffie and every MSTRKFT remix under the sun. You name it, and I had the illegal MP3, which is probably something I shouldn’t commit to writing, but, I guess, what’s done is done.

Either way, this was a personal watershed moment, heavily colored by “irony,” Cory Kennedy candids and the Vice Do’s and Dont’s column, but I didn’t really know what to call it until Carles, the enigmatic author behind Hipster Runoff, made a post titled “WTF is Blog House?” Granted, with the publication of Lina Abascal’s Never Be Alone Again: How Bloghouse United the Internet and the Dancefloor, we now have a much more comprehensive answer to that nostalgia-laden question.

For the uninitiated, bloghouse (AKA “bloghaus”) is an umbrella term for a wide-spanning cultural movement that was simultaneously a party scene, a fashion trend and an all-encompassing lifestyle centered on a “very certain kind of dance music,” per Abascal. Lasting from roughly 2006 to 2011, there isn’t a particular sound or sonic signature unique to the genre since you could, technically, classify different bloghouse songs and artists as everything from French touch to nü rave to electroclash.

Rather, it’s probably better to describe the overall vibe of bloghouse, which was chaotic, glitchy, garish, glittery, and almost as neon as American Apparel’s color range. After all, as Abascal clarified, it was “less about the exact sound and more about how you found it” as a subculture that revolved around the online discovery of catchy electronic music during a time when “rock music was getting boring” and “people were just really ready to dance.”

However, it’s also worth noting that no one called it “bloghouse” back then, even if the posthumous moniker is apt for a genre spawned by a “network of independent blogs.” From Stereogum to Gorilla Vs. Bear, these sites would share links of songs and remixes culled from HypeMachine charts and Tumblr posts, which made the once-arduous process of music discovery through hyper-niche forums and expensive record collections a thing of the past. Instead, bloghouse’s use of the internet meant DIY music was simplified to one click on a playlist link or illegally downloaded songshare file — something that predicted our current relationship with the online dissemination of music and culture.

“One of my favorite things about bloghouse is the democratization of it through free access to music online. You were able to become a curator yourself and participate, and I think people were really ready for that,” Abascal said, explaining that this was taking place during a time when more and more people were getting computers and the internet at home. As social media and technology continued to advance throughout the mid- to late-aughts, Abascal reflected on her own experience of being one of the many “listeners who turned into bloggers themselves,” merely because they loved the music and wanted to share it.

“Anyone can log on and be like, ‘Oh, shit, I care about this. Let me find other people that care about this,’ and it connected people from all over,” Abascal continued. “I think the motivations were very pure, which sounds kind of corny because by no means was this a wholesome scene, but I do think that there were elements of it that really were wholesome.”

Similarly, as A-Trak wrote in Never Be Alone Again’s foreward, artists now also had the ability to release songs, quickly and independently, thanks to all of those free MP3s combined with pirated production software, which made everything sound “as good as anything made in an expensive studio.” They also weren’t required to adhere to lengthy release timelines that required record printings and traditional magazine marketing, or even beholden to the creative constraints of contracts and record labels.

Basically, it was an era where things like Girl Talk’s mash-up creations could have actually existed and something that foreshadowed the collaborative, online-based production process of now, as A-Trak also said that artists could “test out our remixes the same day we made them,” solicit instant feedback from friends and, when the “tracks seemed ripe, we sent them to a blog and measured the fans’ reactions in real time.”

He added, “At this speed, we all felt like our tools could finally keep up with our ideas. It facilitated experimentation. Bloghouse broke a ton of rules; it was invigorating.”

Naturally, this level of output from thousands of laptop musicians also bled into party world, one built from the ground up by a group of internet people sans commercial sponsorships or big production companies. Instead, it was a ragtag collection of intimate, sweaty parties in New York, LA, San Francisco and beyond, filled with girls in hot pants and the kind of guys you picture when you think of the term “hipster,” all of which was documented by notorious party photographers like the Cobrasnake. It was huge to be in one of his online photo galleries, after all, as Abascal remembers spending time at these clubs and parties as a teen, hoping to land a coveted spot in one of these slideshows.

However, she also talked about a dark side to the IRL party scene, namely things like the exclusion of female artists by bookers and the blatant exploitation of underaged girls who are “like in the ninth grade” by predators. From being pilfered with booze to being creeped on by powerful older men like the founder of a certain beloved bloghouse-affiliated fashion brand, looking back, Abascal realized that a lot of the stuff happening in dark club corners was extremely “gross” and “very scary,” even if it didn’t seem that way at the time.

“There was some shit at the moment that I didn't know about or didn’t know that a young person being exploited, so I just didn't even realize it,” she said. “And now, if you look at these photos and you look at some of these dynamics, it’s not cute. It’s actually a big problem.”

Additionally, she also recalled a “really horrible level of gender inequality that’s sadly reflected in the book,” given that most of bloghouse’s biggest players were men. Because despite “reaching out to so many women,” it became obvious during the research project that “there also weren’t that many,” and that “some of them didn't want to participate because they were like, 'This wasn't a great time in my life.'"

She recalled several women saying, "'There are people still thriving off this who didn't treat me well,'" or, "‘The projects I was involved with left a bad taste in my mouth, so I don't really want to reminisce.'"

Even as we collectively try to move forward, though, it’s no secret that the internet has sped up the cyclical nature of cultural trends, to the point where we’ve already seen the second coming of the mid-aughts’ scene subculture. And according to Abascal, bloghouse itself also appears to be in the rebirth process via TikTok as “indie sleaze,” though she believes its cultural impact goes far beyond neon basics, PBR and bad haircuts.

After all, bloghouse, arguably, predicted the way we currently use the internet to spread culture, especially when it comes to things like quick musical output, a viral track and the way lots of songs and artists bring together older sonic references and iconoclastic production to create something new. And as A-Trak wrote in Never Be Alone Again, the movement’s legacy extends to a lot of music being made today, as you can hear those electro-disco elements, which were so important to bloghouse musical staples like Ed Banger Records, in “practically all current [pop] music.”

However, Abascal said that it’s hard to imagine that “something like bloghouse will ever happen again,” especially given our current relationship to the internet. Because “it wasn't selfies, or real-time live streaming, or Instagram.” Rather, you “could be like me, a little nobody high school girl” and still participate in this brief yet extremely impactful cultural moment.

“The past few years of creeping nostalgia suggests there was more to the whole thing than a five-year DIY rager whose photographic evidence should be destroyed posthaste,” as Abascal writes in Never Be Alone Again. “Maybe in the midst of all the chaos, something real was happening. Was it cool? Debatable. But was it fascinating? No doubt.”

Welcome to "Internet Explorer," a column by Sandra Song about everything internet. From meme histories to joke format explainers to collections of some of Twitter's finest roasts, "Internet Explorer" is here to keep you up-to-date with the web's current obsessions — no matter how nonsensical or nihilistic.

Photos courtesy of Demian Becerra