Our Band Could Be Your Life documents the American independent scene from 1981-1991 through the stories of thirteen bands: Black Flag, The Minutemen, Mission of Burma, Minor Threat, Hüsker Dü, The Replacements, Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers, Big Black, Dinosaur Jr, Fugazi, Mudhoney and Beat Happening. Michael Azerrad’s definition for indie in his prologue is simple: labels, or bands that were releasing on labels, which had no affiliation whatsoever with the Big 6 record labels of the time. Perhaps even simpler, indie meant doing everything yourself with little or no budget.
The book tells thirteen different tales of do-it-yourself perseverance, or “jamming econo” as the Minutemen would say. Ten short years saw the birth of the American punk, post-punk, hardcore, noise rock and twee pop movements. Indie rock oases popped up all over the US: Southern California, D.C., Minneapolis, NYC, Chicago, Boston, Seattle. While these bands did not all tour with one another, the reader understands that there was both a nationwide independent camaraderie as well as local scenes throughout the country.
Our Band Could Be Your Life focuses on chronicling the day to day life of the bands and the realities of what they experienced to make their music. Azerrad‘s experience as a journalist shows through in the writing. This is a book made of 13 independent stories which are linked together by commonality of experience. At times Azerrad is wordy and circles back onto the same themes multiple times and for that reason alone I suggest reading the thirteen chapters as independent works. Don’t be afraid to spend a lot of time with Our Band Could Be Your Life, I found myself reading chapters in between other books (A slightly mind-melting experience reading the Mudhoney chapter in between Shine Shine Shine and Beautiful Ruins.)