PT1: Failing at a fan community
Taking a break from the breakdowns to talk about a butterfly effect from a random Jersey band
Picture this: you’re a high schooler who listens to Twenty One Pilots religiously. Scary, I know.
But you’re trying to branch out, find another song that speaks to you. Unaware, on your Weekly Discovery Spotify playlist, a punchy, upbeat but raw song catches your attention. The cover is a bad MS paint image of a banana, and when you look at this band’s page, you see they only have a single EP released. And every song on it? Fun, fresh, and a create combination of raw sound that still is able to make itself clean and poppy. You add them all to your playlist, and forget about it.
Remember the Twenty One Pilots thing? I didn’t escape them – I was still really into that band. I had gained a renewed interest when they released their 2018 album Trench.
At the time leading up to this mysterious album, there was a huge online community that was generating buzz, theories, and talk around this new album. All of the hype and community building seemed to originate from a Discord server, which is just a more complicated chat room. I was envious of the people who ran it – they were surrounded by fans who were just as passionate, and to an extent even had some communication with the band members themselves, being that they were inadvertently such important pieces of the fan community. I thought that was cool, and I wanted that.
Remember that other, obscure band I was talking about? In the summer of 2018, they finally released their debut album – Concentrate. They stuck with the fruit theme and everything. The Happy Fits quickly rose to being one of my favorite bands (yes, almost as much as Twenty One Pilots. Crazy).
But, unlike Twenty One Pilots, there was almost no fanbase for this group. They had maybe a few thousand monthly listeners. So, I found a single fan account (I had to go all the way to Tumblr to find it), and messaged them and asked if they wanted to start a Discord server with me about the Happy Fits. They said they knew a few people who might want to join. And like that, we were off.
And if by “off” you’re thinking “three more people joined a server and it sat silent for two years”, you would be correct. To be fair, it was hard to find fans for a band that had only just released their first album. But the thing was, I knew they rocked, and that it had to be only a matter of time before they blew up.
Their popularity grew slowly. They went to being an opener in a bar of 50 people to the headliner at the Subterranean Basement for 100. The shows were riveting, if not just for the impact of seeing a man absolutely shred a bass cello to a fast-paced rock song.
I started a sort of casual dialogue with the band, mostly because I just liked drawing stuff related to music, so they ended up being apart of that – and unexpectedly, actually seeing it. As a high schooler, it was super exciting to see a group play live in person and have them actually recognize you from just a random Instagram post you made.
I also ended up sending them a business card redesign as part of some high school project. Looking back on it – pretty rude! But again, as a high schooler it was super cool to be able to say that some band was using something that I made.
And generally for me, this was a great ego boost. I had always been kind of artistic, but getting positive feedback from other artists in their own respect was exciting. I was slowly developing a graphic design path, and considering it as something I wanted to go into for college.
With college looming the year ahead, this was a helpful realization to come to. Something I hadn’t expected to be looming that year ahead, however, was a worldwide shutdown.