‘Everyone was partying for their life’: Bang Gang, bloghouse and the indie sleaze of the mid-2000s | Australian music

Back in the mid-noughties, one party ruled Sydney’s Kings Cross. It was called Bang Gang, and co-founder Jamie Wirth remembers it well.

“Oh my God, it was wild. It was just fucking mayhem,” Wirth recalls. “There was a bit of dodginess, a lot of smooching, it was pretty horny. It was wild, and colourful, and it was like everyone was partying for their life. But it was also a celebration of this new form of music: it was exciting, and it was coming out every week.”

The Bang Gang Deejays.

That new form of music – a mostly electronic mixed bag of songs released between roughly 2005 and 2011, by artists like Justice, Uffie, Simian Mobile Disco and Erol Alkan – has more recently been dubbed “bloghouse”. But if you don’t know it by that name, or even how it sounded, you probably know what it looked like. Bloghouse was also the era of the celebrity party photographer, Vice Dos and Don’ts, American Apparel disco pants, exquisitely decorated MySpace profiles, Hipster Runoff and Kanye West in shutter shades. If the names Cobra Snake or Cory Kennedy mean anything to you, you were probably there for it. (And if you weren’t, just wait – the aesthetics of this era, dubbed “indie sleaze” by one viral TikTok video, look poised for a comeback.)

Bang gang records.
Bang Gang Deejays’ in-house label, Bang Gang 12 Inches. Photograph: Bloghouse Artefacts

What unified bloghouse wasn’t a cohesive sound but how you found the music: on music blogs such as GottaDanceDirty, Music for Robots and Fluokids. The rise of home internet meant low-quality MP3s could be disseminated on the fly by artists, creating an ever-growing treasure trove of new tracks, remixes and mash-ups. DJs at parties like Bang Gang would play the week’s best new releases, but you could also just download them for free on to your desktop computer. This marked an important micro-revolution for music.

“It was the first time that music was getting big on the internet instead of at the club, at the record shop or on the radio,” says Lina Abascal, the author of a new book, Never Be Alone Again: How Bloghouse United the Internet and the Dancefloor, which documents that brief but transformative moment.

She wanted to explore how the “perfect storm” of changes – to technology, the internet and the music industry – facilitated bloghouse and other cultural shifts. Abascal views bloghouse – which sonically had “no rules”, and was concerned only with having fun – as a reaction against the self-serious iterations of rock and electronic music that preceded it. Conducted largely away from major labels, by producers who gave their music away for free and bloggers who wrote about it as a passion project, it wasn’t concerned with monetisation. Bloghouse was more than just the songs, Abascal explains; it was “a cultural moment, with music that came out of it”.

Simian Mobile Disco performing in 2009.
British electronic duo Simian Mobile Disco perform in 2009. Photograph: PYMCA/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Bloghouse was also a boom time for Australian artists. The new ability to distribute songs online meant homegrown music could easily be discovered abroad, without the financial backing of a big label: just upload the track and away you go. “Suddenly the distance between Paris and Sydney or LA and Melbourne was a click,” Abascal says. “That was a first-time thing.”

Australia, alongside France and the US, became a main player in bloghouse. Acts such as Van She, the Presets, Ladyhawke, Midnight Juggernauts, Pnau, Cut Copy and Bag Raiders found followings overseas and became a tight-knit community at home (so synonymous was Australia with the era that Never Be Alone Again describes the sound of bloghouse as “just about any group of three to four Australians with V-necks and a synth keyboard”). A then-healthy nightlife industry also helped: Van She, for instance, met at Bang Gang and got signed after Modular Recordings founder Stephen Pavlovic saw them play there.

Julian Hamilton of the electronic duo The Presets performs live on stage at The Enmore Theatre on June 13, 2008 in Sydney, Australia.
Julian Hamilton of the Presets performs at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney in 2008. Photograph: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Modular led the scene locally, even recruiting a young Tame Impala in 2008. “You’d go to a pub with the Tame Impala guys and they’d sit there looking at you until you were like, ‘Oh shit, do you want me to shout you a beer?’ Because they had no money. They were like, 18,” Wirth says.

Michael Di Francesco, who played in electropop band Van She, says the internet helped break his group overseas. But he saw both good and bad in the constant churn of new music.

“What was amazing about it from a music producer’s perspective was that we could finish something on a Friday afternoon and then we’d be able to play in the club that same night,” he explains. “Or you could finish something, it would be on the internet the next day and people would already know it because they were checking out the blogs to see what the latest thing was. So it made things a lot quicker – but it also made things feel a lot more disposable, because that’s when so much more music started to be released.”

Shooting Stars Launch Oxford Art Factory. Bang Gang DJs. Sydney NSW Australia.
The 2009 launch party at Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory for the Bag Raiders’ single Shooting Stars.

Not everything was rosy in clubland, however. “Bloghouse definitely lacked diversity – racially and in terms of gender,” Abascal says. “Sure, some barriers were broken with the internet, but there was still some gatekeeping. It’s not a coincidence that so many of the bloggers were men, so many of the top artists, so many of the label heads, were men.”

But just as shifts in technology allowed bloghouse to bloom, new advances began to kill it. Record labels started ordering the takedown of illegal MP3s and Spotify set up shop, spelling an end to the wild west days of digital music consumption. The roving photographer was gradually made redundant by the ubiquity of iPhones, and small parties that had fostered the sound were replaced by corporatised festivals. Sonically, it gave way to EDM, a mainstream moment for dance music that had none of bloghouse’s DIY ethos. “Bloghouse created this blueprint for how to market electronic music that ‘the man’ took and ran with,” Abascal says.

Tame Impala perform in Melbourne in 2009. The band were signed to the Modular label, who led the Australia bloghouse scene.
Tame Impala perform in Melbourne in 2009. The band were signed to the Modular label, who led the Australia bloghouse scene. Photograph: Martin Philbey/Redferns

Only 10 years on, a lot of the era’s content has already been lost, as the blogs that built and documented it have gradually been taken down. Some of the era’s best-loved tracks were unofficial remixes or contained uncleared samples – meaning they never made it over to streaming services. That impermanence is what motivated Abascal to archive bloghouse: “I wanted to create a long-lasting piece of work that honours that time,” she says.

And the era lives on fondly in the memories of those who were there for it. “When things make it that big, they do have to burn out, I reckon,” Wirth says. “But in terms of the turboness of the fun and the strength of the community, I haven’t been a part of something like it since.”

By Indana