Dr. Wendy Fonarow took her Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology at UCLA and dove deep into the UK's indie scene for a provocative examination of its culture from the early 1990s to present. She was the first employee of Domino Records (home to Franz Ferdinand, Clinic, the Kills, and Arctic Monkeys, among many others). She went to thousands of shows, from countless Reading festivals to seeing Radiohead play at a school gym. Eventually, she became so involved in the community, she even named a band (Mojave 3)! Her insider knowledge is unlike any other, thanks to the unprecedented access and trust afforded to Dr. Fonarow during her research endeavors.
"I was not studying from a distance. The goal was to get inside and I couldn't do that by being dispassionate" said Fonarow. "So many doors were opened with fans because I didn't feel any vanity about being an academic. I was fascinated by being both an insider and an outsider at the same time."
Wendy's in-depth study of the British independent music scene explores how the behavior of fans, artists, and music industry professionals produce a community with an aesthetic based on moral values. As Barry Shank, author of Dissonant Identities characterized it, "She has created a book full of remarkable truths. It has the effect of the best pop song – once you've read Fonarow on this, you think ‘Of course,' and you can not imagine how you might have understood this in any other way." Even musicians who have lived the life she investigates are floored by her findings, which explore gigs as the expression of attitudes towards youth, the strategy behind guest pass placement, musicians as tricksters, guitar playing as symbolic sexual union and 'groupies' as sin eaters.
Empire of Dirt is the ultimate guide to the practices and aesthetics of indie music and no one has written it the way Wendy has, an outspoken intellectual who can win over anyone with her compassionate insight and dedication to the indie scene she studies.
Empire of Dirt: The Aesthetics and Rituals of British Indie Music is published by University of Wesleyan Press