Way back in 2012 Dunedin local Jamie Dickson started releasing music online.
He was inspired by a bubbly, aquatic-themed aesthetic called seapunk, which emerged in online communities such as Tumblr. He called his project SPLASH CLUB 7 after the highly influential 90s pop group S-Club 7.
Fast forward to 2018 and SPLASH CLUB 7 has hundreds of thousands of fans from all across the globe. But for those fans SPLASH CLUB 7 is synonymous with one thing only, and it’s not music.
I somehow convinced the elusive Jamie Dickson into an interview to try explain this post-internet tragedy.
“I originally had a music page for SPLASH CLUB 7 and I got about 2,000 likes somehow” he begins. He’s referring to a Facebook “page” which is a profile made to represent a non-person entity that fans can “like” to receive updates.
“And I can’t remember exactly how it happened”, he continues, “but I lost access to that page. So I created a new page and obviously it’s very hard to rebuild likes and stuff so I just posted a few memes…”
I ask him how many likes he has now.
“151,000? That’s what I remember off the top of my head.”
Actually it’s 153,000 and grows by about 1,000 every week. Dozens of my friends like SPLASH CLUB 7 on Facebook without knowing who he is, and when I first discovered the page in 2015 I had no idea it was a musician either, let alone that he lived in Dunedin.
The reason for the page’s popularity is obvious: people desire bite-sized pieces of funny content for their newsfeeds - memes are the creative currency of the masses. His are post-ironic, often satirizing memetic structures or satirizing satire of memetic structures, or simply “celebrating being shit”.
“It’s a lot of effort to get into a certain artist that you’ve never heard of, like you have to make an effort to listen to a whole album sort of thing.”
“It’s a lot easier just to like scroll past a meme and be like ha that’s funny and share it.”
After his seapunk releases he started to take on aspects of vaporwave, another internet micro-genre defined by its obsession with 80s aesthetics and exotic hyper-consumerist imagery. It highlights the hollow promises and “nothingness” at the heart of capitalism.
But that nothingness holds great nostalgia for the millenial for whom the mall, now a dying relic, was the cultural and social centre of their lives growing up. SPLASH CLUB 7 takes the depthlessness and superficiality of malls, dance music, trash, and shines a spotlight on it, celebrates it even, with titles like “Late Night Infomercials” and “MIDNIGHT VIRTUAL PLAZA”.
And then after half a dozen successful releases he stopped. His latest release titled BORN TO DIE / WORLD IS A FUCK after a popular meme dropped quietly in February this year and is the first since his new page got big. The factor that unites all his music is its ability to evoke a certain, sometimes undefinable mood and his latest is no different. It feels like drinking cough syrup at 3am. It’s disorienting and nauseating. It’s like staying at a party for too long.
I ask him why he hasn’t harnessed his new meme audience to help promote his music and he shrugs.
“I dunno… I was actually thinking of releasing all my music stuff under a different alias.”
I ask him whether he’s bitter about it, but he seems more bemused than anything.
“I kind of like having a page to post shit on I wouldn’t post on my normal account”
There’s a beautiful irony to the story of a musician who made music celebrating superficiality and had his musical identity stolen by something even more superficial than the music he made. I don’t think he’d have it any other way.