The story of bloghouse in six neon-splattered bangers
THE FACE contributor Lina Abascal has chronicled the intense ’00s genre in her new book Never Be Alone Again. Here, she picks out some classics from the movement.
“WTF is bloghouse,” read a 2008 post on the iconic, now-defunct blog Hipster Runoff. While the platform was known for its irony and satire of indie culture, the post unwittingly christened the dance music microgenre people often love to hate.
Shutter shades, warehouse parties, scruffy bands with synths and headbanging DJs pumping out roof-raising, garish anthems in the name of togetherness – bloghouse was a neon-coloured version of DIY punk, a free-for-all cultural phenomenon powered by Hype Machine, MySpace and an “anything goes” ethos.
Teeming with lo-fi bootlegs and lawsuit-ready mashups that wouldn’t stand a chance online nowadays, bloghouse (which was also given the much-contested tag “nu rave” in the UK by the NME) exploded during the mid-’00s and shamelessly reaped the benefits of broadband back when the internet was a very different place.
“Nothing was really monetised, I don’t think for the reason that nobody wanted to do so, but I think because no one knew how,” suggests writer and FACE contributor Lina Abascal, whose forthcoming book Never Be Alone Again: How Bloghouse United the Internet and the Dancefloor features interviews with some of the era’s key figures.
Abascal came of party age just as bloghouse was taking off in the US. She made the natural leap from hardcore punk to bloghouse, where dancefloor moshing and parent-bothering noise freakouts abounded, and where the idea of fostering community through music had simply moved online. In the early days of bloghouse, Abascal was studying at high school in LA. “I had a fake ID and was going out a lot in Hollywood,” she recalls. “There were a lot of underage parties that were playing bloghouse music because it was just getting so big in LA.”
According to Abascal, the core years of bloghouse took place in 2006 – 2011, and she connects the movement to a plethora of blogs and artists, from rappers to guitar-wielding dance-rock bands and disco-friendly producers. “The method of distribution was ultimately the uniting factor; all of these things were basically being blogged about,” says Abascal. But there was no real definitive sound. It was everything mashed together, like a hedonistic trifle of sugary jelly and ice cream topped with a techno-punk cherry.
Whatever you think of bloghouse, its place in internet music history and its influence on mainstream dance music can’t be denied. As bloghouse started to fade out, EDM and pyrotechnics-fuelled “stadium banger shit” began to rear its head. “I think that bloghouse ended up being this market test for: is there an appetite in America for dance music? And it proved to be yes,” offers Abascal.
Bloghouse nurtured scenes and sounds all over the world, from French touch and London electro to Australian synth-pop and US rap. It was a cultural experiment and work-in-progress, defined by reinvention and not without its fair share of embarrassing or dubious moments. Here, Abascal picks out six of her favourite tracks to discuss their significance and era-defining place within the bloghouse canon. In the words of Nathan Barley’s Ned Smanks, “keep it foolish!”
Justice vs. Simian – We Are Your Friends (2006)
You’ll notice how my book is called Never Be Alone Again, which is obviously a reference to this song. This was originally a rock song by the UK band Simian, called Never Be Alone, which came out in 2002.
So Simian did a remix contest because that was a way to get songs going at the time. Justice entered the remix contest and they didn’t win. Nobody knew who they were, Simian were “we’re not picking that one – next!” A couple of years later, they revisited the remix, and at this point Justice were signed to Ed Banger records. So it ends up birthing this song.
Justice were essentially remixing the Simian song, Simian were remixing their own rock song, and then they went on to form Simian Mobile Disco, which is their dance offshoot of Simian with two of the band’s members, James Ford and Jas Shaw. They went on to have this whole career of their own, kind of riding off of a remix of their old rock band’s song. So the rebirth, and reusing all of these parts, and working together – feels very bloghouse to me, but also, it has such a memorable chorus and hook.
Bloc Party – Helicopter (Weird Science remix) ft. Peaches (2007)
Bloc Party really had that winning formula for global success, didn’t they. Were you a fan?
Bloc Party were massive in the US. I love Bloc Party. Actually, right before Covid hit, I went to the Silent Alarm (the band’s 2004 debut album) anniversary tour. But I also saw Bloc Party when I was in high school. I loved dancey rock music. I loved The Faint, and I loved The Rapture and bands like that.
How does this track embody the essence of bloghouse?
Helicopter was a big song, but then once you get the Peaches remix and then also you throw in Weird Science, which I guess was this attempt at a supergroup that never got big – featuring Steve Aoki and Blake Miller from the band Moving Units – and you get their take on it, it’s just so bloghouse. You take a song that’s like a dancey rock band, you throw in this weirdo post-electroclash rapper and then you give it a remix by these two club Hollywood people. It’s an example of this culture clash with so many people all on one song coming together in different ways.
How do you feel like it introduced Peaches and encapsulated the vocal element of bloghouse?
Peaches obviously set a blueprint for rappers like Uffie and then Kesha and so on. Bloghouse loved a vocal edit. Having vocals makes it easier for people to identify the songs. We didn’t have Shazam. So if you’re hearing a song that has no vocals, how can you look it up? How are you gonna know what it is, unless you can see it on the Serato or whatever, or the vinyl. And so a lot of the big songs I selected here, not by coincidence, are songs that have vocals.
Kid Sister – Pro Nails (remix) ft. Kanye West (2007)
Tell us a bit about Kid Sister.
Pro Nails is an awesome song. Kid Sister is a Chicago-based rapper, the sister of Josh Young who is half of Flostradamus, and I think that’s where the name came from. So they were sort of leading the scene in Chicago at the time, and she started rapping because she was just casually MCing this bloghouse-ish party called Get Out of the Hood, and then she started making music officially.
How did it lead to A‑Trak’s setting up the Fools Gold label?
So Kid Sister made this song and then A‑Trak starts shopping it around, trying to get in on a label, because he was like “this is bigger than just a random blog track,” but he said that none of the labels understood it, including Vice’s label, who had put out Justice and other weirdo shit… So this was sort of why Fools Gold was created [in 2005], to put out shit like this, and then of course A‑Trak was Kanye’s touring DJ.
So that’s where Kanye’s connection to the era comes in?
Yes. A‑Trak was his touring DJ at this time, so suddenly, bloghouse is one degree away from Kanye, who was already so big at the time, because it’s post-College Dropout but pre-Graduation. And so, one could argue, [it could have been] A‑Trak putting Ye onto Daft Punk, which leads to Stronger on Graduation, him getting in with the Ed Banger people and SoMe the graphic designer who did the visuals on the Good Life video….
I think Kanye is extremely tuned into culture and has always been deeply online, despite how famous he’s been, you can just tell that he’s in the trenches. Maybe now it’s different, but I don’t think someone was doing the research for him and giving him a file, breaking it down, I feel like he did it himself. And this kind of goes to show – he gave this track a remix with a verse and it ended up being a big song. Kid Sister never had another big song after that, because I think the Kanye co-sign made the industry think she was gonna be a mainstream big rapper and they didn’t really know what to do with her. Which is unfortunate, because it’s not her fault.
Kid Cudi – Day ‘N’ Night (Crookers remix) (2008)
This song was an absolute banger. It went to Number 2 in the UK Singles Chart and was also nominated for two Grammys in 2010.
It absolutely was a massive song here too. It peaked at Number 3 on the US Billboard 100. It starts off as kind of a moody rap song from Kid Cudi, who was ahead of his time and doesn’t really fit in with the rap landscape. But, ultimately, what catapulted the song – and this is in true bloghouse fashion – is a remix from a kind of random group. Crookers is now a solo act, but at the time it was a duo. They’re from a small town in Italy. Very blogable artist, but smaller than Justice, smaller than Simian Mobile Disco. But they do a remix of this song, and it absolutely blows it out of the water and gets it to chart.
So how did the track come into being?
I spoke with Phra, who’s the current solo member of Crookers, and he says he found Day ‘n’ Night on Myspace – which is the most bloghouse shit in the world – while he was hanging out at his house in Italy. He messages Kid Cudi asking if he can remix it and Kid Cudi is like “yo, talk to my label”, the label is Fools Gold, and then Fools Good is like “yeah sure — here are the stems”. Something funny that Phra told me in the book is that he never mastered the song. It was just so bootleg. And he told me that he thinks the version that got so big was the unmastered version and just nobody really cared, which was so reminiscent of the priorities of the era.
Boys Noize – Oh! (A-Trak remix) (2008)
The original of this came came out in 2007, A‑Trak remixed it in 2008, and then he re-released it in his In The Loop: A Decade of Remixes album in 2016. This also has a harder sound. It’s got that more banger‑y sound.
A‑Trak really was ushering in this sound to a US audience. I know he’s Canadian, but his label Fools Gold was based out of New York. So it’s like, “OK, you get this A‑Trak remix treatment and suddenly you’re just in the canon.” And so I think the fact that they collaborated in this way really solidifies Boys Noize as being part of bloghouse, even if [he wasn’t trying to be].
There was definitely an aspect of silliness to a lot of bloghouse. Would you agree that Boys Noize, whose generally well-received debut album this track is taken from, had more kudos in the scene?
I definitely think Boys Noize’s music was less tongue-in-cheek than a lot of these other sounds that have, for example, really silly samples. Something I write about in the book is that bloghouse came out of electroclash – i.e not self-serious dance music – whereas dance music has traditionally been very serious in that way. I think Boys Noize on the spectrum was maybe a bit more serious, without being douchey.
Bloody Beetroots – Warp 1.9 ft. Steve Aoki (2009)
This is a pretty abrasive track. What do you think Warp 1.9 and its video said about the way things were headed for bloghouse?
This came out in 2009, and I feel like it kind of heralded the start of [bloghouse tracks] getting the song treatment, in the fact that Steve Aoki’s face is in the video, which is something that Justice would never have done. Their videos were almost trolls, whereas this video is like: “you’re gonna know this DJ’s name, and you’re gonna know what they look like, and they’re gonna become a star, and they’re gonna get an expensive video.” With most of these other tracks, they don’t even have videos, it’s likely some fan uploaded them to YouTube.
A lot of these artists [were] moving away from playing really small gigs, and were starting to get booked at festivals, and festivals were even being birthed or creating separate stages to accommodate how big this [was] all getting. This is such a festival banger. I feel like this track was beginning to set the stage of “this is much bigger than a couple of thousand fans on blogs.”
You can get your copy of Never Be Alone Again: How Bloghouse United the Internet and the Dancefloor here.