It is no secret that I’ve been a hardcore fan of Gorillaz for almost a decade. I fell in love the moment I saw the music video for Clint Eastwood. They never toured outside the UK until just recently with their Escape to Plastic Beach Tour, and I was the first to buy tickets. I drove all the way to Chicago to see them live, snagging second row seats. Not hardcore enough? That’s what I thought. So I hopped on a plane and flew clear across the country just to see them a second time in Seattle. That’s when I met Damon Albarn himself, along with other members of the band (including half of the Clash). Believe me when I say my love for Gorillaz knows no bounds.
During the whole concert, clips like this were projected on a large screen behind the real-life musicians. This was the opening clip.
This played as Damon Albarn and company first entered the stage to perform the opening song. I still get chills watching it.
Throughout these years of fandom, multiple people have scoffed at my music taste. “Gorillaz?” They’d say. “That’s random. Why Gorillaz?”
The first time I faced this question, I had to really think about it. Why Gorillaz? How was I supposed to know? Love of music doesn’t need rationale. I knew one thing though: there was nothing random about it.
The fact is, it’s not just the music that makes an artist memorable, and it certainly wasn’t the only thing that hooked me. Their story, in a nutshell, is this: Damon Albarn (lead singer of Blur) joined forces with Jamie Hewlett (artist and creator of Tank Girl) and brought to life an idea seldom visited…an animated band. But these guys are no Josie and the Pussycats; their continuously skyrocketing popularity and creative originality set them apart from all other cartoon bands. Simply put, Gorillaz broke molds and blew minds, not only with their music, but also with their branding and creativity.
The one that started it all…
Everything revolves around the eccentric lives of these characters. It began with an absent-minded yet endearing vocalist, a 10-year-old guitarist from Japan with an unknown past, a crass, womanizing scallywag of a bassist, and a drummer possessed by a ghost. Throughout the years, the story has progressed to completely new plateaus, the characters becoming more developed and personable. Their style is dark with an almost science fiction twist, and yet somehow they’ve managed to stay relatable. This is evident just by comparing the above and below videos. They went from mostly animated to fully translating their fictional lives into the real world (or, at least close to the real world. Sadly I can’t recall ever being in a high-speed chase scene involving Bruce Willis). The story, just like the music, always takes a fresh turn, though they never lose sight of their original concepts. As a result, Gorillaz followers never get bored. Even if they aren’t fond of a new album, they always have the plot to keep them absorbed – and vice versa.
What a transition!
If that’s not enough to reel you in, check out their website, www.gorillaz.com. In addition to providing news and information, it provides a great deal of entertainment for those of us that need visual stimuli – it is the essence of their brand. You can take a virtual tour of Kong Studios, [fictional] home of Gorillaz. You have access to their songs, music videos, merchandise, and tons of mini games. You can even join their fan club (guess who’s a member?) to get exclusive deals and goodies. But there are regular online events and contests for everyone, as well. Recently, a competition was held to design and draw a new character. Though I didn’t win, it gave me (and thousands of others) a chance to get involved while having fun. Gorillaz invited their fans to become part of their brand – to help build their story. In December, they announced what they called “25 Days to Christmas.” Every day something new was posted – a wallpaper image, a video clip, or a mysterious photograph – all to get us fans pumped for the Grand Poobah of all gifts: a new album in the form of a free download on Christmas day. What more could we ask for? It’s almost overwhelming how much this groundbreaking band has contributed. Gorillaz has created a brand beyond their marketing.
It is no surprise that even after all this time the Gorillaz fan base continues to grow. They are fearless to take the ugly, the worn down, the realistic, and turn it into something lovable, often symbolically moving. They are not pre-packaged or conventional, thus they are not for everyone. This, along with endless other reasons, is why they are brilliant. Regardless, everyone can appreciate Gorillaz from certain perspectives. As an illustrator/wannabe comic artist, I can admire the quirky characters and edgy storyline. As a graphic designer, I can commend the brand, look and feel, and marketing tactics. Working for an interactive agency, I can appreciate their brand identity to draw in their fans. And unconditionally, through and through, I can love the music they give.
(Contributed by Constance Courts)