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What Is Steampunk Music?

9 min read

We wrote this article to introduce steampunk music to as many people as possible. You probably have a lot of questions about this music genre. What is steampunk music? How does an artistic movement fit into music? Who are the most influential steampunk musicians? For the impatient, scroll down and you will find the 4 best bands of the genre, our humble opinion. I'm sure you won't be disappointed, enjoy. We'll start with the basics...

Steampunk music definition.

According to Wikipedia, steampunk music is a loosely defined musical genre. This means that you will find many "similar" genres here.

Steampunk has many cultural influences. You'll find that some steampunk songs use goth metal, dark metal, progressive rock, indie, and even Asian influences.

In a way, there is logic to it all. Steampunk music was created in the same way as literature. So when you think about it, if there is a steampunk western theme in literature, there must be someone who plays steampunk music like a cowboy.

Despite everything we said, the style has a certain pattern to it. Steampunk music always leaves a general feeling of rock operation. This is fortunate in a way, because it is easier to recognize steampunk bands from other related genres.

You should know that when you watch a steampunk band playing live, there will be a lot of vintage and futuristic props and costumes. Steampunk bands usually have two to six members with styles just the way we like them.

This rock opera theme is important because it allows the performers to bring a lot more steampunk attributes to the stage. When you go to see a group like this, expect a full artistic show, not just a few a cappella songs.

Even if it is not mandatory, chords and cellos can usually be heard. What is constant is that you will probably find an exotic instrument accompanying the guitar, drums and vocals during the concert.

And now it's the turn of the Steampunk musicians

We let them speak for themselves on this hotly debated topic. They qualify their music and style in general. You will then have a short video to make your own opinion.

The Clockwork Dolls.

  "Steampunk music is unique in that it is not a musical style in the traditional sense. Rather, it is music that blends into a world of the future that never existed, a soundtrack to a world of "re-centric" technology that gives the feeling of living in the perfect Steampunk environment. "I suppose this label would apply to music played by the modern folk masses who embrace the vivid supremacy of steam! I, however, use the term "punk" because I am a "Steam-Gentleman."

Dr. Camilla

"Steampunk is a lot of things and it's a pretty broad genre. I see a lot of people trying to be prescriptive about genres rather than descriptive - as if there's a specific sound that defines genres - but there rarely is. Not every rock album has guitars and not every Trance album has the same synth sounds (although people sometimes like to imagine that they do)....The sound or aesthetic is constantly changing with the artists who create it. "

Escape the Clouds

"I think it's about ideas and possibilities. When I write a song or a steampunk story, I want to take the audience to a place and time they've never seen before. I want to show them characters and adventures in a real world that could have somehow existed. While there may be airships, goggles and clocks, it is not really about those things.

It's about taking the listener on a wild ride, and - if we're not careful - we'll get lost in time along the way!"


Extraordinary Contraptions 

"Dimitri von Stadberg: It's anachronistic. A mixture of styles, places and things that don't go together, until we make something new out of it. Aelus Kristoff von Stadberg: It's a look, it's a sound, it's a state of mind."

Megan Jean and KFB

"As far as I know, steampunk is an aesthetic that inspires creativity. I suppose steampunk music would be one facet of that inspiration."

The Nathaniel Johnstone Band.

"Steampunk music is music made by steampunk fans for other steampunk fans.
"In my wanderings through the world of Steampunk music, I have come across many bands and solo artists who proudly fly the Steampunk flag. We all have a different vision of music and lyrics, but we share a deep love for the narrative and aesthetic aspects of Steampunk. Some of us write soundtracks, some of us write drinking songs, some of us write intricate clockwork tunes. There are elements of folk, industrial, gothic swirl, country, metal, hip hop, and there are even more textures and musical styles popping up every day.
One thing I see in a lot of these musical adventures is a mix of old and new: hip hop beats with old English flair, metal guitars with bluegrass mandolin, industrial beats with banjo over Middle Eastern harmony, old-school punk with a musical saw, and I'm just scratching the surface! Fortunately, we are still in a world where all the different Steampunk bands can make their own musical path. I hope it will be like this for a long time! "


Painless Parker

"Ah, an interesting question. I play a mixture of, say, folk songs, classic rock, punk and country, and a few originals that sometimes have steamy themes. While most of these are not explicitly Steampunk, they fit in well with its general aesthetic and play well at Steampunk events (where I often play, as my friends in the community put me in touch with cool gigs). I look at it like: cabernet sauvignon is not a steak, but they go well together."

Unextraordinary Gentlemen

"Eric Schreeck: I thought the focus was and is on the DIY aspect of people, the ones who make their own dresses and art. That's more what the idea of Steampunk is. There are people who live this life in the Victorian style, using steam, fantasizing about a unique and colorful world. Steampunk music is music that is learned more exclusively from Steampunk culture than from other cultures.
Richard Pilawski: The stories are about machines. Musically, there should be elements of machinery - cranks, cranking, heavy loops, the way the gears turn. I try to symbolize it with music. It's crazy to find all these details looking like or made with machines, like with the drum machine. The keyboard is a canned instrument and an automaton. It is like a band in a box, or a band. The machines should be the band. If the band only plays with an acoustic guitar and a drummer, it's a folk band. It is not a steampunk band. It could be Peter, Paul and Mary or John Denver. It should also contain elements of the past, like the fiddle, which is the equivalent of a lead guitar.
Jennifer Pomerantz: I guess it's different for a lot of people. There isn't really any music that is Steampunk, and maybe that's the beauty of it, is that there can be all kinds of different types of musicians and bands.
Eric Schreeck: The whole Steampunk subculture is inclusive rather than exclusive. There are no real age or gender boundaries. Some small factions can go off and do whatever they want, but for the most part, Steampunk is very family oriented and wants to be a multicultural culture. More than: "You have to dress like a person, etc... This also applies to music."

Valentine Wolfe

"Sarah Black: Anachronism is the dominant characteristic. This can include all aspects of the music such as lyrics, instrumentation, orchestration, costumes and stylistic elements. Just as in steampunk fashion, music can be a melting pot of many different ideas, some of which may include but are not limited to the Victorian era.
Braxton Ballew : For me, steampunk music has three characteristics: anachronism/musical, DIY aesthetics, and an emphasis on the real. Anachronism can be anything: ukulos playing melodic music, distorted guitars playing ragtime, a rock cello in general, and, dare I say it, lyrical vocals combined with a distorted double bass. While I know that punk in steampunk came as a bolt from the blue, I think that one of the great strengths of steampunk is the greatest gift of the punks: DIY, empowering the audience to participate (and even putting them to the test) and, in effect, de-fragmenting the boundary between performer and viewer, turning it into a shared experience. This is vital and valuable.
And finally, the narrative: steampunk, after all, is a fantasy world with a hint of realism. I don't think that the reality has always manifested itself in the same way: it could be a story, an alternative identity, a costume, a pairing with other media, as long as there is a fantasy element.
And I could get in trouble for that, because in my opinion, once you have those three qualities, anything goes. "

Vernian Process.

"Like Steampunk literature, film, movies, etc... the music is simply any combination of old world styles with modern or futuristic flourishes. That's the easiest way to explain how I feel. It can be anything from Ragtime Hip-Hop to Music-Hall. Almost any modern style can be transformed into a Steampunk aesthetic. The hardest part is not doing it, it's doing it tastefully and professionally, which can be difficult to achieve. It's my own personal definition, I've heard ideas that are very different from others, so like many things, Steampunk music has to sound good to the listener."

Steam Powered Giraffe.

I'd say we're a rock band, with a little bit of folk. I guess it's easier to say what our inspirations are. We listen to a lot of the Beatles, Electric Light Orchestra and Queen. We can do any genre, and we mix that harmony aspect into everything we create, which gives us our signature sound.

When we first started, a lot of the criticism from other artists was that we didn't have a target audience. The idea of pleasing everyone didn't make much sense. We didn't have a musical style that we could put our finger on, and it was hard to decide whether we were more oriented towards children or adults.

&To this day, we haven't finished that line. We want everyone to be interested in our world. Whether you like Steampunk, Dieselpunk or Goth, folk music, psychic or rock, we think we have something for everyone. And we would like to keep it that way. Giraffes à steam look pretty égant and energetic to &ecirculate éfashion and décal; at the same time (special mention à Rihanna's well déjant;e cover). But since we don't focus on adult themes or swear words, we've been able to play to audiences ranging from babies to grandmothers, through all states of the human being (or almost).

Abney Park

Now here's the definition of this musical genre by the greatest, if not the first, true Steampunk band ... Abney Park.

"Steampunk is not a new aesthetic, and it's not always well done. So a lot of what you hear called Steampunk will either be in an aesthetic you've heard, or in an example so poor that it will also make you think "bullshit."

To confuse things further, Abney Park was not always Steampunk, and not everything we do now is Steampunk. (If I could only write in one style of music, I'd kill myself!) So if you hear an Abney Park song, it may not be a Steampunk song, and you might be confused again.

So let's compare the music to the Steampunk craft you see online. It's "taking old objects à Victorian flavor and using them to décorer modern or everyday objects, such as laptops, cars, watches, jewelry." This is nothing new. Hell, this look was everywhere in the 1960s and 1970s, but Steampunk is the new name for it. Furniture, clocks and lamps have never stopped mixing the Victorian and the Modern. And most modern home furnishings are simply Victorian, often without any change in 100 years.
Another tricky part is that many Victorian musical styles are still in use, like symphonic orchestrations. So when you hear that associated with the new style of Steampunk, you're not hearing anything new.
Abney Park takes the music of the Victorian era - cabaret, or vaudeville, or swing, or ragtime - and mixes it with an arrangement of modern dance and song. This fusion is not new, but there is a new name for it. Steampunk as an aesthetic has been around for a long time, but as a subculture and a musical term it's brand new.

Here's a great quote that I think will bring some perspective:
"It used to be called ragtime, then blues, then jazz. Now it's swing. Ha! Ha! White people, it's a mess. Ha! Ha! Swing!"
~ Louis Armstrong (Bing Crosby)

Would anyone doubt that Louis knew what he was talking about? No, no. But would you then doubt that jazz or swing are valid and distinct genres? No, no. The names change and the music changes. The names change and the music changes.

Steampunk music is the new term for vintage music fusion. There are now many sub-categories like Electro Swing, or Dark Cabaret. Just like the term "Goth" has become a generic term for Bat Cave, and Death Rock, Black Metal, Industrial, etc. Journalists will always argue the science, but in the end, all they do is argue what everyone can see clearly.

So the short answer is that Steampunk is a fusion of vintage and modern music, focusing on the styles of 1880-1930. If it's done well, which is rare. It's a new term, more than a new style."

As you can see, steampunk music is multiform and each band adapts its vision of the futuristic universe with its own musical tastes and influences. This presentation of the bands is of course not complete, we will add it with time.

Thank you for reading and listening to these unknown bands that deserve to be known. Don't forget to share the article if you liked it.

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