We are all missing each other in the music industry at the moment. It is our community, our family, and our support network and it can all seem so distant.
The ‘ALL IS LOVE: AF Gang’ an IDLES community Facebook group with circa 30,000 members is tackling this sense of loss. The online group (and subsequent website) is more than just an IDLES fan page. It has developed into a real network of support and acceptance, the type we are all missing in lockdown.
The community was born in March 2017 from a thought of the group’s founder, Lindsay Melbourne, after witnessing the continued impression IDLES were having on fans. Melbourne, who is a photographer, asked the band’s permission before going on to develop the group with Louise Hughes and Brian Mimpress.
Mimpress joined the AF GANG within the first few days of its birth and has gone on to be a true ambassador for the group, even featuring on frontman Joe Talbot’s Youtube show, BALLEY TV.
“None of us knew what it would become and we are amazed daily at the positive nature of the group that the community has created,” said Mimpress.
“It’s not wrong to say that this group has had, and will continue to have, the ability to change lives through the kindness and the love and support many of us need.”
The Manchester live music scene and the love and support from its circle of bands, promoters, photographers and venue staff, is one I am missing far more than I ever thought I would. With any band or community, if you see them regularly enough you start to build friendships with their following and you become part of the extended family.
As a member of the AF Gang, I have experienced first hand how this support network functions as a family of sorts, and why its has become so popular.
What is striking is the lack of judgement. Almost unheard of on social media. The majority of the posts on the group are not IDLES related at all but often receive hundred of comments of support.
These posts range from celebrating university results, to grievances and discussions on alcoholism and mental heath – all which receive a remarkable amount of positive engagement.
“This band has completely changed my view on the world and my faith for humanity to become loving. Together we can do anything. We need more open honest dialog about the things around us,” posted Lewis from Michigan featuring his tribute tattoo to the band’s latest single, ‘Grounds’.
World events in 2020 have seen polarised politics, movements for equality, and socio-economic injustices come to the fore. There have been some critical and long overdue conversations been had on a global scale. But social media is often used to attack, rather than discuss.
Add into the mix the increased mental health pressures of being isolated from our families and loved ones, even the most sturdy of us are starting to struggle. Without our usual channel of relief – the gig, we have lost a lot of our community. It is easy to see why this page packed full of support, has become so popular.
“First and foremost, we didn’t build that group, they built it themselves,” said frontman Joe Talbot about the page in an interview with Control.
“As a band, it gives us something to feel safe in. They come to our shows and they allow us to be vulnerable on stage and they allow us to speak our own language which is a beautiful thing.
“We just hope that we can sustain that with our performance live and encourage other people to be vulnerable and feel safe at our shows. The AF gang is a marvellous creation that has helped us become better musicians,” Talbot continued in the interview.
It is endearing to witness the encouragement, acceptance, and love, the band’s extended family have for each other. It is not just the music of the band that bring them together though, the group embodies what can often appear to be lacking in society; kindness, and compassion.
No matter who you are, where you are from, or what you’re going through, the AF Gang has you and you know you are not alone. The sound of strength in numbers is a beautiful thing.
Loss of community and missing one and other is a substantial similarity I have found between all my guests during interviews for Mental Health Awareness Week and my follow up series ‘Good Vibrations’.
IDLES are due to release their third album, Ultra Mono, on the 25 September. You can view the full tracklist below.
Words: Debbie Cannon
Additional Words: Will Fisher
Ultra Mono Tracklist:
03. Mr. Motivator
05. Kill Them With Kindness
06. Model Village
07. Ne Touche Pas Moi (feat. Jehnny Beth)
10. The Lover
11. A Hymn