We Are Your Friends
From TikTok to the Paris runway and global music charts, 00s Indie is having a revival. Skinny jeans, Fred Perry, studded belts, back-combed hair and pork pie hats, today the memories of those ‘Indie Sleaze’ years are fresher than ever, and documented in British photographer Rebecca Zephyr Thomas’ latest zine, We Are Your Friends 01.
Published as part of a wider project that sees Thomas archive her portraits of youth culture taken between 2005 and 2015, the first zine in the We Are Your Friends series (named after that omnipresent Justice track of the same name) hones in on London music fans and musicians at The Underage Festival in Victoria Park, East London, during the summers of 2007 and 2008.
All taken on 35mm (the archetypal Indie format), here, images of fans smoking and hanging are mixed with backstage portraits of performers including the then-unknown Florence Welch and Dev Hynes. In one ultimate Indie Sleaze easter egg moment, a girl wears a ‘I Was a Cub Scout’ patch on her dress in tribute to the mostly-forgotten Nottingham synthpop two-piece. Underage Festival was the epicentre of 00s London Indie: there was a Myspace bus and crowds screamed the lyrics to Foals’ Skins anthem, Hummer, into the sky – (I, Come On…). It was a time of adolescent expression, joy and accessibility as fans and musicians became interchangeable.
Celebrating the release of We Are Your Friends 01 with a launch party at Allpress Dalston Lane on 5th October, we asked Thomas to select an edit of photos from the zine and expand the stories behind the images. Scroll down.
“The cover image on my zine We Are Your Friends 01 shows a group of three teenage girls shot at The Underage Festival in August 2008, at Victoria Park in East London. This photo sums up teenage female friendship for me, I love that the middle girl has writing down her arm, when I was growing up I was constantly drawing ivy-covered crucifixes on my leg as a tribute to Drew Barrymore in the trashy 90s film Poison Ivy, which is a kitsch take on teenage girldom gone wrong. As a society, we’re currently looking back at the 2000s and seeing how shockingly toxic that era was for women and girls, this was something I was highly aware of at the time, I always wanted to portray women as strong and cool in my photos and not there to pander to male expectations.”
“One of my favourite photos from the series, I have no idea who this boy is, but his style is incredible. I love the Stussy tee mixed with the skirt over the green trousers and the Nikes. With street style it’s about that unexpected extra layer, something that you don’t expect, that visual cherry on the top, and for me, it’s the skirt flowing in the breeze in this shot. I only took one frame of this too, I was shooting on 35mm film and had a limited budget so I’m pleased I got this shot right in the one take. I appreciate people who take care with how they present themselves to the world, especially if they represent a subculture – it makes the world a more interesting place for everyone else who gets to look at them.”
“I always ask before taking a photo, these girls look wonderfully unimpressed with my presenc ewhich adds to the emo-ness of the whole image. The styling with three different types of black and white stripes is visually great and I love the details of the studded belt, white Raybans and gun tattoos. This vibe plays on 2000s emo fashion, Tim Burton and Wednesday Addams, it’ spossibly the closest to how I was as a teenager. I had a goth phase where I wore striped purple and black trousers and a The Cure tee shirt, I also went through my share of personal angst with eating disorders, reading too much Nietzsche and feeling alienated by society back home in New Zealand.”
“Underage Festival meets 1920s Hollywood star Clara Bow, this photo shows Cherish and Samantha of the band Ipso Facto at the festival in 2008. I’m kind of obsessed with people who combine punky counterculture with old school golden age Hollywood glamour, it’s my visual sweet spot. I blame reading Hollywood Babylon over and over as a teenager, it was a formative experience. This photo captures that meeting of two different aesthetics that I’ve loved since I was a teenager, in some ways I don’t think our tastes necessarily change that much as we grow older, hopefully, we’re a bit wiser but in a lot of ways what we like is set during our teenage years. These photos are really about creating identities in those years.”
“The couple on the grass, this is such a sweet expression of first love, everything about it feels dreamy and soft. As Sam Kilcoyne the festival founder said, teenagers need a day off from being judged and tested by their elders, a chance to just be, have fun, and fall in love, and the festival created the space to do that. The boy’s look harks back to the Skins culture of the early 80s so well, it’s a perfect recreation from the hat to the Doc boots, the Fred Perry shirt and the turned-up jeans.”
“Even though it was sixteen years ago I can still remember how pleased I was when I found this girl, Tora Rose, because I absolutely loved this look. I remember showing the photo to the team at iD after and we were all blown away by her style. I’d been working at Agent Provocateur as a shop-girl in the mid-2000s so this look particularly stuck in my mind because of the bra and the Westwood references. The Mini Mouse ears are next-level cute too. Tora contributed a poem that is in the zine and it perfectly captures the feeling of freedom and joy of being a teenager on an adventure.”