I’m going to put the following very plainly: The music of Liverpool group Her’s is fuzzy dream pop, pleasant and dynamic. They released their latest studio album, Invitation to Her’s, last summer. On Mar. 27, 2019, while touring to support the album, both members of the group were killed in a traffic accident. The band was driving through the desert of Arizona around 1 a.m. on the way from Phoenix to Santa Ana when a truck driving the wrong way down the highway hit them head-on. All parties perished in the crash. The bodies were unidentifiable. Everything in the car was lost to fire.
It’s a cliche at this point for an artist to die a tragic death, only to finally gain the appreciation they sought after they have passed. This is not the case for Her’s. It is unlikely that they will gain posthumous fame in the manner of Van Gogh. More likely, they will slowly fade into obscurity. Many who stumble upon their music won’t even know they have passed. To their fans, it is an unspeakable tragedy. To most of the world, it is meaningless.
Her’s second-to-last Instagram post features them posing in the diner from Twin Peaks. In the comments, they promise a fan that they will return to Phoenix for another show. Their social media pages have now become a jarring, unplanned memorial to the dead that once occupied them, unfulfilled dreams and shattered plans, once-innocent posts now a depressing reminder that the good times can’t last.
It’s not just Her’s. Facebook and Instagram are digital graveyards; millions of users have perished since they created their accounts. They aren’t quite memorials — memorials are planned, crafted. More accurately, they are snapshots, their profiles eternally frozen in time the moment before tragedy struck.
The implication of this for the legacy of the artist is drastic. So much of the legend of a musician comes from the mystery surrounding their lives, but the wall between the cultivated output of an artist and their personal lives has been eroded, for better or for worse. It’s no wonder we’ve seen artists like Jai Paul (and, initially, The Weeknd) who react to this new form of public scrutiny by embracing anonymity.
The Exploding Hearts, a turn-of-the-century power pop band, suffered a similar fate as Her’s. They crashed outside Eugene, Oregon while on tour when the driver fell asleep at the wheel — only the guitarist was spared. This was before the Internet became omnipresent, so they live on solely (in a broad sense) through the one album they released.
For a lot of people, myself included, music is a way to escape into another world, akin to sports or reality television. The stakes seem lower, fake somehow, but sometimes it becomes clear that the walls keeping our distractions separate from the pain and mundanity of our day-to-day lives are thin. At any moment, a few seconds of chaos could bring them crashing down. All it takes is a mistake in traffic.