By splicing clips of The Simpsons together with the glitchy, retro aesthetics of the internet music genre vaporwave, Lucien Hughes, a student at the University of Nottingham, became the key proprietor of a new subgenre: Simpsonwave. Since releasing his first video in February 2016, Lucien has not only created a popular meme but somewhat rejuvenated vaporwave altogether, having garnered nearly 23 million YouTube channel views. We caught up with Lucien to give us some insight into the subgenre and its success.
Could you describe what Simpsonwave is in five words?
Melancholic nostalgic online audiovisual genre.
When did you start to take interest in vaporwave as a genre?
I was quite late to the scene. My friend introduced me to vaporwave in summer 2015, but I didn’t pay it much attention until later in the year. I just thought it was a bit of a fad at first.
What drew you to link vaporwave and The Simpsons together?
I took a few weeks off university due to illness and was spending a lot of time on the internet; I was killing a lot of time on an absurdist Simpsons-themed Facebook group. A couple of other users posted some Simpsons clips cut to vaporwave-type music, and I decided to take it a lot further.
How did you go about selecting the clips and editing the videos?
I’ll have an idea of what kind of atmosphere I want to convey and comb through old episodes until I find a scene which I can edit into what I want. I usually skip through the episode without sound on. It helps that I spent countless hours watching the show as a child.
Would you ever consider doing something similar with a different animated TV show?
Other people have made similar videos from other shows, but personally I don’t think any other show has quite the same universal appeal; no other cartoon has run as long or been so internationally popular. Everyone born in the last thirty years grew up watching The Simpsons. In its heyday, the show perfectly blended bizarre humour and sincerity.
Were you surprised at its success? Why do you think it’s had such a big impact on the internet?
I was surprised, yes. At first it seemed really niche, but it turned out to appeal quite broadly. I guess the combination of what I call the “pseudonostalgia” of genres like vaporwave and legitimate nostalgia that comes from the visuals really struck a chord with people.
What are you currently working on and is it related to what you did with Simpsonwave?
Recently I’ve been working on some short original music videos for various artists and delving into 3D graphics quite heavily; I’m always looking to expand my creative potential. When I listen to a piece of music I’m constantly inventing visual narratives in my head, and I feel like there’s a lot that can be learned from the success of internet phenomena, such as Simpsonwave, that can be applied to the broader music scene. I feel more and more often consumers are seeing popular music videos as a legitimate art form.
You can find Lucien on Instagram (@lucienhughes) and YouTube (Lucien Hughes)