Drainers are new emos for society to reckon with.
Drainers run abound in today’s social scene, but where did they come from? To answer, we must look to Drain Gang, a musical collective made up of five artists, with its most well-known members being Bladee and Ecco2k. Their work has seen a significant rise in popularity over the last several years, and with that, the emergence of the group as a cultural phenomenon.
More interesting than the artists themselves and their rise to fame, however, are their listeners. If you’re looking for yet another profile of the creators themselves, there’s plenty of material for you, but I’m writing in appreciation of the consumers of their music — known as the drainers.
With tens of millions of streams on their most well-known songs, Drain Gang has drawn an intense fandom of drainers. The label has grown so prominent that it has earned its own page on the Aesthetics Wiki. Drainers are known for their distinct fashion, strong participation in meme culture (look to the many drainer meme pages) and prominence on platforms like TikTok.
One becomes a drainer by “draining,” a verb that describes the art of consuming Drain Gang’s music. In fairness, that definition may be overly simplistic; draining would be more aptly described as a lifestyle. As Bladee himself describes it, “drain is about loss and gain; it could be good or bad — you could be drained of energy or you could drain something to gain energy.”
To understand why listeners turn to draining, it’s worth looking into what about the sounds of Drain Gang has attracted so many people. It’s not easy to assign a single genre to these artists, but generally, their music is a highly-experimental mix of pop and rap, often marked by high amounts of autotune and electronic elements.
Well-known songs like “Amygdala” illustrate this well. This collaboration between Bladee and Ecco2k features an addicting verse from Ecco, where he repeats “I want it!” ten times in his distinctive high-pitched singing voice, one that speaks to the gender-neutral style of Drain Gang. On their newest album release, “Crest,” the duo continues to play off of this androgynous mystic with “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” yearning for love over a bright and airy melody.
The group’s experimental and exciting discography has attracted more than just a devoted fan base — listeners have been inspired to take on the lifestyle of draining.
A good portion of this lifestyle involves drainer fashion, which is best described as … eccentric. Some view it as the ‘new punk’ despite the pop leanings of the music itself. Look to this TikTok showcasing drainers and their outfits as they wait for a New York City Drain Gang live show. Incel t-shirts, trapper hats with horns, “Spider-Man” vests, and lots of wings, chains and boots abound.
There are very few rules with drainer fashion, and that’s what makes it refreshing — no persecution for skinny jeans or furry UGG wearers. As has always been the case for alternative styles, part of the art of draining is a simple non-adherence to what’s seen as normal, contemporary or mainstream. And keeping with the history of alternative subcultures, drainers receive plenty of backlash for their bizarre fashion.
Via a tweet citing that very same TikTok, an apparent old-school drainer earns tens of thousands of likes after posing the question: “Drain /b/ros, did we lose?” In the quotes, you’ll find an endless sea of insults: (semi-warranted) assertions that drainers don’t shower, calls to bring back bullying and comparisons to zoo exhibits.
It seems silly to criticize an aesthetic that owes itself so heavily to meme culture and absurdity in general. Whether it be through Instagram pages posting deep-fried, early 2010s-esque memes that look like they’re straight from an old-school meme generator or TikTok meme dumps that meander wildly, drainers don’t take themselves seriously. Nevertheless, the resentment is clear to see, and part of this backlash appears to be a larger dissatisfaction with a shift in who drains.
There’s no doubt that Drain Gang has experienced an immense rise in popularity in recent years, and many attribute this success to the prominence of drainer culture on TikTok, creating a divide in the fandom. Old drainers seem to be whiter, more frequently male, and participating in the culture ironically, while new drainers are more diverse and less ashamed of their commitment to the drain. For those seeking a nice visual representation, look no further.
It’s a common trope for fans to be resistant to the growing audiences of their favorite artists and the cultural shifts that follow — gatekeeping is a trademark of alternative culture. Nevertheless, for drainers, there’s no turning back. Drain Gang will continue to put out popular music, and their devoted fanbase will continue to honor them in their own ways. I raise that we embrace the prominence of draining and celebrate drainers for all of their outfits, memes and TikToks. Poor hygiene is simply par for the course.
Nicholas Black PO ’24 is from Rochester, New York. He drains on occasion.