Looking across all of the content found on Mind Equals Blown, it’s clear that there’s a fair amount of variation in taste. Each staff member has his or her own specific areas of interest, favorite artists, and approach to music in general. Some of us stick mostly to editing, others write reviews or editorials, and a number of us create music of our own. The underlying connection between all of us is our passion for music and a desire to spread that passion with others. In this column, a different writer each month will be sharing his or her own personal music history, preferences, and perspective.
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From a very early age, music was an important part of my life. I can’t remember a time before I started singing along to songs on the radio on car drives, and it’s hard to imagine that such a time ever existed. My dad played guitar and sang in a band before I was born, but his love of music continues on, and that was certainly something that had a strong influence on my own attraction to the art. From impromptu games of “Name That Tune” to access to his CD collection, my early tastes were imbued with his own. While his favorite acts were more in the vein of rock and pop, the radio in my mom’s car was almost always tuned to Y108, Pittsburgh’s country station, which served to form the basis of my listening for the first twelve or so years of my life. Artists like Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and Emerson Drive became some of my favorites, with songs from their catalogs still falling into occasional rotation today. Some of my earliest memories are of singing along to Garth Brooks, listening to Tim McGraw on cassette, and going to a John Michael Montgomery concert as a present for my eighth birthday. While I don’t listen to country very frequently anymore, it dominated the first half of my life and I still look on some of the records I listened to back then as some of my favorites.
The next big landmark in my listening career came in the form of two bands: Good Charlotte and Blink-182. Hitting me in my last year before heading off to boarding school, they truly marked a huge change in my life, as the friends I’d had for almost my entire life introduced me to something that would define who I would become in the years following our separation. In particular, Blink’s self-titled (or un-titled, or whatever) sparked a streak of unceasing search for more, always more. After a lifetime of staying within essentially one single genre, the introduction of something new made me curious to hear what else was out there. A collaborative promotion between Pepsi and iTunes, coupled with the knowledge to win free songs every time by tilting bottles and looking for codes, allowed me the opportunity to hear new songs on a regular basis, while my homeroom teacher fostered me with his favorite albums and a BMG Music subscription allowed me to fill my Walkman with even more. By the end of the year, my library had grown quite a bit and I’d been introduced to some artists who have remained near the top of my list of favorites to this day, including John Mayer and Modest Mouse, the latter still my ultimate favorite nearly a decade later. I gravitated toward things more in the realm of punk, but my thirst for new sounds welcomed a wide variety.
Nearing the end of the summer before I began high school, I got my first iPod; my life was never again the same. After years of carrying around twenty or so CDs, burning mixes, and running on AA batteries, this device forever changed how I would block out the sounds of the world around me. I had a 15GB version with the four buttons lining the bottom of the screen. A week later, the photo version with the click wheel was released. Even though this was a bit frustrating, I didn’t really care; I had all of my music in my pocket at once and it was glorious. For the first year of high school, I kept exploring mostly on my own. Fuse was my go-to music TV channel, and acts like Nine Inch Nails, My Chemical Romance, and The Used caught my attention easily. The progression into my sophomore year led to closer ties with the friends I’d made freshman year, and music became a large part of our discussions and activities. We planted the seeds for what would become our band, setting out to try to learn Metallica‘s “One” as our first cover – a lofty goal that won out over Nickelback‘s “Photograph” and American Hi-Fi‘s “Flavor of the Week.” I don’t know how those became the options, or why we chose the most difficult song, but it definitely played more toward the heavy swing our tastes took that year. Acts like Atreyu and Avenged Sevenfold gained heavier rotation and, though I still listened to bands in the vein of Fall Out Boy, more metal-based bands began to take up space on my iPod.
The following summer began what I consider to be my modern concert-going period. A Taking Back Sunday and Angels and Airwaves tour introduced me to Punchline, who has since grown to be one of my favorite acts, while Ozzfest allowed me the opportunity to see some of the heavier bands I’d started listening to, from Atreyu and Avenged Sevenfold to Between the Buried and Me and Norma Jean. The final concert of the summer was Warped Tour. While that year might have been my least favorite in terms of the lineup, I loved the atmosphere and opportunity to be exposed to so many acts in a single day and I haven’t missed it since, including going twice in 2008. Over those years, I’ve met members from some of my favorite bands, talked to label and merch people and discovered dozens of new bands to fall in love with. While I don’t mosh anywhere near as much as I used to in my younger years, I still love watching bands boil their material down to a half-hour set, seeing the way crowds react to favorite songs, and embracing the community that’s built out of a genuine appreciation for something the majority of people in the world will never even hear.
Over the course of my final two years of high school, my friends and I maintained a schedule of metal shows but still found a draw toward other types of music as well. After Bayside‘s acoustic album became a staple of our rotation, we went to a show at Mr. Small’s Theater in Pittsburgh where the band was supporting Anberlin on their headlining tour for Cities. That concert remains my favorite to this day, and both bands have held steady spots right behind Modest Mouse on my list of favorite bands ever since that show. As we entered our senior year, our band grew heavier, covering everything from As I Lay Dying‘s “Confined” to Avenged Sevenfold’s “Unholy Confessions” to A Day To Remember‘s “The Plot To Bomb the Panhandle” and “The Danger In Starting a Fire.” We played mostly covers but also wrote a grand total of three songs, two of which we recorded in a professional studio two weeks before we separated for college. Listening back on those recordings, you’d think we’d listened to maybe a little more black metal than we actually did, but the influences of Emmure and A Day To Remember are also fairly present. I haven’t made music like that since, but I’m proud of what we made and still wish I could scream from time to time.
As I entered college I continued to listen to heavier artists, but found myself drifting away from that scene a bit. I did a lot of searching for new bands on Amazon, looking through related albums of ones I already loved and judging plenty of albums by their covers. This led to the discovery of plenty of new things to fill my ears, including Mayday Parade‘s A Lesson In Romantics, which was perhaps my best find. By this point, I’d bought an acoustic guitar and set out to teach myself to play and sing at the same time. This goal probably did more to shape the evolution of my taste more than I give it credit for. In addition to writing my own songs, I learned plenty of covers. Metal songs can be rather difficult to translate to acoustic form, particularly when you’re just starting out, so I turned more attention to pop-punk, pop-rock, and straight-up pop. Midway through my freshman year, I started visiting AbsolutePunk on a fairly regular basis, reading lots of music news and discovering new bands in the process. It’s now my primary source for both.
At the end of my sophomore year, my best friend showed me a few things he’d written for a little site called MindEqualsBlown.net. That fall, I went through a trial period and became a staff writer. In the two years since, I’ve written a number of reviews, conducted interviews and run the 3 Of The Week column, in addition to taking on some duties as an editor. I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of really cool things thanks to the site, but it’s also forced me to consider my perspective on music and how I treat the things I write about. I’ve always been a pretty positive person, and I think that shows through my reviews. I rarely write about things that I don’t like on some level; I don’t see the need. I write to promote the things that I truly enjoy, and don’t think that writing about something I hate is worth my time since an omission says about as much as a negative review, in 100% less time. There are too many things I like and want to promote to worry about giving press to something I don’t want to listen to myself. To that point, I’ll give nearly anything a fair listen and will do everything I can to help others hear the bands, albums, and songs I fall in love with. An argument may be made for directing others away from things not worth their time, but I’d much rather share the best things and direct conversation that way.
At this point my taste is slightly less eclectic than it has been at various points in the past, but that past has informed everything in my library. I may not listen to much metal or hardcore anymore, but I absolutely love a selection of bands from those genres. I have a strong appreciation for pop-punk and love many flavors of alternative music. Certain hip-hop artists receive a ton of play, and my music classes in college allowed me to appreciate the finer aspects of classical works. I’m a huge sucker for acoustic guitars, strings, and piano, but a great voice and powerful lyrics are what will truly draw me into a band and never let go. Albums will always be better than singles, and a truly great EP might be the best thing ever. I cover a lot of pop-rock around the site, but I’m always open to new things and will appreciate every recommendation you give me and return them tenfold. Let’s do it up.