I am probably one of the luckier ones when it comes to musical tastes. It’s not that I have an ultra-refined one or anything, but I have culled my interests from all over so it is somewhat difficult to actually sit down and put the puzzle pieces together. Even though 21 years doesn’t seem like a long time, it is certainly enough that I have gone through some pretty drastic changes in musical interest. Despite that, I still love most of these songs.
The first band that I can remember actually “knowing” about as a child was The Monkees. When you’re a kid, you just kind of passively absorb music through things like Disney movies and sing-along cassettes (boy, writing that makes me feel old), but Davy, Micky, Peter and Michael were the first musicians I knew by name. We used to have video tapes of their old sitcom, and my sister’s childhood heartthrobs were them and Elvis. I remember trying to sing “Last Train to Clarksville,” but I mumbled the words because I thought they were speaking too fast. It was catchy bubblegum pop that was riding on the heels of The Beatles, but I didn’t care.
My mother was probably my biggest beginning influence; she has stacks of CDs by old, great bands like Supertramp, The Beach Boys, Peter Frampton, Pink Floyd and Eric Clapton. She was also partial to the Goo Goo Dolls, but I think that’s because they were from her hometown. My mom was growing up right when smooth jazz started to become mainstream, and she latched on to one of the greats: Steely Dan. She would wear their CDs down, always playing them when she was watching me and my sister swim. We started taking to call it “pool music,” and we got mad at her whenever she played it anywhere else.
Even though I knew almost none of the names of Steely Dan’s songs, I’ve probably listened to each of their albums at least 20 times in my life just by swimming in my water wings when I was in grade school. Some choice favorites include “Black Cow,” “Kid Charlemagne,” and “Your Gold Teeth II,” though Donald Fagen has never written a bad song.
Though I mostly listened to my mother’s music in my younger years, along with the caramel-sticky pop of the early ’90s, in middle school I discovered the once-great music channel, FUSE. Boy, did my hormones start striking me with a vengeance. I started wearing black shirts with bands on them, and I tried to get ingrained in the metal music that a lot of my friends were listening to back then. The only problem was I didn’t really like it. They listened to Slipknot and Disturbed, and while I admired them a bit, they didn’t hit that sweet spot for me. System of a Down, however, did.
SOAD is the first band I ever physically bought all the albums for, either via iTunes or physical CDs. They had just realized Hypnotize and Mesmerize, and they just enthralled me. Delving deeper, I found gems like “Aerials” and “Toxicity.” I had nothing to be angry about, but SOAD made me angry – in a good way. I wish they were touring more of North America this year, as I would love to relive those angsty days for a night.
The middle of high school was probably the last big shift in my musical tastes. I started hanging out with the “drama kids,” who I would later figure out were proto-hipsters. They had shows in the local park, made amateur films and were in bands. The first show I went to was Paul Baribeau, a folk/punk musician who is one of the bigger names in that scene. I literally cried at the show I was so moved.
I started getting into all sorts of indie stuff, thanks mostly to my friend Dylan. Things like Death Cab for Cutie, The Weakerthans, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Thermals, The Black Keys, Coheed and Cambria and Cold War Kids were all being funneled into playlists, as well as some obscure things like Best Friends Forever, imadethismistake and Japanther. This “era” probably had the most influence on what I currently listen to, for better or for worse. Probably the band that defined most of my high school career was Modest Mouse, and they also probably were the biggest influence on my high school garage band. Though my favorite album is Lonesome Crowded West, every one of their songs just really spoke to me. Growing up in a beach town, there was just something entrancing about listening to “Long Distance Drunk” or “A Different City” while driving to the beach at sunset. Isaac Brock has an amazing way with words, and he kind of made sense of a lot of the confusion I had during high school.
Since then, my tastes have only evolved in subtle directions, not the same as the formerly huge leaps I took. I began to actively search for music after my “drama friends” left for college. I discovered the New Pornographers, The Decemberists, Tera Melos, Colour, Battles, Passion Pit and more. Odd Future gave me more respect for hip-hop artists like Mos Def, Kanye West, Busdriver, MC Frontalot and MF Doom.
Despite being stationary as of late, I’m always looking for the next great thing. One of my favorite things about music is that no matter how long you look, you will always find new things to listen to and discover. I hope I never stop finding interesting new sounds, emotions and vibrations.