Many readers out there may not recognize my name – which makes sense, as much of my work goes on behind the scenes. As a managing editor of Mind Equals Blown, I help spruce up our writers’ articles and specialize in writer management, working with trialists, dealing with bands and labels in ways that are mutually beneficial to them as well as MEB, and most recently I’ve been heading up the “What We’re Jamming” feature that brings you new tunes each week. The one thing about our staff that never ceases to amaze me is the variety of all of our tastes in music, which is why we are all very excited for you to get to know us a little better. Without further ado, here is my journey through the never-ending galaxy of music.
It was Bob Seger’s classic hit “Turn the Page.” That’s what my grandpa tells me to this day.
I’ve been enjoying the wondrous world of music since before I can remember – literally. I am told that when I was extremely young and accompanying my grandpa on car trips to the supermarket, he would turn the cassette player (that’s right kids, the cassette player – Google it) up just for “Turn the Page” and we’d sing the fitting, catchy chorus line “here I am, on the road again/here I go, playin’ star again.” My love affair with music began early all right, but the relationship took some time to grow and the ride has been anything but smooth.
The earliest memories I can recall of enjoying music were in my mother’s car as, growing up in southern Louisiana, we made the short trip to the Gulf of Mexico on many-a-weekend to bask in the beach life. Favorites at that time included The Beach Boys, Little River Band, and the soundtrack to The Lion King (some of Sir Elton John’s best work in this kid’s opinion). The Beach Boys’ classics in particular were great fun – songs like “I Get Around” and “Surfin’ USA” are still regulars on the iPod today.
After moving to Illinois when I was nine, I found the first band whose music I truly loved: Jars of Clay. I had no idea who the likes of Pink Floyd or David Bowie were, nor did I know what was popular on the radio in the mid/late 1990s. My parents’ music collection was 90% Christian music and while my dad enjoyed bands like DC Talk and Newsboys, it was my mother’s affection for Jars of Clay that resonated with me first. Classic tunes like “Crazy Times” and “Five Candles” were always playing on the walkman, even if I didn’t understand the lyrics just yet. Unlike most of the kids at school, however, I didn’t have a real fondness for music at this time; my kid life revolved around trading Pokemon cards, watching Dragon Ball Z and playing hockey five days a week.
My first true connection to the music world came in the summer after eighth grade, when my family and I travelled to Minnesota to be with my grandma – who was having gastric bypass surgery – for a few days at the Mayo Clinic. My mother told me that there was a 25% chance she would die right there on the table, and I felt angry and scared that one of the kindest, gentlest people I knew could go to the best hospital in the country and possibly not come home with us. I needed an outlet and luckily I had just recently caught on to the harder music my dad had started listening to – albums such as Kutless’ self-titled debut and Skillet‘s new single “Collide” quickly became favorites. Combining the situation with that usual teenage angst we all adopt around this age, these louder, angrier, albums with uncertainty in the lyrics were exactly what I required at the time.
High school began soon after that, and with it came drastic changes in my tastes and personality. I discovered a little website called purevolume.com and found a television network called Fuse, both of which were godsends, but alongside these was a now-defunct show called Steelroots on a now-defunct local TV network. The skateboarding/music program played music videos of alternative/hard rock bands and I had gotten home from school one day just in time to see a video for a song called “Readyfuels” by some group called Anberlin. It sounds crazy, but I knew at that moment in mid 2004 that I was listening to my new favorite band. The song was so unique, combining their own style of modern rock with influences from the ‘80s and the vocals were like nothing I had heard before. I immediately went online and ordered a copy of Blueprints For the Black Market, and thus began my transition towards the secular music world.
Despite introducing me to the heavier side of Christian music, my dad had always monitored my music preferences closely when I was young. When my parents divorced in my sophomore year, musically speaking I was finally free to discover and love whoever I wanted, no questions asked. Purevolume showed me all different sides of rock, in the forms of Saosin, Finch, Circa Survive, Underoath, Emery, The Juliana Theory and Acceptance – just to name a few. This was also a period when my mother – who is quite open to all different kinds of music – went with my friends and me to concerts (hey, we didn’t have licenses yet).
I’ve been to so many concerts in my life that I can’t remember them all anymore, but the first truly memorable experience for me came in late 2004 as my mother and I went to the Congress Theatre in Chicago to see Story of the Year, Lostprophets, My Chemical Romance and Anberlin on the Nintendo Fusion Tour (told you she was open-minded). We drove three hours mainly just to see Anberlin’s 20-minute set as the openers, but I was familiar with Story of the Year and Lostprophets as well. The show was incredible, although I skipped My Chem’s set after a somewhat intoxicated Gerard Way stumbled onto the stage and spent five minutes complaining about a bug that was flying around him. No big deal – my main goal for the night was to meet the Anberlin guys and Stephen Christian in particular. Drummer Nate Young was the first one to come out to the lobby after their set and, despite my stomach being in knots, I went up to him and asked him to sign my Blueprints booklet. He took my pen and signed the front cover, said “eh, you can’t see that real good” and proceeded to sign the back cover too! To this day I still like to brag that I probably own the only copy of Blueprints with two signatures from the same member.
We waited about a half hour for Stephen to show up and were just about to return to the show when he finally came out. After a few minutes of my mother urging me to get over my nerves, I went up to him and we chatted for a few minutes before I asked him for an autograph. He took my pen and booklet and said “we can do better than this” and left to go get a sharpie. This is what he wrote:
Stephen Christian has been and always will be one of my main role models, for reasons that go far beyond music. I’ve since seen Anberlin live eight other times and met Stephen on four occasions, most recently in 2010. He is still the kindest, most humble musician I have ever met, just as he was in 2004. Success has not changed him one bit.
Despite some good experiences, I was glad to be finished with high school in 2006, but there was a point in that senior year that would open my mind even further to new styles. A friend and I were surfing Purevolume in class one day and at the top of the “most popular bands” list that day was a quartet of funny-looking kids called Panic! At the Disco. Naturally we were both intrigued just by the name, so we clicked on their page to see that they had just uploaded their first two demos, “Time to Dance” and “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage,” which were getting rave reviews. Our minds were blown – neither of us had ever heard anything so theatrical yet fun and catchy at the same time. It was exactly the direction I needed after years of filling my head with so much purposefully angry music.
College arrived at last and with it came a far more relaxed atmosphere – an atmosphere I thrived in. I finally didn’t need music just for the heaviness or the heartbroken lyrics anymore, and I branched out and found alternative artists like Radiohead, Mutemath, and Ryan Adams. I also found absolutepunk.net around this time and thanks to them I came to know the likes of Midtown, Thrice, Brand New, The Gaslight Anthem and The Dangerous Summer. New and old friends also introduced me to the hip-hop works of Kanye West and Gorillaz. At long last, I wasn’t listening to music because I needed it, but just because I loved it. The music world was officially my oyster.
Fast forward to 2010 and my Junior year of college. By my tastes, it was a slower year than normal for new music so I took about six months to dig into decades past. My grandma – the same one mentioned earlier in this article – passed away that fall and despite the love and comfort of friends and family, I needed the special power of music to pull me through such a massive loss. Nothing on the iPod was helping much; I needed something else. I’d recently been on an Oasis kick and decided to look further into the Britpop boom of the ‘90s as it was all about uplifting, positive music. I quickly found a greatest hits album by Blur and gave it a listen. When “The Universal” came up, all the pent-up emotions from the previous few weeks came out. As Damon Albarn sang the chorus line “When the days they seem to fall through you, well just let them go” and the next verse “no one here is alone,” I just cried and pressed the repeat button about ten times. Within a week I had the band’s entire discography on iTunes and they have since become my favorite band. To this day I still get goosebumps every single time I listen to “The Universal.”
Only now, while writing this article, have I realized that my music tastes will never be shaped in any definitive manner. The proof: in 2012 I’ve enjoyed new albums from acoustic songstress Lucy Rose, prog-rock legends Rush, teenage hard rockers Cherri Bomb, R&B crooner Frank Ocean and the electronic pop stylings of Passion Pit. At the same time, I never go too long without listening to old favorites from The Stone Roses, Blur and Radiohead. My tastes are, apparently, quite eclectic, and that’s just fine. The most important lesson music has taught me over the years: never judge a band simply by their name or their image. Try to stay open-minded and give everyone a chance, because you never know when you’ll find your next Jars of Clay, Anberlin or Blur.
Top 5 Favorite Artists
3. The Beatles
4. The Stone Roses
5. The Gaslight Anthem
Top 10 Favorite Albums
1. Rubber Soul – The Beatles
2. Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys
3. The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
4. Cities – Anberlin
5. Kid A – Radiohead
6. 13 – Blur
7. Demon Days – Gorillaz
8. The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me – Brand New
9. What’s the Story (Morning Glory)? – Oasis
10. American Slang – The Gaslight Anthem