Dear Ben Folds,

There was a time—months—where I couldn’t get through The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner without crying. As a junior in college, there were several things I couldn’t get through without crying back then (the angst of puberty hit me very late—I needed your “punk rock for sissies” very much in 1999), but nothing really got me going like that album. I’d put it on in my bedroom while I attempted to write a paper, but the by time “Mess” was transitioning to “Magic,” I’d have my head down on my desk, sobbing quietly so my roommate wouldn’t hear me. You sounded so sad—my friends and I would say to each other, “Ben’s not okay,” our eyes bright with worry. You were simply “Ben” to us by then; we had all dispensed with formalities.

It feels like you’ve always been there as the background soundtrack to my everything, but there is a very bright line between Before Ben Folds (BBF; 1978–1996) and After Ben Folds (ABF; 1997–?). The first of your songs I ever heard was, like a lot of people, “Brick,” which was released right around my 19th birthday, and I have to be honest: I didn’t love it. A freshman in college, but not yet quite given over to the indie rock nerd I would become, I listened to the hard rock station in Pittsburgh almost exclusively and groaned every time your sad, slow song came on. Was it about abortion? Maybe? Did it matter? I didn’t know. Over Thanksgiving break, I went back to work at the flower shop where I spent most of high school working, and the most unlikely person answered those questions for me. My boss’ boyfriend Jim, a big lovable guy who listened almost exclusively to classic rock, defended “Brick” to me when it came on the radio. Fifteen years older than me, maybe the lyrics hit him in a place I couldn’t yet fathom. Or maybe he just had better taste. Whatever it was, Jim made me take a better listen to you. Thanks, Jim.

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I don’t remember when I bought my first Ben Folds Five album, and I can’t remember if I bought Ben Folds Five or Whatever and Ever Amen first, but it doesn’t really matter because I fell in love with you head over piano-rock heels. By summer 1998, I was watching you at the Y100 FEZ-tival in Camden, NJ, completely mesmerized as you slammed your piano/drum stool, against the front of your piano, hitting the keys so hard at the end of “Jackson Cannery” that all 10 years of piano lessons in me winced. You were an animal that warm Sunday afternoon in June. I loved it.

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I fell for you all over again when you released Rockin’ the Suburbs. Oh, I mourned hard when I heard that Ben Folds Five had broken up. But then! Then there was this gift of your solo album and suddenly it was all going to be okay. I think I listened most obsessively to this one; to me, it represents growing up in so many ways. I had just graduated from college and was working at my first of many dead-end jobs, living with the man who would become my husband. Rockin’ the Suburbs was released on September 11, 2001—do you ever think about that? At first I had to make myself listen to the CD, pull myself away from the news and conspiracy theories on the internet, but it became a balm of sorts to me during that time, those first notes of “Annie Waits” ringing out and lifting me out of whatever funk I found myself in. You sounded so much happier on this album; I was happy for you. It seemed like you were maybe finally settled, wife and kids. I felt myself sliding into that stage of life as well. Four years later, my husband and I had our first dance at our wedding to “The Luckiest.” We sang “Still Fighting It” as a lullaby to both our sons when they were babies.

As with all love stories, there are ups and there are downs—I don’t have to tell you that, do I? Has anyone ever taken you to task over “Bad Idea?” It’s the only song of yours I refuse to listen to and won’t let my kids hear. The R-word, man. Why? I get that it was 1996 and things were different, but even when I first heard the song during that wretched movie it was in I cringed. Now, as a parent of a kid with special needs, I just can’t even, you know? I once interviewed Adam Horovitz when he and Amery Smith were touring as BS 2000 and asked him what he thought about all the misogynistic lyrics the Beastie Boys wrote. It wasn’t a terribly original question, but he still answered it passionately, saying he was embarrassed by his younger self and regretted those songs and that they would never perform them live again. I don’t think you perform “Bad Idea” anymore but have you ever been asked about it? What would you say?

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Ben, I feel like you and I have grown up together, despite you being 12 years my senior. I haven’t even gotten to your other solo albums or the recently reunited Ben Folds Five record (record! Good work, you!), or So There (I’m getting into it…slowly) or your TV appearances (bad fan; I haven’t really watched much). Your music has matured as you’ve gotten older—the last time I saw you play it was in front of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (it certainly made me feel mature watching that performance), and I recently watched an interview with you on CBS’ Sunday Morning (because I’m at a stage in my life where I religiously watch CBS’ Sunday Morning)—but it always manages to weave itself into my life in ways the girl who hated “Brick” could never have imagined. Thanks for being with me all these years.

With love,
Jenn

P.S. I once watched a karaoke DJ in the Denver, Colorado suburbs absolutely and un-ironically kill it on “Rockin’ the Suburbs.” You know that growly part at the end? He was the embodiment of it. I think you would have loved the whole thing.

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Underground

Mess

Still Fighting It

My dearest Solange,

Is it ok to call you “dearest”? I feel like I can talk to you like that.

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I have a surprisingly high number of regrets regarding the music I played at my wedding, but I am most sad I let my husband talk me out of playing “Sandcastle Disco,” because it didn’t smash as hard as “The Rat” or “Crazy in Love.” Maybe it was the chorus—”Baby I know you do that to all the girls/you know that I’m fragile/baby don’t blow me away.” In any case, I applaud you for putting out such a catchy song that hooked me and strung me along for years until you released “Losing You,” the first single from your triumphant, genre-leaping EP, True.

Every song you put out around that time was perfect, from “Sleep in the Park,” the b-side to “Losing You,” to the Jimmy Johns-referencing “Some Things Never Seem to Fucking Work,” but it is “Losing You” that I hold closest to my heart.

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Solange with members of South Africa’s Le Sapuer community.

At first listen, there’s not much to the song: a sampled “Wow!,” good beats, and the repetitive lyrics (“Tell me the truth boy/am I losing you for good”). But it SWELLS and gains momentum. The beat drops around 2’35” and shortly after is my favorite part: when you sing the chorus and underneath you plead “Baby you know I tried/Can’t lose you from my life.” And the lyric, “We used to kiss all night but now there’s just no use?” UGH, the intimacy and sadness of it all just hits me.

When “Losing You” first came out, it was all I listened to. I even wrote a blog post about it. At work, I would put the video on one screen while I clicked away on the other. I told friends and strangers about how much more talented you are than your sister; “She likes indie rock! She covers a Dirty Projectors song!” I’d tell them.

The pairing of you and Dev Hynes, who cowrote and coproduced the song, is a magical one. The two of you were able to create a sound very unique to you, that is an extension of your style and influences. I would also like to thank you for re-introducing me to Hynes, as I have very much enjoyed his work as Lightspeed Champion and especially Blood Orange over the past few years.

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The MOST stylish.

And the video! Filmed in South Africa, it is filled with the brightest colors, the most beautiful local scenery and the most fabulously dressed people. You and your friends seem just-out-of-reach hip.

I have tried for years to emulate the pattern-mixing you perfected in the “Losing You” video, but my budget is more clearance Banana Republic than Suno and Kenzo, so I just looked like a very confused chubby schoolteacher.

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I think you are in there somewhere.

In 2013, my friend Hilary won tickets to the Sweetlife Festival in DC. She led with, “Do you want to see Solange on Saturday?” realizing I was still hurt I couldn’t go to your 9:30 Club show a few weeks prior. The weather was so weird that day in May: rainy, humid, chilly and hot all at once. Because we are in our thirties, we drank a few craft beers (mostly to hide in the shade), slathered on some sun screen to prevent premature wrinkles, and then headed to the lawn to watch you.

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This is how the olds get down!

When you played “Losing You,” my friends and I were dancing like the Solange fans we all are. We danced like we didn’t give a shit, which was absolutely true, because we were feeling it. Shortly after I noticed the lawn was full of kids at least 10 years younger than us, all chugging Lime-A-Ritas, and they barely acknowledged THE QUEEN that was performing in front of them. Maybe they were embarrassed to dance around their really cool friends who encouraged them to drink citrus-flavored malt beverages, wear high-waisted shorts that created insane camel toe, and spend $100 on tickets to basically have a boozy lawn party. In any case, your performance was as delightful and fun as something could be at 2 in the afternoon.

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This was later in the day, when Hilary and I left before Kendrick Lamar played because we were too old/wet/not drunk enough on Lime-A-Ritas.

I know you have finished your new record and I am really excited to hear it, especially now that you and Dev have made up. I’m not saying you should have “Losing You II” on it, but it wouldn’t hurt. Also, please feel free to book a show in my town. I will be there at least!

Your Friend Forever,
Melissa Koch

RECOMMENDED LISTENING/VIEWING

Hello William,

Not sure if you remember me… I met you 20 years ago before a Foo Fighters show at the Agora Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio… You were walking through the line of grungy kids before the show when my older brother, Jim, and I spotted you and yelled “Goldsmith!”, “You’re William Goldsmith!”, “You’re the best drummer in the world!” I hadn’t been that star struck since I met Sugar Ray Leonard at a Hills Department Store opening in the late 1980s.

You looked like a greaser with black dyed hair, a white t-shirt, and a black leather jacket as you shyly approached me and my brother… You smiled, we grabbed you, and you said “Holy shit! I didn’t think anyone knew me”. We continued to praise and grope you and you remained humble and were totally cool about the whole situation…. Thank you…

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To this day, you are still one of my favorite drummers and you have had such a lasting impact on me musically. When I am behind a drum set your influence on me is very obvious to other fans… Even when I am programming a drum machine it somehow sounds like I am copying your style.

Sonically, I have never heard a drummer who hits has hard as you while being so expressive and intricate with your rhythmic accents… I am a huge Brian Wilson fan and find you’re drumming layered and nuanced like a Beach Boys harmony. It tells a story on its own when you focus and isolate it within the mix…
While emotionally, I never experienced a drummer like you; For me, your drumming is raw and on the edge; you put everything into each down beat like a boxer trying to knock out it’s opponent with each punch.

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I have seen you in concert twice with the Foo Fighters. Once at the Agora Ballroom (above) and once at the Newport Music Hall in Columbus, Ohio also in 1995. Me, my brother Jim, and our buddy Jon, made the trip from Pittsburgh. The first Foo Fighters’ album just came out and Shudder to Think was the opening band on that summer tour. We met Craig Wedren before the show because we arrived at the club four hours before the show… When the doors opened we rushed up to the balcony and stood our ground for about four hours because we knew that was the best spot in the venue to see you drum. No food, no water, no bathroom breaks for hours, no problem…

The highlight of the show was a new song that you started with four rapid bass drum beats to each snare hit… It was My Hero, which was not released and we had never heard it before that show. You left it all out on the stage that night… Thank you…

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Jim, Jon and I were dehydrated and disoriented as we wandered a supermarket in a strange town for food and hydration after the show. I grabbed the Taco flavored Doritos, Jim grabbed the Hostess frosted Donettes, and Jon grabbed a 1 gallon jug of generic blue drink. It was simpler and more carefree times; the days were golden and the nights sparkled with uncertainty, high hopes, and lofty Rock N’ Roll dreams of tour vans and small town takeovers.

Our Rock N’ Roll dreams never came to fruition. We grew up and apart and our musical relevance and coolness waned along with the rest of the Generation Xers… Everything we did and were that was not cool then became cool 10 years too late, which of course makes it totally uncool now…

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However, “classic” Rock N’ Roll music holds up and can bend the space-time continuum… Whenever I want to escape to a world where Rock N’ Roll Dreams still exist, I put on Rodeo Jones. The beginning of the song is somewhat benign… It is like a warm up, which is helpful as you stretch the tired and dormant muscles that hide and hold the stress and tension of your true self; your sixteen-year-old self… You begin to tune out reality around and inside you as the groove continues….

The race starts at the 1:11 mark… Your body temperature rises, your muscles stretch, and your stress leaves your body as you are floating above the colosseum of your life as the mighty Sunny Day Real Estate is taking a victory lap at the 1:35 and 2:50 marks…

I don’t want to get too negative (edit, edit, edit), but what Dave did to you was not cool and the Foo Fighters have not been the same band (edit, edit), since you have not been a part of it. I am sorry that this happened to you… You deserved more respect.
It’s a shame, since I feel that you bring out the best in other musicians you play with. I love Jeremy’s music, but it is different without you… It’s missing something… In SDRE, Nate was like Mike Mills was to REM; he had a pivotal role in the band; his bass lines were interwoven into the melodies and rhythms and became the melodies at times. However, in the Foo Fighters, Nate is more like Michael Anthony is to Van Halen; his bass is buried in the mix, he is simply a body on the stage and bassist for the band’s promo pictures, since Rock N’ Roll bands have bass players…

When you were the drummer for the Foo Fighters, you were the artist that brought out the artist in Dave like Kurt had before… There is more to Rock N’ Roll besides loud guitars, banging drums, and screaming men. There is sincerity, vulnerability, and strength. All attributes can be found in you and your drumming and for that you are my (Rock N’ Roll) Hero.
Matt

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Sunny Day Real Estate: Seven

Sunny Day Real Estate: Rodeo Jones

Foo Fighters: My Hero (Early Live Version)

 

To Adam Horovitz, Michael Diamond and Adam Yauch,

1992. I was twelve years old. My compact disc collection was infantile, my room still being full of cassette tapes. Music was always such a mood lifter for me that when I got grounded, it would be taken away from me and that was horror in my mind. End of the world, apocalyptic heart attack serious. In this day, akin to throwing away my hard drives and removing all wifi. Deserved, though, as I was a huge pain in the ass. That got the point across. The refreshment of getting back what means the most to you is indescribably elating. What meant the most to me in 1992, other than little girls and trouble, was my microcosm of a music collection. My first discs were Nevermind and Check Your Head. Monuments. 

Starters, I can still listen to this album today and thoroughly enjoy it. Not because of pure nostalgia, more so due to the awesome amalgamation that was/is Check Your Head. I had been a huge fan of Licensed To Ill and Paul’s Boutique, but never saw this coming. LTI was a trumped up braggadocio, bravado, intentionally in your face parade of hormones and hedonism. Paul’s was a total departure, and pretty much overlooked by most until further listening. Leaving Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin was a definite turning point, and opened up creative endeavors. The bouillabaisse at the end of that album should’ve prepared me.

As soon as the first track starts, I get goosebumps. You can feel the passion, angst, purpose, and love immediately. No major hip-hop acts were doing anything like this at the time. I was floored. So much so that I purchased this twice on VHS…

…and I still don’t have a copy due to pilfering after viewing, like the way loaning books means they’ll never return. The artwork alone sold me on this album. Browsing through music shops was much like grocery stores—design and packaging would lure me in. The design of this, prior to listening, made me want to grow up fast and create aesthetically pleasing things. Basically how you eat with your eyes first.

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This was one of those meals that looked terrific and did not disappoint. Everything was about shedding light and peace and happiness, whilst sounding badass. Which, in my opinion, is as essential as altruism. I did not have a chance to be present for this tour but got to see the Ill Communication tour with A Tribe Called Quest. I get the polar opposite of douche chills just recollecting that.

(This is a taste, although a few years later:)

The energy and uplifting spirit of your output, particularly on this album, inspired millions. Most importantly, myself. The letting go, and just doing what you felt like doing in your hearts, comes through incredibly. Kicking expectations and outside judgments to the curb, and letting each member coalesce, conveying much in such little time, resonates to this day. Harmony. The thing everyone searches for. Somehow, my budding naïve mind could feel that, and still does.

You made me grow as a person, and I am forever grateful.
Dan

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Pass the Mic

Gratitude

So What’cha Want

Dear Justine Frischmann’s sneer,

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Thank you for writing me back! I feel like 1995 has gone soooooo sloowwwwwwly. Ughh will this stupid age ever end? But yes, I did have a smashing summer, thanks for asking. I’m really curious what London’s like. I’ve heard it’s dark – dark in the daytime. Do people sleep, sleep in the daytime?

Have you ever been to Middle America, Justine? Have you ever been to the Middle America of California, where hella fuckin tight trucks are lifted or slammed, depending on your level of anger? Have you been to the flatland labyrinth of Auto Zones, Jamba Juices, where Big Dogs have No Fear and the aforementioned trucks have nuts? It’s sooo sweet, you’d love it, and you wouldn’t have to worry about being mobbed everywhere you went because Elastica’s not big with cowboys.

But wait, I think you have been here – at least in a disembodied, spectral form, on MTV. Actually, I’ve seen you a bunch of times and I am smitten by your perfect sneer. It’s so good! I think the video editor may have been a teenage boy too, because that sneer loop is played over and over and I can’t get that image out of my head. Sneer sneer sneer (bats eyes). I want to live in that lip curl.

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I’ve been hooked on “Connection” – it’s an unexpectedly sweet confection spun from all my favorite contrasts. It’s laid-back while being totally showy and gaudy. Like a realist black-and-white film that is actually all neon squiggles. Atonal and counterintuitive while being highly melodic and naturally composed. It feels naïve despite being fairly sophisticated (how I fancy myself to seem). It’s also got the distorted “oooowhhhaa” approach that works so well in “Cannonball” and “Supernova.”

You and that video mean a lot to me, really. See, I never get celebrity crushes even though I’m a teenager and that’s the expectation. There aren’t any actresses or singers that stir unrealistic feelings. But uh… you, and this video, and this song, and this record… it’s made me go crazy for a potential world that may exist elsewhere, full of androgynous girls and boys who sneer, effortlessly make great pop records, have fantastic conversations, make cool art and make simple clothes like amazing, and don’t wear the kinds of sunglasses that make you look like you’re always angry. Does this world actually exist? Am I crazy? Is it just a well-crafted illusion?

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I’ll admit, before your sneer came into my life, there was a “wink.” I was watching the “Girls and Boys” video and Damon Albarn – do you know him? – delivers the campiest, most dreadful wink to the camera (:35 in, nonetheless) and I absolutely fell in love with it despite knowing better. All of last year I was wearing my soccer warmup jumpers and trying to wear my hair like his but I ended up looking like a zitty Ringo with too-tight pants. I wanted nothing but to float around effortlessly in oversaturated colors dispensing devastating one-liners and bathing in my own glow. But I’m older now.

This letter’s getting a little long, so let me also say that you’re a total babe and that “All-Nighter” is what I put on loud when I want to thrash and jump around while also making myself really heartsick. Heartsick in the way that I dream that sometime in the next few years I’ll meet people that will be so exciting to me that I’ll want to stay up all night with them, running around until the sun comes up, hatching plans, making manifestos, chasing impossible romances, staying skinny from constant emotional/hormonal half-marathons. I’m looking forward to this, and if it doesn’t happen I’m going to be really really unimpressed with myself.

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In the meantime, I’ll keep working on my drawings and music and hopefully they’ll get me out of the Auto Zone and to a climate more fitting, where even if I start listening to Wire it won’t make me mad that you lifted their songs, it’ll actually put a big smile on my face.

Okay hope everything is cool in London! Looking forward to that second album, hope it’s as good as the first!

Wyeth

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RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Connection

All-Nighter

Never Here

To Misters Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman,

This letter concerns your 1970 LP, Nilsson Sings Newman.
First of all, I would like to inform you that this LP played a large part in breaking up my former band, Ezra Furman & the Harpoons. Don’t worry, I’m not going to sue you. I’m actually writing to thank you.
I was the titular front man of Ezra Furman & the Harpoons from 2006 through 2011. We were a great band and I had a great time. However, we were very unsuccessful (which was, to be honest, probably a larger factor in our break-up than your record was), and this caused some unpleasantness. We were on tour all the time and were very poor because we didn’t have jobs and being on tour barely paid. A common story, one we’ve all heard. I loved playing rock and roll with my band. As you put it in NSN‘s opening song, “Vine Street”: “That was me / Third guitar / I wonder where the others are.”
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But after about five years as a loud rock and roll band, one starts to wonder about a softer kind of music. Amid the crashing cymbals and rowdy crowds, I ached for gentleness, and found it on Nilsson Sings Newman. Before our third album came out, we took a long chunk of time off touring, and that’s when I heard it. I was so ready for it. I must have listened to it a thousand times over the course of a couple years.
Harry: I know some people scratch their heads trying to fathom why, at a relative peak of your own career as a brilliant singer/songwriter, you decided to make an album of Randy Newman covers. To me, it’s very clear. Randy Newman has got to be one of the best and most original songwriters of the twentieth century. Which is saying a lot. I love your commitment to him, and your devil-may-care about what was “right for this moment in your career” in the face of the realization that you could make something idiosyncratically great.
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Randy: In 1970, you must have seemed criminally underappreciated to people who loved your work. You’d written tens, maybe hundreds of great songs for others to sing, but had only made one record of your own. That record was so weird that it could never have been a hit, but it was so good that it should have been one anyway.
Anyway, R., you’d be the first to admit that you’re not what anyone would call a dazzling singer. In the midst of my love for the records under your own name, I occasionally wish I could hear someone belt our your words and melodies rather than charmingly mumble them the way you do. And Harry’s one of the better singers that’s ever been recorded, so to pair these two people together was an exciting idea.
Newman 1970
The record turned out way more satisfying than even I would have thought, being a massive fan of both of you. Harry, your voice is like honey, and never better than on this album. It’s seriously medicine. Just to hear you go “whoa-la-la-la” in harmony on the first track can turn my whole day around. You are a genius interpreter of others’ songs, and the rare singer who’s not just a virtuoso technically, but emotionally as well.
When the singing/writing combination really fires on all cylinders, there’s just nothing like it. It’s so emotionally and musically powerful, but without any of the bad writing that so often goes with the saddest music. “Living Without You,” for example, makes me feel the pure beauty of depression, a self-aggrandizing blind withdrawal from the cruel world, in a way that very few songs are capable of. “Everyone’s got something / They are trying to get some more / They’ve got something to get up for / But I ain’t about to. / Nothing’s gonna happen / Nothing’s gonna change / It’s so hard living without you.”
It’s a little bit awkward to gush about this album, because part of what makes it so good is its insistence on understatement. For one thing, it’s only just over twenty-five minutes long. The songwriting is wonderfully concise. Understatement is one of the key tricks to Randy’s effectiveness. He couches his satire in so much casualness and everyday talk that when you get it, it’s like a sneak attack. And it makes you feel clever, too, because you know that someone not listening as close would have missed it. “Love Story” tries to disguise itself as something utterly average, but if you pay attention you are smacked in the face with absurdity, tragedy, dramatic irony—all the good stuff of depressing art. “We’ll play checkers all day / ’til we pass away,” it ends. A meaningless and banal slow death disguised as a happy ending.
I know I’m describing all the sadness of the album, but it’s clear after the first five minutes what a joyful thing it is. The pleasure factor is so strong here that I can hardly have a serious conversation when one of these songs is running through my head.
Part of why this record derailed my band is because it is so clearly an insular creation. You guys made this album alone in a studio, and put in all these self-conscious references to the fact that it is a studio creation, not played live. You end the record with “So Long Dad,” where multiple versions of Harry are instructing someone to turn up one or another of the singing voices. I read that you did upwards of 100 vocal overdubs on some of these tracks. That’s insane, particularly on pre-digital recording technology.
So I ditched my band and made a studio album with almost none of it played live, and sang complex harmonies with myself. I thought I’d come back to the Harpoons and we’d keep on playing together, but by the time I resurfaced they’d all gotten into law school or started selling real estate or otherwise living happy and interesting lives. As for me, a solo career was born. Now if I only I could sing and write as well as you two, I’d really be getting somewhere.
Thanks for the album, guys.
Ezra
RECOMMENDED LISTENING
Vine Street

Dear Bill Stevenson,

In the early 90s, there were few better places to discover music than the used cassette section of Record Connection. At $3 a pop, this was a cost-effective method to keep your ears busy in the pre-streaming era. I managed to dig up Fugazi Repeater, Bad Religion Against the Grain and NOFX Ribbed before finally stumbling upon one that really clicked: Descendents’ I Don’t Want To Grow Up.

After my first listen, I was hooked. A single and love thirsty teenage girl, I nearly always flipped to side two and started with “Silly Girl” and fell in love with Milo before “Good Good Things” ended. I listened to him in the morning on the bus, on the way home from school and eventually in my car. Milo was the perfect counterpoint to my nerdy, somewhat angsty art girl persona. He sported the thin, bespectacled, slightly disheveled emo look long before it came into fashion. He was in a really cool band yet somehow managed to seem accessible. AND HE SANG ABOUT GIRLS.

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“I think about you every night and day, and when I could have asked I let it slip away. I’ve got to get to know you, but I’m so afraid. Well it’s so hard to be a friend and be in love this way.” COME ON! How could I resist? Maybe someday, I thought, a guy like Milo would fall in love with me.

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So why is my letter to you, Mr. Stevenson, and not to Milo?

Descendents are one of those bands from which I never felt compelled to disassociate myself (I’m looking at you, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy). It’s a badge of honor to be a fan. People who like Descendents like them with all their heart—not only nostalgic gals such as myself but actual punk dudes.

I’ve always wondered why that was the case, and a recent viewing of Filmage answered my question. You are the man behind the magic. It seems almost obvious that someone with your passion and energy would produce music that stayed with me for decades. You poured everything you’ve got into the music and are deserving of all your loyal fans (and particularly the one who brought you back to health). My fandom has reached new levels, and I even bought my baby girl (and a friend’s baby boy) an I Don’t Want To Grow Up onesie.

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So, now that I have your attention, here’s a quick anecdote:

In 10th grade, I participated in a class trip to see Macbeth at a local playhouse. Jackie sat next to me on the bus. Jackie was captain of the soccer team, tall, thin, peppy and blonde—everything I was not. Did she want to talk? Even though I was weirdly excited someone actually wanted to sit next to me, my walkman and trusty I Don’t Want To Grow Up cassette were waiting for me.

Jackie didn’t exactly want to talk, but asked if she could listen to my music on the way back to school. Considering the contents of my walkman, I politely warned her that it might not be her thing. My warning lead to her increased curiosity so I set it up for side two (of course) and reluctantly handed it over. After side two ended, Jackie seemed a bit nonplussed and asked “Do you really like listening to stuff like that?” Perhaps she thought I was pretending in order to be different. I was not, and I’d let her into my world exactly long enough to feel exposed, embarrassed and wondering why I didn’t bring a different cassette with me. What about the Cranberries—something I enjoyed that was safe, feminine and mainstream?

I could feel my face getting red and my self-consciousness increasing by the second. Would she tell people what happened, ensuring that my classmates continued to see me as an outcast? Most likely yes, and although it stung like hell at the time, the very thing that made me an outcast as a teen makes me special(ish) now. A Milo bobblehead sat on my corporate desk for years. Everyone who came in asked who it was, and I was delighted to tell conservative men in dark blue suits all about the Descendents.

me-n-milo

Descendents are a reminder of how happy I am to be unlike everyone else, and for that, Bill Stevenson, I owe you a great big thanks.

Much respect,
Christine

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