Dear Nikola Šarčević,

Note to our readers: This letter was written by a nice person from Brazil. Please keep in mind that it was translated from Portuguese to English.

I was probably around 9 or 10 years old when I received the file “Chiquita Chaser” over ICQ. It was a catchy song and I’d be singing “papah papah parararah” all around. “Nice one,” I thought. “Do you have more songs of this band?” I asked my ICQ friend. Then, he sent me “Bullion.” It was enough, I was already addicted. Millencolin would come for a concert in the same year, 1998, but I was too young and really far from where it would be. Then, I downloaded and listened to everything related to the band. It was a happy time of my life and I remember I waited anxiously for the next album when finally, Pennybridge Pioneers was released. The album exceeded all my expectations, but the last song, “The Ballad,” was annoying to me so I’d skip it every time. The album cover was beautiful and the painting of your face looked really similar to the guy I was in love during school days (we were best friends and he still uses this album cover as his profile picture in every social network, even though he prefers heavy metal), which was funny. I would listen to Millencolin more than my own thoughts! The songs were with me everyday, encouraging me to live, never give up on my dreams and face the world. I started being “Millengirl” when almost nobody here knew what that meant. Seriously, it became my nickname.

Six years after Pennybridge’s release, you finally came to Rio de Janeiro and I was really excited to go. I was 17 years old and finally, I was grown enough to be there dancing with you guys. But in my mom’s head, I was still too young and, even seeing all my effort to save money and buy the tickets with my low salary working as a trainee in a hospital and going to the shopping mall with me to check the prices of the tickets one day before the show, she didn’t let me go. I think I only cried like that when my father or my best friend died. I got so angry that I spent almost a month quiet, talking only basic things with her. Then, Mom made me a promise: no matter where Millencolin would be, if the band came again to Brazil, I would be there.

The next year would be terrible: my dad died. It was the second big problem I ever faced in life (the first was when my parents got divorced) and I never thanked you for helping me face this. Afterward, mentally, I felt embraced by you and your lyrics every time I had a problem or a great moment (when I graduated, for example, I had to choose a song for the time they would call my name in the ceremony and I choose “Birdie).

You came back in 2008, but the show was in São Paulo. I didn’t even ask my mom, just said “They’re coming to São Paulo and there’s this girl called Renata on Orkut with a van and she’ll take me and a lot of people I don’t know.” To my surprise, she replied “Don’t worry, I bought my car insurance with somebody I only know by phone and it works very well. Good luck, dear!”

So I went to São Paulo, happy as can be. I begged Renata and she let me go backstage with her and another friend. I finally met you in person and got so nervous, said so many things, made a huge mess that you even took a picture of me. (I tried to ask you on Facebook, but you didn’t reply. Maybe you don’t even remember this picture because I know your memory is really bad!) Of course, the producers kicked me out and I completely forgot that my friends gave me the t-shirts they were wearing hoping I could get them signed. I was very happy but they were naked and got mad at me and had to buy new t-shirts. I enjoyed every moment of the show and in the end, I reached Kimmo, the manager. He promised me he’d find the t-shirts and he actually did. He sent the t-shirts back, they travelled with the band to Porto Alegre (unfortunately, you didn’t sign them, but the guys were really happy that their t-shirts travelled with the band!).

Going to SP (2008)
Traveling to Sao Paolo
SP concert (2008)
Backstage at the concert

What I couldn’t guess is that the day after, I would feel really sad. The show was something I anticipated for a long time and it was amazing, but it was over. I wanted and needed more. Two years later, 2010, you came to Rio de Janeiro again.

Being another face in the crowd wasn’t enough for me. I didn’t want to go home and feel so empty again, missing the energy and power of your presence on the stage. So I reached you at your hotel. I called you and said I was a journalist, if I could have a time with you for an interview or if you could sign my CDs. You said “Talk to Kimmo,” but he wouldn’t talk to me as I’m sure he thought I was another annoying groupie. Then, I took all of my CDs to the hotel and addressed them to you (and got them back the day after, in the reception, signed by everybody!). After that, I ran to the show.

At the show, I was so emotional, singing and dancing that, somehow, you invited me to sing the only Millencolin song I didn’t like: “The Ballad.” We had a quick talk on the stage and you said “You called me earlier.” You recognized my voice and I got so much more nervous than I was already, my voice on the microphone sounded horrible and I started jumping as a kangaroo. A roadie tried to kick me out (always like that!) and I ran back to the stage, kissed Erik’s cheek and got a pic. You found everything so funny! In the end, I took pictures with all the band again, a lot of people added me on Facebook, I received a lot of pictures and I was mentioned on a lot of music sites!

Inviting me (2010)
Nikola inviting me to the stage
Singing (2010)
Me singing with the band
Singing 2 (2010)
Me singing with the band
You called me earlier in the morning (2010)
“You called me earlier in the morning”
My authographs (2010).jpg
Autographs

When I got home, I was singing a song, not a Millencolin one, but a random song. I tried to find it online and to my surprise, I wrote the song for you. My first song.

And this is not the end of our interaction, Nikola.

Millencolin came again in 2015. What else could I live with the band, after all these things? I made a t-shirt with the picture of us singing “The Ballad” (my favorite song now) and I wanted to be sure I’d get it signed. I asked everyone I knew, I ran to the local rock radio, I tried lots of things but nobody could give me a backstage pass. I was really close to the club where the show would be drinking a coffee with a friend and very upset when I had the idea of messaging you. I really bothered you, because you read all of my messages but didn’t reply, until you asked me “What do you want?” I said “My name on your guest list” and you said “Done.” I had no doubt my name was there for real because you scream “What’s done is done” in my ears uncountable times per month.

I went quickly to the concert and I waited until you arrived. You looked at me so serious and waved, I was pretending I was okay, even though I was just trying not to be kicked out again (I could really be, you know). Last time we met, I had long curly brown hair and this time, my hair was short, straight and blonde. I wasn’t expecting you to recognize me anyway. The show started and, when you started playing “The Balled,” I cried and screamed “THAT’S MY SONG!” You got a little confused and I screamed again “THAT’S MY SONG!” showing my t-shirt with our picture this time. You got really touched and said “Is that you? And that’s me, I suppose. You look so different, I didn’t recognize! So I’ll play this one for you.” And of course, I cried eve more. In the end and at the backstage, all the guys signed my t-shirt but this time, it was different. I was feeling so calm and peaceful, you were together with me all the time, paying attention to everything I said (don’t remember what), with eyes of someone who was really caring.

Nikola and I (2015).jpg
Me and Nikola (in person and on my t-shirt!)

Right now for me, you are much more than a singer, bassist or music writer. You are a HERO, someone who has inspired my entire life only by existing and not giving up on your dreams, who doesn’t treat people badly, has a huge heart and politeness after all these years and fame. All of you guys actually, but it’s just that I have this connection with you somehow. I sent you the song I wrote and you said you liked it, but I could never explain all of this to you.

I really hope you read this letter, hero. Back in Örebro, sitting in your favorite chair, when you listen to “The Ballad” on the radio I hope you feel as special as I do.

Thank you for everything.

Love,
Thaabs

PS: Mom loves you (so does my entire family).

Dear Karen O,

I used to want to be you. I got close one night in 2004.

My favorite quote is, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” As a teen, I was pretty content being who I usually was: a reserved, well-behaved, shy girl with an occasional wild streak. Other than a cigarette here and there, the shoplifted Wet n Wild glitter nail polish, and that time I hung out of my boyfriend’s mom’s SUV and flashed a guy at a stop light, I was pretty tame. I spent a lot of time alone on Saturday nights writing poems and listening to U2. I did my homework on time. I got a college scholarship. I saved my money.

Then I heard the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell.

Those previous acts were of a curious teenage girl testing limits. But as a college freshmen, that Yeah Yeah Yeahs album took me deeper than simply shocking the suburbs.

The album sounds like what you sweep up after a really good house party—bottle caps, dried cheese cubes, a gob of chip dip, dust bunnies, and a surprising amount of glitter and thumbtacks. You let the dirt pile slip off the dustpan into the overloaded trash can. Then, you realize that you missed a whole section of glitter thumbtack dirt on the kitchen floor. But you let it go because it’s oddly beautiful and you’ve got better things to do, like write a poem.

Fever to Tell boasts fun-drunk yet composed songs arranged in such an order like they’ve grabbed you by the heart and dumped you next to them in a roller coaster car. Right out of the gate is a cluster of minute-and-a-half to three-minute songs that don’t need Adderall to have a good time. Song two, “Date with the Night,” defines how my friends and I spent many hazy nights.

You’re already losing your mind by song four, “Tick” (the way you screech “T- T- T- TIME!!!!!!”!). Your playful chorus on “Pin” is offset by the deceptively demure Nick Zinner’s fuzzy guitar filling in the few blanks between Brian Chase’s speedy beats. “Cold Night” told me that it wasn’t weird or wrong to straight up tell a dude that I wanted to have sex with him. Or maybe it was weird and wrong. Well, Karen O, I wanted to be wrong with you.

By “No No No” the ride starts to hug sharp turns low to the ground. During “Maps” we’re slow dancing. The lights come on with “Y Control.” We’re lulling ourselves to sleep with the mixed feelings and hard reflections of “Modern Romance.” We think we’re dreaming when we hear the sober words on the hidden track. “And, cool kids, they belong together.”

“Modern Romance” is perhaps my favorite Yeah Yeah Yeahs song for the reason I admire you, Karen. I like when pieces of art and people are layered and dynamic. You’re an example of the vastness of a woman. You’re someone I wanted to be like when I was 20 years old.

When I bought a ticket to your February 2004 Cleveland show, I really hoped that you would do “Art Star.” On that sticky and sharp, spit-in-a-stuffy-old-man-face track, your voice is perfect. Slightly off key at the just right moments, sour-sweet yet strong, sensationally gritty when you scream, hilariously adorable when you mutter, “It’s a mad house.” I scribbled, “I’ve been screwing on the tracks of abandoned train stations” inside my dorm room closet. Your persona on that EP to me was the goddess Kali breathing fire on my old idol, Bono.

And the show was awesome, of course. Your pure joy was invigorating and dazzling. You giggled, you growled, you sweat, and got bruises. You went hands-free with the mic by shoving it in your mouth. You were off the wall. And, I loved every ounce of it as I jumped, bobbed, and screamed along with you.

By this time, too, I had traded in the late-90s look of low-waisted, boot cut jeans and crop tops for the post-post-punk, artsy New York City wardrobe I saw you wear in Spin. I had my thrifted red and black striped top, a tight mini skirt, drug store pantyhose I cut into capri leggings, and filthy Chuck Taylor high tops. And lots of red lipstick.

After that show, my friends and I tried to meet you by your tour bus. There was a boy there who wanted to apologize to you for freezing and forgetting the words to “Maps” when you directed your mic at him. He told us he was so embarrassed. But, we assured him it was all good, that you probably didn’t notice, that we were all just having a good time. Rock stars are usually considered cool in a way that you’re not supposed to do something embarrassing in front of them, or in a way that means they’re the opposite of square, that they don’t stay in on Saturday nights.

Personally, I still felt a little stupid milling around your bus. What was I actually going to say? What could I do in front of a person who I was trying to emulate?

I talked my friends into leaving. But, I really wanted to live the Karen O lifestyle, whatever that meant at that very moment. I reapplied my goopy, red liquid lipstick and pinned a big sloppy smooch on the grill of your tour bus. I have no clue if this is actually something you’d really do. It was totally something I would do.

I returned home from that show to learn that I didn’t get the summer job I recently interviewed for. I had no income in the near future. I just spent a bunch of money on snacks, gas, and tickets for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs show. Oops.

I brushed off the job rejection and probably wrote some poems. Maybe I listened to “Art Star” or Fever to Tell from start to finish. Maybe I partied that night after working on a final paper due for Monday morning’s class. But, I never became you. I became more of myself.

Angela

My dearest friend – whom I’ve never met – Conor Oberst,

How are you, old friend? Been a long time since I’ve heard your voice—the distinctive voice that makes me question the true meaning of the word “beautiful.” It’s almost like we need to create a new word to describe your delightfully wonderful and fantastic voice. It’s so shaky, frightened and remarkably unusual that you can’t call it beautiful, yet it truly is. 

Let me remind you, in case you forgot, that the first time I heard your music was back in the Bright Eyes days. On the album Fevers & Mirrors, I believe that “Something Vague” and “The Calendar Hung Itself” captured my attention. “I kissed a girl with a broken jaw that her father gave to her. She had eyes bright enough to burn me, they reminded me of yours. In a story told she was a little girl in a red-rouge, sun-bruised field and there were rows of ripe tomatoes where a secret was concealed…” 

You are one of the most brilliant songwriters I have ever heard. One of the things that amazes me most in this world is how artists can be so goddamn creative. I guess I just can’t comprehend because I’m not very artistic, but seriously, how do you come up with your lyrics? Sometimes I have to stop the track and listen to them again and again. I envy you and think you are extremely intelligent. 

I want to touch on another Bright Eyes album, I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning. When you released it and its companion, Digital Ash In A Digital Urn, you drew comparisons to Bob Dylan. What a compliment that must’ve been. Dylan is one of the best songwriters of our time. Each time I listen to I’m Wide Awake…, I pick out pieces that I never noticed before. Your albums might get older but to me they will never age. 

Lastly, recording as Conor Oberst, I appreciate all the music you create and get excited every time you contribute to another artist’s album. I have seen you perform live twice, plus once as Bright Eyes. How extraordinary it all was. As long as you continue to tour, I assume I will see you another handful of times. Even though we have never met, after listening to you for so long, I feel like we are good friends. I have a tremendous amount of respect for your work and hope to continue to connect with you many, many years from now. 

Gregory

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Dear Isaac Brock,

If memory serves, I believe my first listen of your music was the album This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About. I quickly backtracked and listened to anything else I could find. The ambiguity of your lyrics and dabs into harmony and discord simultaneously spun my head. I was mostly focused on hip-hop at the time, but when I heard the opening track, “Dramamine,” I was hooked. The guitar, percussion, bass, words—delivery of all was incredibly haunting, yet delightful. “We kiss on the mouth, but still cough down our sleeves.” I remember feeling the need to share the music with anyone who would give me the time of day, or night. The best thing about it being that no one could quickly categorize the style. The normal response was, “What kind of music is this supposed to be?” The construct and content of “Custom Concern” is a perfect example of comfortable melancholy. “The Fruit That Ate Itself.” “Bad breath talking about fresh rain…Are you going to get sick worrying about your health?” It’s the visual of so many lyrics that pop up like an ouroboros that keeps me, to this day, looking for your next utterance. “Talking Shit About A Pretty Sunset.” I don’t even listen to that anymore because my friends and I played it to death. However, it is wonderful, and exists because you put it out there. Thank you!

Continue to The Lonesome Crowded West. That album caught everyone worth speaking to that I knew at the time. Sometimes a person can portray the consciousness of a massive group of people, be it niche or not, surprisingly swiftly; congratulations. I don’t much care about intent or directive when it comes to artistic output, to me it’s all excrement; in that it is our digestive bi-product of the elements we are exposed to. “Absence versus thin air.” That sounds very disheartening, absurdist, etc. But lovely in the fashion of the music that surrounds it. “Convenient Parking” still sounds relevant. I can remember reading things about convenience, rather than necessity, being the mother of invention around this time (1997). Anytime anyone hears that someone else feels the same way, timely, and coming out of speakers – gold. Sifted through the music stream and found you. Forever grateful. Looked further into K Records and Up Records at the same time thanks to your work. Built To Spill, 764-HERO, etc. I probably never would have ventured.

To The Moon & Antarctica. I received this on cassette before it was properly released, and can’t believe that it didn’t break from being passed around like a two nickel lover. Blank cassette with some random labels and stickers on it, handwriting from a good friend, icing on a cake. I didn’t even need to see album art for this. I felt like someone had just given me the best present in the entirety of the planet. Upon listening, holy expletive words. I still love this. Some people, of course, think this is where the band took a negative, commercial approach. Watching people eat cake is hard when you’re starving, I’ll say that.

Obviously your band has grown and developed a larger audience. Rightfully, in my opinion, or IMHO. I still hear “Well, it took a lot of work to be the ass that I am…” and get shivers of comradery. Change personnel all you want; love will always be with you, Eric and Jeremiah!

Dan

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Talking Shit About A Pretty Sunset

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Dear UK-ers/Mike Skinner/U.S. Music Fans (who may, or may not, be prepared for the imminent British Rap Invasion),

Sometime in the early 2000’s I got really into The Streets. If you’re reading this from the UK or Europe you’re probably nodding your head right now, “Yeah, yeah, The Streets…that bloke Mike Skinner.” But, if you’re reading this in the U.S., you may be already bored. You may not have heard of The Streets. I don’t say this to be elitist (but you can accuse me of that if you feel so inclined). I say this because there was no one else that I personally knew here in the U.S. who was taking a ride on the UK garage train at that time (Streets message board folk-you don’t count-you existed only online).

Based off of internet researching I did between 2000 something and 2007 I gathered that Mike Skinner was a big deal in the UK. Top of the Pops performing, BRIT Awards winning, Reading festival performing, beloved by NME big. Side note: I miss Top of the Pops (loved that show). I knew nothing of garage music, UK or otherwise. Consequently, The Streets sounded extremely fresh to me, totally new and unfamiliar in the best of ways. While I’ve always liked to think I have/had broad musical tastes the truth is I like a lot of rock n’ roll. Guitars, drums, G-Em-C-D chord progressions, verses and choruses….that whole bit. Original Pirate Material (“OPM”) was like the key to an entirely new land of music that I never even knew existed.

That’s not the only reason I got into The Streets. There were other factors. For one thing, a young Mike Skinner is easy on the eyes. He had/has that classically British droopy eye thing going for him. Paul McCartney had/has it too. I’m pretty sure it is uniquely British. Is there a name for it? Dreamy bloke disease? Geezer syndrome? It’s possible that you people in the UK take it for granted. You may not even realize it is a thing. Let me be the first to tell you that it is most definitely a thing.

But, Mike Skinner’s droopy eyes aside, OPM is really a most amazing album. Bias disclosed: I’m a real sucker for musicians who hole up alone, creating albums that have input from others but seem to mostly develop out of their own isolation. Per Wikipedia, “The recording of Original Pirate Material lasted over a year, with Skinner recording the bulk of the album in the room he was renting in a house in Brixton in south London. The instrumental tracks were created on an IBM ThinkPad, while Skinner used an emptied out wardrobe as a vocal booth, using duvets and mattresses to reduce echo.” An emptied out wardrobe serving as a vocal booth!?!?!?! Yes, please, always! Mike Skinner if you ever offer a recording class that teaches the intricacies of using wardrobes, duvets, and mattresses, I will be the first to register.

If you pretend that “Sharp Darts” and “Who Got the Funk” were tracks that somehow accidentally slipped onto the album, the rest of OPM is flawless. All of it clever, none of it boring despite it’s a day in the life focus, and most importantly (at least to a non-UK-er) so very very British. Per this article, Mike Skinner wasn’t very optimistic about Americans accessing his music. Let this letter stand as a counter point to that idea. You don’t have to be British to be obsessed with The Streets.

Bias disclosure number 2: I have always been obsessed with “British things.” Case in point; fell in love with The Beatles beginning in 2nd grade, watched the cartoon Danger Mouse religiously as a child, got into The Young Ones as a teen, and then—the final straw— lived in London for a semester during college. It’s true. Most certainly that study abroad experience is what built the bridge between my American mind and my receptivity for The Streets. When I first discovered it around 2004 or so, OPM served as some type of nostalgia for me as not that long ago I had lived in Kensington, just a short walk from the Baron’s Court tube stop. It was in 2000, the doomsday year when everyone thought society would come crashing to the ground because of the Y2K problem a.k.a. the Millennium Bug.

Ah, but Millennium Bugs are overrated!

The winter/spring of 2000 was glorious in London!

For those few short months it was all visiting Peter Pan statues, exploring night clubs, picking up our weekly stipends and spending them on the dark chocolate covered Hob Nobs and/or buying Crunchie bars from the vending machines in the tube stations, Pimm’s cups, buying platform boots in Covent Garden, eating our first knickerbocker glory ice cream sundaes, seeing Hefner live at a University, learning about buskers, getting used to brusquely being told “keep right” by locals, enjoying the sights and smells at Brighton Beach, seeing Belinda Carlisle lip synch at a frequently visited gay club, dancing wildly at this club in platform boots bought in Covent Garden, traveling to Kings Cross to see an all-girl punk band called Vyvyan, briefly co-hosting a show on the local University’s radio station with my “flat mate,” laughing with this flat mate about how it always seemed that the “bloke” who assisted in setting up for the show seemed to regularly leave a silent but deadly fart in his wake before leaving the booth, and finally Alice Deejay. Lots and lots of Alice Deejay as far as the ear could hear. You couldn’t escape this song in London in the year 2000. It would hunt you down and force you to love it. And, I did.

But, hold it down; it seems my head’s getting blurred. My experience in London was certainly that of an outsider. I cannot lay claim to truly understanding the culture. I do not use the phrase “go on” in my day to day life (but oh how I would like to!). I am used to drinking lemonade that is not carbonated. Oy is not part of my vocabulary. And yet, still, The Streets made sense to me because OPM was like an audio portal capable of transporting me right back to that gloriously grey and moderately temperate place that I had enjoyed so fully despite the fears that pervaded regarding the beginning of the millennium.

I saw The Streets perform in 2006 at the Intonation Music Festival in Chicago. I was so into them at that time (yes, my obsession lasted years) that I flew to Chicago, went to the festival, and then flew out of Chicago the following day. Lady Sovereign was an opening act and I was so sure that UK rap was going to break through into mainstream American music. Did it? Does Lilly Allen count? Kate Nash? Nope. I think I’m just grasping at straws here.

OPM, A Grand Don’t Come For Free, The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living – these albums changed my perspective on music. They broadened it. Mike Skinner had a radio show on the BBC where he would play, and talk about, music he liked. I listened in (thank you internet) and was exposed to Reggaeton. Again, my musical tastes grew. Here’s an oldie but goodie from that genre/time.

Music is amazing in this way isn’t it? Mike Skinner openly shared that he was exposed to “American rap” and that this music was what inspired him to create OPM. I got into OPM, despite up until then being a pretty diehard rock music fan, which then led me into other genres of music like Reggaeton (which is rap, yes? No? Would you like to write on that topic for this very blog?). The U.S. and UK have this lovely little relationship connected to music don’t they? UK people appreciate the music and artists that we either ignore or take for granted (blues, Jimi Hendrix, too many artists to list). Then they make their own version of it and sell it back to us (The Beatles, The Stones, pretty much all of the British Invasion, Led Zeppelin, Mike Skinner). We eat it up. We can’t get enough. Because after all, they’ve got droopy brown eyes and use terms like “chuffed.” What’s not to like really?

Thank you Mr. Skinner for your witty lyrics, clever rhymes, and (former) bare bones recording techniques. I miss your music. A British Rap Invasion awaits. I’m certain of this.

Sincerely,
April

Addendum: While writing this letter I revisited A Grand Don’t Come For Free. That album will make you fall in love with Mike Skinner/The Streets, guaranteed. If you haven’t listened to it (ever) (recently), please make it a priority. You won’t regret it (he rhymes naught with out and makes it work).

Tom, Mark and Travis, The Real Blink-182:

Guess what? I LOVE your music. I was 14 years old when I first heard Dude Ranch. Wow! I felt indestructible when I listened to that album. The song “Dammit” hit the nail on the head. The angst, profanity and humor that made up all the songs continued to do so for years to come. Thanks to you guys, it’s the kind of music that I learned to love. My skateboarding years would not have been the same without you. 

Next up was Enema Of The State. I was so happy to see you guys getting the recognition you deserved, and didn’t even know what you looked like until I saw the video for “Adam’s Song.” You really started to show your true talent when you wrote that song. You could have fun, act childish, and still write really good, popular songs about the sad parts of life. Impressive! That was just the beginning for you guys.

Take Off Your Pants And Jacket!!! What the hell?!?! Did you guys know that I was going in to my senior year of high school and write it specifically for me? Seriously, I can’t thank you enough for that brilliant mixture of songs. I still listen to “Reckless Abandon” to this day and feel like I’m 18 again. “Stay Together for the Kids” was the start of my addiction to Tom’s voice and unique style of singing. “Shut Up” was extremely vulgar, but I love the song and the fact that you guys aren’t afraid to piss people off. 

How about the self-titled album—you know, the one that everyone was pissed off about because you actually changed the way you sound? Typical for that to upset people. You didn’t even completely change your sound—it was only slightly changed, for the better. Seriously, who didn’t like “I Miss You”? It was so catchy and dark. Love! Love! Love! that song. Who would’ve thought that Robert Smith would sing on one of your songs? What a legend! You guys gained even more of my respect by including a short, impressive instrumental song on the album. I still listen to the whole album without skipping any songs (which means a lot to me). 

I had to wait eight more years for another album. I waited patiently. I knew you were having issues, but still had all your other albums to fall back on. I was/am a HUGE fan of Neighborhoods. I’m glad I waited and didn’t give up on you guys. “Ghost on the Dance Floor” is like a grand finale at the beginning of an album. “Wishing Well,” “Snake Charmer” and “Kaleidoscope” take me back to my early teens—in a good way—and make me smile ear-to-ear. Bravo!

I don’t know enough about California yet. My wife bought it for me a couple weeks ago and I haven’t had the chance to listen to it. I’m sure I’ll like it. I’ve enjoyed all the music you guys put out, even if there are certain pieces missing. +44 was good, I had a huge crush on Boxcar Racer and Angels & Airwaves is my shit!

I wear Hurley clothing because you got me in to it, I started getting tattoos because you have them, AND I stood out in the pouring rain and risked my health to see you perform live. If I’m not your biggest fan, then I don’t know who is.

blink-182-2880x1800-wallpaper-7506.jpg
Tom’s gray t-shirt is probably Hurley

Love you guys,
Gregory

I say “The Real Blink-182” because how dare you guys try to go on without Tom DeLonge. However, I’m not going to waste your time with bitching and moaning.

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Flashback Fives: True tales from a real-life musician

Along with our letters, we also publish “Flashback Fives”—a list of five moments when each writer fell in love with a song, album, artist, genre, et al. This list was submitted by Ezra, a transient fugitive who has secret hideouts in Oakland, California and Chicago.

One. I was twelve when I found a copy of Green Day’s Dookie lying around somewhere in my house. My older brother had bought it and lost interest quickly. As for me, I had never heard punk music before. It was the first band I truly loved as my very own, and I became ravenous for punk bands. Eventually I outgrew Green Day, but it took a long time, and that nineties stuff still sometimes grabs me and doesn’t let go all afternoon.

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Two. I wanted a guitar because a friend of mine told me punk was really easy to play, you just learn one chord shape and move it around on the guitar neck. My mom told me I could get a guitar under two conditions: a. It had to be an acoustic guitar, and b. I learned to play songs that she liked too, like Bob Dylan. I didn’t know who Bob Dylan was, really. She got me a cheap but good acoustic guitar and a book of chords to about twenty Dylan songs. Once I learned to play I agreed to learn one Bob Dylan tune to pacify her and then go back to my punk songs. The book was alphabetically organized so I decided to learn the first song, “Absolutely Sweet Marie.” It was from Blonde on Blonde and my mom had a copy. The song comes fading in like a freight train of tremendous energy, and Bob sings in an insane voice that was different than any singer I’d ever imagined, “Well your railroad gate, you know I just can’t jump it.” I realized something special was going on here and I devoured the whole album, became obsessed with it. That’s when I decided I had to become a great songwriter. It really wrecked my life.

Three. There’s no story here really, but when my friend Zach first played me his CD copy of the Pixies’ Doolittle, I was flipping out before the end of track 1, “Debaser.” I had never heard them. I loved them, I needed them. I still do.

Four. I was at some kid’s house on a Saturday night because there was going to be a reunion of my summer camp there. We were watching Jack Black host Saturday Night Live and waiting for the other fifteen-year-olds to show up. The Strokes came on as the musical guest and they were magnificent. They played “Last Nite” and later “Hard to Explain.” I got lost in Julian Casablancas’ wounded, searching eyes. I could see how much he felt as trying to pretend to feel nothing. At a time when I mostly listened to classic rock and assumed contemporary bands basically couldn’t be good, the Strokes were very much needed. But on some emotional level I connected all too deeply with the tension between their ultra-cool aesthetics and their troubled songs. They were my favorite band for years after that.

Five. Freshman year of college, I had a friend named Erin who knew a lot of bands I’d never heard of. She loaned me Disc 2 of the Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs. I think she had mislabeled them and meant to loan me Disc 1. I was kind of skeptically listening to it and growing more and more intrigued, though not sure about their theatricality and unrelenting irony and cynicism. I remember it was during the song “Promises of Eternity” that I realized all in a rush, simultaneously, that a. Oh wait EVERY SONG IS BRILLIANTLY WRITTEN, and b. the sarcasm is actually indistinguishable from the deep, deep sadness and also somehow joy that draws Stephin Merritt to write songs. It’s all one sincere and deeply alienated worldview, I realized during that song, and I became a disciple of that wonderful band.

Magnetic Fields: Promises of Eternity