Those sounds, those strings, those vibrations you return to. I’d forgotten the feel of the process: the amps pumping large volumes of air, the frustration of not getting a part right during rehearsal, the late nights of “what if we did this on that part…”.
Listening back, those memories flood. I can barely remember the writing process, but I remember the ashtrays on the amps, the beers spilled on the carpet, the “wait…play that again…”. Revisiting those songs that you were a part of, that you helped create, that you drove 18 hours to master. A greyhound named “Pineapple” sitting at the mixing board, coffee mugs and the sweetest dude abusing a mixer in order to please a couple of assholes. The band that you kinda knew being the fucking coolest dudes to ever force you to jump into the Chattahoochee, drink several 40’s and not remember what you did the following day.
What I remember the most was the friends I made: my best friend from high school and I always wanted to start a band for YEARS but never did, for whatever reason. When we finally did, I met several other dudes who would change my life forever. Another guitarist whose songwriting and obsession with high-end gear matched my own.
Late nights post practice: two guitarists chain smoking in a living room. Listening to multiple albums. No words, just the sound of a lighter every now and then, punctuated with the crack of a beer opening. Realizing that you could sit in another room with this dude and not say shit and be totally comfortable just fucking listening. Weekend barbecues with the compound crew: fajitas, pool parties, and the den of sin. Beautiful friends and beautiful music.
Driving in a suburban with 5 other greasy motherfuckers. Playing in La Porte, Austin, bumfuck outside of San Antonio at 1 in the morning and being offered payment in illegal substances. The rollies. “Lil Ricky”. Getting shocked during a lightning storm. Playing the best show of my life in front of literally 6 fans. TMU superfan ironically being in the restroom when we played a dedicated song to them.
Playing local shows. Hurry up and wait. Trunks/tailgates open while we hang out in the parking lot of what was essentially a former elementary school. Playing a shitty show. Friends with other local bands. See little 14 year-old dudes looking up at you in awe. Another guitarist in another band telling you that you’re his favorite guitarist. Thinking that, despite the fact that your home life has been fucked for various reasons, you’re doing something that you love. You’ve made the music that you always wanted to. With your friends. Your brothers. And no one can ever take that from you.
My life is very different now. One of the hardest decisions of my life was deciding to leave the band and friends that I’d adored so much in order to do this grad school shit. Having to tell two of my best friends that this wasn’t the only thing I wanted to do in life was fucking tough. Do I regret it? Sometimes. I love what I do, don’t get me wrong. So much of who I am right now is due to what Purdue and its people have afforded me. And I do love it a lot.
But when I listen back, I think of all of those beautiful things. The “can I bum a smoke”‘s.The “put your shoes back on you filthy fucking bastard!”‘s. The double checking the trailer to make sure nothing falls out. The yelling at Mando or Jesse or RC (in my case, because I was an ornery bastard). All of those things came at a time where it felt like my life was falling apart–and yet out of that time came music that I can honestly say that I’m 100% proud of.
When I listen back, I smile. Because I was there and it was beautiful. And if you get a chance, check out my old band They Mean Us and my buddy Micajah’s project Castlinaire. I’d really appreciate it.