I know I've gone on and on about how much I love Austin's White Denim, but I'm absolutely fascinated by the raw energy and power of their demo. I've had quite a few requests for more from this band, so they've hooked us up. This new unfinished song, called "Sitting", has been stuck in my head all weekend. The band tells me, "That phrase ("Sitting") is a recurring theme in what we are constructing in the way of an LP. It is actually being reworked as the outro for the record...the "sitting" fragment is the most skeletal at this point." This song makes perfect sense as an outro, and I think provides a 1:40 peak into how great this band could be.
White Denim Sitting mp3
visit White Denim on myspace
Austin talks Springsteen
Our friend Austin is back with the latest installment in his weekly column, and this one is his most personal and sincere yet, so I think most of you will really like it. Of course, the anonymous cynics will probably hate it. Oh, and he finally decides on a name for the column this time. Enjoy:
"Alright guys, a couple things to get out of the way before we start this column...
--I appreciate all the ideas everyone has for the column name. While there were some very funny and very interesting ideas, reader Peter Lewis provided the perfect title. Before I unveil it, I will let you know that in 1997, on my first AOL account ever, I had to fill in "Favorite Quote" and as a 14 year-old Seinfeld-a-holic, I chose the line from the episode where they film the Woody Allen movie, "These Pretzels are Making Me Thirsty." Peter suggested it, and I like it. So that's the column name, "These Pretzels are Making Me Thirsty." If somehow, there's a column online with that name, please inform me, and depending on how good and/or prominent it is, we'll probably have to change it from there..."
(click "read more" link to continue reading Austin's column)
--Unfortunately, I haven't been able to completely articulate the difference between indie "scene" and indie "music," so we will be erasing the whole "Non-Indie Dude" thing. No mas. I'm tired of debating it, and apparently people take the "are you hip? are you indie?" thing a lot more serious than I realized, and can't laugh about it. So, from now on, we'll just be writing about music and culture, and we can avoid the whole "what is indie?" scenarios. Oh well, you live and you learn.
--I am going to wait on the mailbag. I've got a lot of good material, however, I have even more good ideas for columns. What I may do, starting next week, is add a mailbag question to the beginning or end of each column. So please keep writing them, they are hilarious.
--Funny thing. Remember the very beginning of Love Actually? Where Hugh Grant talks about how during 9/11, no one called people they hate, only those they love? Well, and I really thank the readers for this, I didn’t get any hate mail this week. Don't get me wrong, the hate mail doesn't bother me, nor do the hate comments, I don't expect my writing to be everyone’s "thing," but most criticism I’ve gotten has been from "anonymous" readers. All the actual emails have been pretty nice. Thanks so much for your participation in these columns. Nothing makes me happier than getting those "I really liked your column" emails. (Sigh, followed by slow, streaming tear.)
--Lastly, I wrote this column and realized it was going to be way too long, but I couldn't trim any of it down. It involves 6 of my friends, and is more of a narrative than an opinionated column. I've found a way to break it down into 4 parts, and these will probably be the next 4 columns, although it may only be 3. We’ll call it the "For the Love of the Sound" series. The first part is pretty lengthy in itself, so be prepared. And another heads up--this is more of a nostalgic column than a goofy, fun, humorous article, so don't expect to fall out of your chair or anything.
For the Love of the Sound
I always wonder what it is that makes people love music. I find myself jealous of people who grew up in a "musical" household or who had a cool older sibling who let them borrow their Replacements tapes. I didn't have any of that. In fact, I started my "good music" journey 5 years ago. That's it. Five years. I didn't come out of the womb wanting to hear Murmur or whatever project Paul Westerberg was dealing with. I listened to Vanilla Ice. I owned a Coolio CD. And yes, I once did it all for the "Nookie." Am I proud of this? Absolutely not. But I'd like to think I'm on the right track these days.
If there's one thing I've realized over the years, and this is with almost everything, is that people love things for different reasons. And a lot of times, I don't understand how people love certain things at all. Especially with music. This is why I'm writing about why I love the music that I do, and why I think some people may be able to relate.
For me and music, it's all about friends, and it's all about experiences. It sounds a bit cheesy, and I know. But I only have six, I repeat, SIX friends that I share any sort of musical interest with. 98% of my friends are "I just listen to whatever's on the radio" people. And I love them as equally as my music pals, but they haven't provided me with everything my music peeps have.
I call them "The Six." (And yes it’s a play on the new JJ Abrams show "The Nine," but its bit more original than "Snakes in Austin’s Music Life," which was another option.) They've made music Austin who he is today. They are the reason I love music. They are the reason I write for GVB. I'd like for you to meet them…
The idea for this column came last week, when my buddy Dave gave me a call. Dave is, as he describes, "the most apathetic law student in the country." This is funny when you realize that he goes to UVA, one of the top schools in the nation. Dave is probably the smartest guy I know, the most cynical guy I know, the funniest guy I know, and the guy I will go into battle with one day at the World Series of Pop Culture. Anyway, during our conversation, I asked how things were, and we talked a bit about sports, then we switched over to one of our favorite topics--"what are you listening to these days?" I asked him.
"The radio," he replied.
"Seriously, what are you listening to?"
"The radio. I haven’t listened to the radio in 7 years. I tried to listen to Bright Eyes. I tried to listen to Radiohead. I tried to listen to Springsteen. Each time I get sad and nostalgic and so I throw on the radio."
I probably wouldn't go the same route, but I know exactly what he means. Because the music we listen to, rarely is it individual (except for that guy Elaine dated on Seinfeld who assigned "Desperado" as "his song.") But seriously, the music is usually a connection to a person, or a moment, even if it isn't real. I remember listening to tons of songs in my single days that made me think of the future Mrs. Austin LaRoche, even before I met her. And once I met her, those old songs no longer meant anything, and I found new songs that made me actually think of her.
But with each song we love, each musical experience we go through, something, and usually someone is connected. This is what I'm writing about. These people you are currently meeting and will be meeting throughout this column, these people are what I think about when I hear "New Slang" or "Hotel Yorba." And there’s a good chance when you hear those songs, a person or a moment are why you love them. (Or maybe the combination of "New Slang" and Natalie Portman "changed" your life, and that’s how you got turned on to this kind of music in the first place.)
Alright, back to Dave. (Unorganized column alert!)
Dave and I spent 8 months as music elitists. We were THOSE guys who made fun of people who listened to crappy music. It all culminated one night when we put on "Some Girls are Bigger than Others" at a packed party and everyone left. Actually, that didn’t happen, but only because we were banned from every CD player in the entire county because we were listening to "weird music." However, we were unbearable jerks, and I’m glad we both decided to go on the "let’s bring good music to people" route other than being the "you’re so lame with your Incubus album" people. (Maybe my current distaste for who I was at that time led me to write "The Hipster Test." I think somewhere deep down, I wanted the old music elitist Austin to feel like a prick, and make fun of how ridiculous I once was. Glad those days have changed.)
This period of snobbery ended when I studied abroad in London (which we will get to later), and our musical tastes divorced. Dave went the NYC route--falling in love with The Strokes and anything Lou Reed ever touched, and I went the alt-country route--Ryan Adams, Wilco, MMJ. We still find a middle ground once in awhile, and anytime I hear anything I consider "highly intelligent" (Destroyer for example), I think of Dave.
However, before we were music snobs, before our sounds went their separate ways, we were two college kids learning about rock n' roll. We'd go through the Rolling Stone Rock n' Roll Guide, find the 5 star records, and slowly but surely build our collection with "important" CDs like Moondance or London Calling. We enjoyed a lot of those albums, spending many nights on meaningless drives, just trying to get lost. There wasn't a gas price too high for a good drive.
But during the summer of 2003, more than anything, we both loved Bruce Springsteen. There were weeks we wouldn't listen to anything else. Besides, there was something American about listening to Springsteen in the summer, as if there were certain songs that you'd put on during those late night drives that would really soundtrack our lives. ("Something in the Night" comes to mind.)
That summer, I remember loving music for the first time in my life. Not just liking a song, or wanting to hear a song, but experiencing music and songs that made life seem to matter. Music was no longer just something to put on in the background. Music was like every other relationship--there were commitments, ups and downs, and even nasty separations once in awhile. But it was an everyday thing that you felt loyal to, because it was part of who you were. And it was a love affair I knew would never end.
Our love for Springsteen ended that summer with an 11 hour drive to Chapel Hill, North Carolina for one of the last dates on The Rising tour. While the show will always be my number one concert for obvious reasons (it's freakin Bruce Springsteen), never have I actually FELT music like that night. I think I even shed a tear during "You’re Missing" it was so damn emotional. (This is probably the most non-macho I’ll ever write, geez.)
But there's not a better feeling in the world than being really "into" an artist and to see them live right at the climax of your phase. And while we were jumping around singing the words to every song and really experiencing the tunes, we also had a lot of laughs, especially during the "Empty Sky" moment. Bruce got on a stretch of slow songs, and everyone was sitting down. They were so beautiful, that no one was really singing along. No one, that is, except for Dave. Springsteen started a slow version of "Empty Sky," and the crowd was silent—except for the loud, monotone sounds coming from Dave’s mouth. Everyone in our section stared...he didn't care. It was hilarious and I still love doing that impression more than any other to this day. (I'm realizing this is a "had to be there" story a little late, aren’t I?)
But Bruce was our guy. When I think of Dave, I hear Springsteen in the background. And it's a music love I've realized I can never have alone. And I learned the hard way.
Last summer, Dave and I had a falling out. We didn’t speak for about three months. There's no need to go any further, let's just say I was in the wrong.
During a cross country drive back to school, I found myself in the desert, and it seemed like the perfect time to throw on Springsteen's "The Promised Land," a song about driving through the desert. When in Rome, right? So I start singing along, enjoying myself, or trying to at least. But I couldn’t stop thinking about Dave and that summer of Springsteen. Those late night drives with Mary, Eddie, and the Magic Rat. Before I knew it, the water works were on their way.
It didn't help when the next song in the Springsteen mix came on--"No Surrender"--a song about old friends holding on to their bond, no matter what. It made me realize that the iPod shuffle is a smarter component than we'll ever know. And to prove their point, Steve Jobs and the boys at Apple made sure my shuffle threw "Bobby Jean" on after "No Surrender.”"
For those of you who aren't familiar with Springsteen, "Bobby Jean" is the best song on Born in the USA (the most overrated Springsteen album). It's a song that's disguised in the form of a relationship with an old girlfriend, however, it's really about Little Stevie/Silvio’s departure from the E-Street band. The song hits hard at the end when Springsteen sings…
"Maybe you'll be out there on that road somewhere, some bus or train, driving along, some hotel room, they'll be a radio playing, and you'll hear me sing this song. Well, if you do, you’ll know I'm thinking of you, and all the miles, in-between. I'm just calling, one last time, not to change your mind, just to say I miss you, baby, good luck, good bye, Bobby Jean."
When in Rome, right?
There we were. Same rut as Bobby Jean and Bruce. Only it was different, because it was real. It was no longer that clever song Springsteen wrote. It was my life.
I spent the next 3 hours listening to Bruce, thinking about old times with an old pal. I thought it may be the last time I intentionally listened to Springsteen. You see, if things between Dave and I weren't to eventually work out (and yes, they did), I couldn't listen to Springsteen. Not because he was no longer talented or because it made me sad to think of an old friend. But because the songs wouldn't matter anymore. The music, the feeling, it would all be a lost memory, something we once did that didn't mean a thing.
But those songs DID matter. Those moments DID matter. It DID mean something. It meant being young and clueless, and that's a memory I don't think most people could give up. At least I hope not.
While neither Dave nor myself would ever credit Springsteen for reconciling our friendship, it was his music that shaped the summer of 2003, it was his music that made me realize how much I missed my friend, and it was his music that fueled our reconciliation.
I guess with Dave and I, "we learned more from a three-minute record…than we ever learned in school."