Search This Blog


Friday, November 28, 2014

SCHWOE: A Story of Failure, Ch.2, Pt.2 (Music and My Dad; the Yellowcard Interview)

Previous: Fun with Jawn and Oblivion

The next day, the day of the show, was sunny and warm. Mid-April is sometimes gorgeous. Cherry blossoms blossom. My dad drove us down to the Fairmount section of the city. My dad’s more responsible for my love for music than any band I discovered in the early 00s. Growing up, he played the trumpet and piano. He marched in his high school band. He and his brother embraced jazz music during a time when many people did not embrace jazz music, except for Europe. My father played in the Georgetown band, cut a record with them, and performed for Bobby Kennedy in Bobby Kennedy’s house. My dad visited jazz clubs in the roughest parts of a city with his brother and their friends. He’d sit in and play the trumpet. I used to sit in my parents’ room with my dad as he unwound from a hard day’s work. I’d sit and listen to him explain music theory to me or explore the relationship of mathematics to music. He printed articles and found books about the subject. He’d play the jazz records of Clifford Brown, Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk, among many others. I remember leaving New York City with my dad and listening to jazz as the skyline of Brooklyn disappeared from view. My dad was fond of driving around Center City on random nights. On these drives I heard the beautiful voice of Carolyn Leonhart for the first time, daughter of the great jazz bassist, Jay Leonhart; she sang about wanting a Sunday kind of love. I heard “The Man With A Horn” and felt more the power, the soul, of my dad’s beloved music, this jazz that touched him to the core, and which, he told my mom, he felt in his soul-that it was part of him, in him. I told my dad one time about my friend’s opinion that punk rock and jazz were similar. My dad, in his special and specific way, smiled and said, “Is that so.” The first time I played him one of my band’s demos, he politely corrected the tempo, and bought me a metronome. Late into the night the neighbors would hear him practicing his trumpet. Bell’s palsy briefly threatened his chance to play his horn. The horn was part of him; it seemed miraculous when he recovered and played the horn again. He worked hard working out his chops. Once again, he sat in at jazz clubs in dangerous parts of the city, with players younger than him, college aged, who did not near his musical ear or his ability to play the trumpet. I remember the day he lost complete hearing in his left ear. My mom told me. I felt so sad thinking about how it’d affect his playing, and his joy of driving city streets, along rural roads, to and from Wilmington where he spent Friday evenings with his brother, and listening to WRTI; but the loss of hearing in his left ear did not hurt his playing or his joy of music. He found joy in the simple pleasures of life: a sunset, a ferry ride from Cape May to Lewes, a piece of pizza from the Pizza Box in Greenwich village, buying my mother a cup of coffee from Wawa, browsing the Wawa for tastycakes, driving me to and from college, taking me and my sister to school dances in high school, visiting my older brother Barry in San Francisco and my older sister ,her husband, and his grandchildren, wherever they may’ve lived at the time, seeing his brother and long-time friend on Friday nights to talk jazz and good literature, driving around Wildwood to show me and my sister and mother where he and his brother and cousins used to roam, where he and his brother would drop out of trees in the 1950s on unsuspecting people waiting for the bus, listening to Key Largo as we passed Key Largo on the drive to Cape May for the ferry trip, and standing quietly on the beach in Rehoboth late at night as the moon hung over the ocean, the tide low and calm, the glassy water reflecting the moon’s silvery light, I feel his presence, his soul--I feel closest to him there, at the beach, standing where we stood, even though he's not here anymore--when I’m standing still at the end of the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach or along Cape Henlopen State Park, late at night, with us involved in an impromptu game of Wiffle Ball, when I’m listening to music and remembering what he told me about it and what music meant to him, when I read James Joyce, the author he introduced me to, when I read about the pain and grief Leopold Bloom feels about his deceased father, and I know I owe him a greater, more thorough, more significant, tribute, more like Joyce’s portrait of John Joyce in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses, or Fyodor’s recollections of his father in the second chapter of Nabokov’s The Gift, than a long paragraph about my Schwoe story (though without his, and my mother’s, loving support and encouragement of me since my birth, Schwoe would not have been), when I read a letter he wrote me for a religious retreat in which he imagined a life years and years away from that October 2004 night, me older and writing stories for Hollywood studios, him retired, us seeing the country together. He used to walk around Dewey Beach by himself to remember his late son, my late brother, Sean. I’ve never felt sadder than the day I learned, in a bright hallway in one of the buildings of the University of Pennsylvania hospital, that his health had declined. I took two buses home and cannot describe the way I felt as the city passed me, as people got on and off the bus, living their ordinary lives while mine felt so unordinary, would stay unordinary for days and weeks and months and years beyond. I was alone. He wrote to me, in that October 2004 letter, that he’d miss the days when I wouldn’t need him to drive me to places, places like the Northstar. I wouldn’t have been at the Northstar nor wouldn’t have begun Schwoe without my father’s nurturing of music, of writing, in my soul.

The North Star is a non-descript bar on the corner of one of the many small streets in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia. The bar is divided between the stage and the bar. The part of the bar where the bands perform is rectangular. The green room is downstairs. There’s a place to move around on the floor, and a place to stand and watch, drink a beer, and socialize. Allister brought along Don’t Look Down, Fallout Boy, and a random six-piece band from the area whose third guitarist did nothing but tune his guitar for their entire set.

Jawn and I settled in. Three members of The Early November were at the show. I didn’t bother the band. I felt I needed to respect their space on a day when they just wanted to take in a show like anyone else. I wouldn’t break the rules of The Scene. What were the rules? I couldn’t tell you. I simply felt that I couldn’t transgress the rules even if I didn’t specifically know any of them. I didn’t want to bother The Early November.
Fallout out Boy played second that day. Before MTV and Pete Wentz’s public relationship with Ashlee Simpson, Fallout Bay was a small pop-punk band from Chicago. The members came together to form their band after extended time in the hardcore scene of Chicago. No one knew who Fallout Boy was that day. I became of fan of the band for nearly two years because of their performance that Saturday afternoon. Their energy was infectious. I wanted to run off the walls like Pete Wentz. They didn’t slow down. I mentally noted to include them as the Band of the Month in the April issue of Schwoe. After the show, their guitarist stood behind their merch table, alone, trying to sell merchandise. That’s how it was done. Fallout Boy earned their later success in the mainstream.

Don’t Look Down and Allister closed the show. Don’t Look Down performed songs from their self-titled record and their forthcoming debut E.P. on Nitro Records. Allister stole the show back from Fallout Boy. They played maybe fifteen songs. They were better than the night they played at the Pontiac Grille. Tim was drunk and joked around. Scott joked about their band’s lack of slow songs. I shook the hands of various band members and told them they were awesome. I left, satisfied, and re-energized for the April issue of Schwoe.
I couldn’t stop thinking about Fallout Boy. I told friends about how good they were. Their cd wouldn’t get released for a few weeks. I already decided to make them the Band of the Month, interview or not, cd review or not.

I came home from school the Monday after the show and checked the mailbox. Inside I found a package for me. I hadn’t ordered a package from the website, which was where I bought my shirts, hoodies, and CDs. The package was from Elsie. I saw her name underneath the name of the place she worked. I carried the mail into the house and opened the package. I found press materials.: photos, stickers, a band’s biography, and a review copy of their cd. I didn’t expect press kits, but I received the press kit for Fallout Boy’s debut cd. Included among the press materials was a letter from Elsie, general to whoever received the press kit, in which she said she’d set up an interview with the band upon request. I used to pull my hair out trying to secure interviews with bands. It could be this easy? I e-mailed her to tell her I wanted an interview. “They’re going to be band of the month,” I told her. She replied and said she’d set it up. I wanted an e-mail interview after the disaster of the transcript for The Starting Line. I had a deadline, though. Yes, Schwoe actually had deadlines. I told her I needed the interview by X day in April to run it by month’s end. I stressed that Fallout Boy would be the Band of the Month. That meant nothing, of course, in retrospect. I sent them questions through Elsie. The band never responded.

The non-response didn’t bother me. The press kit surprised me and changed my perspective about Schwoe. I believed the press kit marked a new era for Schwoe. I added “Yeah!” to the title, as in “Schwoe YEAH!” because I felt the press kits affirmed my fanzine, and that it legitimized Schwoe.

The April issue marked the first time I didn’t include an interview. I wrote about Fallout Boy, the show at the North Star, and their cd Take This To Your Grave. I wrote 6-7 sentences about Halifax, a local band growing in popularity, and another band Elsie represented, The Rocket Summer. The issue is ho-hum. I didn’t write 3,000 words for each story, which is what I liked to do six years later while blogging about LOST for my college newspaper. I barely wrote at all. The write-ups about bands were snap-shots highlighting the essentials of the band. Schwoe was a snap-shot kind of zine. I highlighted the essential elements of The Scene in a month.

I sent April’s issue of Schwoe to Elsie. She asked, would I like to interview Anberlin, a new band that would release its debut album soon on Tooth & Nail records. She asked would I like to interview various other bands. She continued mailing me press kits. I received press kits for Armor For Sleep, Shai Hulud, Anberlin. I received a press kit for five local hardcore bands-bands that played around Frankford and Fishtown and Northern Liberties. I received press kits for The Bled, an impressive New York post-punk band, Fairweather, and This Day Forward. Schwoe would’ve become her agency’s personal newsletter offering a who’s who of bands they represented, marketed, and pushed for. I established no other contacts in the music business besides Elsie. Other publicists I spoke to went away after an interview. Elsie didn’t. She lingered. She mailed.
The press kits were extraordinary, but the interviews were more difficult to land. For May, I wanted to get back to the basics. The bands on labels with publicists were a pain in the ass, honestly, and Dan had a treasure trove of local Long Island bands interested in exposure. I spoke to various local bands, like 5 Days Ahead, but those talks broke down before I sent a list of questions to their e-mail inbox.

Local interviews for me fell through, but an interview with Yellowcard did not. Yellowcard distinguished itself as a unique band in the pop-punk scenebecause one of the members played the violin. I liked their acoustic song “Rough Draft.” Yellowcard experienced tremendous success in the summer of 2003 and beyond. They had signed with Capitol Records after years with independent record labels. “Ocean Avenue” hit airwaves two months after my interview with Ben. I e-mailed their publicist, Paul, about interviewing the band. Paul responded quickly and said something could be arranged. We agreed to a phone interview. The band was in the process of promoting their record aggressively two months prior to its release. Paul told me I’d interview Ben Harper, the band’s lead guitarist, on a Friday afternoon. Jawn wanted to come over after school to listen in on the interview and possibly contribute to it. Schwoe’s staff constantly fluctuated. If someone wanted to get in on it, I was more than happy to have the help. I felt cooler when someone wanted to join the nonsense of Schwoe. Jawn couldn’t make it due to a previous engagement. Jawn, that gentleman, promised a lady he’d take her to her school’s Spring Fling. Homecoming was cooler than The Starting Line and Spring Flings were cooler than Yellowcard.

I came home from school on that Friday afternoon in late April. I made sure the phone recorded calls. I dreaded a repeat of the transcript issue during The Starting Line interview. Ilya still hadn’t sent the transcript to me. I spent the day in school writing down questions to ask Ben.

Ben was the nicest person I interviewed during Schwoe. He was polite and friendly. He was genuinely humble about his band’s accomplishment. I asked him about the arc of his band but in a much dumber way than that because I felt nervous, and because I was a teenager. I wanted to know how an indie band got to sign with a major label. I probably thought about my own band, which was not on a good trajectory at all. I would be kicked out of my own band in less than eight weeks. Ben explained the work ethic of Yellowcard. They played constantly in Orange County. Eventually, they started selling out places. An independent label, Lobster, signed them and put out their first full length, One For The Kids, and their agent had a contact in Capitol Records. The A.R. from Capitol checked out a few shows and convinced Yellowcard that Capitol was where they needed to be. Ben and the rest of the band agreed.

I asked Ben to describe the band’s new record. Ben instead used his answer to talk about the progression of his band. Ocean Avenue, the new record, was better overall than past releases, he told me; the band had been playing for a couple of years and the more you do something, the better you get. Yellowcard wasn’t different from me then. Not really. The more I wrote, the better I wrote. Ben explained that the sound of the band didn’t change, but the technical skill of the band improved. Songs were crisper, tighter. Ryan Key and Ben were improved guitarists, Sean was an improved violinist, Longineu was a better drummer. I even asked a question Yellowcard fans wanted to know: why didn’t Ryan play “Rough Draft” anymore? “Rough Draft” is an overwrought acoustic song that angst-y teenagers eat up. Ben answered honestly: Ryan’s mantra was that he wouldn’t play songs that aren’t honest anymore. Ryan had a bad break-up with a girl, wrote a sappy song about it, reconciled with her and felt bad singing a song he didn’t mean. When Ben left the band a few years later. Ryan wrote a song titled “Five Becomes Four” about Ben. I didn’t believe Ben could inspire such a scathing song. He was a gentleman and a great interview, and I thanked him; but one mustn’t presume to know a man from a 25-minute interview. We hung up. I listened to the interview and transcribed it. I planned to run it in the June issue, right when Yellowcard took off, and I’d have The Starting Line with it. June became the next big issue.

NEXT: The Forgettable May Issue

Thursday, November 27, 2014

SCHWOE: A Story of Failure Ch.2, Pt.1 (Fun with Jawn and Oblivion)

Previously: End of Chapter 1 (The Starting Line interview)

Chapter Two

“Do you know where these CDs go,” a young teenage girl with brunette hair and brown eyes asked my friend, Jawn, and I, with a smile, two CDs in her one hand.

“No, I do not,” I answered, despite being in Sam Goody, a CD store. My friend concurred. We did not know where her CDs went-strange question, really, given that she took the CDs from a rack and walked over to us.

“Oh. It’s the craziest thing--I have no idea where these go,” she repeated. She flipped her hair behind her shoulder.

“What do you have?” Jawn asked.

“I have The All-American Rejects and Taking Back Sunday,” she answered.

I stood there and thought deeply about her plight. A woman lost in a record store, oblivious to where the All American Rejects cd should be placed and the Taking Back Sunday cd. I was more troubled by her taste in bands. The All American Rejects? Really? They were slightly worse than Simple Plan--they weren’t manufactured, but they were polished and appeared manufactured. They lacked authenticity.
“Honestly, we don’t know where anything goes in this store,” Jawn told her. She laughed. I laughed. Jawn didn’t. I noticed she had a hoodie on. Scene girls wore hoodies.

“Yeah, it’s the strangest thing, I just don’t know where these should go,” she repeated. Perhaps she mistook us for employees of Sam Goody even though we bore no resemblance to Sam Goody employees. We were young, yes, and handsome, but I had a Starting Line hoodie on, with my favorite Rufio t-shirt on underneath, and a pair of khakis on. The khakis were a nod to my then-fictional hero, Dawson Leery, of TheWB’s Dawson’s Creek. I don’t remember what Jawn wore. Definitely not a The Mars Volta t-shirt. The girl, though, had jeans on and her air of casual nonchalance lulled me into oblivious behavior.

“CD stores are big, you know,” I said, standing in a store that wasn’t big at all.

“I know, right?” the brunette girl with brown eyes replied.

“So, you like that kind of music,” Jawn stated, not as a question but as confirmation.

“Oh, yeah!” The girl said, “I love these two bands.”

“Oh, yeah? What other bands do you like?” I asked.

“The usual. Blink 182. New Found Glory.”

“How about Allister?” Jawn asked.

“I never heard of them,” she replied.

Maybe that was the moment I stopped trying to figure out how she lost her way in a tiny Sam Goody store with two CDs she previously had gotten from separate racks labeled clearly A and T. She didn’t know Allister? What? Did she know about Name Taken? No way.

“They’re like one of the best bands around right now,” Jawn told her. “We’re seeing them tomorrow down at the North Star Bar with Don’t Look Down. It’s going to be radical.”

“Very cool. Who’s Don’t Look Down?”

I jumped in and said, “Oh, they’re this totally cool band from South Jersey.”

“Sweet,” she said, smiling. This girl didn’t stop smiling. She more beamed, really. The two CDs were in her hands. They went to the A and T sections of the cd racks.

Jawn and I hadn’t stopped talking about the Allister show we’d see the next day since we met up at the bus stop to go to the mall that Friday night. It was all we could think about. Would they play this song and that song? Would Don’t Look Down play third? That’d be crazy. Tim Rogner would be drunk and funny. How drunk and funny would Tim be? I had seen Allister in October 2002 at the old Pontiac Grille on South Street and raved about the show. The band released Last Stop Suburbia in the fall of 2002. Their previous album, Dead Ends and Girlfriends, got constant spin in Jawn’s disc-player. Scott Murphy, the band’s bassist and co-vocalist, wrote a song called “Moper” that young fifteen year old Jawn identified with. Last Stop Suburbia was the essential record for two aspiring pop punk musicians. Allister played fast. Track after track of speed. Their slow song wasn’t slow at all--it just had an acoustic guitar for ten seconds.

“Somewhere In Fullerton” is Allister’s great lasting track. Of all the terrific songs they wrote, and continue to write to this day, “Somewhere In Fullerton” should be the song they’re remembered for. It’s a personal song for Tim. It celebrates the local Chicago music scene; specifically, it celebrates and remembers a venue on Fullerton Avenue. Great art is able to transcend the personal and is able to become universal. Scene kids from Jersey to Southern California, through Chicago, could point to a venue and say, “That’s our Fullerton.” Tim sings about what the venue on Fullerton means to him and pleads that it not go away and that these feelings stay with him. Fullerton was a place for him to get away from it all, as pop-punk was a place for us, me and Jawn and our friends, to get away from the drama of high school and simply enjoy a community of like-minded people. Allister captured the essence of what I strove to capture with Schwoe. This girl needed to know about Allister.

“I caught their drummer’s drum stick after a show in October,” I told her.

“We think, like, if we could write music like Allister, we’ll be a good band,” Jawn added.

“You guys are in a band? Cool!” This girl would get enthusiastic about water drainage.

“Yep, we’re in a band,” Jawn confirmed.

We were in a band.

“What kind of music do you play?” She wanted to know.

“Pop-punk,” Jawn said. “I’m the bassist and vocalist, though I yell a lot because we don’t have a microphone. The thing I need is to blow a lung out, right?”

“I’m the drummer with mad sexy skills,” I cut in. “I don’t use Dave’s stick, though.”

“Who’s Dave?” She asked. She asked a lot of questions; that’s what happens when you’re involved in a chat with two self-involved teenagers.

“He’s the drummer of Allister. A total badass,” I replied.

“Do you play any shows?”

“Not right now,” Jawn replied. “We’re in the early stages of the band. Writing, brainstorming, practicing. We might need a new guitarist.”

“I’m working the show angle, though,” I assured her. The girl didn’t need reassurance. I don‘t know why I reassured her. “I’m trying to get us to open for this band, The Lyndsay Diaries.”
I did stuff like that. My ambitions didn’t begin and end with Schwoe. No. I strove for more impossible goals. I contacted bookers. I asked bands directly when I spoke to them about the possibility of opening for them. I, as a sixteen year old, needed to be told “No” once in awhile.

“That’s really cool!” she exclaimed.

“We came here from practice. We were hungry, wanted to relax, so we came to the mall,” Jawn said.

“I’m here with some friends, too, but I’d thought I stopped in here for a minute,” she explained, relating to our story of how we arrived at Sam Goody music store.

“You cannot find where those CDs go,” I reminded her.

“No, I cannot,” she smiled in reply.

At no point whatsoever did the thought cross my mind to ask for the girl’s number, nor did it cross Jawn’s mind, as he told me later.

“I’m also on Drive-Thru records’ street team,” I said.

“What’s Drive-Thru records,” she asked.

“This totally cool label that signed a bunch of awesome bands. They signed New Found Glory, The Starting Line, Finch, Senses Fail, The Early November, Midtown, Fenix TX, Something Corporate…” I blabbered. “I even have their sticker on my glasses case.”

I showed her my glasses case that was covered in a Drive-Thru records sticker. Tomas Kalnoky, formerly of Catch 22, a ska band from New Jersey, and now the lead guitar-vocalist of Streetlight Manifesto, sang, “I don’t need a music scene to tell me who I am” on Catch 22’s debut record Keasby Nights. My sixteen-year-old self needed a music scene to define who I was. Drive-Thru’s sticker on my glasses case showed my classmates what I liked and identified with. I was a cool scene kid. I felt proud of my sticker. I’m sure the girl thought nothing besides, “he has a sticker on his glasses case; what’s the big deal?”

“Yeah, it’s cool,” I added. “I get stuff like stickers.”

“Very cool!” she continued to beam.

“I put a ton of stickers on my bass,” Jawn followed up, continuing with the exciting sticker topic we just stumbled on and ran with. “He gets a bunch of stickers and gives me some.”

The conversation continued like this for some time. We talked about ourselves. She didn’t talk about herself at all. She never let go of the CDs in her hands. I forgot that she couldn’t find where they went. The Allister show dominated my mind. It was an afternoon show. My dad would drive us down. We’d walk to the Avenue of the Arts for the bus ride home after eating a meal at the Wendy’s at 15th and Chestnut. The thought never crossed my mind to get her phone number. Jawn and I didn’t realize what actually happened that night until much later when the show was a memory, when we realize that it was just a show and not a cataclysmic event that’d re-shape our lives. The incredible looking short girl with brunette hair and brown eyes had to leave to find her friends. She left the CDs in a random rack, insisting she didn’t know where they went, as if a stranger forcefully put two CDs in her hands that made her feel incredible pressure and anxiety because she did not know where the racks were, despite the name of the bands being broadly displayed on the sticker that sticks to the top of CDs.

Jawn and I walked around the mall. I realized I brought a dozen Drive-Thru samplers to give away to random teenagers who looked Scene. We passed the girl and her group of friends. The brunette girl with brown eyes called us over like we were members of a famous band that her friends had to meet. Never once did we think anything of it. Self-absorption and self-involvement are terrible traits for teenagers. I want to travel back in time to tell myself to get my head out of my own ass and see what’s happening around me. I want to tell myself to stop thinking about interviewing my favorite bands, because interviewing bands didn’t matter. My sixteen year old self wanted to find his first significant love--it was a product of watching Dawson’s Creek  reruns. I wanted my own Josephine Potter. I wanted to feel what my favorite singers felt when they sung their personal lyrics about love and about loss. I read Chris Conley’s lyrics daily and hoped I’d find someone whom I could spend an afternoon laughing with.

The brunette hair girl was standing with two friends in the center of the mall. One of them was blonde and slender, the kind of good-looking girl you only see on television, and she hit on Jawn immediately. She made eyes at him. Jawn had a ticket to tomorrow’s show and missed his chance and did not see that a chance existed-that it was in her smile and body language.. I explained the existence  ofHome Grown to the brunette and the blonde, as well as their other friend whose appearance I don’t recall. Perhaps a third girl didn’t exist. Home Grown was another Drive-Thru band. They made a name for themselves with “Surfer Girl,” a dreamy acoustic-driven tune about a surfer girl who eludes the lead singer. Like all of Drive Thru’s band in 2002 and 2003, they were notable. Jawn praised and celebrated the trio. Adam Lohrbach sang and played bass like Jawn. The slender blonde with dynamite cheekbones looked into Jawn’s eyes and said, “I love Home Grown.” Jawn replied, “So do I!” I stood, oblivious; Jawn, oblivious, stood, I handed the girls a copy of Drive-Thru Records’ sampler. We walked away and never saw them again.

NEXT: Chapter Two, Part 2-Music and my Dad; Fallout Boy & Press Kits

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

SCHWOE: A Story of Failure Ch1. Pt.5 (The 2003 Starting Line Interview)

Previously: Ch.1, Pt.4 (January & February issues; trying again to interview The Starting Line)

All other previous parts:

The sky was the color of concrete when I stepped off the route 9 SEPTA bus at 9th and Chestnut, one hour away from my scheduled interview with The Starting Line in mid-March 2003. Winter in Pennsylvania is ugly. Many days are gray. January and February are depressing-day after day of cold, wind, and gray skies. Wake up from a nap and look outside in that post-nap state where you don’t know what the hell is going on and you’ll think you’re in an apocalyptic wasteland. March is gray, too; the start of spring doesn’t change the color of the sky immediately or the color of the grass. Late April and the month of May are the prettiest months in the city. The city is gorgeous, as gorgeous as still photographs shot by well-paid professional photographers. But a weekday in mid-March was gray, not really cold and not really warm. As I walked over to Market Street station to meet an acquaintance and temporary Schwoe whatever because Elsie was a doll and let me bring a friend to the interview as long as he had a ticket, I thought the look of the day a bad omen. I had filled my pockets with the e-mails I had from Elsie confirming the interview, plus questions I wrote during that day in school. My pockets were the size of small sewer rats. My classmates were skeptical I’d come in the next day having interviewed The Starting Line-and by classmates, I mean two classmates, and it may’ve been one or none. The mind makes a fiction of memory after a time. I dreaded failing again.

The walk to the train station and then to the Electric Factory afforded me time to over think, feel nervous and dreadful and feel all other kinds of negative emotions. My acquaintance, Ilya, and I joked about the tense e-mails exchanged with Elsie, about the painful process of landing the interview, which included Ilya taking the lead for a few weeks because he loved Kenny Vasoli and The Starting Line possibly more than I, and really, really wanted to meet the band. My casual demeanor was a defensive front in case I failed.
I trusted Elsie’s word. I prepared differently for the interview. I had proof. The Electric Factory wouldn’t, couldn’t, turn me away. No, I didn’t doubt that the interview would fall through. But if they did? No, don’t think that way. It’ll happen. Another thing crossed my mind, one of those millions of thoughts that pass through one’s mind in a second: I didn’t know what to do after the interview happened. TSL represented the zenith of Schwoe. What happened after I reached the zenith?

Think about anything you wanted so badly in your life. It could be a car, a new shirt, a dress, a person, a relationship with that person, a scholarship to your first college choice, a job, a house, seeing your favorite band, entrance into a graduate program or law school, a really good meal you don’t eat often, or anything at all. What happens after you get what you want? Does one feel satisfied and contented?  Does one become Buddha-like, content to sit beneath a tree in meditation, enlightened and elevated? No. There’s elation, satisfaction, happiness, and then a kind of emptiness. One realizes that it isn’t enough. There’s something else you want. There’s always something else. What you wanted didn’t bring you nirvana. What now?

I wondered, would I be satisfied with Schwoe forever after the interview. Not only Schwoe but life. What would be left to pursue after accomplishing my biggest goal? I didn’t know nadirs follow zeniths. I hadn’t even gotten to the venue yet and I’d already pondered the macro future of Schwoe and my life. I needed to pass the threshold of staff. I needed to cross a fence.

The Electric Factory is a distinctive building on 7th and Willow, right off the corner of 7th and Spring Garden in Philadelphia. Larry Madrid bought a tire warehouse on 22nd and Arch and turned into a flea market. Madrid then moved the name The Electric Factory to a building on 7th and Willow and decided to have shows in the building. The Electric Factory looks like its name. It’s big and square, like a factory was turned into a concert venue. People can only gather in front of the factory before the doors open. The side of the venue is partially fenced off. Post-show, fans will wait for the bands to leave on the off chance someone will want to talk or sign a poster. I didn’t know where to go for the interview. Do I go inside? On the side? How the hell did this work? What did TSL do before their shows?

A Factory employee didn’t reject my declaration that I had a scheduled interview with The Starting Line. Sorting through a pile of proof evidently gave credibility to my claim. The employee left his spot behind the ticket window and walked us to the side of the building. Good sign. Derrick, from Sum 41, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, was outside of his bus with his girlfriend and nodded to me as I passed. Cool. The ground on the side of the building was gravel, a mixture of black and gray. A bus sat parked in the distance, blue and shiny; it stood out in the gray of the day. I felt nervous. My father told me, prior to the interview, about Chris Farley’s interviewer character in a Saturday Night Live Sketch. The character became so nervous that he flubbed questions, made an ass of himself, then and hit himself in the forehead, abuse for his own stupidity. I had my questions in the pile of paper, though; I wouldn’t flub. A vaguely familiar man smoked in front of the bus and walked in circles wearing a black hoodie. Why did he look vaguely familiar? Oh, yeah, I knew: Mike Golla, the lead guitarist of The Starting Line. The employee knocked on the bus door. Matt Watts, the rhythm guitarist of The Starting Line, opened the door. The employee told them who we were and handed them the proof. Matt took the papers and disappeared inside the bus. Evidently, Elsie didn’t inform the band they had an interview. Silently, I waited. Mike didn’t notice us. If he did, he didn’t care to notice us. I looked behind. Derrick was still outside. Maybe he’d cut a guy a break if Matt came back and told me no. More silence. More waiting. It felt like a long time for a short wait.

Matt returned, smiling, and invited Ilya and I onto the bus. Holy shit, it worked. We boarded. Ilya, excited, and me, dazed. Ilya sat in between Matt and Kenny Vasoli, bassist and lead vocalist of The Starting Line. I sat next to Tom, the band’s quiet drummer, who nodded at me. Matt made general chit-chat with us. I fumbled with my papers to find the questions. Why the heck did I bring so many pages of paper? Oh yeah: to get on the bus. I poorly articulated the truth about why I didn’t bring a tape recorder-for reasons of inconvenience and possibility of theft and also paranoia about the venue forcing me to leave it at the front. I fear I’d lose the interview tape. The Electric Factory had a strict policy against bringing recording devices into venue. Matt and Kenny didn’t care about the tape recorder. If they didn’t care, I didn’t care. They knew way more about interviews than me. I settled in, and I interviewed The Starting Line.

The Starting Line was lively and together that afternoon in mid-March, which wasn’t the case five years later when I interviewed Matt during their farewell tour. Matt and Kenny were energetic and eager and excited to talk about their band with me. I sat across from them with my list of questions, trying to figure out how to conduct a proper interview without a recording device. How did this work again? Asking them a list of questions seemed wrong and a waste of time. Was there a proper way to interview? What did professionals do? Didn’t they go to lunch at posh LA restaurants and write flowery prose about it afterwards? I decided to feverishly write their responses on a sheet of paper during the interview, which guaranteed I’d enjoy the experience 67% less than if I just brought the recording device. My feverish writing removed the conversational element somewhat. I asked them questions and wrote like the wind would carry the interview away while I sat distracted by the moment of being there. 

Matt and Kenny waited for the questions. My questions were specific to my interests in the band rather than to what I thought were the fans’ interest in the band. Writers assigned to profile a band choose an angle. Perhaps the band represented something about popular culture that was worth pondering in the piece. I didn’t know about that-about angles. I didn’t care about that; I didn’t care about angles in 2003. The transcript, hastily written and lousy to read, reads like a sixteen year old who’s interviewing one of his favorite bands out of self-interest. This was exactly what it was. That’s exactly what I was doing. I didn’t care to create a sense of ‘this is what it’s like to be The Starting Line on a random day on a long tour.” No, I tried captured what it was like for me to interview the band. It’s disjointed, sloppy, and without form. After my first question, I remember hitting a groove. There were jokes and tangential anecdotes. We got side-tracked. I didn’t care. Kenny reminded us to get back on track. I knew their history: how they formed, how Drive-Thru found them. I wanted to know about how their specific experience with We The People and how led them to Drive-Thru. Matt told me about signing and recording a full length and how Drive-Thru discovered them through their full length, from them. Kenny offered only that the experience was cool. I asked about individual nicknames and learned about Mike’s gorilla nickname, which I later used for a long-running story inspired by the band, and co-written with a friend. I asked, and they answered.

The interview was in a rhythm--even Silent Tom laughed at jokes and chimed in. Mike stayed outside. I asked them the first five out of ten. Now I wanted to ask about what I speculated. What would TSL say if they were compared to a high school homecoming dance? Is Matt really a ladies' man? Why didn’t they play such and such song live?

The homecoming question has a rather long and laborious back-story pertaining to an old crush of mine, or, it has nothing to do with an old crush of mine, and everything to do with high school dances’ rule as the social event of school year. The girls in my class looked gorgeous at high school dances. A reason to go was simply to stand and admire them. They’d wear pretty dresses, do their hair real nice, and perfectly apply make-up to their faces. There was the chance I’d get to dance with one of them. A month later, at Spring Fling, I danced with my great crush of high school, that blonde hair girl with the French name and perfect teeth. We were friends that bonded over music. I had my arms around her waist; her arms were around my neck. She wore a blue dress. Rufio’s “One Slow Dance” played in my head. I looked into her eyes, and she into mine. I felt for her. I wrote bad poetry for her. I created characters for her. The Starting Line was not cooler than that. But she didn’t feel for me.

The Starting Line shows, as a comparison to school dances, were different but no less populated by good-looking girls in cute clothes. Girls at TSL shows wore tight jeans, cool band shirts, and danced around. They were endearing and shared my taste in music. School dances were essentially uncool for me, though Dawson’s Creek shaped school dances, in my mind, as events that transformed two people for good or ill. TSL shows lacked drama; their shows were fun. I asked Kenny what’s cooler: his band or Homecoming. Kenny said people preferred Homecoming to his band. Well, then.

Why didn’t my favorite bands play my favorite songs live? New Found Glory would play fourteen songs, but I’d notice they didn’t play “Second To Last.” I had a bad habit of harping on the songs I didn’t hear, like a child who goes to a buffet with endless choices for dinner but is bitter a grilled cheese sandwich is not on the menu. The Starting Line never played “Almost There, Going Nowhere.” I demanded to know why. I asked the question politely and casually. The band, seemingly, never got that question before, judging by their reactions; or, they got the question a lot and were patronizing me.

“Why don’t we play that song,” Kenny wondered, genuinely perplexed as to why they never played it.

“Yeah, we do love that song,” added Tom.

The question inspired a back-and-forth among the three band members. Kenny, Matt and Tom were like old friends who met up at a bar one evening to catch up and one of them brought up a long-forgotten memory and are kind of in awe of that long-forgotten memory and yet perplexed by forgetting the memory, but were now lazily floating down the river of nostalgia. I felt encouraged, and I asked a bold question. I went for it. I wanted the song played live tonight. I wanted to be responsible for the song’s return to the list. Could I alter a pre-planned set list mere hours before they hit the stage?

“I love the song,” I said. “It’s why I asked about it.”

“It’s a great song,” Kenny said.

“Can you play it tonight?”

I thought about the moment they played the song and how the fans would go bonkers, because they never expected to hear “Almost There, Going Nowhere.” Kenny would no doubt credit me for the song’s revival. He would lead the crowd in a sing-along of “For he’s a jolly good fellow” for me. The Starting Line and I would be best friends. They’d consult me on every aspect of their band.

“No,” Kenny answered.


Awkward silence. The cheer and mirth were gone. Kenny stared me down. I stared back. I considered telling him a bad joke, knowing Horsham folks’ distaste for bad jokes.

“It’s just that we haven’t practiced the song in a long time,” Matt put in diplomatically. “We’re not ready to play it.”

The interview continued. The cheer returned. Kenny’s K-Murda side left. My last significant question was none of my business but rumors were rampant about Matt’s luck with the ladies. I was interested in learning how Matt succeeded so effortlessly; that he was in a band and that that was the reason did not occur to me. Matt downplayed his luck. Kenny wouldn’t let him. “Shut the fuck up, Matt! You know they treat you pretty fucking good.” We all laughed. The interview approached its end. I asked some stupid generic question like “What’s your future plans?” and left the bus with Ilya, who sat idly by, in awe.

I had a horrible transcript in my heads. I did not want a horrible transcript. I wanted a transformative interview. What I had in my head was chicken-scratch--the mad scrambling of a mathematician, but in this poor metaphor, the mathematician botched the math.

The interview didn’t change my life. I felt a sense of accomplishment, sure, but nothing more. There was more to do with Schwoe. The experience erased the failure of December 2002; it was Schwoe’s first sit down interview (and only one); it capped what should’ve been Schwoe’s defining issue.

One problem: the March issue never happened.

I never put the issue together; therefore, I couldn't send it. Ilya took the TSL transcript home with him. The Prize Fight interview abruptly ended, and I didn’t want to run what I had. Senses Fail and The Lyndsay Diaries fell away from my mind. I don’t know why I didn’t include those interviews. The reason has been forgotten. The issue hung on The Starting Line interview. Ilya wouldn’t type it up for me. I rejected Dan’s pitches for interviews for the month because I planned on running four interviews. Ah, alas, the best laid plans are a waste of time to plan.

I felt down and dejected. I told Elsie what happened. I promised to run TSL’s interview later. I didn’t request any interviews for the April issue. I felt bad I didn’t deliver to Elsie what I promised. She knew things happened that screwed up the best laid plans. She knew more than me. Everyone I met or e-mailed with knew more about what I was doing than I did. Somehow, doing the interview changed Elsie’s behavior towards me. Maybe she talked to The Starting Line about the interview. Who knows why. Before the interview she treated me as a nuisance-she didn't bother letting the band know they had an interview with me. Afterwards, she did much for Schwoe in its final months. March did change everything for the fanzine. Change is never what one expects it to be. It's disguised and hid behind whatever it is one thinks has changed him or her. 

Next: Chapter Two begins. Fun with Jawn.

About The Foot

My Photo
Originally, the blog was titled "Jacob's Foot" after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. Since that ended, and I wanted to continue writing about TV, it became TV with The Foot. I write about various television shows. Follow me on Twitter @JacobsFoot. E-mail me at