I wanted to start a popband.
I’d been away at school in middle-of-nowhere Indiana for four years playing screaming loud music, and it was time for a change. So, summer of 2005, Craig and I sit in his basement with guitars and a digital 16-track recorder and begin the first album. It started as demos, and the demos became the master, as so often happens with the first one.
I can’t describe the excitement of the fresh CDs arriving from the pressing plant. It’s like running up a short flight of stairs and letting out a little cry while suppressing a smile.
Of course, we released the CD without having played a show, so we found our friends—Jared, Patrick, Rachel, Shannon—and asked them to play with us. There was a bass drum from a child’s drum set, some half broken keyboards, and varying levels of anxiety, but we had fun. And they liked it, which was strange and inspiring. While we were learning how to play our songs on a stage, the radio was also playing them—most notably “How to Live”—and some nice articles were written about the collection.
I loved the record from the first time we put the songs in order, but it was so surprising that it seemed to resonate with other people. Did we hit it at the right time during what felt like a very short indiepop popularity contest? It feels to me like that time is over, and that maybe the kids don’t like this kind of music anymore. Am I wrong about that? I wonder.
So, we did the usual thing and bought a purple van and drove around the country. We tried to get to Europe but failed due to lack of popularity. Maybe we weren’t as well-liked as I had thought. Or, equally possible, maybe we didn’t know the right people. But we played some grand shows to packed rooms and some fair shows to the sound guy and two people at the bar (see: Omaha on a weeknight). It’s an interesting experience what three weeks in a van with six people will do to relationships.
After the two tours and some controversy, Jared and Rachel left the band to be replaced by Pat and Devon. Craig enjoyed moving to guitar while Pat played drums for a while. We took Pat on his first trip to New York City, where he played his first show with us. It was a weekend of firsts that included getting lost for several hours after the show in Brooklyn and encountering what looked like the aftermath of a late-night drag race with a car upside down in the middle of the street amidst a sea of broken bits and pieces. Other highlights from this period include playing an awful show inside the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and performing satisfactorily on a morning news show at 7 a.m. in front of said Hall. Where was Patrick during this time? The exact sequence of events seems to have been lost.
We released the Shortest Day of the Year EP in 2007 and followed it with the Who Knows 7″ and the Simple Machinery album the next year. By the time the album was released, I had decided to move out of Cleveland, leaving the future of the band in some jeopardy. The album was received to little fanfare, although friends told us, with perhaps some sincerity, that it was pretty good. Possibly the most straightforward thoughts about it came from the bass player of La Buena Vida, Pedro San Martin—who sadly passed away this year—who said, “Some good songs (for sure) but others… I think you were not so inspired as the previous one.” And I think he was right… But now we have recorded Greater Lakes, and I know we were duly inspired this time around.
In 2009, we had the original band members reunite to perform the first album in its entirety in a cold Cleveland December. It was surprisingly fun to see each other and play again, with past disagreements largely forgotten. We’ve played several times a year since then, and it looks like we’ll continue to do so for a while. Just what the future may hold after the release of Greater Lakes is anyone’s guess.