Tag Archives: Ian MacKaye

Interview with Darren Walters

I’m happy to post a selection from the ongoing email interview I’m having with one Darren Walters, co-founder of Jade Tree Records.

As a majority of my America Is Just A Word interviewees happen to be musicians, it’s great having Darren on board to give some perspective of the other goings on that helped transform emo through the decades. (Of course, an exception to all this is Ian MacKaye, who’s role as a musician and Dischord Records co-founder gives him a completely different perspective than most folks involved in the book.) When it comes to emo in the 90s, Jade Tree was one of the few places where things were really popping. The record label quickly rose to fame with The Promise Ring and continued to soldier on from there, releasing music from numerous indie emo “big names” (whatever that oxymoronic phrase means) such as Hot Water Music, Texas Is The Reason (a split with TPR), Lifetime, Jets To Brazil, Joan of Arc, Pedro The Lion, Cap’n Jazz (the label introduced many people to the band with their double-disc discography) and many a popular non-emo act such as Fucked Up and My Morning Jacket.

But, I’ll let Darren explain it all himself. Enjoy:

How’d you get into music and, more specifically, punk music?

Darren Walters: “A few things happened around the same time that finally got my fully into punk once and for all.
I had been into new wave, alternative and the like and eventually met a few people who were also into the same type of music, including punk.  In and around the same time, my best friend ended up being sent to military school where he became immersed in punk.  His friends at military school helped him stock up on great records which he brought home during his breaks and left with me.  Him and I quickly became 100% into punk rock in about 1985 or so and began going to shows and seeking out as much info as we could on punk rock and watching movies like Suburbia and Decline of the Western Civilization over and over again.

What was it like growing up in Wilmington?

DW: “Wilmington is at the northern tip of Delaware and the biggest city in the state.  Essentially, it is a suburb of Philadelphia as it is only about 25 minutes outside of the city.

It was-and is, for the most part, devoid of any culture during my childhood and continues to be so to this day.  It’s basically your typical American suburb and it’s the place that I still call home and have form most of my life.

Having spent most of my life here I’ve come to like it, which is interesting considering I spent those formative punk years trying to think of a way to get out.  Growing older and being able to leave, I got used to the idea of being in Delaware.  It also became advantageous for Jade Tree to remain in Delaware as it was inexpensive compared to cities like NY or SF where Tim and I had often discussed moving the label to (in fact, Tim lived in NYC for many years).”

On the Jade Tree site, it says that you and Tim were pretty involved in the DC punk community. Considering Delaware isn’t exactly a walk away from DC, how did you balance a life at home with going to shows and building on a community in DC?

DW: “I was involved in the DC scene in the sense that I was going to shows an awful lot in the MD/DC/VA area and Jade Tree worked with plenty of bands from there over the years.  DC was one of our support systems and one of our scenes and we of course looked up to many of the people involved in it both past and present.

It was easy enough to go back and forth from DE to DC.  Tim had grown up in DC and still had family there, I had a girlfriend there at one time, Jade Tree had bands there, tons of friends and so on.  It was just something that we did without thinking.  And it’s less than 2 hours away.  I used to be able to get to the Damnation house in an hour and 10 minutes on a good day. Granted, I was doing 90+ mph, but the point is that this was a drive that Tim and I made almost weekly, or at least monthly, for years.”

How did you and Tim meet?

DW: “My best friend growing up attended college in MD and met Tim at a show in DC.  They started a label called Axtion Packed together and that’s how I met Tim, through him.

Once my label, Hi-Impact, was beginning to fall apart, coincidentally so was AP, so Tim and I decided that perhaps it would be best if we combined forces to work on new label.”

What was it like being in high school and then college, trying to balance the life of a student and the work needed to run a label (be it Hi-Impact or Jade Tree) and a band as well?

DW: “It was crazy of course!  At times it would be fairly simple because there wouldn’t be much to do in the very beginning.  However, when there would be a new release in production or a record would need to be mailed out to radio or to all of the awaiting orders, it would take hours, if not days, to do so.  That could be intense.  Especially because for the first few Jade Tree releases, many of the records were put together by hand.  You can imagine how long it takes to hand assemble 4000+ 7″s & CDS for instance.  We would enlist every one we knew to come on over and enjoy free pizza, get the latest release and help us out.  It was a community thing and it helped Jade Tree get off its feet tremendously.”

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Umm… What?

Rolling Stone, you take the cake:

…so we can pretty much pin the entire state of emo at this point on Minor Threat.

Why do I even bother? Do the folks at RS even know what music is anymore? They’re probably too busy catching up with The Beatles circa 1966 to even try to recognize what music is being made now, never mind back in ’82.

This news byte by Daniel Kreps landed on the site about a half hour ago and references yesterday’s Drowned In Sound interview with Jim Suptic of The Get Up Kids. Obviously, this is a little side snipe that is supposed to be funny, but considering the entire article is based off of a snippet from another interview, there’s no stopping the nitpicking on this one.

Because it’s not just that one sentence that display’s RS‘s inability to perform as the kind of magazine it advertises itself as, it’s the entire article. The entire article is based off of another person’s hard interviewing skills, and the fact that Rolling Stone merely ripped off a few questions from that person’s interview (and it may have taken a lot to get that out of Suptic), made it the basis for a big news article, AND STILL CONSIDERS ITSELF THE TOP OF THE MUSIC JOURNALISM HEAP is absolutely ridiculous. Sure enough, I wrote an entire post based on the same responses, but I don’t pretend to be the source of important music information today. And, I beat RS to it to boot.

And as for Kreps, the auteur of this fine piece of RS BS? The one who insinuates that Minor Threat is the reason emo sucks today, simply because Suptic referenced Fugazi as an influence and Ian MacKaye was in both bands? (As an aside, I’m sure Suptic would have something to say about Kreps’ idiotic pandering.) Well, who knows much about him, but, if this happens to be his Twitter account, the following isn’t unsurprising:

dktw

Is the “bio” comedy through Irony? If it is, I can’t say that I entirely get it.

Minor Threat – “Filler” (live):

Obey

Before the Super Secret Summer Surprise mishaps went down at the ICA the other night, I had the chance to peruse the Shepard Fairey exhibit before it closed for the night. I’m a fan of the guy’s work, so I certainly enjoyed the exhibit. But I couldn’t help but smile when I saw this piece:

Obey MacKaye

Obey MacKaye

Right smack dab in the middle of the show. Well, everything is “in the middle of the show”: Fairey’s peices seem to stand out in the museum like none other. That may be a tribute to Fairey’s skills at creating images that really captivate and jump out at people, which may or may not subvert what he was trying to create with the whole Obey campaign. (Now I’m really on a tangent here, so, if you’re lucky enough to see the exhibit, do, and if not, the idea is relatively complicated to explain in a short sentence so you might want to read his manifesto.)

I’m interested to see if Ian is aware of this print. Who knows really (though my guess is that he might have been, as all the proceeds from the print were donated to charity). I have to admit, it was pretty great to see Ian’s likeness in the museum, all potential ideological complaints aside. If part of the value of Fairey’s art is to spread the ideas of the people he transformed into art, then hopefully some curious museum-goer without any idea of  who MacKaye is will give thought to looking him up and maybe become a fan of Fugazi, The Evens, Minor Threat, or maybe even Embrace. And that’s pretty great.

Hipsters Say The Darndest Things…

Well, I must stop myself there. I can’t say for sure if any of these folks are indeed of the hipster mentality. My guess is Anamanaguchi aren’t exactly, as they appear to have something of a normal sense of humor and hang out with genuine fun-loving guys Harry and the Potters (who are a very friendly duo of brothers from the area). But, look at this picture:

Am I right? Well, at least the dude on the right. But, as I said, far too much judging for me…

Anyway, the band will be performing at The Middle East next week, and The Boston Phoenix did a little piece on them with an interesting bit of information:

Anamanaguchi go back to 2003, when founding guitarist and programmer Peter Berkman was in the ninth grade in Westchester. In between recording Weezer covers on a four-track, he and his “songwriting bro” at the time, George, “would get some snacks, like some plain doughnuts, and play Mega Man, and we realized, ‘Oh shit, the music in this Bubble Man level is totally, like, the first emo song.’ We were listening to Sunny Day Real Estate all the time and we were like, ‘It’s the same thing, check it out!’ “

Listening in on their tunes on myspace certainly make the picture startlingly-clear; the power-pop metal rings true to Weezer, while some of the intricate guitar work is pretty reminiscent of Sunny Day Real Estate in all forms… and the inclusion of these sounds into “bitpop,” “chiptune,” or, as I like to call it (starting right… now) “nintechno” (not sure that really works for Anamanaguchi, but it’ll do for now) is pretty creative at least… Now I just need to get my hands on the song from the Bubble Man level of Mega Man to know what they’re talking about… Great stuff, but don’t get me started on their Wavves cover…

Switching from that, I stumbled upon a blog filed with post-post-modern non-sequitors that many a hipster tends to flock to in the guise of humor (not the blog, but the writing style). And here’s what a recent entry stated:

 

inventor of emo
i didn’t realize how ian mackaye annoys me until i saw him in person at the silver jews and he thought i was pointing at him.
At least she recognized Ian MacKaye’s connection to emo… in some form. But this is obviously a non-sequitor… the Silver Jews only went on a tour or two (unless I’m mistaken) and haven’t gone anywhere near DC in the recent past…. but I digress. The blogger may not be a hipster, but the humor is certainly in the guise and tone that many a scene-follower today tend to consider “funny.”
For your viewing pleasure, a trip back to when emocore was starting up, and Ian MacKaye’s reaction to the term during an Embrace show:

Those Sunny Day Real Estate Reunion Rumors

Tim Karan had an interview with former Sunny Day Real Estate frontman Jeremy Enigk for Alternative Press posted the day after the release of his newest solo album, OK Bear. What’s interesting was the conversation at the very end of the interview:

Is there any truth behind the rumors that Sunny Day Real Estate are getting back together?
There’s a huge force behind Sunny Day Real Estate that none of the band members ever controlled. It took on a life of its own. It had nothing to do with us as individuals, and it created a lot of expectation from the music industry and fans. It became a gigantic beast. 

I imagine it’s like a pressure cooker right now.
A little bit. I’m already sensing this–not individually or personally within the members–but on the outside, suddenly all of these people are freaking out. And it’s like, “Woah! Pull the reins in a little bit here.” It’s a bit overwhelming.

As soon as there’s so much as a mention of the chance of a Sunny Day reunion, people go crazy. That must be a lot of weight on your shoulders.
Yes, and people want to control it, as well, which is the weirdest thing.

It should be just yours, right?
Apparently. It’s supposed to be just ours, right? But the thing is that it’s not. That’s the force that Sunny Day create: It’s everybody else’s. People love to own it for themselves and that’s very special. But as a person who’s actually doing the work, it’s like, “Okay, start swimming. Here we go!”

When you are talking about other people wanting to own it, are you talking about the music industry or the fans?
Well, especially the music industry. Our fans have a very passive ownership of it in that they own it in their CD player or their iPod and it’s very special to their hearts. But it’s the industry that is the most controlling. They see the potential explosion of it–and I’m not saying that they just want to profit off it– but they want to see it flourish. With Sunny Day there’s always been the question of why we didn’t get bigger than we were and people think, “Well, let’s do what we can to make it happen for these guys.”

So you’re saying it’s still a “never say never” situation?
What it comes down to is that I just fear getting fans’ expectations and hopes up. It would be just a major bummer to be like, “Hey, We’re doing this!” and then suddenly not do it. alt 

How oddly ambiguous… But, outside of the unknown future of SDRE, Enigk does have an excellent point to all this. Enigk deftly manages to explain the power of internet rumors and its ultimate impact on the fans. It’s something I ultimately agree with, and I too do not want to give up fans’ hopes, including myself: as much as I really want to see Sunny Day perform, I hope that my own words haven’t spurned definitive thoughts of a reunion in the minds of others.

Since I first wrote about the potential reunion/rumors back in March, my piece had been getting tons of traffic. It’s gotten picked up by Absolute Punk, Alter The Press, Alternative Press, Paste Magazine, an emo blog from Japan, and even the Sunny Day Real Estate Wikipedia page. While I was certainly honored to be written up in these fine places, I’ve been a little worried about folks reactions. Suddenly, the question mark at the end of the post’s title indicating some lack of veracity became an exclamation point, and this blog became one of a couple of “sources” claiming that the reunion was, in fact, true.

Now, as I said, I would absolutely relish the ability to attend an SDRE show, but until there is an official announcement concerning a Sunny Day show, it’s a little to early to call anything go. And yet, just the other day when Enigk released his album, there was a new wave of rumors cropping up, saying that the band might be playing this year’s Bumbershoot. However, many of these write ups were definitive.

There was Marco Collins, who’s original Twitter post for that day spurned the original Bumbershoot rumors. Marco was one of a couple of folks that the original reunion rumors were based on, and he’s known as credible considering his closeness to members of the band, or at least with Enigk, and at least for work. Collins originally had this to say:

Sunny Day Real Estate @ Bumbershoot? Fact or fiction?

He then took the post down and said this a little later that day:

Picture 17

And then there’s the Seattle Post-Intelligencer‘s Ear Candy blog, written by Travis Hay, who’s last piece on the reunion said the eventual Bumbershoot set was all but inevitable. And though Collins, who retracted his statement, was all but definitive, questioning the very idea, Hay has been recklessly positive about the group’s appearance, calling Collins a credible source because of his insider knowledge and previous positive, potentially-educated, guess about a festival headliner. Though the outline of Hay’s piece isn’t definitive, the tone of it surely is, and the constant ambiguous Twitter-postings certainly show that Hay believes the reunion will happen. But, as Collins perviously stated that the band would be performing summer festival dates and the first two albums, and most summer festival announcements are coming to a close (Bumbershoot’s schedule isn’t finalized, but that’s in the beginning of September, so technically still summer… all that’s left is the Virgin Music Festival), I’m still a little suspect.

But, what might be most troubling about all of this is Hay’s attitude about his work. Take a look at this conversation over Twitter:

Picture 19

And the response:

Picture 20

It’s a little stunning if you ask me. Sure, it’s ok if you don’t take your job seriously; no one in that working relationship hurts more than the individual who thinks of their job as nothing serious. But music journalism, true music journalism, is like all kinds of journalism: it’s meant to inform the public about their interests. Readers, music fans, and people take this stuff seriously, and take it to heart, and it’s a damn shame when someone involved in journalism just doesn’t think anything of their words or their affect. 

To end things, I’d like to take something that Ian MacKaye said in an interview with Alex Cook for The Believer:

IAN MacKAYE: How could it be that someone under the age of twenty-one is not allowed to see a band? I mean, did you like music when you were under twenty-one?

THE BELIEVER: Of course.

IM: Did it mean anything to you?

BLVR: Yes, it meant everything to me, in fact.

IM: Of course it did. It is completely absurd and insane that because of the economic dependency that musicians have been faced with which maintains this status quo, that they are forced to say, “That’s the way it is.” And I think that’s a bunch of bullshit. I know music predated the rock club. I know music predated the music industry. I know music predates the alcohol industry. I know music predates it all. Music is no joke, and the fact that it has been perverted by these various industries for their own profit is discouraging to me.

While what MacKaye was talking about was strictly focused on age restrictions at rock clubs in conjunction with alcohol sales, it’s still a particularly applicable for this piece. Hay’s job is merely another part of the music industry if you want to think of journalism (especially music journalism) in terms of consumer writing, and so his preponderance over a popular broken-up band potentially reuniting is all good business for him (and that is very much an ugly interpretation of journalism and I partially apologize for that as I tend to view journalism as something greater than simply consumerist influences). But what’s most important about that quote is how serious both these individuals look at music. Music was, and is, an important part of their lives. And music journalism is a part of the culture of music today; it allows us to discover new bands, learn more about the humanity behind bands we love, and find out about potential reunions. And Hay’s strong focus on a Sunny Day Real Estate reunion and his positivity of it is potentially dangerous. And while Hay’s words certainly aren’t responsible for the Spanish-American War or putting individuals in harms way, they certainly are putting pressure on a group of talented individuals to do something they might not want to, and feeding into the hopes of many a passionate SDRE fan who are amorous about music and nothing else. And to let those people down on a whim would be unfortunate.

I’ve still got my fingers crossed, but we’ll have to wait and see. And if any member or friend of Sunny Day comes across this and wants to voice their opinion here or anywhere else, I (and so many others) would be completely supportive.

Sunny Day Real Estate – “Seven” (Live on The Jon Stewart Show, right before their first break up… interestingly enough, they were thought to have broken up immediately at the end of this set, but that claim is untrue… you’ll have to read Norman Brannon‘s Anti-Matter Anthology for the SDRE 1997 reunion piece originally featured in Alternative Press):

Last Year In…

Music-and-film based satire blog The Umpteenth Times posted a great piece involving stimulus plans and Fugazi. What a gag:

 

“Fugazi to Receive Stimulus Check from Government

By Frank Gurbleck

 

WASHINGTON D.C.—Earlier this week, the Washington D.C.-based band, Fugazi, received notice that they will be receiving a stimulus check as a part of President Obama’s attempt to boost the economy back into motion.  The government’s reasoning for singling out the band is due to Fugazi’s efforts throughout the years to keep concert costs at a minimum.  The band has decided to accept the check but do not plan on keeping the money for themselves.”

 

Great stuff and the article does just what The Onion does best with their satire.

The piece reminded me of an event that happened one year ago, nearly to the day. Last April, I brought Ian MacKaye to Brandeis to do an informal Q+A and it was easily a highlight of the year. Schwartz Auditorium was packed to the gills, with folks of all ages sandwiched into seats crammed on the floor, up in the rafters, and crouched in corners all to ask Ian the questions that they’d wanted to ask the guy for who-knows-how-long. Of course, Ian was insightful, hilarious, and down-to-earth, answering every question with a tone of respect no matter how many times he’d spoken about straight-edge or how innocuous the query may have seemed.

It’s partially because of Ian’s own actions that I was inspired to critique emo in the way that I have on this blog and with America Is Just A Word. I’d been working on America Is Just A Word for a couple of years, but it’s Ian’s own dedication to his fans and music in general that offered another inspiring cog in whatever multi-gear machine I’d been riding out at the time. One year later and I’m still at it! Hopefully, America Is Just A Word will be available in a short period of time.

Just Short…

So, for folks who’ve been following along in this blog, I submitted a proposal to Continuum’s 33 1/3 series to write a book about The Promise Ring’s Nothing Feels Good. Series editor David Barker emailed everyone who submitted a proposal today concerning those he picked to make it to the shortlist, the final compilation short of the 20 or so that Continuum will select to be turned into fully-fleshed out books (you can check out the shortlist). Unfortunately, my proposal wasn’t chosen for this list, for simple space reasons on the shortlist (I emailed David to find out specifics of why my proposal was turned down and it turns out it was one of a handful that barely missed the cut). In any case, I really enjoyed writing this proposal and speaking to those involved in creating the album about the process of writing a book on Nothing Feels Good. Rather than let it go to waste, I’ve decided to post my proposal here, below, for your enjoyment, complete with some multimedia elements that could not have been included in what was submitted to 33 1/3, but are helpful illustrators nonetheless. Enjoy it… and if anyone has any interest in further pursuing this project with me in some other forum, please feel free to contact me:

33 1/3 Book Proposal:

The Promise Ring’s Nothing Feels Good

Guilty pleasures tend to rear their heads in an interview with music’s next big thing. So when a VBS TV correspondent was chatting it up with No Age, the uber-hip and critically acclaimed experimental punk duo from L.A., singer/drummer Dean Spunt interrupted guitarist Randy Randall’s ruminations on MC Hammer with a shocking revelation:

“I used to like The Promise Ring.”
Beat.
“Yeah, so did I,” replied the stylish interviewer.
The three guys proceeded to awkwardly chuckle and talk over each other until the interviewer brought up his stunning thought:
“Is it really at the point where MC Hammer is less embarrassing than The Promise Ring?”

Great question. And not unlike one I ask myself just about every time I crank up my stereo while playing 30 Degrees Everywhere or Wood/Water. What’s so embarrassing about The Promise Ring? It could be the band’s association with emo, the now-repugnant term for a post-hardcore genre that’s all but taken over the Billboard charts. It was the release of 1997’s Nothing Feels Good that the four “averages Joes” that made up The Promise Ring were presented with the title of poster boys of a genre once thought to be six feet under. The rest of the trials and tribulations of emo remain embedded in our international conscience thanks to numerous pop-punk acts influenced by The Promise Ring. Say what you will about your Fall Out Boys, My Chemical Romances, Dashboard Confessionals, Cute Is What We Aim Fors, Thrices, Taking Back Sundays, Panic! at the Discos, Saves the Days, Coheed & Cambrias, Alexisonfires, New Found Glorys, and Underoaths; when push comes to shove, most of these bands don’t come close to the potent passion, intelligence, and vibrancy of The Promise Ring and their sophomore effort, Nothing Feels Good.

Embarrassment aside, Spunt should have nothing to be ashamed of for name-dropping The Promise Ring as a band that’s clearly influenced the critically-lauded musician. The Promise Ring’s back catalog is filled with nugget and gems of post-hardcore-meets-pop bliss, and much like when No Age’s current work combining elements of pop with hardcore, the results are fantastic. Nothing Feels Good is The Promise Ring’s best and most succinct work, an anthemic, passionate burst of homegrown pop-punk, filtered through tales of existential crises, cross-country road trips, and references to modern Americana. The hooks are sharp, the lyrics poignant, and the performance still as unbelievably urgent as the day the original tapes were mastered over a decade ago.

Part of what’s so phenomenal about The Promise Ring’s Nothing Feels Good is the impact the album had when it hit record stores in the fall of 1997. Neatly-packaged emo-pop amalgams are a dime a dozen these days, but there was nothing “neat” about Nothing Feels Good when it was released. Although the album’s music has the sugary-sweet taste of bubblegum pop that numerous artists today no doubt want to tap into, the band’s sound subverts the pretenses of slick pop on Nothing Feels Good with quick bursts of hardcore-influenced instrumentation that seem intent on spilling out of each track marking and into the life of the listener. To mis-quote The Promise Ring, it displays a sense that the band had of having no defined sense or absolute understanding of the world around them, but simply enjoying the view. Life’s peculiarities, ambiguities, and “big questions” aren’t shunned, but brought to the surface with keen observation. In frontman Davey von Bohlen’s hands and sweetly contorted lisp – a performance factor that only makes the music on Nothing Feels Good sound an umpteenth more sincere – The Promise Ring made an album of daring proportions and a musical document to the banalities, every day norms, and even celebrations of human existence not heard since Nirvana’s Nevermind.

Nothing Feels Good cover

Nothing Feels Good cover

Part of the story behind Nothing Feels Good is known, but little of it has a concentrated focus on the actual album or the band behind it. Beyond the musical content, Nothing Feels Good was a smashing success. For Jade Tree – The Promise Ring’s label – it meant financial stability, as the album surpassed their modest predictions and allowed the company to flourish, something of a miracle in the years following the alternative music buyout which had left many independent record labels for dead. For the national emo scene – a ragtag, ambiguous assemblage of independent artists around the U.S. – it legitimized their work in the face of the post-grunge milieu that ruled the radio waves and crippled mainstream creativity. For the members of The Promise Ring, it meant video premiers on MTV, critical acclamation, a position as one of the most creative bands operating in America’s underground music scene, and, much later, a place in cult-music lore for having inspired countless musicians to take emo (or whatever genre they called their own) in new and distinctly personal directions.

Although we’re still feeling the impact of Nothing Feels Good today, the known-narrative of the album’s creation is bare. What inspired the dozen songs on the album, and what transpired in their evolution from muddled creative concept into full-blown pop gold? What about the practices that hammered out the hooks, high-hats, and lo-fi hits in The Promise Ring’s oeuvre? What about the guys behind the instruments, their day-to-day existences and thoughts that no doubt burrowed their way into the band’s sophomore album? What were the moments before, during, and after 1997 that made Nothing Feels Good stand out from a mass of other bands and recordings that make up emo’s so-called second wave? What about each member’s upbringing, their lives in the Milwaukee area, relationships with friends, family, and significant-others? What made four young men band together to form The Promise Ring and create such a phenomenal release as heard in Nothing Feels Good?

These are the pivotal questions I’m seeking to answer with my book on The Promise Ring’s Nothing Feels Good for Continuum’s 33 1/3 book series. Here is an album and a band who’s impact on music today in innumerable. Part of the unknown quality of The Promise Ring’s importance is due to the fact that these deep-seated questions have never been asked – or rather, published – on such a large-scale forum. Considering the fans that the band amassed since forming in 1995, a list that no doubt has been growing with every article, band, or cultural critic name-checking the quartet as one of indie rock’s great cult bands, The Promise Ring are more than due for their proper place in the rock narrative limelight. And the 33 1/3 series is the place I would like to bring the tale of The Promise Ring’s best album.

For this project, I plan on writing the kind of book that exemplifies the credence imbued in Nothing Feels Good. My model for this manuscript isn’t confined to the band-nostalgically-reminiscing-on-a-piece-of-the-past-type writing you may see in a lot of oral histories or straightforward music books out there. Certainly my work will represent the mold that previous 33 1/3 books have upheld, but I’m also inspired by the writing styles of the great new journalists and literary non-fiction pieces. In essence, I’m looking to produce a book that lives, breathes, eats, speaks, and plays music the way that the members of The Promise Ring did when they made Nothing Feels Good. I want to make someone who’s never heard the album feel as though they’ve been following the band since Day One, that they’re back in 1997 and sprinting to the record store in order to merely touch an album by a band that has touched them. Essentially, I want to write a book about The Promise Ring in the same way the band created their music.

My main informants for this project will be the members of The Promise Ring; as I want to get into their heads and extract information about their environment, attitudes, and memories, they will be my go-to source for the book. I’ve been in touch with Promise Ring singer/guitarist Davey von Bohlen for well over a year, having recruited his current band (Maritime) for a concert and Davey himself for a previous writing project. I have been corresponding with von Bohlen about this proposal for well over a month, and he has given this project his supportive and enthusiastic seal of approval, and has gotten me in touch with the other members of The Promise Ring. At the moment that I’ve submitted this proposal, I’ve been in touch with two other Promise Ring members, Jason Gnewikow (guitar) and Dan Didier (drums), and both are quite enthusiastic about the project. I plan on having extensive interviews with these three members, as well as the two bass players who played in The Promise Ring during their Nothing Feels Good era, Scott Schoenbeck and Scott Beschta.

Although interviews with the members of The Promise Ring will constitute a large portion of my research, I plan on culling information from as many sources as possible in order to make the narrative more vibrant and colorful. I plan on soliciting interviews with not only those closely associated to the band, but also their detractors and adoring fans. Alongside a list that includes friends and family, I plan on speaking to Tim Owen and Darren Walters (Jade Tree owners), J. Robbins (Nothing Feels Good producer), Stuart Sikes (Nothing Feels Good engineer), Jessica Hopper (former publicist), Tim Edwards (former booking agent), Josh Modell (creator of Milk Magazine and close friend), along with musicians who’ve worked with, influenced, or been influenced by The Promise Ring, including Tim and Mike Kinsella (Cap’n Jazz), Jim Adkins (Jimmy Eat World), Bob Nanna (Braid), Jeremy Enigk (Sunny Day Real Estate), Matthew Pryor (The Get Up Kids), Eric Richter (Christie Front Drive), Eric Axelson (The Dismemberment Plan/Maritime), Chris Carrabba (Dashboard Confessional), Pete Wentz (Fall Out Boy), Chris Simpson (Mineral), Chris Conley (Saves the Day), Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters/Sun Kil Moon), Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat/Fugazi), and countless others for their involvement in this project. Although not everyone listed is guaranteed to be involved, with my personal connections to some of the people previously listed and with the help from the former Promise Ring members, I will have an enormous number of people contributing to the book’s dialog.

Interviews aside, I plan on digging through swaths of information to aide in the creation of the book. Included will be the usual sources of information; articles on the band, reviews of their albums, zines, blogs, and any other published work that would enhance the narrative. But, I plan to go beyond those musings as well. I will approach the band members to see if I could use personal paraphernalia to help me spin a more personal yarn. This would include anything from old photographs, letters, journal entries, lyric sheets, music sheets, and even doodles scratched into scraps of paper they’ve kept through the years. I will also approach the narrative from the direction of an informed anthropologist by researching the socio-economic background of The Promise Ring’s hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Through census information, background information on area high school and college education systems, and the resources for youth in Wisconsin that was available at the same time Nothing Feels Good was in the making, I hope to gain a better sense of The Promise Ring’s background. I’ll also dig up information on American society’s views of Wisconsin and the Mid West and how that was reflected in the actions of those who lived there. It may seem onerous, but the brief scene in Wayne’s World that takes place in Milwaukee speaks volumes about the international perception of the place where The Promise Ring was formed. Throughout all of this, I hope to get a sense of why The Promise Ring did what they did, but from an entirely different perspective than the usual interview could warrant.

What I hope to accomplish after 15 months of research and writing is a work that can live up to how I felt after first popping Nothing Feels Good on the stereo, and something that will be as powerful as each subsequent listen to that album. My work may lack the aural quality of the album, but I hope it will be able to bring an entirely new sense of being to Nothing Feels Good, and one that will only boost the listening experience of longtime Promise Ring enthusiasts and bring some new fans to the album as well.