Tales of the young, drunk, and reckless…and other random thoughts

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Dead Ends and Girlfriends – “Moon Lake Village”

I have to constantly remind myself that the songs that make up Dead Ends and Girlfriends were all written when I was between 16 – 18 years old. There isn’t a lot of life experience behind them. Considering my musical idols at the time were Screeching Weasel and The Queers (bands whose lyrics include “Jeannie’s got a problem with her uterus,” and “Hey you motherfuckers I only drink Bud”), I wasn’t much for lyrical substance. This song is certainly no exception.

At the time this song was written I had been dating a girl for about a year or so. She was great and we got along well, finding common ground in the underground punk rock scene. We were an exclusive couple and fairly serious, I suppose. As serious as a pair of 17 year olds could be anyways. So I was a bit shocked when, after I went away to college, she told me she was moving out of her house and renting an apartment with a guy I had never met. He was considerably older and he may have been a professional skateboarder, not that it makes much of a difference. I was naturally skeptical of the entire arrangement but she assured me they were just friends. She needed to get out of her house and at the time she had few other options. The entire situation was quite funny to me so I wrote a song about it. It’s such a stupidly simple song and it would be a hell of a lot more interesting if there were a better story behind it. But, alas, there’s not. And, just in case you might be wondering where the name of the song came from…. that’s right, it was the name of the dumpy apartment complex they moved into together.

Dead Ends And Girlfriends – “Residential Burglary”

I graduated from high school in June 1996 and in the fall I began my first semester at Eastern IL University in Charleston, taking one friend with me to college and waving goodbye to a few others.  A few of those other friends also began their first semesters at The University of IL in Champaign, a mere 45 minute drive from EIU.  One of them was my good friend, Andy.

I met Andy in 7th grade and we quickly became friends.  We were inseparable during high school and some of my favorite teenage memories are of the dumb things we did together.  Andy came with me on family vacations, got me drunk for the first time, and he also designed the original cover to the first Allister EP, “You Can’t Do That On Vinyl.”   Most importantly, though, I credit him with introducing me to the underground punk rock scene.   He was the first one to play for me bands like Slapstick, Apocalypse Hoboken, The Mushuganas, and The Bollweevils, iconic Chicago punk rock bands that completely changed the way I listened to music.  In 1994, Andy convinced me to come with him to a run-down, ramshackle old bowling alley in Chicago to see a band called Rhythm Collision.  It was an experience that transformed my way of life and I am forever indebted to him for it.

I got to see Andy and some other friends relatively frequently throughout the first year of college.  Those weekends would generally find us sneaking into bars or wandering the streets of Champaign, drunk and looking for another house party.  One of those weekends spiraled a bit out of control, landing my good friend in jail and inspiring the track “Residential Burglary.”  One of the funny things about the song is that lyrically, it is entirely factual.  Andy really did run out of a house party trying to steal a record player and CDs.  He was really thrown in jail with a guy accused of beating his wife.  And, of course, his cell smelled like piss and beer (would you expect anything else?).  The only other memory I have of writing this song was that I remember thinking how sophisticated I felt finally adding a (gasp!) 4th chord into one of my songs.  Sad, but true.  Andy and I have since lost touch and I haven’t seen him or talked to him in a number of years.  Kind of a shame considering how close we were but I get it, sometimes shit happens.  Maybe one day him and I can get a beer together again and wax nostalgic on those earlier years.  Particularly the year that “Andy is going to jail…”

You Can’t Do That on Vinyl – “Ex-Girlfriend”

It’s hard to believe that it’s been eighteen years since we recorded our first EP, “You Can’t Do That on Vinyl.”  That is exactly half a lifetime ago.  At that time we were only a three piece; John on guitar, Eric on bass, and me behind the kit.  Scottie wasn’t yet an official member of the band but he was instrumental in getting the entire recording session set up.  He played bass for a local band called The Humdingers who had done numerous sessions at a recording studio in Hoffman Estates, IL called Solid Sound.  The head engineer was the late Phil Bonnet (RIP), a bit of an icon in the local Chicago punk rock scene.  Phil had produced and recorded many of the bands we listened to during high school including Apocalypse Hoboken and Smoking Popes.  Most importantly (to me, anyway) however, was that Phil had recorded Screeching Weasel.  Screeching Weasel was (and still is) one of my favorite bands. As an 18 year old kid, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to record at the same studio as my punk heroes. So, with a good word from Scottie, Phil agreed to record our shitty band one fall day in 1997.

We recorded five songs for the EP, including one that I wrote called “Ex-Girlfriend.” It’s a fairly terrible song that was heavily influenced by bands like Home Grown, Assorted Jellybeans, and Less Than Jake. The “ska-punk” wave crashed hard on me during those formidable last years of high school, and I’m not ashamed to admit that many of the songs I wrote during that time sounded a lot like “Ex-Girlfriend.” Thankfully, most of them sucked just enough to not get recorded. In my Junior year I got my first real girlfriend. Her name was Emily and she was a year older than me. I felt like I had won the lottery. She was the only thing I could think of during the 3 months or so that we dated. Was I in love? Yeah, I suppose I was, just as most sixteen year olds fall into some sort of naïve adolescent version of it at some point. I took my girl to the prom that year and we spent the day after with a group of semi-mutual friends at the Indiana Dunes. That was the last day Emily and I ever talked. She spent a good majority of that day at the dunes with one of the other guys in our group and it was painfully obvious she wanted nothing more to do with me. What’s interesting though, in hindsight, is that there was no fight between us. No bitterness, no angry words, no earth-shattering, world-ending teenage breakup. Our relationship simply dissolved into thin air over the course of one Saturday. I wrote “Ex-Girlfriend” about a year after that and, though it sounds like a bitter, angry song, I can honestly say it was not written with any animosity. In my mind, the chorus line “I didn’t mean to love you” is delivered with a simple shrug of the shoulders and an acknowledgement that sometimes things just fade away….

44 Resolutions…

For the last few months I’ve been tossing around the idea of creating an Allister “song diary,” a collection of memoirs and anecdotes related to all of the 44 songs I’ve written for the band. The idea came mostly to satisfy my own personal nostalgia but also because 2016 marks twenty years since I graduated high school and I thought it might be an enlightening (and probably at times terrifying) exercise to revisit and explain some of the songs that got the Allister train rolling all those years ago. Looking back, these songs span eighteen years, five full length records, and one EP. Not exactly prolific but, what the hell. My goal is to dissect one song per week, starting with our very first EP called “You Can’t Do That on Vinyl.” By my calculations that should take almost a year. A lofty goal but hey, we’re nothing without ambition, right?

Hot Alice Demos

I was finally able to complete a few demos from my new band, Hot Alice. You can go check them out here. We’re starting to play shows with our new drummer, the fabulous Michealangelo Molinari, so I’ll do my best to update the Upcoming Shows section. Stay tuned for more news as it comes…

Another Successful West Coast Tour…

We got back last week from our first (mini)tour of the West Coast in 8 years. Denver, San Diego, and Pomona did not let us down. I’d like to extend a special thanks to all the fans and friends that came out and supported us. They certainly knew how to make us feel welcome. It was a relatively uneventful tour, with the exception of a brief hiccup while flying out of Denver. My innocent absent-mindedness led me into one of the worst customer service experiences of my life.

We rented a car for our 36 hour adventure in the mile high city. I booked the rental online with a company called EZ Car Rental because they were the cheapest. We picked up the car and were extremely pleased to find a new and very clean Volkswagon Jetta. The key fob was a little too large to simply keep in my pocket so I attached it to the carabiner on which I keep my personal keys. Since I always keep my keys hooked on my belt loop, I figured this way the rental key wouldn’t get lost.

On our way out of Denver, Scottie and I were scheduled to leave for San Diego about two hours before Kyle and Face. Our plan was that Scott and I would drop off the rental car on the way to the airport and the other two would simply take the shuttle from the hotel. Around 9am, Scottie and I left the hotel and drove to the rental facility to drop off the car. A massive snowstorm had blown through Denver the night before and everything was covered in six inches of snow. The roads were mostly clear though, and we were able to make it to the rental place without any problems.

The rental car parking lot had not been plowed and the path to the drop off site wasn’t clear. I inched my way through the lot of parked cars towards what looked like the main building. As I got closer, I came upon what appeared to be a parking area marked by a stop sign and outlined with parking cones. It seemed like a reasonable place for a rental drop-off so I parked and left the car idling. We waited in the car for a minute, not exactly sure what to do next. A minute later a woman drove up beside us in an SUV, rolled her window down and asked me for the last name on the rental. I gave her the name and watched as she made some notes on a clipboard. She told us to leave the car where it was, so Scottie and I gathered our gear and dragged it over to the waiting shuttle bus. We hopped on and took off for the airport.

About five minutes into the shuttle ride to the airport, I realized with a gut wrenching agony that I left my personal keys attached to the rental. I grumbled a few obscenities and mentally chastised myself before I got on the phone and called Kyle to see if he could hail a cab and swing by the rental place to get my keys before his flight. He assured me it was no problem so I made a call to the rental company to let them know what happened. I spoke with the same woman who had earlier checked us out and explained to her my situation. I told her my friend was going to come by to pick up the keys and her exact words to me were, “Ok, we’ll worry about it when he gets here.”
I thought that was a bit of a strange response considering my dilemma, but I assumed since so little time had passed since I dropped off the car that everything would be fine.

I was waiting at the gate with about 10 minutes to board my flight to San Diego when Kyle called from the car rental facility. “They don’t have your keys,” he said. “What do you mean they don’t have my keys?” I replied. “I don’t know man, she’s telling me they don’t have your keys.” I was thoroughly confused. “Put the woman on the phone,” I told Kyle. He handed the phone over to her. The conversation went something like this…

“Hello sir? I’m sorry we don’t have your keys,” she told me.

“What do you mean you don’t have my keys? I just dropped off the car.”

“I’m very sorry sir but we just don’t have them.”

“Do you have the keys to the rental car?” I asked.

“Yes, we have the rental car keys.”

“Well then you have my keys because they were attached to the rental key.”

“I’m sorry sir we don’t have your keys.”

“So you’re telling me that you have the rental car key but you don’t have my personal keys that were physically attached to the rental key?”

“That’s right sir.”

“How can that possibly be? What happened to my keys?”

“I don’t know sir. People leave keys behind all the time and we can’t be responsible for all of them.”

“My keys were ATTACHED to the rental key and I called you five minutes after I dropped off the car to let you know. Where the hell are my keys?!”

I was pissed. This lady was doing absolutely nothing to help. After a few more words I was able to get her to concede that the valet had driven the car around to the back bay to get washed and vacuumed.

“Can you call back to the valet and ask if he has my keys please?” I asked her.

“He doesn’t have them sir. Keys that get left behind are thrown into a giant bin full of 600 other keys. We can’t search the whole bin looking for one key,” she smirked.

“You don’t have to search the whole bin because mine WILL BE THE ONES RIGHT ON TOP!!!” I yelled at her. The whole situation was completely ridiculous. I talked to this same lady five minutes after I had originally dropped off the car and now she was being a complete bitch.

As her and I were having words on the phone, I could hear Kyle in the background now talking to a man, presumably another customer service agent who had just stepped to the desk. Kyle explained the situation to him and the guy knew exactly what he was talking about. Within thirty seconds, the guy produced my keys and I was verifying the description of them to him over the phone. I was stoked that they were able to get my keys but I was also completely dumbfounded to know that there is actually a customer service agent out there who went out of her way to NOT help me. A customer service rep’s entire job revolves around helping people out of situations like mine. Truly ridiculous.

Hot Alice and a new beginning….

A lot has happened over the last 8 months of my life, most of which was so chaotic and excruciatingly tiresome that I will probably not be wasting even more time posting about it here. However, there are a few good and exciting things happening, and I will finally have some free time on my hands to update this page more than once every 7 months. The first (and really the only thing to discuss right now) is that I have a new band. We are called Hot Alice and you can follow us on twitter, @HotAliceBand. The band consists of myself, my brother Chris, our buddy Pickles on bass, and our good friend Nate Thruman on drums. I won’t waste time explaining what we sound like because we’re too fucking good to be pigeonholed into some sub-genre of rock music. Come check us out at the Beat Kitchen on August 3rd and see for yourself. We’re in the beginning stages of laying down some tracks in a studio so we should have something for y’all to listen to within the next few months. In the meantime, we’ll have t-shirts available at the Beat Kitchen show which you should buy and then brag to your friends about how you bought the shirt at the very first Hot Alice show. They will all be jealous. I promise you.

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