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The original column was published on October 15th, 2019 and can be found below.
Do you hear me out there? I can hear you.
I got you, I can hear you alright.
This is so strange, I want to wish for something new.
This is the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
Who do we think we are?
It’s always been really hard for me to feel like I truly belong. I always get close, but I always feel like I’m just outside the core people who deserve their place in the inner circle. Lately, I’ve really been trying to take that big jump into the deep end and stop feeling like an awkward observer but own my role as a central figure in my own passions. And one of the things that really helped me re-focus my efforts is one of my favorite albums from the mid 2000s, Angels And Airwaves’ 2006 debut, We Don’t Need To Whisper.
Leave your pain on the bedroom floor again, bring a smile to survive
And do you think that you have that in you?
If you’re here and you’re all alone tonight, then I’ll give you a free ride.
Take a chance ’cause I know you want to.
blink-182 was the first band I ever really loved. The first CD I ever bought, the reason I bought a bass, the first songs I ever taught myself, the reason I started my first band. There are plenty of pictures, videos, and recordings of me at 14 playing blink songs with my friends. Plenty of people fell in love with blink in the 90s and 00s, so this isn’t all that rare of a sentiment. But even among blink fans, there’s a lot of camps you can fall into. Those who consider them a punk band, those who call them pop, and the in-betweens. Scott or Travis? Is the Skiba stuff really blink? +44 or Angels? It goes on and on. But none are more pressing than the debate I hear more than any other. Mark or Tom?
For those who don’t know, Mark Hoppus is the bass player and one of the singers, and Tom Delonge is the guitarist and other singer. Tom’s the one with the voice. Where are you and I’m so sorry and all that. I will always love them both, but despite citing Mark as the reason I play bass (and for what it’s worth, I do crib a lot of his fifth-based melodies and chord structures), I’ve pretty much always been firmly in camp Tom… and boy, oh boy, have I gotten a lot of shit for it. How much that contributed to my feelings that I was always just a little bit of an outsider, I don’t know, but it certainly didn’t help.
In 2005, when blink broke up, everyone blamed Tom. And then when Angels And Airwaves debuted, it was pretty divisive. It sounds nothing like blink, even with Tom’s voice fronting the record. It’s got these long, atmosphere-building songs, U2-inspired guitar sounds, lofty lyrics on war and grandiose takes on love. Tom took a whole lot of chances when he reinvented himself this way, and not everyone liked it. But man, I ate that shit up. At 15, We Don’t Need To Whisper was a permanent fixture in my stereo and quite a few of the songs made it into my band’s setlist. That June, I saw them with Taking Back Sunday and hearing Tom play the verses of “Down” by himself was the first time I ever cried at a concert. It was truly a defining moment for my teenage years.
But even then, I still had this… tinge of outsider. After the Angels set, people in our section, as well as the whole coliseum, stormed the floor to hop the wall and get on the floor. And I couldn’t. I just kept thinking, “wow, those people are so cool, I could never do anything like that. Those are real punks. If I did that, they would just think I’m some poser.” And this was a pretty common feeling for me, and to be honest, still is. Fast forward a little over a decade and I’m married to a girl who was also at that show and actually did jump over that guardrail! And she even had the same poster in her bedroom that I did, a very dramatic Angels poster from the liner notes of Whisper.
But my struggles with this kind of thing needed more than just the coolest girl I ever met to tell me I wasn’t a loser (though that helped). Recently, I’ve had a lot of small moments really stand out as validating that the less uniformly popular things I liked and chances I took were the right ones. When a lot of my friends were full on mocking Tom’s new “super-serious” band, I was hyping up the record and burning copies for everyone. Just last month, an old friend I haven’t spoken to in years reached out, thanking me for all the music I gave him after school and how much that shaped who he became. What I thought was just me doubling down because I’m defensive about Tom Delonge ended up meaning a lot to both of us. We even saw Angels together on their second tour in 2008! As a defensive aside, Tom still gets a whole lot of flack for his weird alien stuff, but hey, he actually got the government to admit some weird Navy stuff was a UFO, so jokes on all of you. He was right and I was right to believe in him.
The ash set in then blew away. It’s getting lost into the sea.
I grew so close to all the thoughts I had to leave forever
I left the chill and voice of screams and kids and ran for shelter.
You know, I won’t say sorry. You know, I won’t say sorry.
The pain has a bad reaction, a blend of fear and passion.
You know what it’s like to believe?
It makes me wanna scream.
But even more than that, I’ve had a lot of my creative outlets feel a lot more real than they used to. I recently re-started an old collaborative relationship with one of my most beloved artistic partners. And even though our new material is very different than what we used to make, that familiarity has put our old work on my mind again. I used to feel like my ideas weren’t good enough to mention or push and that I was always part of some B-tier. But this time, I’ve really made an effort to express myself more openly and honestly and I’d like to think the work is better for it. And right at the same time, I have had several people come up to me lately and tell me how important our old work was for them and it shaped the types of songwriters and musicians they’ve become; adding how excited they are to hear what we do next. Something I never once expected and still don’t quite know how to internalize.
I should have turned back, I should have known better
Than to walk away defeated
I’ll say it tonight, I’ll say it forever
And this time I really swear I mean it
I think I like today, I think it’s good
It’s something I can’t get my head around.
When Angels And Airwaves released their first record, We Don’t Need To Whisper, no one knew what to expect and the hype was all over the place. Tom Delonge took a huge chance with it and I think it paid off. Angels showed he was much more capable and talented than anyone ever gave him credit for. I think there’s a lot we can take from that. As long as you’re willing to take that jump and do what you think is important to express yourself, who gives a shit if no one thinks you belong there? Fuck ’em. Take the chance. Who knows? Maybe you’ll meet some aliens. And maybe in the future, your work will have meant a lot more to people than you ever realized, even if the only person that feels that way is you. And as long as you think you belong there, you do.