Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Campbell Burns, Vacations – Weezer, Weezer(1994)
I never had an emo phase, I missed out on attending the Black Parade and I didn’t really “understand” Panic! At The Disco. I think the closest I got to an “emo” solace was through Weezer’s debut album, simply titled Weezer. Whilst it didn’t have the aesthetic or theatricality of either of those bands, it had something else that tugged at my teenage-angst ridden heart that was comforting and exciting, that helped give me a sense of identity. When you’re fumbling through your adolescence, trying to make sense of the world around you, one song can change a lot.
You know exactly what I mean because you too had this band growing up.
I owe a lot to Weezer, but also Guitar Hero III. So a quick detour. GHII was a video game I never actually owned but still somehow played so much at friend’s houses that I could play some songs without looking at the screen (‘Lay Down’ by Priestess is such a riff). It’s how teenage me discovered so much new music in a pre-Spotify era. And it’s how I eventually took up playing a real guitar, thanks to a Les Paul my brother had sitting around. One of the songs featured in the game was ‘My Name Is Jonas’. The opening riff had me hooked, the dynamic between the plucky acoustic guitar and the crunchy power chords, complete with a harmonica solo was just so fun and new to me. I knew I had to learn it on guitar, the thought of absolutely “shredding” and playing along to the song and not just slapping some plastic buttons was so appealing. It gave me a goal to achieve, it gave me a direction into somewhere I had no idea I was heading.
I had to know more about the band, so I went out and bought their CDs and started with the Blue Album. I was taken back by how dorky the four guys on the front cover looked, there was no way in my mind that this was the same group of people that made ‘My Name Is Jonas’.
They didn’t look like “musicians”. A quick search on YouTube proved me wrong and also introduced me to ‘Say It Ain’t So’ and ‘Buddy Holly’. I was enamoured with how raw yet pop-leaning these tracks were, with so many explosive guitar solos, fuzzy bass riffs, and River’s boyish American accent skimming over the top. They seemed like a bunch of nerds making music together, but in my eyes, they were “cool” nerds. Taking all of this in, I did a careful evaluation and thought, “Well, I could do that”. I was a nerd that had just picked up a guitar and felt like I finally figured out what my “thing” was, people even thought I looked like Buddy Holly with my Ray-Ban frames, everything made sense. So I got to work, I played the guitar every single day for as long as I could and tried learning everything there was to know.
I spent so many hours learning that opening riff to ‘My Name Is Jonas’. I felt on top of the world when I could only just scrape by picking out the notes. I tried to master ‘Buddy Holly’, ‘Say It Ain’t So’, and ‘Undone – The Sweater Song’ and had some kind of interpretation down pat. I was excited by this and the prospect of forming a “band”. Maybe we’d write our own songs and tour the world, have a legion of fans, and who knows what else, it seemed like a fantasy but I knew it was the only thing I wanted to do. While my friends were navigating their own ways through music, sculpting an identity and new ways to express themselves, we’d talked about our music, art, movies, video games. We’d also share USB mixtapes to keep each other up-to-date with what we were finding, it built up this youthful and naive excitement mixed with impossible energy that made us feel like we could take on anything. It was through this that we attempted to be like our heroes, even just for a moment. We’d spend hours practising and rehearsing at school or at friend’s houses with whatever we had on hand, fine-tuning our craft and learning how to work as a team. It felt like fine art to us but we were making an absolute racket, annoying everyone in earshot. But we didn’t care at all, we were so engrossed by simply making noise together. The music was coming together but it needed a voice. I didn’t know I could sing but one afternoon when a friend and I were going over material for a school performance, I said I’d give it a try and was met with an almost confused “Are you sure?” and lo and behold, I made my singing debut in front of my entire year a few days later all jittery and frozen into place. They were shocked, I was shocked. It was cathartic and terrifying. I wanted to do it again.
Some of us fell off the bandwagon over time as we grew up and changed course, I clung on like nothing else. I eventually formed Vacations when I was 19 or 20 and we played ‘Undone’ as a cover so many times early on, always at sweaty packed out house parties and DIY shows where everyone screamed the words and had the best time. The ‘Blue Album’, as it’s known by fans, is an album that was so influential and important to me that I can still listen to it today almost like it’s the first time, like catching up with an old friend. It hooks you in with ‘My Name is Jonas’ and ends so bombastically with ‘Only In Dreams’, with every song in-between being just as fulfilling. It’s responsible for me playing the guitar, for taking up songwriting and collaborating with friends, for trying to carve my own mark on the world. It was one of the only CDs I had when I first started driving a car, and it was the soundtrack to my first love and inevitable teenage heartbreak. Even now, you can hear its influence on the guitar solo in ‘Lavender’. That guitar solo is almost a way of saying thanks for everything this album has done for me, but I’ll say it again to be clear.
Thank you for everything, and more.
Vacations’ new single ‘Lavender’ is out today. Listen here.