On the record about the records that influenced—and continue to:
Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream | “I was only six years old when Siamese Dream came out. By the time I was eleven or twelve, kids were still talking about it. I always thought that served as a testament to how great it was. So, while I discovered it nearly six years after it’s release, it still felt as fresh and relevant as ever.
What initially grabbed me about Siamese Dream was how vulnerable it sounded. Vocals either whispered, or screamed lyrics that read as if they had been lifted from a teenage diary, “Lover lover let’s pretend / We were born as innocents / Cast into the world with apple eyes.” I felt like this record could have been made by some neighborhood kids taking cues from Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple, not because they were “cool” bands necessarily, but because that was the shit you heard blasting out of pickup trucks. All of the music their grunge peers were seemingly hired to destroy, Pumpkins were citing sonically. I thought the album was an incredible piece of work. It made me feel at peace with who I was at a time when everything I had once thought was certain, was now suddenly put into question.”
Pulp, Different Class | “I discovered Pulp’s Different Class when I was 16 years old. Pulp is the band that I can credit with restoring my faith in the power of pop music. The word alone, “pop” seemed to represent the establishment, the bland, and the boring. Different Class not only restored my faith, but it also began what has become a near-decade-long romance with pop music.
Pulp isn’t a pop group because their music is dumbed down for mass appeal. They are a pop group because their music possesses a universal truth. Different Class is one of those rare records where each cut is more brilliant than the last. The opening lines on the first track, “Mis-Shapes ”Mis-shapes, mistakes, misfits. / Raised on a diet of broken biscuits, oh we don’t look the same as you / We don’t do the things you do, but we live around here too.” That instantly grabbed me. It’s anthemic without being overly dramatic. It commands your attention without begging for it. It’s perfect.
Different Class made me want to write pop songs. Had I never heard this album I think we would be a very different band.”
—Rob Miller, Vocals, Guitar
Echo And The Bunnymen, Ocean Rain | “Around the time I was getting into post punk bands like The Buzzcocks and Joy Division I was eventually introduced to Ocean Rain, Echo And The Bunnymen and, for me, they exemplified the sound I was in search of. This album in my eyes is a materpiece. “Killing Moon” became a sort of soundtrack to my life, as it did for many others. The tastefully verbed out guitar, the 12 string acoustic, the punchy bass—all very simple, effective, and extremely evocative.
And then there is “Yo Yo Man” which takes things to an even stranger and darker place with an orchestra playing macabre melodies throughout. It reminded me of The Nightmare Before Christmas in the way it sounded. Ocean Rain made good songwriting seem attainable to me at a young age, even if I wasn’t at a level to write such songs, what it did was make me want to try.”
Oingo Boingo, Alive | “Boingo was the first band that ever caught my attention. I was in second grade when a friend of my mom was playing it in his house when we were over. I asked who it was and he handed me the CD. He ended up giving it to me and they automatically became my favorite band…and really the only band I knew.
I listened to the CD everyday. It was a live CD and there were two different ones available for sale. They had a skeleton driving a convertable in the desert. I had to buy the other one, I was sold. Boingo crafted great pop songs. My favorites were “Wild Sex,” “We Close Our Eyes,” and “It’s A Dead Man’s Party.” I honestly converted a shitty broom into my first electric air guitar. I even made cardboard effect pedals, because I had seen on MTV that bands used those. I would perform Boingo until bedtime alone in my room. I bought every Boingo CD. I created bands during recess at school even though no one could play anything.
Boingo made me want to learn guitar so I could start a band for real, and I did.”
—Charlie Koliha, Bass
The Cure, Disintegration | “This album was my first introduction to The Cure. I purchased it at a flea market while on a trip to South Carolina when I was in the 7th grade. As with most “family trips” when you’re too young to go off and kind of do your own things, I spent a lot of time being dragged around by my parents to places I didn’t really care for.
Naturally, as most kids that grew up in the 90s, I had brought a Walkman on this trip. Disintegration was an escape from the boring shit that I was dragged to from day to day. Any time I hear a track off that album I am immediately brought back to that trip; sitting in the back of a minivan, headphones on, eyes closed, with beautiful and gloomy imagery swimming through my young mind.
I still feel that Disintegration is essential anytime I want to escape. It’s so different from what one encounters on a regular basis in terms of a soundscape, not to mention the fairytale themes within the album. I’d say “Plainsong” perfectly encapsulates that idea for me. It sounds cheesy, but the album really is like another world you escape to. To me, in terms of imagery, it invokes delicate visions of kaleidoscopic streets of mist, bejeweled caves, dew speckled spider-webs, and unrequited love of the baroque variety. I think you get the picture. Ever since hearing that album I’ve wanted to make music that would help the listener escape, to a place totally foreign yet familiar at the same time.”
The Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness | “This album was something of a hand me down. I first heard it when I was 10 years old at sleep-away summer camp. (Now that I think about it, location seems to have a lot to do with the albums I fall in love with.) The camp counselors were all 16/17 year-old teenagers, and my counselor brought this album with him to camp. He was obsessed with this album, and would play both CDs over and over again.
Up until that point, the only real music I had heard was stuff my parents played in the car or around the house. As I had no older siblings, “modern” rock music was something that was out of reach for my ten year-old self. So when I heard this album, it seemed totally crazy. I had never heard anything like it before. It was dark and intense with songs like “Zero” and “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” but could be gentle and wounded with songs like “thirty-three” and “Stumbleine.” It was a whole new genre/style of music I had never encountered before. Prior, music was just something that was on in the background while I was dropped off at school. But this album brought everything to the forefront, it was meant to be listened to. It demanded your attention right away. I listened to every word (or at least tried to), I clung to every note. And then I realized this was what music was. It was something you enjoyed, like a painting, or a film. It’s as if a door was opened, and a whole new section of the world lay before me to explore. I suppose that’s what happens to everyone when they discover music they like for the first time.
That album was also just so visual. It seemed like an audible piece of abstract art, or like a foreign film I couldn’t understand, which of course intrigued me. It was also the beginning of my relationship with The Smashing Pumpkins, a band that to this day is still one of my favorite bands.”
—Sean Gaffney, Lead guitar
Modest Mouse, Lonesome Crowded West | “I first heard this album when I was about 13 years old. I immediately fell in love. When I was in middle school and high school the area I grew up in had a huge metal scene, and that’s what all the kids I knew were listening to. Try as I might it just wasn’t my cup of tea. When I heard this album for the first time it was so much different from anything my friends were listening to, and I really enjoyed that.
I think this was the first album that didn’t leave my CD player for months, and was a huge launching pad for bands that I’d get into later on. On top of being really drawn to the album musically and thematically, the drumming and other instrumentation on that record were unlike much I’d ever heard before at that time. Jeremiah Green, drummer for Modest Mouse, was and is still a huge influence of mine.”
The Smiths, Meat Is Murder | “Another huge taste maker album for me was Meat Is Murder by The Smiths. I first fell in love with this album when I was about 16 or 17 years old. I had heard it earlier on, but I don’t think my musical palette was advanced enough to really appreciate the craftsmanship of those songs until a little later.
I loved the instrumentation on this album, the vibe, the lyrics, and my obsession with The Smiths kind of marked a turn in my musical tastes at the time. It’s music of substance, and to this day still one of my favorite “bedroom albums.” I don’t think my musical tastes would be the same today had I never gotten the chance to hear this album at that time in my life.”
—Nick Clark, Drums