Tag Archives: Dear Landlord

Punk Rock Today is Better Than It’s Ever Been

"Punk Rock Today is Better Than It's Ever Been." 5/28/14. Pen. 4½x5¼".
“Punk Rock Today is Better Than It’s Ever Been.” 5/28/14. Pen. 4½x5¼”.

Back in February, I was lucky enough to get to work on a painting and set up a print table at a couple shows some of my favorite bands were playing. On the second night, I asked my buddy Mike (who runs Dead Broke Rekerds) if I could scoop up some records in exchange for some artwork. He picked out a print and asked if I would draw something for a Dead Broke sticker. It took me a while ’cause I was stressing out, worrying about whether or not Mike would like whatever I came up with. As soon as I decided to drop the anxiety and just do what came naturally though, it was done in no time and I had this design. I’m really happy with it – in large part just because it’s so radically unlike the kind of art that a band or label would normally use for a sticker design.

I don’t think I met him just then but the first time Mike and I crossed paths was in late 2006. His band, Down in the Dumps, was in Florida to play The Fest and I caught their set in Tampa at Transitions Art Gallery (now Epic Problem). In my mind, this was right around the time when DIY pop punk was really blowing the fuck up (in an incredibly relative sense) and getting awesome/exciting again. Off With Their Heads released Hospitals, started their never-ending tour, and were in the midst of the flurry of 7-inches that they’d release leading up to their first full-length for No Idea. 1-2-3-4 Go!, Kiss of Death, and A.D.D. were all fucking killing it with bands like Ringers, Snuggle, Drunken Boat, Monikers, Witches With Dicks, Tiltwheel, Chinese Telephones, and Pretty Boy Thorson & The Falling Angels. Labels like No Breaks, It’s Alive, Dirt Cult, and Salinas were similarly picking up the pace, building incredible catalogs, and (soon enough) inspiring me to do the same. Banner Pilot self-released their first record. The Brokedowns put out “New Brains For Everyone.” Blotto was on the other side of the Pacific, churning out 7-inches at the same rate as Off With Their Heads, (mostly for Snuffy Smile, who were also tearing it up on the label side of things).  And shortly thereafter (or right around then), we got the first records out of Dear Landlord, The Measure, The Gateway District, Dead Mechanical, The Humanoids, and The Steinways.

But I’m getting carried away… the FIRST band to play at Transitions that aforementioned night in October 2006 was Down in the Dumps. They were the only band on the line-up I didn’t know anything about. And they were fucking awesome. It was everything punk rock’s supposed to be: grimy, coarse, fucked up but catchy and upbeat (sonically, if not in content)Mike played bass and sang. And as I’d later find out, he was also the guy responsible for Dead Broke Rekerds, whose catalog now boasts a whole slew of my favorite records.

After I moved to DC for law school and started my record label, Traffic Street, the first bands to come through Baltimore and stay at my place were Iron Chic and Jonesin’.  Mike played bass and sang in Jonesin’ and – though he wasn’t at the time – is now the bassist in Iron Chic as well. Both bands mean a lot to me. One of Traffic Street’s final releases was Jonesin’s EP, “The Dream is Dead.” And – going back to the beginning – #001 in the Traffic Street catalog was a 7-inch compilation called “Dangerous Intersections,” which was not only my first vinyl release but also Iron Chic’s first appearance on vinyl (and only their second release overall, following their five-song demo).

Before Traffic Street collapsed under the weight of my mental health issues and heroin addiction, Mike and I were in regular contact, states away, trading our releases for our distros, talking music, making fun of each other, and – every so often – crossing paths again when I’d book a show for Iron Chic or he’d book one for Rational Anthem (who, coincidentally, shared the A-side of “Dangerous Intersections” with Iron Chic). When it all went wrong for me, he continued to stay in touch, checking up on me periodically, wishing me well, and even sending me a slew of records in the mail while I was in rehab. He’s continued being a source of support since I’ve been back in the real world too. He’s a great friend and a veritable fucking pillar of DIY punk rock. I’m honored to have my art featured on one of his label’s stickers.

AND REGARDING “punk rock today” and the claim made by the title of this piece… Allow me to present some audible evidence! Here are songs from the records Mike traded me that night back in February, as well as some recent stuff by other bands I’ve mentioned (and some by bands that spawned from their ashes).

“Babyboo” by Unfun

“Snow Angels” by Murmurs

“Wolf Dix Rd.” by Iron Chic

“I Wish I Could Be Happy” by Rational Anthem

“Not Cool” by The Slow Death

“Old Man Yells at Cloud” by Skinny Genes

“This Future Sucks” by The Brokedowns

“Hey Caroline” by Dear Landlord

“Look” by Science Police

“How the Day Runs Down” by Dead Mechanical

“Start Walking” by Off With Their Heads

“Hold Fast” by Banner Pilot

And even though they’re not technically “punk rock today“…

“‘Lone” by Jonesin’

“City of the Living Dead” by Down in the Dumps

Oh! AND… I think I like the black-and-white version better but since I can’t resist coloring anything and everything, here’s what the finished, physical drawing looks like (though the stickers will still be black-and-white).

"Punk Rock Today is Better Than It's Ever Been" (with color). 6/1/14. Ink. 4½x5¼".
“Punk Rock Today is Better Than It’s Ever Been” (with color). 6/1/14. Ink. 4½x5¼”.

Two kinds of rotten

Last January, still living in inpatient care, my friend Mary Beth got me a bunch of art supplies, including a set of calligraphy pens and inks. I got some use out of the inks  (until THOSE FASCISTS said, “You can’t give yourself tattoos in rehab, Sam – especially not sitting out by the pool“). The pens were a little more than I could handle though. I use the crow quill every now and then, but I only ever did one piece with all the different pen tips. I figure now’s a good time to throw it online, given the nature of my most recent painting.

"Rotten." 1/4/13. Calligraphy pens and black ink. 9x12".
“Rotten.” 1/3/13. Calligraphy pens and black ink. 9×12″.

It’s pretty much bullshit. It means nothing. The spoon in my hand: that’s what I was using as a tongue scraper. It’s all whatever; I was just playing around with a new toy.

“Rotten,” though, is a word I really enjoy and a feeling I’m not totally unfamiliar with. I ran a search for it on the draft of my second book and came up with a couple paragraphs about why I went to law school. I wrote this more than a year ago but just spent three hours editing it obsessively.


Kevin pitched the idea and I agreed that it couldn’t hurt to just take the admissions test. At no point did I ever expect to score in the 99th percentile. Suddenly, all these schools that I never thought would even consider my application [ T14 schools] were practically begging for it. And then they were actually accepting me (even with my “criminal addendum,” failed first year of community college, and total lack of extracurriculars or wholesome activities). And they were offering me scholarships even! It was strange and – honestly – kind of exciting. It felt good and I got caught up in it, for better or worse.

I’m not sure if I ever once paused and thought, “Is this what I really want to do?” When one of the T14s – Georgetown – offered me a six-figure scholarship, my entire rationale consisted of: “this is quite the opportunity… if I don’t take advantage of it, I might regret it later…”

That’s it – that’s why I went to law school: a fear of regret. Well, that’s not all of it (it’s just the only part I’ve ever acknowledged to another human being). I also went to feel validated. It was one thing to be a shitty punk kid that shot heroin on the weekends, who was told by everyone including his mom that he was gonna grow up to be homeless and eating out of a dumpster, and who people generally regarded as less of a human being and more of a disease – to be all of that and to get straight A’s at community college or USF was [whatever]. But to fit that description and go to one of the top law schools in the country on a scholarship – this was next level. It was kind of a huge “fuck you” to everyone that looked down on me or had said I was worthless. “Rotten,” on the other hand, I was okay with. I still felt rotten – and this only concentrated it. The whole thing felt sinister. It sort of was. Fear of regret played a part but spite was right up there with it. I’ve said my law degree’s got less utility than a sheet of toilet paper but – before I got clean especially – it did serve me in that one regard: it was a pretty decent fuck you.  “I may be an asshole and a fuck-up, my clothes are tattered, my teeth are gapped out, I feel like a mutant, and I smell like cigarettes, mildew, and bad decisions, but I ALSO have a law degree from Georgetown. Where do you keep your law degree from Georgetown?”

Granted, even back when I had a use for a “fuck you,” I never actually had that conversation with anyone. But if I felt like someone was condescending to me or even just thinking they had me figured out, I’d throw it out there and watch their perception of me change in an instant. Even now, since getting out of treatment, I don’t ever have a reason to “show up” anyone or to prove shit, but it can still be a fun card to play on the rare occasion when someone (possibly looking to write me off as a dirty kid who’s too lazy to get a “real” job) asks about work or school.  I can just smile. Which gets at something else: to me, it’s more of a punchline than it is my proudest achievement. Sure – it’s pretty good indication that I’ve got the capacity to do [something or other] or make [some kind of shit] happen, but so is my time running Traffic Street  – and that means infinitely more to me.  But, shit, normal people don’t see that and I don’t wanna lie; it feels good to also have the thing under my belt that they can understand. The thing that tells ’em: if I’m opting to play with colors and paint funny faces all day, it MIGHT not be ’cause I’m a lazy idiot – I just might have my reasons…


Had a long conversation with a friend tonight about the best records; it ended with me listening to Dear Landlord‘s catalog on repeat from sometime before midnight until… [it’s still going].

Here’s the last song they recorded but it better not be the last song they record.

It’s the only song of theirs that I don’t have on my iPod ’cause the download code that came with my LP doesn’t work and Adeline won’t respond to my emails. Somebody do me a solid and email me the mp3s for “The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore.”

Arrested with Dear Landlord (Song Stories #2)

Update (10/17/13, 2:31 AM): Originally written over the course of two days (and published in two parts), I spent the last two hours rewriting it and the whole thing is now here, in this entry.


Song: “Goodbye to Oakland” by Dear Landlord
Time: July 2010
Place: Brooklyn, NY


Between semesters at Georgetown Law, you took an internship. It wasn’t required but it wasn’t a question either; it’s just what was done. I was about to wrap my first year when I got called into the advisor’s office—“Where will you be interning this summer?”


“With Rational Anthem,” The way I said it probably sounded as much like a question as an answer. She looked confused.

I’m tempted to lie and say that I followed up with the bluntest, least-responsible sounding version of the truth, but I sort of spun it to sound like they were more than my friends’ punk band and that this was something that’d benefit me in my career as an entertainment or intellectual property lawyer. If I were smarter, I’d have actually done an internship that summer. I might have a totally different life today.


The following summer, I did take an internship. My dad’s dad is a lawyer and he took an interest in me when he heard I was going to law school (and an ever bigger interest when he found out it was Georgetown). He was the one that set this up for me. It was at a firm in Manhattan where my uncle or cousin (someone I didn’t know in any case) was a partner. (I don’t know my family). Following two consecutive summers of psychotic episodes and temper tantrums, it had already been decided that I’d no longer be touring with Rational Anthem. So I figured what the hell—I’d go be semi-responsible in New York for the summer.

Well, not quite “the summer.” Though that’s what was expected of me, I had a glut of releases coming out on Traffic Street in June and I understand how “priorities” work. And I wasn’t gonna stay through August ‘cause I wanted to make my way back to DC by way of a week on tour with New Creases, joining up when they came through New York at the end of July. Three months, one month—what’s the difference?

Midway in, Vacation came to town. I didn’t know them and I hadn’t gotten around to their demo but they were a new band and I figured they’d appreciate someone actually coming to see them. I called a mutual friend, got a phone number, and called to make plans to meet when I got out of work. Their show was at Tommy’s Tavern, but someone fucked up. Two promoters had booked shows that night and one of them had merged his show with another bill from down the street. There were fourteen bands slated to play. Did I mention that this was a Wednesday night?

Evan, Peyton, Jerry, and I sat in the parking lot all night and got to know each other while we waited for their chance to play. At 4 AM, they finally went on and the minute they finished, I helped them load out and hightailed it to my sister’s apartment in Bedstuy to get an hour’s sleep before I had to wake up for work.

I don’t nap so when I went to Lost + Found for the Sandworms show that night, I was still operating off virtually no sleep. It wrapped up around 1 AM and I got on the train. Maintenance or [who knows what] had me sitting in the car motionless for long enough to doze off.

“Hey. You. Wake up.

I opened my eyes. Two cops were standing over me.


“You can’t sleep on the train.”

I looked up at the sign; Bedford-Nostrand: only a few blocks from my sister’s.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m exhausted but this is actually my stop anyway.” I got up to leave.

“Hold on there. You were across two seats. It’s illegal to occupy more than one seat. Other people need to sit too.”

I looked around the train. It was just the three of us—not another person in sight. “You’re messing with me, right?” I smiled my best respectful, non-mocking smile.

“You think it’s okay to be a seathog?”

He was clearly fucking with me. Was I supposed to laugh at the joke? I apologized again, tried to explain: up early for work, visiting with outta-town friends, overtired, standstill train delays. No dice. He was having too much fun to let it end. Gleefully redundant, he continued his lecture on the harms of being a “seathog.” They let off the train, but not out of the station. I asked, directly, if I could go home, he asked if I had any warrants and I told him that I didn’t. “Are you sure?” “Yes, absolutely. No warrants.” “Okay, we’ll run your ID and if that’s true, you can go.” I handed it over, set my bag down, and held myself upright against a support column, waiting for my cue to exit. I’d have to be back at the firm in a few hours; I just wanted to sleep.

“What’s this here?” he asked. “Two years outstanding…”

I rolled my eyes smiling, pretending to think he was as funny as he did. “Come on. Don’t mess with me.”

Sarcasm left his face and he assured me it was no joke. The lightbulb went off in my head.


I absolutely had a fucking warrant. One that I had legitimately fucking forgot about.

“Put your hands behind your back” and the cuffs came out. I was going to fucking jail. And that wasn’t all.  It’d only be a matter of time before…

“What’s in the backpack?”

“Clothes. Books,” I told them. The first thing they pulled out was a brown paper bag. They asked what it was before they unfurled the top. I put on my confused/trying-to-remember face: “I don’t know…” Inside, they found syringes, cookers, cottons—all the usual paraphernalia. “Recognize it now?”


“How’d it get in your bag then?”

“I don’t know. I had it stashed in a closet in the bar so I wouldn’t have to carry it around earlier.” (Which was true; I do that).

“You’re saying someone put this in your bag?”

“No. I’m just saying I’ve never seen it before.”

The search went on. I was beyond fucked. “What are these?”

“Stickers,” I told them, “For my record label.” Who cares? Let’s just get this over with.

The more obnoxious cop’s attitude suddenly changed just a little bit. He cared. He was curious; he thought it was cool. “You know who my favorite Florida band is?” he asked. [I lived in DC but still carried a Florida ID]. Ugh… I can only imagine. Are Nickelback from Florida? Puddle of Mudd? Fuel?  I had no idea. What kind of awful shit does a cop beat his kids to?

“I don’t know – who?”

Kids Like Us.”

Ho-ly shit. I laughed. What are the odds?

It’s 2010 and I have no idea who’s in Kids Like Us or if they’re even a band anymore but (back in 2003) their guitarist would come down to hang out in Sarasota pretty often. We were friends insofar as you’re friends with anyone that you hang out with a few times and get along with well enough. We weren’t close but [you get it]. Could this work to my advantage? I lied and said that the whole band were great friends of mine and started talking out my ass about our friendship. Now, he didn’t set me free at this point but his search of my bag got more perfunctory and then ended abruptly, before he had so much as glanced at half the stuff in there. I might be okay…


At the station, he asked if I wanted my property checked into inventory or picked up by someone. I’d need my sister’s number, and I didn’t know it. “Can you get it from my phone?”

Flipping through contacts, he stopped: “You’ve got Andrew W.K.’s phone number?”

I smiled and shrugged in that I’m the coolest motherfucker on the planet kinda way.

Granted, that number for Andrew W.K.: it was public information, available to anyone with an internet connection. It was only in my phone ’cause Hembrough put it there. I’m not cool and I’m not a big deal. I run my record label out of the same little apartment that I live in and I don’t know anybody.

But this cop didn’t need to know that.

My sister came for the backpack and its undiscovered contents remained undiscovered.

And all was right with the world.


From my cell, I saw that my brown paper bag of NEEDLES ETC hadn’t left the station with my backpack. “What am I looking at?” I asked. “For the warrant,” he said, “time served probably.” “How about the other stuff?” He threw the bag in the trash. “What other stuff?”

! ! ! ]


It was time to get transferred. Central Booking for Brooklyn. Before they handed me over, my “arresting officers” had some words of wisdom: “That shit will ruin your life. Stop before it’s too late.” I nodded with a solemn yeah, I’ll think about it face.

(I wasn’t gonna think about it).


Back at the station before my backpack left, I had asked for a book out of it: a worn-to-shit copy of Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. When I got passed along to Booking, I asked if I could hold on to it. “They’ll take it when they find it, but sure.” Shockingly, I made it through processing with the book stuffed down the back of my pants. Stuffed into a cell with three times as many people as it was probably meant to hold, I had no choice but to stand still. There were benches along the wall, but already packed with bodies. Those of us that stood couldn’t even move around: it was packed like a Tokyo subway car. And, if there had been room to sit on the floor, it still wouldn’t have been a great option. The toilet – still filled to the brim with urine – had spilled its contents across half of the cell.

It’s 6 AM and I’m tired, hungry, and stuck shoulder-to-shoulder in a literal piss pen. But I had my fucking book. I took it out and stood, just reading for hours, the pages inches from my face because I didn’t have room to hold it in front of me. It was shitty but I was glad to have it. When I finished the last page, I paused … and then I started again.

What the fuck else was I gonna do?

I just had to be patient. I’d be outta here in no time. Right?

About twelve more hours in, we were chained-ganged up and transferred to a bigger room. There was enough space to sit against a wall without sitting in pee. (Well – without sitting in a puddle of it anyway). I sat, read my book and ate shitty apples. They were warm and mealy but they beat the fuck out of my other options. I was glad to have ‘em.

From here, they’d call a name—if it was yours, you’d go before a judge who’d determine whether you were released or sent to Riker’s Island to wait for your next hearing. But this was a Monday through Friday operation and today was Friday. (The judge didn’t see anyone over the weekend). Hearings went ’til midnight and if your name didn’t come up before then, you got a trip to Riker’s for the weekend by default. Around 8, nearly all my old pals from the piss pen had been called up to see the judge and a new group of twenty or thirty had come in to replace them. By 10, nearly all those guys had been called away and the room had been filled again. What the fuck is going on? Why haven’t they called my fucking name?

I didn’t want to go to Riker’s Island for the weekend. That didn’t sound like fun.

11:45 PM: my window of opportunity for release was down to fifteen minutes. Basically, I was fucked. But then I heard my name. It was glorious. The door was unlocked and I could hardly contain or my excitement. Led into the courtroom though, I found myself seated in line behind six or seven others. Still, I had to be in the clear…

I looked to the guard beside me: “Everyone that’s already in here will get to see the judge tonight, right?”

“Not necessarily.”

I will kill everyone.


As it turned out, I didn’t have to kill everyone. The judge called my name and I stood up. She asked a few questions, read some bullshit off a paper, and ruled on my case. The gist: “Don’t catch any new charges in New York for six months and you’re good. No additional penalties or fines.”

Out on the empty street, I actually jumped in the air, cried out in joy, and ran all the way to the train station. (I probably fucking skipped). I don’t know if I’d ever been happier in all of my life. Just to be out of there – it was amazing. I’d never felt better.


While in New York, I was floating so as to not wear out my welcome anyplace. My pre-arrest plan for the day was to relocate – from my sister’s apartment in Bedstuy to Chadd, Grath, and Toni’s in Elmhurst. The train I got on wasn’t taking me to either though – because my Friday plan had also included seeing my favorite band from back home; Dead Mechanical were in town and playing at Tommy’s Tavern (where my whole stupid sleep-deprived adventure had began two days prior)! I knew I had probably missed the show but so long as everyone was still kicking around, that was good enough for me. It took everything I had to not fall asleep on that train as I rode back out to Greenpoint but the adrenaline and serotonin pulled me through. I thought about the last thing I had done before I got arrested: my goodbyes outside the Sandworms show. When I walked up to Tommy’s that night, I found the exact same group standing out front (along with Matt, Dan, and Lucas). I couldn’t have been happier to see everyone.

” Who can guess what I’ve been up to since we parted last night?”

I told my tale and we laughed and joked and it was fun. And even though I missed their set, it was cool just to see Dead Mechanical in a different city [outside their natural environment!]

Around 2AM, everyone packed up and I headed for Bedstuy to collect my things. …And totally fell asleep on the train…

I woke up scared as shit, shaking and knocking myself into consciousness. When I got into my sister’s she was mad and mean as shit about having been called down to the station in the middle of the night.

“Sorry! Gotta go!”

I grabbed my stuff and turned around for Elmhurst. …And totally fell asleep on the train.

Live to fight another day…

[the end].


Obviously, there’s one lyric in particular that’s affixed “Goodbye” to this memory with concrete, but how am I gonna throw that up here without “Park Bench” when the two are so intertwined on the album (and “Park Bench” is so strikingly appropriate/relevant for a story like this)? It’d be criminal!

Start the video at 0:22.

you were swaying on your feet, trying to light a smoke
waiting on a bus, you got nowhere to go
you were sleeping in the park in a dirty sweatpants suit
the cops woke you up, now you gotta move

walking around wearing a motorcycle helmet
up and down the same streets you walked yesterday
wild irish rose can make a mean world almost decent
it’s an illusion handcuffs quickly take away
there ain’t enough room in this city for a guy who
wants to drink himself to sleep under the stars
there will always be some shit bag to remind you
right where you are, right where you are.

I got two dollars and fifty-one cents
eighteen matches, a lighter, two pens
and a beat up copy of Cannery Row
five hundred miles left to go

everywhere I go I’m looking down
watching my old tennis shoes as they’re wearing out
walking off these homesick blues
I may be drunk and lost but I’m not confused and
I know where this train is slowly going
north through K-Falls then on to Portland
I know I’m fucked up, it’s stupid hoping
you’ll answer phone calls, goodbye to Oakland



Other entries (more) related to Dear Landlord:

I’m a Fucking Artist, Guys

"I'm a Fucking Artist, Guys." 12/14/12. Pen. 2x3".
“I’m a Fucking Artist, Guys.” 12/14/12. Pen. 2×3″.

I was sitting in someone’s coin-out [rehab graduation ceremony] and feeling a little upset over a girl [shockingly out of character, I know] and trying to do something productive. I had zero ideas though. I mean, once you’ve made ten or eleven pieces, what is there really left to do as an artist?  “What do other assholes draw?” I thought.

Campbell’s soup cans! Because it’s like… really clever, right?? Really, I just figured it was one of the few things I stood a chance at drawing somewhat recognizably.

When I was done, I wasn’t upset anymore – which means that this cartoon has basically the same story as HALF OF THE OTHER stuff I’ve made.

Which is cool…


Just recently, I realized that I stole this caption from Dear Landlord. Right before Dream Homes came out, Zack posted something online about the tracklisting being changed. The song “Bong Hits” was instead going to be titled “Rosa” because – as he put it – “We’re fucking artists, you guys.”

But the song – if any – that I might have thought I was ripping off is by Barrakuda McMurder.  It’s off Traffic Street’s 32nd release and has what’s probably my favorite title ever. Stream “Oh My God, You Guys, My Job Is So Annoying And My Life Is Seriously So Hard (You Guys)”  on Bandcamp.

Shoot me an email if you wanna buy this drawing for $2,000 (or a 4×4″ print for $50).

warhol parody campbell's soup

Smoke All the Cigarettes | We Have Nothing Better to Do | Pop Punk Vacation

Listen while you read! (The embed for their new album won’t work, so here’s a stream of their 2011 EP, “Bread Line” – one of the last releases on Traffic Street).

It’s almost midnight, which means that I’m just barely living up to my “new content every day” promise. I know, I know. You’re all very upset. I’ll make it up to you somehow… just not tonight!

You see, I’ve been spending the day, readying myself to hit the road. Tomorrow I’m embarking on a (very) short tour with Rational Anthem. We’re going up to Dave Strait Fest in Minneapolis and stopping for a few other shows on the route up and back. (By the way – interesting trivia fact… did you know that (not counting bands that Davey Tiltwheel is in) Rational Anthem are the only band playing that aren’t from the Midwest?) That’s kind of cool if you ask me.

But anyway, a ton of my favorite bands are playing and I’m really excited about it. Before I went to rehab (the first time) I was going to at least forty shows a year (many of which I was the one responsible for booking). Shit, I did forty shows just in the summer 2008, ’09, and ’10. Since I went to rehab though, Rational Anthem (and Weak Nights) are the only bands I’ve seen. In almost two years. That shit’s insane. Plus, Rational Anthem’s 2009 tour was kind of the epitome of my bad behavior. Well, my bad behavior in a social context anyway. I was not a good friend to them. After that tour, my relationships with Chris and Noelle became a little strained, so it’s kind of a big deal for me to be hitting the road with them again. Even if it is just for a week. It means a lot to me. Like… it makes me really happy. Not just that I get to go, but that they trust me to go. That they actually want me to go. (They invited me! They’re stoked on it! (That’s really, really awesome)).

I interviewed them for Razorcake recently, so you’ll be able to read a lot more about our zany adventures together once that comes out. For now, I’m just gonna share some of the stuff that I got to design for the sixty-or-so day tour that they got home from about a week ago.

"I Just Wanna Listen to Rational Anthem and Smoke All the Cigarettes." 5/3/13. T-shirt.
“I Just Wanna Listen to Rational Anthem and Smoke All the Cigarettes.” 5/3/13. T-shirt.

This originally said Off With Their Heads instead of Rational Anthem but I decided to change it up ’cause Rational needed a shirt and OWTH didn’t. I listen to both bands when I’m feeling well, but when I’m upset, I turn to OWTH when I wanna dwell in it and Rational when I wanna pull myself out. I didn’t get one of these shirts before they left for their long tour so I’m pretty stoked to finally get one tomorrow.


"We Have Nothing Better to Do." 5/3/13. T-shirt.
“We Have Nothing Better to Do.” 5/3/13. T-shirt.

Screen-printing is not the best medium for images with small or fine details. It took me fucking forever to find a balance in manipulating this image so that the faces were somewhat visible, but didn’t have any lines or dots that’d be too small to come out in a screen. The logo on the first few Rational records and shirts was mine, but this one I stole (I think it’s one of Corey’s). (When Corey’s not playing in The Manix and Banner Pilot, he does some pretty outstanding artwork and was definitely an inspiration to / influence on me). Anyway, this shirt was Chris’s idea (or at least he’s the one that brought it to me). Originally, it was going to say “Pop Punk Vacation” at the bottom, which I thought was kind of boring. We thought this was way, way funnier. Not only is it a great statement about playing in a band generally, but what the fuck are they doing posing on top of a van for a photograph? I mean, don’t these fucking kids have jobs? Honestly…


"Pop Punk Vacation." 5/2/13. Poster. 9x14"
“Pop Punk Vacation.” 5/2/13. Poster. 9×14″

Originally, this was the only thing I was designing for Rational Anthem’s summer tour, but – as it’d turn out – I got to do pretty much everything. (That first shirt design was also printed up on red and black koozies). This one definitely took the longest though. The main artwork – like the name of the tour – is a National Lampoon parody. I looked up the posters to the different Vacation movies and thought it’d be fun to do a re-imagining of the “European Vacation” poster, on which the Griswold family are all clutching the legs of their leader, Clark, as he stand proudly with his fist in the air, clutching a [I forget what he was clutching]. The tagline is also a parody of the tagline from the poster. Ours says, “For over three dozen years, punk rock has survived many terrible posers. Now for the real test… Rational Anthem are coming out of their mall!” (That’s definitely my favorite part). Anyway, I drew the kids with colored pencils. Don’t ask me why I gave them green skin – I have no reason. The van in the background is from the first piece I ever sold, “Clarity,” and the rest is from a piece I made after I left rehab, called “Heather Pierce.” Neither is up on this site with a real write-up yet, but you can see them (and get a little background info on each) elsewhere. “Clarity” is online here, in my Facebook album of inpatient artwork, and “Heather Pierce” is up here, on my Storenvy site.

Here are the dates for our little mini-tour. If you’re coming out, I’ll see you soon!

  • Tue. 8/13 – Leavin’ late and just hanging with Stewart in Atlanta
  • Wed. 8/14 – St. Louis w/ [ask Noelle]
  • Thu. 8/15 – Dave Strait Fest in Minneapolis!
  • Fri. 8/16 – Dave Strait Fest in Minneapolis!
  • Sat. 8/17 – Dave Strait Fest in Minneapolis! (this is the day Rational are actually playing)
  • Sun. 8/18 – Des Moines, IA w/ The Copyrights, Lipstick Homicide, Tight Bros, and more
  • Mon. 8/19 – Carbondale, IL w/ [ask Noelle]
  • Tue. 8/20 – [ask Noelle]

Regarding the shows on Sunday and Monday though – Zack’s hitching a ride with us back down to FL from MPLS and – I think Dear Landlord might be playing one (or both) of them. Once I’m actually with everyone, I’ll know more solid details on the shows (like venues/addresses) and I’ll throw them up online here when I do.

I Wish I Could Get Everyone to Stop Waiting

"I Wish I Could Get Everyone to Stop Waiting." 6/7/13. Tempera and pencil on paper, cut up and rearranged. 12x12".

“I Wish I Could Get Everyone to Stop Waiting.” June 7th, 2013. Tempera and pencil on paper, cut up and rearranged. 12×12”.

This was the last piece I made in my Wednesday night “Art of Recovery” group, before moving to Jacksonville.

The text says, “I wish I could get everyone to stop waiting. They’d rather die than try something new and risk being happy.” It’s about the people in my life caught in patterns of addiction, codependency/enabling, and other kinds of mental illness. Or, rather, it’s about my own frustration in not being able to help/change/save them. It’s about the way we have a tendency to think things like, “Once [this] happens, then I can do [that], and THEN I’ll be happy.”

I know that if I can’t be happy now, regardless of my current situation, there’s nothing that could happen that will make me happy. Happiness comes from within and has nothing to do with external factors outside of my own control. In that sense, this piece is very much an echo of the sentiment (as I’ve interpreted it anyway) in the opening song on one of my favorite records. The chorus is: “What does your dream home look like? It’ll take you years to even tell, and I’ll be sleeping well, here in hell.”

This statement isn’t from June. I just wrote it. So I still know these things, it’s just that I’m having trouble applying them. I’m gonna give it my best shot today.

Stand Up and Say No

It wasn’t gradual and it wasn’t an accident. I was eighteen years old and I remember saying to a friend, “Where can we get heroin and where can we get needles?” I was angry and I was miserable. The world was not fair and it wasn’t fun. Everything that everyone had told me was important was not. Shooting heroin seemed like a pretty good way to prove either that nothing mattered or – at the very least – that everything everyone else believed to be true was actually bullshit.

Six years later I was even angrier and even more miserable. I got reckless with heroin. I didn’t care anymore about whether or not I developed a physical dependence. I started shooting up every day. This would really prove a point, right? Eh, probably not. But it didn’t matter anymore. I didn’t care. It made me hurt less. That was enough.

When I started a record label in 2008, I named it “Traffic Street,” after the last song on “The Cheap Wine of Youth,” the second EP by Rivethead. It’s been my favorite record for a long time and it means even more to me today than it did back then.

The songs on that record describe life more accurately and poetically than anything I’ve ever read. There are the feelings of desperation and exhaustion, but there are also all the little moments that make life worth living. And there’s hope. When I’m feeling awful, I listen to “The Cheap Wine of Youth.” When everything’s going my way, I listen to “The Cheap Wine of Youth.” I’ve been asked for advice in the past and found myself quoting these lyrics. They come into my head every day, whether or not I’ve listened to it. It’s the most important piece of art I’ve ever been exposed to and its influenced the way that I’ve lived my life and the way that I live it today.

From “48 Doublestack”: I know it’s nothing short of terrible – the way this place seems sometimes. Still, it’s not impossible to laugh at the bullshit, drink up with the worst. Kid, I know it’s hard but try not to let the world make you the sucker all the time. These things that we’ve done, somewhat desperate and drunk, built the basis for this restless way that we live. We’ve rejected what you’ve got to show for the trade-off.

From “Traffic Street”: And now today I think I found a way to make myself go outside and laugh in the faces of the winning team, while they chase boring dreams and still live paycheck to paycheck. Do what you really wanna do. Don’t fucking “yes, sir” through your whole life like a fool, kid. I hope you don’t really need the lies. Don’t fucking waste your time with the world always dragging you down.

I don’t shoot heroin anymore and I’m not miserable anymore. People tell me I should take the bar exam and be a lawyer. I don’t want to be a lawyer. A lot of people think that’s crazy and think that they know better than I do how I ought to be living. I don’t need to shoot heroin anymore to show them just how little their ideas and opinions mean to me. Now, I’ve got a new way to laugh in the faces of the winning team. I wipe my ass with my law degree and I paint pictures of weird kids with bad teeth. Money is cool, but it’s not that cool. I’m not interested in the trade-off. I like my life the way that it is and I’m way happier living this dream than I would be chasing that other kind.

When life seems tough, I draw inspiration and encouragement from these lyrics (and a lot of others in the Rivethead / Dear Landlord catalog).  If it sounds silly to say stuff like this about a pop punk record… I don’t care. This is the kind of stuff that I think is important.

“Stand Up and Say No.”July 31st, 2013. Acrylics and ink. 16×20″ stretched canvas.

Zack (who wrote the music (and sang) in Rivethead) has become one of my closest friends over the last few years.  Brad (who wrote the lyrics (and played drums) in Rivethead), on the other hand, I don’t really know outside of a couple shows and a couple fests. But he knows how much I like that band. One day last year, my counselor gave me a package that had come in the mail for me. It had Brad’s name on the return address. I opened it up to find a letter and a test pressing of “The Cheap Wine of Youth.” I’m pretty sure there are only four of these in the world. He could have easily sold it on eBay for … shit … at least a couple hundred bucks I’d guess. Probably more. But he sent it to me, as a surprise, while I was in rehab. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s pretty much the coolest thing anyone could have sent me. It’s on the same level as if Aaron Cometbus had sent me the original handwritten Double Duce. Or if Zack had given me the last Rivethead t-shirt and City Sound Number Five poster (which he did (because he’s awesome) (and I love him for it)).

But – yeah – this painting is my “thank you” to Brad ‘cause getting that record, from him, on that day, was… something for which I am incredibly grateful. I don’t really have the words to describe it.

The images are allusions to the lyrics of “48 Double Stack” and “Traffic Street.” If you don’t understand the caption, go pick up a copy of the record and start from the beginning.

Here it is on my wall. It’s the one record I’ve ever framed.

And here – for your listening pleasure – (by the flip of a coin) is “48 Doublestack.”

The painting featured in this entry is available as a 12×16″ print/poster. It comes signed, numbered (of 10), and framed.