Feeling as though we’d discovered some kind of calling, Jack and I simply had to get the rest of the band on our wavelength. It was obvious, within a couple days, that nobody cared to read the novellaic Facebook message I had written in the inspired afterglow of that April night on the local liberal arts promenade, and that nobody would. Slapdashing a backup plan, we invited the freshest face in our lot, Lupin, to Jack’s suburban headquarters for an update on the scale and scope of our ambition.
The uniforms, the loosely-defined “live Girl Talk” concept,1 the hypothetical audience awaiting: it all made sense to Lupin, and we could tell it moved him as he shifted excitably in the folds of the backroom beanbag, realizing that “we need to get fucking tight, though.” Even if it was clear to all three of us that the acoustic “SexyBack” we had jammed just minutes prior wouldn’t suffice, we probably had no clue that something like that was in fact not a shredded percent of what we’d need to accomplish our artistic goals. But we did know something like this would take a lot of work; we did know we’d need a team capable of getting fucking tight.
Lupin wasn’t quite the serious artiste he seemed at first brush, though. Inklings of doubt came early, one of the more memorable being a Saturday morning practice at Dilan’s after he had spent the night hosting Lupin. The two had invited over a couple of girls, Bonnie and Laura, the former of whom was prolific Dilan’s main squeeze at the time, the latter being a prospective hookup for Lupin. The night ended for them sans girls and sprawled across Dilan’s endless leather sofa, where we were surprised to find them together the next morning, disheveled and unconscious ten minutes past our 11am ETA.
Lupin awoke demanding a shower, which Dilan — foregoing one himself — granted the singer with a wave and a mumble toward the practice room bath next door. Once Lupin had shuffled out of earshot, Dilan took to telling Jack, Pete and me all about the night prior, during which Lupin evidently made several timid non-advances in Laura’s general direction, before quitting the plot entirely. From there, our stifled hero retired to the practice room, where he let loose on Dilan’s drumkit. After prattle-shouting awkwardly over the rhythmic din for a bit, the girls split, and the two boys, reunited, ended the night where we had found them come morning.
“Yo,” Dilan observed, some 40 minutes later. “Is he even showering yet?”
Silently, our ears attuned to the distant thrum of what we collectively hoped was a shower nearing conclusion. Of course, five minutes later the distinct sound of water coursing between open drains flooded the room, as did the distinct sensation of facial nerves meeting open palms.
Another thick swab of time dampened and waned before the shower ceased, during which Dilan probably shared more details of the night prior. What he couldn’t tell us, though, was something none of us knew: Lupin was in love with Bonnie. So in love, in fact, that part of the reason he was excited to meet us in the first place was to distract himself; he had been crushing on her for months, and two of his then-closest friends had each gotten with her shortly after he confided in them his feelings for her. That’s why Lupin seemed so sullen at the TV on the Radio concert where we met him — the boy Green, who introduced us, was one of the two turncoats — and that’s why Lupin threw himself into our band with such ostensible enthusiasm. Shortly thereafter, though, like a plot twist in a lazily scripted teen flick, our drummer Dilan met Bonnie and wound up bedding her, virginity and all. It was certainly enough to explain why Lupin had been so tempestuous the night before.
It wouldn’t have sufficed to explain, however, Lupin’s two-hour retreat into the adjoining room. We were deep into the afternoon by this point, hungry and not yet begun the practice we were planning on having finished soon; sometime around thirty minutes beyond his shower’s laggard post-mortem, I lost my nerve. Storming through the practice room and around the rock debris strewn floorwise, I reached the door and flung it open to reveal a fully clothed teenage child, smiling blandly at himself in the mirror.
“Lupin,” I exasperated. “What are you doing?”
Blue eyes unblinking, he turned on his heel, flash-photography smile intact, and chirped cheerily: “Waitin’ for my hair to dry!”
Marie, then still in the band, was not coming that day, and though we were in those heady, overlapping months of both Myspace emo-narcissism and the dawn of Facebook tagging, there was nary a camera (or photographer) in sight. He just wanted to make sure his hair air-dried right (which, as it was about mine length and density, I knew would take at least an hour) before showing himself to even just a few guys in the band — who, of course, were waiting on him to practice in the next room.
These were perhaps simply the kinds of inconveniences I’d earned myself in recruiting a preternaturally talented 15-year-old to my band. But then again, Pete and I both knew we were nothing like Lupin when we were three years younger, and the middle children Jack and Dilan were only a year or so removed and just as dumbfounded — but pretty much everyone’s immature at that age. It just speaks in different ways.2
Still, I wasn’t always the most understanding guy, and Lupin — though I felt sure he lacked a mean bone in his body — gifted me plenty of challenges. About a week later, we had a full-band practice that went well enough, though Lupin’s inability to get Marie to properly harmonize with him foreshadowed trouble. We finished around 8pm, and Dilan, eager as ever to go veg or find some pretty face for company, rose quickly from behind his toms and cymbals. Marie had her car, and Jack, Pete and I had mine, but Lupin seemed to have neglected to tell his parents when to pick him up, stationed as they were in some faraway burb none of us had ever heard of before.
“I guess I’ll just chill here for a while,” he said, returning phone to pocket, his father having not picked up. Dilan looked confused, muttering a “What?”-like syllable. Perhaps he feared a reprise of the strange mood-kill Lupin had executed the last time he was around while Dilan had girls in mind.
I remember laughing on the way out, wondering what they’d get into this time. About an hour or so later, still on the road home after having deposited Jack at his Radnor digs, I found out – the screen of my old cellular brick illumined, bearing Lupin’s name.
“Yo!” he shouted, as lively as he was likely to get in those days. “Me and Dilan have such a legit idea.”
Cautious curiosity. “Yeah man? What’s that?”
We’d been talking about expanding, beyond the walls of Facebook and into the streets, our promotional efforts for the upcoming show at Milkboy. Lupin’s pitch was to flier the Mainline exhaustively, something we’d been planning to do for some time – I was with him so far.
“And on the flier,” he said, priming me for the big reveal, “beneath our band name, there’ll be a picture of your face, of Dilan’s face, of my face, and of Jack’s face – Pete’s too, if there’s room3 — and we’ll all be looking sick.4 And beneath that, it’ll say, If you want to get with us, put your name and number here. And there’ll be a bunch of lines for people to write themselves in.”
The idea took a moment to coagulate along the inside of my skull, then burst with an aneurysmic pop; somewhere microscopic, a marble memorial honoring some couple hundred braincells appeared. Head aching anew, I tried to test my blurring senses: there was not a hint of irony in his voice, nothing to counterweight the notional absurdity of attempting to schedule carnal appointments with girls via the conduit of a virtually nonexistent band. I went with my instinct.
“No. Absolutely not,” I scolded. “First of all, that would never work: if I saw a flier like that, the most I would do is flip open my phone and jot down the number of the funniest person I could find.5) The least I’d do is make a mental note to hate that band forever. Cut it out — I don’t wanna have to look for another singer, man.”
Fortified by his new ally Dilan, Lupin staged a protest – but I was steadfast, and, though not without bitterness, this particular issue was soon quashed. Still more were in gestation, however: I would later learn, after getting to know a few people in Lupin’s social circle of the day, that he had begun to annoy them all by always bragging about his band (worrying me that people would come to hate us by name before even hearing a note), and that he had more or less co-opted the unusual spin on contemporary slang that Jack and I had formed and curated in just a couple months of knowing each other (oblivious to the fact that, as Jack and I watched grimly from afar, his fanatical adherence to the lexicon led to inadvertent parody thereof). In any case, it was funny to soon hear that all his friends were wondering why the hell Lupin suddenly kept saying words like “sick” and “legit” with such strange inflections every other sentence.
Something else they noticed was Lupin’s sudden boost in confidence – something we detected after just a couple of practices, and in which Jack and I exulted. We doted like proud parents when he followed our advice to extend a “fuck you” to various jerks and jokers who we heard, via anecdote, had treated him disrespectfully (Green in particular), and we grinned doubly when we could see how happily liberated he seemed as a consequence. We didn’t know about the anxiety he must have felt for Bonnie and Dilan’s recent collaborations, but in any event, the doldrums that shadowed his every step when we met him seemed to have fallen from his sides. It felt like we had helped perceptibly improve his daily mood, and we became not unconsciously aware of the potential to, in some way or another, provide people some joyful fulfillment through the means of our unreasonable take on life and music — a vague, powerful feeling.
Lupin’s surplus confidence frequently refracted back against those musical ambitions of ours, however, often jeopardizing the entire undertaking. One day we permitted him to come to practice a couple hours late due to a day party and, no doubt in attempt to impress the girls he met there, he later called back asking if we could instead move our practice to said party, trading drums and amplification in Dilan’s garage for acoustic guitars and comfy flotation in his hostess’ Moonbounce.
Worst of all, though, was that announcement of his during the early days of June, now less than a month away from our live debut and with precious little rehearsal to our name. Lupin’s family had just finished planning their yearly trip to the beach, which this year fell precisely the entire week before the show. Jack, Pete and I were mortified; Dilan and Dylan, simply curious as to how we would be able to learn the material now.
Desperately, we reminded Lupin that he had confirmed his commitment to this gig date long ago, and that we simply would not be ready if he – the lead voice and guitar of our act – were to spend that crucial last week lazing about the shriveled shores of the south’s hottest AARP compost heap. We implored him to implore his parents for a rescheduling, but he accepted their plans as intransigent without posing to them a single question. Delusional with anxiety, we even tried to convince him to convince his parents to let him stay with us that week while they went seaside with their daughter and whoever else, appealing to Lupin’s simple desires with promises of parties, rock shows, lavish meals, and some seriously committed wingman assistance in the dating department — it’d be like camp! — but Lupin proved intransigent himself. He liked Florida, and wanted to go. There was no alternative.
Worse yet, this miserable revelation came shortly after we had decided to minimize the role of Dylan6 in the band.7 He was a great sport about it, happy to use his newfound free time to take up a residency at the Jersey shore, content with our promise to invite him back for a day or two closer to the show for rehearsals of our version of “What Is Love?” (as it was based around his prettily plucked interpretation of its chords and melody). But it presented the sobering realization that we, as a band, lacked a keyboard (which Pete was to play, as soon as we could find one), a female vocalist (since the Marie incident), a rapper – Lupin, uncomfortable with mimicking the likes of Ludacris and MIMS, often reminded us that we needed one – and soon, for a time, Lupin himself. We also had barely rehearsed just one and a half pieces – “medleys,” in our parlance – and didn’t know what we were going to arrange for the rest of our set. What we did have was a looming debut, now just a few weeks away, and a Facebook event, which was promising a mindblowing performance to the 150+ people having already Confirmed their plans to attend (hundreds more had penciled themselves in as Maybes). In order to push through, I’d have to disconnect from the realm of reason entirely.
- A concept that would eventually change drastically, I feel ever obliged to note. [↩]
- One thing I had in common with Lupin, for instance, was a pretty misguided faith in my ‘exceptional’ maturity. [↩]
- A slight not on Pete’s face, to be sure, but rather his involvement in the band. [↩]
- Hot without fever. [↩]
- I wasn’t above a little mischief then, and maybe I’m still not: the idea of, say, my high school security guard getting a call from some dumb teenager re: rock-related makeout sessions would be tough to resist. If this weren’t my own band being discussed. (I did not yet possess my high school security guard’s phone number then, but would come to have it a couple cellphones, summers, and one high school graduation later. We’ll get there. [↩]
- Our original lead guitarist, not to be confused with our homophonic but more traditionally spelled drummer. [↩]
- Though he was a great fit at first, Dylan wound up a victim of circumstance when Lupin entered the picture. Dylan was the superior ax man, but Lupin could play all of our material with perfect fluency, and his more indie rock pronunciations fit our sound better than Dylan’s idiomatic fondness for folk and funk. Also, it was much harder to get three guitars in sync than two, and the additional amp’s biggest contribution to our sound was its intermittent blasts of feedback hell-noise. [↩]