Friday, January 24, 2014

Only a Mountain

The first time I was introduced to Jeff Ryan, one of the many bands he was associated with was Pleasant Grove. I had never seen them live, but I remember favorable notices from my old housemate, Jason. I've kept running into Jeff over the years and have interviewed him a couple of times. Last week, I traded e-mails with him and his bandmate in Pleasant Grove, Marcus. This week, our correspondence came together in an  interview. I couldn't help but chuckle about the pretty different answers at the questions.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

All You Need is Drums to Start a Dance Party

I'm four weeks away from turning 35. I don't feel 35, but I certainly don't think like a 15-year-old or a 25-year-old. Friends of mine have done the "letter to your younger self" (most recently this amusing and heavy video clip) and I think it's appropriate to do one now.

Dear Eric (aged 14-going-on-15),
The following is all true, but don't start planning on or finding ways to fight these off. You'll find with the assistance of time, none of these are outright bad.

As much as you love watching MTV for its music videos, there will come a day when music videos are hard to find on the channel. They will be replaced by movies and less-interesting versions of The Real World and Road Rules. That said, you will still watch music videos elsewhere, and they will continue to introduce you to music that you will love.

Don't let that guy in your Spanish class get you down for wearing a Rush shirt. One day you will get to take pictures of the band and be seen in their concert film.

You know how you love going to Dallas for Thanksgiving and Christmas? You will get to live there for many years, being close to your relatives and not too far away from your family. And you'll often see that cool building in downtown with the green lights.

Learning to play barre chords on a Spanish guitar will be painful. The neck will be too big for your hands, but you will come around to playing a guitar from a very unlikely source.

Cotillion was an awkward and embarrassing experience. Yet one day will enjoy the hell out of dancing with a woman.

Watching your mother type at a blazing speed will come in handy.

Best Buy is an awesome place to get CDs for cheap. You will work at one in a few years and see the highest highs of CD sales. Only a few years later, you will see a pretty large decline of CD stock in stores. A handful of years after that, there will only be a couple of small rows devoted to them, hoping to add onto your bill of buying much more expensive stuff.

The idea of reading for pleasure might be impossible to fathom. Having to understand the plot, all the characters, and the themes in books with characters you don't care about is a pretty stupid way of approaching reading. One day, you will find yourself always reading a book, even if it's just a couple of pages at night before bed.

As disgusting as sex might sound now, you'll gain a lot more perspective on it beyond what seventh grade health class will tell you.

Drinking two cans of beer will not make you sick. Though that is clearly stated in your health class book, you won't realize this until many years later.

Along the lines of beer, the kind of beer your mother likes might smell awful right now. Funny enough, you will find yourself drinking it with your mother and enjoying it.

Friends have come and gone from your life. This will continue to happen for all sorts of reasons. Reasons you don't have much control over. Some will come back into your life; others you will never hear from again. Shitty, yes. But it's a reminder to enjoy and appreciate the time you have with these people. They will teach you all kinds of lessons about life and who you are.

Refuse to believe what your parents and relatives say about finding the right one. Eating your words about the topic is not as bad as you think.

Keep playing music, no matter how much your sister criticizes your playing.

Keep looking for music beyond what's easily handed to you via MTV and the radio.

Practicing the trumpet every single day might not be the greatest activity, but practicing the drums will remain awesome.

Rest assured, you will not have to drive that big blue 1977 Pontiac Catalina for the rest of your life.

You hear those traffic reports on KTRH and see those billboards for KVIL whenever you visit family in Dallas? Those will come in handy someday after you graduate college.

Math is hard, but you will graduate high school and college.

Trying to date girls will be frustrating until you think you find the right match. When you find out that the pairing doesn't last, yes, you will continue to doubt yourself and question why you do this in the first place. Then you find someone that's even better match and brings out the best of you (and you do the same for her). Suddenly all those things about love that your parents told you make a lot more sense.

You know all those Saturday nights you went to El Patio in New Orleans and Ninfa's in Houston? You will continue to enjoy Mexican food every week.

If certain movies look weird to you on a TV, understand that one day TVs won't be square-shaped. They will be like the ones you saw on The Jetsons.

George Lucas will eventually tell the story of where Darth Vader came from. Your life won't be as heavily impacted as seeing the first Star Wars movie, but you won't hate what he does. Many others around you will, though.

That Pet Shop Boys record you have sitting in your room? You still have it. That Starship cassette tape is tucked away in some box.

You will listen to albums by Neil Diamond, Simon & Garfunkel, and John Denver as much as your parents did on road trips.

Billy Joel keeps coming up in your life in some of the strangest places.

Don't feel bad about not seeing every movie that every child of the '80s is supposed to see. There will be more chances to see them when you find an amazing alternative to Blockbuster Video.

Remember that guy that MTV interviewed who sold his comic book collection to fund his first movie? He'll play a major role in your life in a few years.

Pieces of that drum set you play will still be in your possession.

Remember reading music reviews in the Houston Chronicle. Remember reading the ones where it's obvious the writer didn't want to review this record. Very important to remember, actually.

And above all else, don't give up on what you love to do.


Eric, aged 34-going-on-35.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Unorthodox Jukebox

Once again, a post is quickly put together in a few hours one day and then it arrives online the next day. Over the weekend, the editor sent out a list of possible blog posts, and for some reason, I really felt the urge to chime in about Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers playing the Super Bowl halftime. I'm very well aware of Nipplegate as I couldn't stop hearing about it for years. I hope nothing of that magnitude happens on February 2nd.

So I got some sentences together, put them into paragraphs, and this is the end result.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014


My first post of 2014 is also my first post of 2014 with the Observer. Yesterday, a press release went out detailing the forthcoming reissue of the Toadies' major label debut, Rubberneck. I sent the release to my editor and he asked me to write something about it for the blog. I called up my friend and fellow writer Darryl Smyers and we chatted for about 15 minutes last night. Quickly typing the transcription and uploading it to our blog system, it arrived today.

So a condensed version of our conversation can be found here.