On Being Howard Hello

I always get the rep for being the enthusiastic one. Also the one with “feelings,” which I get is weird and discomforting and unique. Secret is: you all have feelings. And you share them with me, perhaps at ease for my being so open about them. I’ll take the mocking. I get that perhaps that’s tough for you, or makes you uncomfortable when I’m open. Given the level of mocking that occurs with my friends or family, I’ll take the fact that I’m kept around and enjoyed as a sign that perhaps the whole “feelings” thing isn’t so much a flaw as a conundrum. If nothing else, I track the unique hits on this blog. It may be mockworthy, but people are also  checking what I am feeling; it can’t be entirely anathema.

But I also get the rep of being the enthusiastic one.

I’m not the only enthusiastic one.

The friendship I have with Beardsy is based, in no small part, on a sharing of Art. He’s smarter and more in touch with things than me. He has an inherent sense of understanding music and literature that I’ll never have. He gets it, and he knows what will strike his friends. Or, more importantly, what should strike his friends.

Beardsy introduced us all to Howard Hello.

Howard Hello is a band of little cultural note to the rest of the world. Their 2003 release, Don’t Drink His Blood, is an exercise in indie rock futility – let’s make a pop album about blood parasites, because fuck you why not? While touching on indie importance, with members of Pinback fronting the gig, the endeavor was, it seems, mostly a fuck you to the industry and to expectation.

It is one of the greatest albums I have ever owned. And no one seems to know this.

I spend a lot of time wishing I was someone like Beardsy. Not so much the beard, or the dapper hat, both of which I have appropriated as my own with fair ease. But rather, the profound understanding of Art, and the ability to seek out and find these things, and to share them with people whose lives will be changed by the exposure.

I always wanted to be someone that people listen to. Someone whose advice is followed.

A Google search for “Don’t Drink His Blood” leaves me reeling. The reviews are middling at best. No one talks about the epic resolve of the album. The cacophony of dissonant chords. The giant build of each song into the next, the pinnacle of emotion that absolutely gushes forth as the climax of the album hits. The wayward, mundane, simple complexity of each track. The complex rhythms and vocal harmonies. The sheer enjoyment of staccato. The brilliance of this album.

Beardsy gave us all a gift here. He gave it to me, to Henri, to Glynn, to everyone in our tiny, intimate, familial friend group. He pushed it, and we all took it on. Without pretense of what we should like, or what would be popular to like, he simply found this amazing thing and he told us all that we would love it.

And we did.

I remember talking to Henri about a moment. He exited the metro, and he was listening to Howard Hello, and as he stood on the escalator, carrying him from the dark into the light of the day, the bustling city ahead, the throng of people going about their various things, all mundane and simple, but just doing exactly what we all do. And the song played. And he smiled.

And we talked about it. We talked about it because it was a moment for him. And because it was an album we all loved, even if no one else did. And because sometimes the music just captures life so brilliantly. And it’s overwhelming. And it’s hard. And it’s beautiful. And it’s perfect.

The thing about this album is that we all had these moments. We all had unique times, personal stances, and heartfelt reactions to the music. Just like Henri. Because whatever the rest of the world cares, and they truly didn’t, this thing was important to us. And we bonded over it, as a group. Regardless of what anyone else thought, or didn’t think. Because the truth was, we were binging on a thing that the rest of the world couldn’t care less about.

But we cared. It didn’t matter what anyone else thought. We were having a group moment over this thing. A prolonged feeling. A special appreciation.

In some weird way, this album became ours.

It’s all an analogy. It always is.

I always wanted to be special. Interesting. Important. Profound. And those terms always meant “to the world!”

I don’t particularly want that anymore.

I want to be Howard Hello. I want to be important to the small group of people who got it. Not because it was somehow more profound. Not because we were getting something and thinking “Ha! No one else gets this, and we’re better for knowing this thing!”

I just want to be something that someone will think about when I am gone, and think, “It was better that he was there. No one else knows it, and it was unique to me, but he was here. And things were better for it.”

Becoming an adult has meant giving up a sense of self-importance. All I really want is for Henri to think about me when he rides up the escalator. For Beardsy to look at me as something impactful, but not important. To just be special to that small group who knew my value, regardless of what the rest of the universe knew.

I used to want to be the most important person in the world. Now I just want to be Howard Hello.


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