My Brother’s In the Band!

I am the youngest of 4 (or 5, if you count my half sister) children, separated by exactly 6 years from the next youngest (we share the same birthday). That dynamic has always been interesting, because I’ve always been so much younger than the rest of them.

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My sister was like a second mother to me, and I spent a lot of time with her (and she spent a lot of her own money on me, haha). Of course, that doesn’t mean I haven’t always been incredibly attached to my mother; I am very much a momma’s boy. Whenever I am going to be away from her for a long time, I get separation anxiety really bad; it happened both times in Yellowstone, and it happened whenever I had to leave home after a visit while in the military.

However, my hero has always been my eldest brother. The age separation there is about 11 years, but growing up, he was always the coolest person I knew. Everything he introduced me to, I thought was the best thing ever: They Might Be Giants, Smashing Pumpkins, alternative, ska, punk, techno, electronica, etc., for music (my musical identity would not be the same without him); anime like Akira, Sailor Moon and Robotech; The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Gordon R Dickson’s Dragon Knight series, and Robert Asprin’s Myth-Adventure series; just a lot of things. For pretty much all of the 90s and into the early Naughts, if he expressed an interest in something, I would probably be interested in it, too.

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He could also do no wrong, either; I saw him “through ruby-colored glasses,” as my sister put it at one point in our childhood. Lately, he has expressed the idea that he had a temper and got irritated easily by certain things, but whenever he got mad about something back then, it seemed reasonable to me. If he ever had a disagreement with anyone, I would probably think he was the one in the right, or at least feel that he had reason for feeling the way he did. It wasn’t until maybe my high school years (but probably more like my college years) that I started to see any fault in him at all; probably because he started to express more liberal-leaning ideas, and I was still firmly positioned with the Republican Party. However, I have recently begun to lean more in the liberal direction, myself (I even registered as a DEMOCRAT this past primary!) so our ideals align again, mostly.

Anyway, at one point when I was still a small one, my brother went to college, and moved out of the house. He would come back during the Summer to live with us, but then he’d leave again, and this made me sad. While he was in college, he became part of a local ska band, named for an item they had purchased at a rather cheap price. I don’t remember ever seeing them play, and they didn’t really go anywhere while he was with them. After a bit of time, he was in another ska band; this one, I remember seeing play in the back yard of his college dorm. One of his childhood friends was also in this band, very early on, but he quit after like this first show they ever did. I don’t remember them playing another show until like a year-and a name change-later. At this point, they gained another couple members, I believe, and started playing at local venues and bars and such.

The band was beginning to get noticed, and people were liking them. My brother talked about how one time he was walking into a restaurant, and this girl jumped out at him, yelling something like, “YOU’RE IN [THE BAND]!” and it alarmed him.

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Anyway, they started to get gigs with bands on record labels, and my brother would talk about how they wanted to get signed to like Tooth & Nail, or something. Their sound had also changed a bit; they were beginning to be a bit more swing-influenced, although they also had a song on which my brother played the harmonica, and another that was pretty much just an alternative rock song (didn’t have the horns, ska guitars, or anything). They played a set on the local college station that they recorded and sold as a demo.

This demo must’ve gotten to the record company with which they signed, because they ended up as the opening act for the label’s biggest band’s record release party, which they drove down to California for. After that show, they got signed, and began touring with this other band all across the country. Somewhere around this point, they more or less did away with the ska part of their sound, and tried to mostly be a swing band (they also stopped using the harmonica on that one song, and they never played the alternative rock song again). They had a big single in the Christian music scene, about the Devil being bad. Their album sold a whole bunch of copies, they won some Dove awards for like alternative rock single I think, and their Devil song ended up on a WOW compilation.

People around school knew who they were, and I would tell them that my brother was in the band. I also started posting on the band’s forum online, claiming the same. Most people believed me, but others didn’t, saying I could be anyone. Well, just to prove myself, at times I would repeat something that my brother said about the band. Being that I was saying this on the band’s forum, it would get back to my brother’s band mates, and they’d be like, “Wut?”

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I also got to go backstage at shows sometimes, and I’d say things there I shouldn’t say, as well. That didn’t really have to do with my brother being in a band, though; I was just stupid, and would put my foot in my mouth a lot. I don’t know why this gave me the self-confidence to say some of the things that I said, but a lot of the time, immediately afterward, I would realize it was stupid to say. My brother didn’t disown me for this, however; he still treated me very well, and left all his stuff with me; his stereo, his tv, his video games, and his CD collection. He would come back into town when a tour was over, and spend a week or so at home, but then, he would always have to leave again, and it was always very sad to see him go.

Sometimes when he came through, some of his band mates would also stay at the house, and at least a few times, some people from other bands stayed overnight. I met a few people from bands that I liked through my brother, though I was generally star struck and too shy to say much. Also at some point, while in a restroom line at a show in California, he met a girl. He also brought this girl up here to meet us all, because he fell in love with her, and they got married.

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At this point, he moved to her home town in California, and we saw even less of him. His band came out with a new album, but it didn’t sell as well as the album before it. He began to compare the band to the one in the movie, “That Thing You Do;” they were a one hit wonder (their original drummer even broke his arm while skating, and they got another guy to take over for him, who ended up staying with the band).

After the second album, they started recording a third, and it was going to be produced by this influential christian rapper. However, the drummer had quit, a new drummer came in, and it seemed like the guys were kinda getting burned out with playing together. My brother was older than a lot of them, and he would get irritated by things they would do.

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At some point, the lead singer was starting to question whether he wanted to keep doing the band, so my brother and a couple of the other guys decided to just quit. One of the other horn players didn’t understand, and wanted to have a meeting about it, but the other guys were just like, “nobody wants to be in the band anymore, dude.”

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So they played one more show on New Year’s Eve in 2000, I believe, and then called it quits.

After (and during) that, my brother was in a few other bands; one local Corvallis punk band that had already been established, and then some other bands he started down in the San Fransisco Bay Area, and then up here, as well. He never found the same success, but he didn’t really want to, it didn’t seem like; he didn’t like the attention, and he didn’t like the music industry politics (one of the big things being the bit where the labels only cared about money). He told me a lot of stories about bands his band toured with; some of them were good, and some of them were bad, all of them were interesting.

I kinda always wanted to be in a band with him, but I was always too lazy to learn an instrument. At times, he expressed interest in being in a band with me too, but I needed to learn an instrument, first. I bought a bass guitar back before I joined the Air Force and started playing around with it a bit, but I never really had the self-confidence to play it in front of anyone. While I was in the military and searching for ways to fill the void after my fiance broke up with me, however, I finally started writing songs. My brother listened to and liked these songs, and we started talking about how we were gonna be in a band together when I got back. Well, I’m back now, and we’ve had a few practices and recorded some stuff. Who knows if we’ll ever play in front of anyone, though; I can rarely find time to practice, and we still live an hour apart, even though we’re in the same state, now. I love that I’m “in a band” with him now, though. A band consisting of me and my hero.

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…this seems like it should be longer, but it isn’t.

Author: Thomastine

Hello, I am Thomas Aaron Hellman, AKA Thomastine. I've graduated from: West Albany High School, Linn Benton Community College, and the Community College of the Air Force. I currently take classes at Oregon State University, the best school in the world. One time, I was in the Air Force. Now, I'm not. I like to draw, write, and make music. I also like beer. And coffee. Currently, I'm tired.

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