For years, I shared this piece about why I left Brooklyn to play music abroad. And this story from a great writer who talked about giving it up completely. I actually remember printing both as joking reminders of where never to tread.
In 2013, I was barely surviving in Paris when Jacob reached out with an idea from Copenhagen. I would supply the words and he would write the music to a no-nonsense, long-distance rock n roll project with an organ bass. He was also a drummer. I barked a few words into my computer and suddenly we had songs. Then more songs. Jacob said he heard something inspiring and soon I was on a plane to Denmark for a few shows.
I don’t remember saying much when we first met, years before. We shared a bill in Aalborg and only later did I learn his band had some serious DIY bona fides. They led a scene and a city at a time when that stuff mattered—but I remember just another local act playing to a thin crowd of drunks and crusts. I had no idea the band they started as teenagers, taking them around the world, was on its last leg. Jacob went on to play in a major label project that toured hard and we made time for each other whenever he passed through New York. He did the same whenever I played Copenhagen. The friendship, while genuine, didn’t require much in those years. The thought of collaborating was exciting.
TOTAL HEELS was a lark, my first real experience of running in place. The timing was terrible. As the one with nothing to lose—there’s always one with nothing to lose—I pushed hard and talked a big game when others were starting families and settling down. We booked too many tours and believed too many encouraging words. I was probably responsible for more stress than I realized, although I have no regrets. We played a few big festivals, got reviewed, but nothing really happened. The whole experience was so humbling, so typical. Five years earlier and we might have been the latest Danish export. Instead we slowed to a steady pace, buoyed by the promise of finishing the next record. Playing closer and closer to home until one day we could barely do a show down the block. It was all depressing and necessary and not unlike a million bands floating around the tip of a very long digital tail today. It takes effort to mount a working, touring band and this one ran its course.
Today, I wonder what people heard in those first singles. We celebrate youthful rage but what about the resignation and frustration that come with balancing home and family? How do you sing about those emotions to a basement of kids half your age? TH were four very different people, striving for different things, but I can’t say it was ever joyous. The kids were confused and the rockers were intrigued.
I effectively moved to Copenhagen and fell in with this bunch of vinyl heads and new dads, all passionate and bitter about music. Not to be confused with the town drunks or man-children you find at small shows, staying too late or arriving too early. No, this group had taste and humor and genuine insight. They could be ridiculous and truthful in the same breath—but it was the honesty that hit me hard. Our late-night bike rides were mature, hilarious journeys into a middle-aged midwestern existence that I never fully explored.
At the end, they were the last ones standing. I don’t remember our last local show, but it was a typical letdown for one reason or another. The night ended with these familiar faces standing in a circle, smoking cigarettes. The cold Danish night whipping around. It would be useless to describe the music or what this band was all about. TOTAL HEELS accomplished more by doing less. No one will remember, but I won’t forget a few nights when it all came together.