Music has a mesmerizing power to generate memories and emotions, be they good or bad. When AltPress visited the Riot Fest concert site in Chicago this summer, we asked various artists to share with us the songs that truly affected them. On the following pages, members of Fall Out Boy, Future Violents, Every Time I Die, Taking Back Sunday, iDKHOW, the Starting Line, Anti-Flag and many others discuss those precise moments when music rescued them from moments of opaque darkness as well as the pursuit of lives far too ordinary. And don’t forget to check out the latest installment of Hopeless Records’ compilation series, Songs That Saved My Life, featuring Mayday Parade, State Champs, With Confidence, Silverstein and many others paying tributes that changed their lives significantly.
1. Dallon Weekes, I DONT KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME
Weezer, Pinkerton (1996)
The first record to really move me was probably Weezer’s Pinkerton. When I was about 14 or 15 years old, I was a fan of their first record, and before that, I really loved Nirvana, Pearl Jam and all of that grunge stuff that was very popular at the time. But when Pinkerton came out, there was something about it that shocked me, and I kept listening to it and listening to it. All of my friends hated the record. And I couldn’t understand that because I loved it so much, and I think it took about 10 years for people to start coming around to how great that record was. Now that record is legendary for everybody—which it should be—but that was probably the first collection of music to really shake me.
2. Justin Sane, ANTI-FLAG
Black Flag, “Spray Paint” (Damaged, 1981)
For me, the record that inspired me and made me realize that I wanted to be in a punk band and play this music and be a part of whatever this is was the first time that my sister put on “Spray Paint” by Black Flag. I was in about sixth or seventh grade. I’ll never forget sitting in her bedroom, and she’s like, “You need to hear this.” I’ve moved on and found many other new bands and new inspirations, but that particular moment was what made me say to myself, “Whatever this is, I want to be part of this.”
Jets To Brazil, “Sweet Avenue” (Orange Rhyming Dictionary, 1998)
A lot of stuff has shaped my life. I would say Jets To Brazil. There’s this specific song called “Sweet Avenue” on their first record [Orange Rhyming Dictionary] that when I heard it, it really just grabbed me. That record specifically is really my favorite record. It’s one that I always go back to, and it shaped my approach to writing lyrics. That one among many others always stands out.
4. Keith Buckley, THE DAMNED THINGS/EVERY TIME I DIE
Pearl Jam, Ten (1991)
Mine would be Pearl Jam’s Ten because I realized it was still very angry and bitter, but the lyrics were incredible, and there was so much melody to it. That changed the way I looked at music up until that point.
5. Joe Trohman, THE DAMNED THINGS/FALL OUT BOY
Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody” (A Night At The Opera, 1975)
I’ll say this: I was too young, ’cause when you’re 7 years old—especially pre-Spotify and everything being everywhere pop culture-wise—you pretty much get your music taste from watching TV and movies. I remember my parents got me the Wayne’s World soundtrack on cassette, and I used to do a dance performance for them to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” That was such an important song.
6. Nathan Hardy, MICROWAVE
As Cities Burn, Come Now Sleep (2007)
It would be Come Now Sleep by As Cities Burn. It’s a really relate[able] album. Growing up super-religious, it came out when I was in high school. It’s all about him questioning his faith, and also just genre-wise, it was pretty much a mixture of my favorite things, which was heavy music and bluesy guitar and bluesy singing. I learned how to sing probably from singing along to their stuff.
7. Jordan Edward Benjamin, GRANDSON
There have been so many. It’s hard for me to say any one particular song, but there have been a lot that really helped me through tough times. I’m lucky enough to have worked [with] some of the artists [Mike Shinoda, Tom Morello, AWOLNATION] that made those songs. I’m just trying to do that for some kid to pay it forward. There’s a lot of really cool artists that are using their platform to talk about mental health or to tell you to keep going.
8. Kenny Vasoli, THE STARTING LINE
Jimmy Eat World, “Goodbye Sky Habor” (Clarity, 1999)
I would be in high school in homeroom, and I would be listening to “Goodbye Sky Harbor” [by Jimmy Eat World]. I would listen to that like four times because the song is 16 minutes long, and if I listened to it four times, then that meant I only had eight minutes of homeroom left. It was definitely an awakening for me, musically.
9. Frank Iero, FRANK IERO AND THE FUTURE VIOLENTS
The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
I don’t [know] if I would be where I am without the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. That was something that I got to listen to on my dad’s record player as a young kid [while] cleaning. My dad’s a drummer, so my chore on the weekends was to wash his cymbals. He used to tour back in the day at these bars, and people used to smoke in bars. So there would be this caked-on nicotine, and you’d have to clean them off with this thing called Twinkle, which was a pot cleaner. I had to clean the cymbals, but I got to put on whatever record I wanted if I did that. So I put on those records. B.B. King’s Live In Cook County Jail was another one that I listened to a bunch, and it blew my mind.
10. Adam Lazzara, TAKING BACK SUNDAY
Nirvana, “Lithium” (Nevermind, 1991)
I remember the first time I heard “Lithium” by Nirvana, and that just changed my world.
11. John Nolan, TAKING BACK SUNDAY
Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (Nevermind, 1991)
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” [by Nirvana], which is an obvious one, but still I can’t overstate how much that changed my perspective about music and how I connected to music. The first time I heard that, it was eye-opening, and it was almost like it opened up something in me that had always been there, but I didn’t know how to get in touch with it.
12. Jakob Danger, ULTRA Q
Arcade Fire, “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” (Funeral, 2004)
For me, I think there would be two: “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels),” which is the first song on the first Arcade Fire album, Funeral. For a while, music for me was just guitar, bass and drums, but when I started listening to Arcade Fire, especially that first song, it told me that there’s a lot more you can do and a lot more you can explore in terms of almost orchestral music, which I had never really spent time with before. It definitely opened me up to that world of things. And then I think the [band] that definitely got me into music, as far as songs go, is “Barely Legal” by the Strokes, [which] is probably my favorite all-time song by [them]. That was definitely the first song where I listened to it and was like, “Whoa, this is emotional, and it’s a genius composition of guitar and vocal melody,” and I remember listening to it and just being like, “I suck at everything I do.” In a way, listening to heroes puts you down, but in a way, that makes you try to be better, I guess. We’re all very self-critical people, and we’re all perfectionists when it comes to everything we do, so listening to Arcade Fire or Car Seat Headrest or Rush, it’s like, “Damn. In a way, we suck,” but it’s cool to know that people can get to that level of inspiration and creativity.
13. Kevin Judd, ULTRA Q
Arcade Fire, “In The Backseat” (Funeral, 2004)
I would say definitely one of the songs that saved my life is this song called “In The Backseat” by Arcade Fire. The song is talking about learning to drive but not being confident at the wheel. It’s all about a lack of confidence in your life and the things that you’re doing and the life choices that you’ve made. It ends in this epic fully orchestrated string section and this soaring vocal melody. It makes me cry [almost] every single time I listen to it. I feel like it’s something that everyone can resonate with. It’s a really beautiful song.
14. Chris Malaspina, ULTRA Q
Rush, “Tom Sawyer” (All The World’s A Stage, 1976)
When I first heard [“Tom Sawyer” by] Rush, I remember I was in my dad’s truck, and my mind opened up. I knew that I really wanted to play music, and that’s when I knew. I was like, “Ya know what, this is what I want to do.”
15. Enzo Malaspina, ULTRA Q
Car Seat Headrest, “Something Soon” (Teens of Style, 2015)
When I first heard “Something Soon” by Car Seat Headrest, it really gave me the inspiration to try and write songs myself. I’d been learning from him how to write songs, and now I’m starting to get there and make my own songs. Car Seat Headrest was a really nice way to be like, “Here’s something to look at in terms of making a song feel really epic and sweet and emotional.” It’s a great song.
You can stream Hopeless Records’ Songs That Saved My Life Vol. 2 here.