Alesana’s Shawn Milke: “It Seems Like Only Yesterday…”
Today is: Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Where I am: Pomona, California – Day 46 of the Vans Warped Tour
Where I am actually: Sitting on the couch with Patrick watching The Box. (Cameron Diaz has the worst southern accent of all time, by the way)
Time of day: 2:15 p.m.
What I am listening to: “I Still Do” by the Cranberries (one of my favorite bands ever)
Well, well, well. You guys sure do love a challenge. I asked for 150 comments on last week’s blog and you guys responded with a remarkable 241 comments! That blows my mind, thank you so very much. Now, I know I promised to answer last week’s question in the form of a comment, but after posting the blog I realized that it might be hard for everyone to find my answer amongst the slew of stories you were all sharing. You definitely kept me busy this week reading everything, but as always I enjoyed every second. OK, without further ado, the moment you have all been waiting (not waiting) for. When I am in my underwear jumping around my room like a nut, the first record I will always put on is….(drum roll)…. “You’ll Rebel To Anything” by Mindless Self Indulgence. If you cannot dance to that record you are either deaf or have no feet. (My sincerest apologies to any of you who are deaf, have no feet, or both).
Warped Tour is winding down. Only five more shows left to go. It is amazing how time can sometimes pass in the blink of an eye. I feel like I was just sitting in our van with Patrick and Alex heading from my apartment in Maryland to meet the rest of the guys and the Bandwagon in North Carolina to begin our cross-country jaunt. So much has happened since then. It is such a bizarre feeling when something that happened seven weeks ago can feel almost as if it took place minutes ago. All else aside, I would absolutely consider this year’s Warped Tour to be a success for Alesana. Our crowds, thanks to you, have been enormous. People are singing along, jumping around, buying our shirts, waiting in line to meet us, and spreading the word of our energy on stage at a rapid pace that even I cannot wrap my head around. This is our sixth year as Alesana and, in an industry climate that sees bands come and go with the changing of the seasons, to be able to say that we are bigger than we have ever been brings chills to my skin. It also has led me to reflect recently on how I came to be where I am, musically speaking. From a baseball glove to a guitar, from Dave Matthews Band and Radiohead covers to pop-punk 16th beats, from baggy cargo pants to skinny-girl jeans, from Falling Out of Line to TLE to Alesana. It seems like only yesterday…
I was given my first acoustic guitar as a present from my parents on Christmas Day when I was 17. I did not how to play it, of course, but I was already an established and highly respected air guitar player so I figured it could not be that hard. My first gig ever consisted of me performing Smashing Pumpkins songs on my air guitar in front of a mirror and my dog, Reggie. Needless to say, there was no encore. I started writing actual songs shortly after I graduated high school. I had taken a beginner guitar course my senior year to learn the basics and by the second semester I was already blowing past my classmates and essentially was self-taught the remainder of the way. In fact, my teacher would let me blow off class and go play my guitar outside because I was already beyond the things he was showing everyone else. Good ol’ Mr. J. I miss that guy. (Fun fact, I actually wound up playing a festival with his son, Chris Jay and the Army of Freshmen, years later. What a small world it can be at times.) I started my first band during my second year of college. I had been writing for some time and decided I was ready to organize and arrange full songs, as opposed to just acoustic guitar and vocals. I named the project “Falling Out of Line” and the lineup included my friends Nick Onorato and Ryan Quinn. Our music was all over the place. It was quite obvious that we were a collection of guys who had not been playing their instruments for very long. The songwriting was void of any editing or self-criticism, which caused the songs to go on and on for what seemed like days. We made a record at a studio in Vineland, New Jersey, at a little house in the middle of the woods and I still have it on my iPod to this day. A couple of the songs (most notably “Pointless” and “Journey Home”) still make me smile when I listen to them. Oh, and I had very short hair that was dyed bleach blonde. No, you may not see a picture.
Photo by Richelle Charlie
Surprisingly, and much to the shock and chagrin of millions of fans around the world, Falling Out of Line broke up. I was in school full time and I decided that I would just continue making music on my own instead of with a band, both for the sake of time consumption and to allow myself to become a better songwriter. It is a lot easier to go through trial and error in art without having three or four other voices buzzing in your ear. By this point I had taught myself how to play drums and piano, as well. Over the course of about a year, I wrote and recorded a project on my own, performing all of the instrumentation myself, which I called “Undeclared.” It was obvious that I had grown as a songwriter and with the freedom to do what I wanted, I began to use more experimentation with vocal harmonies and musical bridges. I went to a company in town and had them make me one hundred copies of the CD of which I sold about 50. I used a picture of my cat, Noopy, as the front cover. In my heart, I knew the record was the first real step I was taking towards a career in music and I wanted my little buddy to be a part of the memory.
2002 is when I formed my first serious band. I had dove head first into the whole Drive-Thru Records era of pop punk rock music and I wanted desperately to be a part of it. (Side note: Finch just came on randomly on my iTunes as I was typing that last sentence. Crazy.) I had been writing a lot of stuff that molded well into that genre and I decided to play some of it for my lifelong friend, Nick Onorato (yes, the same Nick Onorato of Falling Out of Line fame.) He and I had always listened to the same music and he loved what he heard. TLE (The Legitimate Excuse) was born. I am not going to go into too much detail in this blog about TLE because, as I promised a couple of weeks ago, I am going to post a MySpace music page with old pictures, songs, and a history of the band. The one thing I will say is that, while I obviously love Alesana, my bandmates, and the success we have achieved together, nothing in the musical world will ever hold a stronger place in my heart than the years I spent in TLE. It not only shaped me as a musician, but as a person as well. Leaving TLE was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make in my life. Breaking up the band meant letting a best friend down and it hurt my heart to leave him behind; but life takes everyone down different roads and I knew I was making the best decision for me. Nick is currently living in Maryland working a successful job with an awesome wife and a beautiful little girl named Donovan. We all succeed in different ways and I could not be more proud of him. (For the whole story, keep your eyes and ears open for the release of myspace.com/thelegitimateexcuse.)
OK. Alesana. The story of Alesana. Here it goes. Wait…not today. Why, you ask? I am making a film documentary that spans the entirety of Alesana’s career. And if told you now, the fun would be spoiled. I know…I am sneaky.
So onto the fun part: this week’s question. I think I will do the usual and stick with the present material. What one experience in your life is so memorable that, despite how long ago it happened, feels like it was only yesterday. We will make the time frame at least one year. I do not want to hear answers like “Warped Tour 2010!!” or “the pastrami sandwich I had last week!” Let’s dig deep here people and find some awesome memories to share. If you are not comfortable with sharing, or if you are having trouble conjuring up a memory, tell me about your best friend. Why are they your best friend? Are you their best friend? Why? Answering all questions makes you awesome, by the way.
Song quote of the week:
“If we survive and I’m alive I’d like to say how beautiful I think you are.” – “Island” by the Starting Line
Beating 241 comments will be tough, so I will forgive you if we do not reach that plateau. But that is not a donated excuse for us not to try! Until next week, my final Warped Tour blog, I ask you all to call a friend you have not talked to in far too long. You will be surprised how happy they will be just to hear your voice. xo
Photo by Richelle Charlie