This post was brought on by a recent high school reunion of sorts. Familiar faces from a decade ago sent me spiraling into a nostalgic funk. Out came The Ataris, and with it, a tide of emo.
The Ataris has such strong nostalgic powers for me that I generally avoid listening to their music for fear of triggering a mild case of saudade*. One particular number, “San Dimas High School Football Rules” is guaranteed to make me feel fifteen again. I think it was the first song (of very few, admittedly) I ever performed in front of an audience.
The year was 2003. The venue, a prefects’ high tea at a very cheap hotel. The band, a boy a year older (remember what a big deal that was in high school?) who was slated to become my best friend for a couple of years, and his friend (I don’t remember which one). I remember singing the lyrics, which have stuck with me ever since, into the mic, and looking at a sea of faces I’m sure couldn’t catch what I was singing. I wore my sister’s long red skirt and a lycra black top decorated with rhinestones. I felt so cool.
That was the only time we performed together, but that song marked the beginning of my introduction to the world of indie music, courtesy of the older guy, and all that implies when you’re in your teens. I stopped rushing to my room at midnight on Fridays to record Rick Dees and the Weekly Top Forty, and dived into the wealth of mix cd’s my new friend made for me. The Shins, Deathcab for Cutie, Iron & Wine, Belle & Sebastian all became the music of my soul, making me feel emo like I had never felt emo before. Had HitzFM been denying me this cathartic experience? Or was this just puberty?
The Ataris, being among the first in a long line of mix cd’s, received the most airplay. They were playing as I studied for the PMR and SPM (10th grade and 12th grade exams, respectively). They were in the mp3 player I shared with a crush, one earphone each. They were the soundtrack to a surprise birthday party I threw for a friend.
Here are other memories that come to mind when The Ataris plays. Sitting in the neighbourhood basketball court at night with friends, feeling grown-up because I’m out so late. Talking on the phone for hours at the top of the stairs when my parents were out for cell group. Sharing secrets and junk food into the wee hours of the morning. Walking like I owned the school. Feeling like I could do anything.
More than any other band, The Ataris brings back my high school days. I listen to them rarely, almost against my will, because they remind me of the friends I used to be close to. We grew up, we scattered across the globe, we were content with adding each other on Facebook. Spotify mixes my playlists now, and I lost my mp3 player a long time ago.
I wish the world was flat like the old days
Then I could travel just by folding a map
No more airplanes, or speed trains, or freeways
There’d be no distance that could hold us back.
— The New Year, DCFC
I need ice cream.
*saudade: a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves