A Song That I Wish I Heard On the Radio More Often | How Can You Be So Frozen
This one is a little different, a little special. There’s no YouTube video for this song, because it’s never been released. Not never been released as a single, either. I mean that it’s never been released for public consumption, beyond being excerpted briefly on a TV show and maybe existing on a streaming site somewhere or other for a short while.
I first found Schatzi back when people used P2P networks to find music. I was looking for music to make a mixtape featuring the names of my friends. I already had my own song; pretty much everyone I’ve ever met has sung it to me at one point or another.
Thanks, Rick Springfield. You fucking jerk.
In the end, the idea came to naught. There simply weren’t enough songs with my friends’ names to make a long enough mix, and then as now, I’d rather scrap a project than complete a compromised version of it.
That’s not good for my self-esteem, I don’t suppose.
I did listen to the songs I found, though. Sir Paul’s “Heather” was lackluster, in the way of a lot of his post-Beatles work. Obviously, the Pixies’ “Tony’s Theme” was great. But the SwAmpee hadn’t yet written “Andey”, and there were slim pickings on most of the other names as well.
There was one standout, though, that caught me immediately, a power pop number called “Song for Stephanie” by a band I’d never heard of.
I didn’t realize yet that my life would be different.
I downloaded as much of the rest of their work as there was to find, and struck out into the wilds of the 2002 internet to find out as much about them as I could. I saw that they had a record coming out in about six weeks, and an EP that was of recent vintage. I tracked down the EP in a record store (remember those?) and got familiar.
On Valentine’s Day, I went to see Jimmy Eat World with my friends. It was immediately after “The Middle” became the biggest song in the world, and the venue was full of people who didn’t quite have the history with these guys that I did. I was annoyed.
The show was still great, though.
After the lights came up, workers at the venue were handing out flyers for upcoming shows. A superhero named Tony came up to me excitedly clutching one for the Promise Ring in a few weeks.
“Cool. You want to go?”
“Look who’s opening.”
An amazing coincidence. We had tickets to see Schatzi play before we got out the door.
We got there early that day, actively ready to see the opening band. It was a weird situation, but hey. Their set was as impressive as their EP had been, which was a good sign. I also shouted out for them to play “Nadine”, one of their older songs. They hadn’t rehearsed it, but they still knew it, and that was great.
Yes, I realize I was That Guy. But I totally looked the part. Still do, in fact.
In the way of small bands in small venues, they came down and hung out with the crowd a little after the show. I met three of the four band members; the drummer was from my hometown and was talking to his parents. Chris and Montez, the two frontmen, were unsurprisingly the more gregarious members of the band. Marc, the bassist, was more subdued. They were all awesome dudes.
On the way out of the show, we saw that each car had a flyer put up under the windshield wiper: another Schatzi show in a few weeks in Norman.
I drove down with a few friends to see. In the meantime, their album, 50 Reasons to Explode, had been released, and I made myself familiar with it. I saw Chris unloading equipment before the show, and asked if they were going to play my favorite song, “Delta”.
“Yeah, I think so. Montez wrote that, I’ll be sure to tell him you asked about it.”
Ouch. That was embarrassing. And then my friend called me a brown noser. I had to agree with that assessment.
Again, they put on a great show, and again, I talked with them a bit afterward. Again, I found out they were playing soon.
There were three more shows over the next several months. They opened for Ultimate Fakebook on their farewell tour. I saw the last show, saw the Schatzi guys get duct tape mummified and have flour dumped on the drum set. (Incidentally, Ultimate Fakebook have since reunited and are releasing a new record in the near future.)
A few weeks later, Schatzi played at one of those venues that changes its name, but not its function, every few months. I remember Montez loved the place because they were the only bar in the world (as far as he knew) that had one of his old bands on the jukebox.
My favorite, though, was the time I saw them alone. I drove down over an hour to see them, got a flat on the way, made the rest of the drive on the donut spare. When I got to the venue, the show had started. Chris recognized me when I walked in and nodded to me, touching his lip to the mic and getting a shock. Apparently there was a short somewhere in the line, because it happened a few more times until he finally had the bright idea to pull a sock over the mic and provide some insulation.
As always, they were great, and this was the most intimate setting in which I’d seen them, in the sense that the few dozen people in the space were right up against the “stage”, such as it was. A small space, a close space.
Afterward, I bought a couple of compilations that Schatzi appeared on from Marc. We got to talking, spent an hour or so shooting the shit until the band decided to go to Waffle House. They invited the fans who’d stuck around to come with them, but I couldn’t stay any later, given the state of my flat tire.
Not long after, they went further afield on their tour and I wasn’t able to see them again. I kept up with their exploits via their tour diaries, which I found out were written by Marc, and which weren’t your average tour diaries.
He didn’t really write about the places they played, or the people, or the other bands, or the travel, or being stuck in the van. All of these things were mentioned, obviously, but that’s not what the writing was about. It was about how it felt to be in this band on the road, working together.
It was something else.
Not long after, Marc started writing a personal LiveJournal. I read it for a while, kind of in awe of this guy. I knew him, a little. I knew he was a kickass bassist, I knew he had sweet dreadlocks, I knew he seemed shy but was a smart guy and a great conversationalist once you got him out of his shell a little bit.
I hadn’t heretofore realized that he was a genius.
I wrote him an email, just telling him what I thought, how impressed I was by him and what his band meant to me. He responded, and we became friends after a fashion. He told me they were going into the studio in Lincoln, Nebraska to work with Mike Mogis, he of Saddle Creek Records production fame, as well as, you know, being in Bright Eyes and Monsters of Folk. It sounded like Schatzi were ready to take the next step, and I was fucking pumped.
The recording sessions were harrowing. Lincoln in the winter is not exactly heaven on earth; it could charitably be considered a wintry wasteland, I suspect. But I’m biased against Nebraska, so maybe don’t take my word for it.
Marc continued to write, about the recording process, about himself, about the band, about the everything. About life. I was in my early 20s, a kid, and I am not ashamed to say that I was learning about life, the inner workings of being an artist, from this guy. A guy I knew, a guy that I’d spoken to, a guy I’d call a friend.
It was a weird experience.
Marc watched a lot of Travel Channel while they were holed up in Lincoln. He became smitten with Samantha Brown, the host of Passport to Great Weekends. He decided to name a song after her.
The band finally finished the record and struck out on tour again. They prepared for a new release. They were at the top of their game.
Disney bought their record label, and with it the rights to their unreleased album. It remains unreleased; the Machine Breaks Down, as foretold by the song of that title on said unreleased record.
Meanwhile, on that tour, Montez discovered he was going to be a father. He left the group to prepare, leaving them as a power trio in an awkward situation.
After they finished the tour, they returned to Austin. Schatzi was on the cusp, and circumstance had derailed them. I kept in contact with Marc, and not long after, he sent me a burned copy of their unreleased record.
It is, tragically, as good as I’d hoped it would be.
I still talk to Marc to this day. In fact, I asked him to upload the song so I could use it for this post.
“Samantha Brown (Saved Me From the Lincoln Snow)” should be the biggest hit in the world. Instead, it’s barely been heard.
And Marc Fort is one of my heroes. A true example of a gentleman and scholar, one of the coolest dudes I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, and someone I wouldn’t mind being more like. A writer whom I respect. A musician whose work and tastes I love; his most recent release is as part of the dreampop band Norushi Minx; you should go buy now. Hell, buy two.
Schatzi are one of a few bands who have literally changed my life. I’ll champion them, always. I hope that they return someday, able to do for someone new what they were able to do for me.
Even if they don’t, though, they’ll always represent for me one of the best things about music, the way that you can accidentally discover someone with no previous presence in your life and they can be the greatest band in the world. Most people who love music have a similar experience, I’d bet; maybe Bowie on the turntable when you were a kid, R.E.M. at a bar before anyone knew their name, some bar band whose name no one else would ever remember.
If you love music, there’s music that helped shape you. There are others that I’ve mentioned in other of these posts, and others that will be mentioned. But more than any other, Schatzi the band and Marc Fort the person are that music for me.