Jam Journal: Nostalgia in an unexpected genre

Man plays guitar onstage.
Foo Fighters and OK Go are a part of the myriad of pop-punk bands that graced the roster of the classic video game series “Rock Band.” (Roswell606 | Wikimedia Commons)

Anyone who knows me is probably expecting me to write about a certain “brand” of artists. Taylor Swift, Noah Kahan, Maisie Peters, Lizzy McAlpine and Harry Styles make up my top five on Spotify, but there’s another genre that I subconsciously try to bury in my Wrapped results: pop-punk. 

The angst in the vocals, consistency of the kick drum and intensity of the guitar take me back to the basement of my childhood home, holding a microphone connected to my family’s Xbox 360 with my brother drumming furiously, sweat dripping down his face. 

If “Rock Band” only had two fans, it would have been my brother and me. We had the original version and three sequels, not to mention the LEGO edition. For the four minutes of each song, our only goal was scoring the highest we could, trying to hit every note perfectly. The rest of the world fell away. 

We’d play through the game’s catalog; “Check Yes, Juliet” by We The Kings, OK Go’s “Here It Goes Again” and “Learn To Fly” by the Foo Fighters were some of my favorites. 

I’d watch in awe as my brother played the drums in expert mode and hit every single beat. We’d even have family-wide “Rock Band” nights every now and then, with everyone on their designated instrument. They were the instruments we played in real life too; There was rarely a day I’d come home from school and not hear my oldest brother playing the drums or my other brother playing the guitar. I’d sing every chance I got: at school, in my room and in the shower. Music had such a strong presence in my family that our 2009 Christmas card featured it, with me at a microphone and my brothers to the left at their respective instruments, all of us donning Santa hats. 

I’d even play with my brother’s friends, as any youngest sibling would. I remember his friends laughing at a nine-year-old singing some of these songs, but I didn’t really understand the comedic effect of my youth. Imagine a kid singing, “We can have some more / Nature is a whore / Bruises on the fruit / Tender age in bloom” from Nirvana’s “In Bloom.” But I had no idea what it meant. I was just happy to be there. 

There’s not a lot for a nine-year-old and a 17-year-old to bond over, but music was a gateway to building our connection. I have a strong memory of my brother calling me into his room one day to listen to a pop-punk cover of Swift’s “Love Story.” I was amazed at how my two musical worlds could blend so seamlessly with my brother’s help. 

I can remember a couple of times when he’d get into a fight with my parents and go for a drive, bringing me along. We’d listen to pop-punk, rock and even screamo music — something I still surprisingly find comforting today — as he talked about the woes of being a high schooler and gave me warnings for when it was my turn. 

Some songs discreetly made their way into my psyche, becoming anthems of sorts. While I could barely comprehend songs with lyrics that involved deep metaphors, some of them, such as “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World and “Move Along” by The All-American Rejects, were clear enough for my young brain to understand. 

“It just takes some time / Little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride / Everything, everything will be just fine,” Jimmy Eat World sings. It’s timeless and will always ring true. Something about my personal nostalgia of pop-punk and the message of these lyrics is more comforting than any Taylor Swift song could be for me. 

Paramore’s Feb. 10 release, “This Is Why,” is another recent reminder of my love for the genre. I would beg my brother to use his Xbox credits to download women-sung songs to the “Rock Band” database, something the game was seriously lacking. Paramore quickly became one of the bands with a woman lead I looked up to the most. “That’s What You Get” and “crushcrushcrush” come to mind. 

Until recently, I thought of pop-punk music as something I had grown out of. Every time one of these songs would emerge from my Liked Songs on Spotify, I’d skip them almost instantly because I didn’t want to skew my Wrapped results. But this past summer, I started letting them play during aimless drives around my hometown — embracing the nostalgia and connecting with my inner child. 

So, while pop-punk doesn’t exactly fit into the collection of music artists I’ve curated as my brand, it’ll always be in my rotation. Besides, sticking to one genre is utterly boring, and I’m ready to move past that. 

“Jam Journal” is a rotating column featuring a new Daily Trojan editor in each installment commenting on the music most important to them. “Jam Journal” runs every other Friday.