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  • Nick Hartkop

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

I am writing a new song, and I have been spending a lot more time with it than I usually do with my music. I recently went through my discography reflecting on what songs have connected and which haven't, and I feel like I really fell off lyrically in my music after Beachboy.

When I was younger, it was easier to tell stories that were relatable because I was an awkward, depressed teenager who was in love with the beauty of adolescence and feeling vulnerable. When I started writing music I made the decision to make it as raw as possible because I figured if I truly poured my heart out and wrote about all of my insecurities, maybe someone with a heart like mine would feel how I felt. When I struggled with things that were uncomfortable, I wrote about them.


I think Trees is a good example of that. I figured there were people out there who felt like I did, repressed and confused, angry, and judged by their parents. If you've listened to Trees, my mother is pretty accurate to that song. It was a really hard thing to hear and be brushed off about or not taken seriously. Not everyone will accept you, but at the same time there will always be others who accept you and see that beauty in you.


I remember when I first started writing, I would write songs that would make me cry as I wrote them because it was everything that was hurting me pouring out. I think that changed after Beachboy and the charm and happiness I had ended when I started becoming increasingly mentally ill.


My music and words took this dark cryptic turn that is hard to relate to, and incredibly different from my other material. I think Yarn was too dark and angry, and I regret it as my second album, but I was just projecting so much of my anger into my music, and I think if I would have been in treatment that album would have turned out much better.


I think it's by far the weakest album of mine, with Westboro Sadness being my favorite track off the album. I was so manic when I made that CD and I had convinced myself it was an incredible album, but I was wrong about that.


I enjoyed working with Mike Sapone though. I was in the room with him when Brand New was cancelled, and it was really tough because Science Fiction had just reached number one on the Billboard a couple weeks before. It was a unique scenario I never thought I would witness. I also think THWNDB was boring because my heart wasn't in it. That's my main gripe with that album, it's boring and all sounds the same.


I miss writing lyrics I am proud of because I haven't been good at anything, but I am able to put words in a certain order that brings out something in myself and other people.


I have re-written my latest song twice because I need to put something out that I am proud of and can confidently listen to and say I did my best. I've revisited that old style, and am now trying to use healing and regaining my love for life in these songs.


I'm insecure and always picture people saying my music sucks and I suck, and it makes me want to try my best. I know not everybody will like me and accept me, but I am writing for the opportunity to feel happy with my music.


One of my oldest and favorite songs, "Is your shirt inside out" has always held a special place in my heart. I think the line, "I bet you that your brother is stronger than mine, it's a two punch swing in a fistfight, alright." was one of my favorite lines I've written. I think that song in general is good lyrically and I want to tell stories like that again, and escape this weird depressing fog that's surrounded my music since BB. I don't mean depressing as in content, but just the general feel of the life behind the music. I hear hope in the old songs I wrote as I navigated adolescence alongside the frustrations of feeling misunderstood. My writing after that sounds like confused, lifeless anger to me when I listen back. I think it's possible to do better, so I'm going to try.

Nick

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My friend, Mark, the former guitarist for Moose Blood has started a new band with Lee, the drummer from MB. They are two of the best musicians I've ever met, and they have shown me incredible kindness even though I dropped off their tour. They are good people and deserve the best for their music. The name of their band is Hurtless and you can check it out here.

  • Nick Hartkop

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

When I was in middle school there was a club called, "Power of the Pen." It was a program where you would write short stories during a specific amount of time and the best story won. I was a poor student, I struggled with emotional disturbances, ADHD, dyslexia and a ton of social problems, and the application tournament was during recess, so it was a big deal to me because I was always inside for bad behavior. I remember writing some weird story about a kid who dies and what it was like to go to Hell if you weren't a Christian. My mom was abusive with how she punished me for religion and it was something I had to think about constantly, so I would create these weird stories to try to cope with my fear of dying and going to Hell for being a bad person. Not only did I not qualify, but the teacher pulled me aside and asked me questions about my emotional state. It was humiliating, not just because my writing piece didn't make it, but also because I was told that what I wrote wasn't normal.


I remember being jealous of the kids who qualified, and I decided that some day I wanted to be a "professional writer". However, I struggled to write anything completely because of my lack of commitment. Writing always took too long so I started writing poetry (like most teenagers) and that became what I liked to do. My dad was going through a midlife crisis at the time and started buying acoustic guitars for himself, which I stole and would keep in my room. I connected with the idea of making music because I had been spiraling emotionally since I was a child, and just screaming poetry that I had written over some chords felt powerful to me, because it was mine and no one could take that from me. I started writing songs but couldn't sing for shit so I never really thought about doing it publicly. All my friends would say I sucked, but I would always think about failing "Power of the Pen" and I stuck with it despite the rejection. I'm glad I did though, and I have been really blessed for my music to reach some people. The thing about life is that there is always going to be rejection and failure, but if you keep going, you can end up doing what you want to do, and be who you want to be. __ The song "Waste" by stuck in the sound has always stood out in my mind as one of the best of the 2000's. It's a 2006 song so it's older, but the acoustic guitar is so beautiful and the electric riff is bright. José Reis Fontão has an incredible voice, and they are my favorite french indie band. Check the song out here.

  • Nick Hartkop

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

I've been thinking about a time on tour where I shamed a homeless man. It was at the end of 2017, I forgot where the show was, and I am ashamed I can't remember. I was always scared to be on the road when I made the decision to do music because I have really unrealistic fears about dying before I do something with my life. Whenever I would play a show I would get manic, and give off the impression I was well and having a blast, but off stage I was incredibly toxic and angry. Before I knew what Borderline Personality Disorder was, and was medicated, I would dissociate from reality and treat people as disposable, because I felt disposable. There was a man who wandered off the street after a show into the venue and he was carrying some kind of heart rate monitor. He was an older man, and I remember he had a shaven beard that was starting to grow back. I was talking in a group of people and he came over and asked us if we wanted to buy the monitor from him. This was a person who was sleeping in the streets and needed help. He came into that venue hoping someone would be interested in purchasing what he had because he needed some money. When he asked the group, I was cruel and told him to "get the fuck out of here" because he was homeless. I could tell I had made everyone uncomfortable because someone confronted me saying I was cruel. I brushed it off and told them I was sorry, and they told me "You don't owe me an apology, you need to apologize to him." To which I responded to go fuck themselves. I left the venue and didn't think about it again.

Looking back, I can't stop replaying how that situation should have gone. I was poor myself and the thought of helping another human hadn't crossed my mind because I needed to make sure I took care of myself. I should have helped that man. I should have gone over to the merch table and given him as much as I could have. I wasted an opportunity to use my position to help other people. I did the exact opposite and I made him disposable. I should have apologized to him, and I should have apologized to the person who rightfully called me out. Every time I think about it, it makes me sick. I think about him often, and I wish I knew who they were. I should have asked their name, their dreams, and their story. I wish I could have seen where they slept and helped them get something better. I should have shaken their hand and given them the respect they deserved. I think about how that interaction could have changed a life for the better, but it made it worse. That's not the type of person I want to be, but that is the person I was. I am sorry to them both if they read this. The worst thing is to look back at an experience that has caused pain to others and say that you "have perspective" and "have grown" because those people were still hurt. It doesn't change the interaction. I've needed to tell this story. I am not a role model and I have not been a good person in my life, but I want to learn from these interactions, and share the stories of my failures. I need to do that man the respect of never shaming anyone ever again like that, and to help people in need. I didn't even see him as a person. I can't even imagine how humiliated he must have been. I saw the sadness in his eyes when I said that to him. I can't stop thinking about it. I wish I could go back and given them the respect they deserved.

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Lately, I've been listening to the song blah blah blah a lot by Say Hi. I think it has one of the coolest synth lines I've ever heard and the lyrical imagery is powerful. When I listen to it, it makes me think of fall with oak trees and crumpled leaves. I like how dancey it is accompanied by Eric Elbogen's vocals. It's always been one of my favorites. You can check it out here.

If you have any bands you want to recommend, send them my way. I'll try to add them to future posts.


Nick

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