Some Things: Brandon Stosuy
Brandon’s birthday: July 6. 10 things that shaped his life at a young age and that he still likes. (In no order.)
Hardcore: I’m not sure how I discovered hardcore, exactly. I do remember my friend Moss and me trying to find the Discord house during a march on Washington in high school. I remember putting on hardcore shows in my backyard when I still wasn’t quite sure what a P.A. did. Hardcore taught me that you could have a family outside your family, and that you could do things yourself. It taught me to distrust corporations, and to have absolute faith in the people you love. I went to school, but I think finding this kind of music at a young age is what set me on the path from a small working-class town in the pine barrens to where I am now.
Zine culture: I did my own zine, White Bread, from when I was a freshman in high school through my last year of college, or maybe the year after. When it first started, it was called Nasal Spray, a kind of joke about my dad’s use of nasal spray to clear his sinuses. When my zine first started, I wrote about music and politics and the other things you write about when you’re a teenager mad at the world. Eventually I got more honest and documented my experiences growing up in a small white trash town, and that’s when I changed the name. I tried not to edit too much because I wanted it to be my first impressions. I wrote about working the graveyard shift at a convenience store, my fears and stresses, my crushes and collapses, my dark thoughts and small triumphs. I also wrote in great detail about my mother’s divorce from an abusive stepfather. (She ended up using the story in court to prove what an asshole he was.) Zines connected me to a world outside my town of 800. I made friends then that are still friends today. It taught me how to write, how to organize a publication, and how to find a distributor and an audience. (Shout out, too, to Maximumrocknroll, Cometbus, and Factsheet Five.)
My family: I came from a family that could have very easily told me not to try to pursue a creative path, but they didn’t, and I’m thankful for that. As I was writing this list, my father called to see what I’d been working on. I told him about a show I curated for a museum in Los Angeles and a story I just handed in to my agent. My dad’s voice still sounds proud when I tell him things like this. It kind of hangs a bit, and then cracks. I was with my mother when she died. Before she did, we talked about books she’d given me over the years, and she asked me to carry her outside so she could watch me feed her chickens and horses. On weekends, she used to ask me to tear down fences, clean the horse stalls, and bale hay. She showed me the importance of hard work. In the summers, she made me read “the classics.” She showed me the value of words. I’m thankful for all of that. Today I have my own kids, and my wife and I are open to whatever they want to do. Even if they decide to become bankers.
College Radio: When I was a teenager I’d put Reynolds Wrap on the end of my radio antenna so I could listen to WPRB, the Princeton University radio station. We could just barely pick it up that way. I found it romantic, somehow, to tune it at 2am and hear someone playing a song by Sonic Youth or some other group that you thought nobody else knew about. I learned a lot about music from that station. When I went to college, years later, I had my own show. At first I mostly played noise and stuff by folks like Pussy Galore, Jesus Lizard, Cows, and Laughing Hyenas. My show changed a lot over the four years I did it. I also learned a lot about music from doing this show. I think it’s how I found out about Unwound.
My friend Moss: Moss and I have been friends since first grade. We discovered punk together, and he taught me how to play guitar (sort of). Now he often tweets jokes at me, at my expense, and it always makes me smile. A long time ago, Moss sent me a handwritten letter about how he liked watching the way birds move and how they reminded him of tiny robots. He was living in a closet-sized room at the time (I once lived in an actual closet, in Portland). He was fixing bikes to pay his bills, and was playing in a hardcore band. Sometimes when Moss tweets a joke at me now, I kind of get choked up a little. He’ll make a joke about Bad Brains, and I’ll suddenly be a little misty. It happens.
James Joyce, and literature in general: I was also really into Thomas Pynchon. I maybe find him a bit goofy as this point. But James Joyce was someone who showed me you could write a sentence straight, or you could implode it completely. I read Ulysses very slowly while living in Canada. I wasn’t allowed to work because I’d snuck in to live with a girl I was dating, so I’d just go to the pawn shop, sell something, pay my part of the rent, and go back to reading. I used this technique (and the local public library) to get through Proust, Flaubert, Kafka, Woolf, Nabokov, Goethe, etc. I’d take out records, too. It’s how I discovered Stockhausen. I still think about that library. I didn’t have a cellphone then, and my concentration was complete. I miss that kind of spaciousness. I found that sort of zone, too, when I lived in Portland for a few months. I’d leave my job at Borders and go to Powell’s Books to sit and drink coffee and read Beckett for hours. I also read Virginia Woolf’s The Waves like that. I ended it and started all over again.
D.I.Y. (as in literally doing things yourself): I grew up in a very small town without much going on, and so if you wanted things to happen, it was up to you to do it. This was pre-internet. I live in a place now where things do happen, but I still try to organize events or moments or objects that might not come together otherwise. It’s the spirit behind Basilica SoundScape or the stuff my friend Matthew and I do at our space, REMAINS.
Cassette culture: I had a cassette label with my friend Marc that we called Sweet Baboo. The idea was to apply a very sugary name to a label that put out harsh noise. Our first cassette compilation was called “Will You Please be Quiet Please,” a reference to Raymond Carver, who we both liked a lot. Elsewhere we referenced John Barth, too, which is funny in retrospect. (Marc and I did zines together as well. His was called Satanic Toasters.) We actually did put out a couple records on the label, but we were more committed to cassettes. Once you got sick of them, you could plug in the spaces at the top and record over the music with your own sounds. I liked that. It felt like retiring to the earth in some way, or recycling. I also tried to do a cassette-only radio show at one point. I gave up after awhile and returned to just playing the Siltbreeze catalogue on the wrong speed.
Visual art: Before I could drive I’d ask my dad to take me to see all the Marcel Duchamp work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I liked the playfulness of his art, but also how I didn’t quite understand all of it. It made me feel like I had a lot to learn, and so I set out trying to do that. Warhol was also big for me when I was a teenager. I’m still interested in him now, but for different reasons. I used to go to the library as a teenager and read the indexes of books about artists like this, and then look up the people who got mentioned. So you’d stumble upon Dada or Pop Art and you’d understand the contexts and then keep going. I later worked at an art gallery, and people would ask me about where I went to art school. I’d tell them about my dad driving me to that museum, standing by my side as I stared at the art, and then asking me about it all on the way home.
Working: I’ve had a job since I was 13, and I find it useful to always have a base of some sort when it comes to completing my creative projects. I’ve had more jobs than I can count. I’ve tried counting, and it’s honestly impossible. I worked in gas stations, convenience stores, at farms, on construction sites, at a green house, for a delivery service, at a B-level movie theatre, at an independent record store, at book stores, etc. I had a paper route. These jobs were all important, and for what it’s worth, I still like working. It’s what I’m doing now.