I love driving. I’ve loved it since my dad picked me up from kindergarten one afternoon and let me steer his red Plymouth Horizon up our long gravel driveway. It was just about the coolest experience I’d had in my young life. His love of cars, especially fast cars, definitely rubbed off on me early on. We went to a lot of races together, and there was even a time when I was about eight years old that he heavily contemplated buying me a go-cart and letting me join the Saturday night races at one of the local fairgrounds. It never happened, and even twenty years later I’m a little bummed out by it. Oh, what could have been, right?
There’s certainly something in the feeling of being behind a steering wheel, in control of a machine capable of travelling at high speeds. It’s soothing. Some days I get in my car just to drive, no destination in mind, only me and endless roads. With gas prices as high as they are, it’s probably not wise from a monetary standpoint, but until I’m driving something with a much lower fuel economy than my Corolla, I have a hard time feeling guilty about it.
I was recently out on the road, trying to clear my head, and I had a Stiff Little Fingers album pouring through the speakers. Maybe it was the song Guitar And Drum, but I found myself running through a litany of “If I had a real band…” thoughts. I say “real” band because there was a time long ago in a galaxy far away that a friend and I had ambitions of actually starting a band, but what we got instead was a fake band with merchandise. Let me explain.
Sophomore year of college I had one of the most badass roommates a college kid could ask for. Kim (or as I jokingly call her, Kimber Bear) and I knew each other through mutual friends and decided to share a room in one of the apartments on campus. We quickly clicked through so many ridiculous things (like grilled cheese sandwiches), but mostly it was music that bonded us. Countless hours were spent sitting at our side-by-side, little university-issue desks listening to music, singing along, and pounding out beats on any object within reach. One of my favorite memories is of us taking the different parts of The Time of My Life from Dirty Dancing and belting out a duet. We went to weekly punk shows at venues I’m sure have long since closed down like 1123 First Avenue and The Rev in Evansville, Indiana. And one day, we decided we needed to start a band of our own.
In 7th grade I had saved up my money, bought an electric guitar (nothing fancy, just an Ibanez RX60), and taught myself how to play. I was never very good, but that’s beside the point. Kim played bass, and a girl in our film class supposedly played drums. Another friend had a killer Casio, and we decided it would be cool to have her on keys. But what’s a band without a name?
At the time, Nerf Herder had some sort of band-name-generator on their website. I forget how it worked, but I remember we filled out some sort of MadLibs-esque page at some point. The name we received: Suspicious Gnome. Fantastic! But it was lacking something. We puzzled over this for days, until one winter afternoon we were trudging through the Hoth-like wasteland that was campus to return home from class and the following conversation took place:
Kim: There’s so much snow covering all these cars.
Sarah: It’s like insulation though. I bet they’re warm inside.
Kim: Like igloos. It’s the igloo effect.
Kim & Sarah: Dude!
Sarah: That’s the name of our band!
Kim: Suspicious Gnome and the Igloo Effect!
And thus we had our name.
In honor of our most excellent band name, Kim had Photoshopped a suspicious looking lawn gnome in front of an igloo. In college I was really into making my own shirts, and I knew this would look rad on a t-shirt.
I had a plain baseball tee (white with red sleeves), so I printed the picture and band name on the front. The first time I wore it, holy shit. People everywhere were bombarding me with questions.
“What does it mean?”
“Are you guys playing anywhere soon?”
“How can I get a shirt?”
In no time at all we had multiple requests for shirts; from classmates, from friends, even from a server at Olive Garden. It was out of control. I printed one for everyone who asked and charged ten or twelve bucks each. A website quickly followed. And we hadn’t even written a single song. We began to remedy this problem by writing down lyrics every chance we got (the most frequent writing occurred during our shared Anthropology class… we had to pass the time somehow and that prof was wackadoo). I vaguely remember titles like “Jarrett Lane,” “Paragon,” and “Green River in the Rain.”
Sadly, the school year wound down quickly and was followed by summer vacation and my transfer to a new university the following year. Despite a handful of lyrics, we never got around to arranging any actual music. Like a baby sea turtle struggling to reach the sea, Suspicious Gnome and the Igloo Effect was tragically dead before it could even get a real start. I think I still have my t-shirt somewhere, and our band that never was will live on in our hearts and always serve as a topic of nostalgia and laughs for me and Kim. Maybe some day we’ll start a real band. I’ve since picked up the drums (which I don’t suck at), and Kim has moved on to the violin. We’ll see.
As an end note, here is one of my “If I had a real band…” thoughts from my drive. If I had a real band, I would want to incorporate the following instruments: cello, violin, Moog, guitar, bass, drums, banjo, piano, and trumpet. Also? Cowbell.