Audubon Park's origin can be traced to one, solitary fact: I was tired of being in a band with Matt Kalb.
Matt and I met our freshman year of college in rural Kentucky. Our dorms were at opposite ends of the hall and one afternoon as I strolled back to my room from the shower, I could hear him in his room playing "Drive" by R.E.M. on his electric guitar. I was eager to find someone to play music with, so I knocked.
To my surprise, I found a long-haired metal dude with an electric blue Washburn with a Floyd Rose tremolo and a Peavey Audition Plus. Over his desk hung a picture of Chris Cornell. He was wearing cut off shorts and boots.
We stared at each other. "I like R.E.M.," I said in my thick, country drawl, sounding slightly simple. "Oh?" he said.
I probably was not wearing a homemade Cure t-shirt and black jeans, but I will say I was because it will make me sound cooler than I really was. I did have an unsightly mop of curly, black hair and basically looked like a feather duster come to life. Actually, if I was on my way back from the shower, I probably just had on a towel, which makes the interaction sort of awkward.
"I can play the guitar too," I said. He handed the guitar over to me and in that moment I couldn't think of any songs other than "Plush" by the Stone Temple Pilots, which I hated, but seeing Matt's long hair and cut off shorts and Chris Cornell pictures, I assumed he would like.
I played the first three or four chords and said, "See." His face was blank. "Here's one I wrote," I said, instantly monopolizing the guitar and conversation and letting lose a long string of poorly played open chords along with an atonal caterwaul that I think of as my singing voice. His eyes narrowed.
Whether or not I did all of this in just a towel, we will never know.
A few weeks later, there were some girls in his room, hanging out. Two girls! In Matt's room! (A fun fact: The ladies just loved Matt.)
I stopped by and the girls, learning that I could play music too, wanted us to play a song. Matt said, "Ugh," which we all know is Matt's reaction to most everything. I ran down and got my bass and amp (a 400 watt Peavey Mark IV) and we played an impromptu version of "Just Like Heaven"--the only song that both of us knew well enough to attempt.
After I left, he told the girls that I was the worst musician he'd ever played with. It should be noted that Matt was correct in his assessment. I stunk! But I was enthusiastic and kept dropping by Matt's room with my 12-string guitar to play chords while he soloed.
I came back from Christmas break that year and told Matt that we needed to start a band. I have a vague memory that one of us had suggested it and that the other had said no, but I don't remember which it was. I was still sort of in my band from high school, which I was fiercely loyal to (though they'd all realized that we'd broken up already) and Matt sort of drove me crazy some. Matt wanted to play different kinds of music than I did and I sort of drove him crazy.
Yet, for whatever reason (hint: there was no one else to play with)we decided to give it a try. I said, "I wrote a bunch of songs over the break."
"Let's hear them."
I showed him the lyrics.
"Yeah, but the music."
"Oh, I don't have music yet for them."
"Then you can't say that you wrote a 'song.' Songs have to have music."
This blew my mind. He was right. So we started working on music for the words that I wrote. In a few weeks we'd recorded our first album together on my 4-track. We called the band Gertrude and the album "Nyaya" (which is some crap we learned in a Religion class).
After that, we began work on our second album. This one had more solos on it.
"Matt, are we the best band ever?"
In 2001, after a short tour of the midwest, the band that Matt and I started when we moved to Chapel Hill, V. Sirin, broke up. Our drummer Nate emailed us one morning and said he couldn't deal with us any more. The email said, "I can't deal with you all any more."
Matt called me at work and asked what I wanted to do.
"We've been playing together without a break since 1993," I said. "I think I need a break. I need to do some other stuff." Matt understood. For months I'd been making absurd demands on the band, trying to get them to kick me out or let me quit. This does not reflect well on my character, does it? I would demand to play more guitar and Matt let me. I would demand to play the electronic drums on my cheap keyboard and Matt let me. It didn't occur to me that Matt just liked being in a band with me.
So, with V. Sirin ended, I was free to not be in a band with Matt. I took a few months and wrote some songs. Simple little jingle-jangle songs that V. Sirin or Gertrude would never have played. My wife Jennifer asked me, "Who are you going to ask to be in a band with you?"
I thought about it for a moment. "I guess I'll ask Matt."
"Matt? I thought you were tired of playing with Matt."
"Yeah, I can't imagine being in a band that doesn't have Matt in it."
So I called him and we started Audubon Park.