When I got into hardcore music, I went overboard with the lifestyle. It affected the way I dressed and the people I talked to. Looking back I see I was trying too hard to fit in.
I didn’t know anyone when I started high school. In ninth grade I met two guys at school who were into hardcore music, which includes screamo, deathcore and grindcore. They were always talking about it. I would hear about bands that had these outrageous names, like The Devil Wears Prada and Black Dahlia Murder and As Blood Runs Black. I thought, “Who are these bands?” These guys wore band shirts with grotesque designs like zombies with their eyes popping out. I was in awe. It was new to me. I’d been listening to mainstream rap like Tupac and Snoop Dogg.
I went on MySpace and YouTube to watch videos and listen to hardcore music. I saw pictures of the musicians and listened to interviews with the bands. The screaming, the guitars, the drums and the synthesizers were something I’d never heard before and it made me feel good listening to it. Some of the lyrics were inspirational and sometimes it would get me pumped up to work out. I liked it so much I stopped listening to other kinds of music.
We bonded over music
My favorite bands were Alesana, Before Their Eyes and blessthefall. They were softer hardcore music. There was a lot of singing, unlike the constant growling and screaming of the deathcore that my friends usually listened to. When I told my friends, they said it was cool. I felt relieved. I wanted to be friends with them and I didn’t think they would like me because they were so different from everyone else. After that we would instant message links to music to each other, and at school during break and lunch we’d talk about music. We’d also go to the mall and the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica and hang out, go to the movies and get dinner.
The guys in hardcore bands wear tight jeans and T-shirts and have long straight bangs that go past their eyes. I thought it was cool so I started wearing tight jeans, T-shirts that were two sizes too small, a studded belt and only wore the colors black, navy blue and dark gray. When I put on my pants, they were so tight I would have to tug them to get them on.
I also became obsessed with my bangs. I grew them so long they went to my nose and I would constantly pull them down with my fingers. At school people would ask me if I could see through my hair and I would say “of course.” (I didn’t have trouble seeing through my bangs.) Whenever I’d go up to the board, people would laugh. It pissed me off, but I let it go. Even my friends who were into hardcore music made a petition for me to cut my hair. (Their bangs weren’t as long as I mine.) I didn’t care because I liked the way I looked.
My older brother would say that my shirts were too short for me. They came down only to my belt. I understood he was watching out for me. He wanted me to dress normally so I would be accepted by others.
But I liked the friends I had and I felt like these were the only friends I needed. Even though it was just me and two other guys at school who listened to hardcore music, that was OK because we had something in common.
But in the spring of sophomore year one of my friends got a girlfriend and was always with her, and the other lived far away so I didn’t see him that often. I started growing apart from them and felt like I needed to make new friends.
I started hanging out with people I’d met through them. They didn’t listen to hardcore music. I’d call them up and we’d hang out. We would go to the movies or go to the beach. We had things in common other than music, like the Lakers and eating at In-N-Out and Baja Fresh. They were easy to get along with. They were laid back. They never said anything bad about the music I listened to or the way I dressed. They treated me like I was one of their own.
When my new friends would talk about hip-hop and rap I had no idea what they were talking about. One day I went to a friend’s house to hang out. A group of us were watching videos on MTV and a Soulja Boy song came on. Two of them got up and started doing a dance I’d never seen before. I felt lost. I wanted to be able to talk about other things, otherwise I’d just be standing there like a brick.
I wanted to know more about hip-hop
Hanging out with my new friends, I heard them play hip-hop and dubstep, which is a form of electronic music. One night, my friend was driving us to his house to hang out and he played a mix CD. I heard a song I liked and asked him about it. He told me it was “Acid Raindrops” by the rap duo People Under the Stairs. The song was so soothing and relaxing that I wanted to listen to more of their songs.
I began to realize that I wasn’t as into hardcore music anymore and I wanted to listen to new music. I started to feel weird in the clothes I was wearing. I felt like I was wearing a costume. The clothes were too small. I tried to picture myself from other people’s points of view and was turned off by my style. What I was wearing was a little outrageous. I was afraid that if I kept dressing in such a dark way, people would think I was depressed and that wasn’t true.
So I started buying new clothes. I went to the Promenade and bought light-colored T-shirts, flannel shirts and shorts. They were surfing brands like Quiksilver and PacSun. I wasn’t drawing attention to myself. I felt more comfortable and more like myself.
Today, I still wear tight jeans but they’re not as tight. My hair is a lot shorter and I wear shirts that fit. I still go to hardcore shows. But I go to hip-hop shows too. I saw People Under the Stairs last October and am going to see Andre Nickatina this month.
In the ninth grade I was trying to be something I wasn’t. I thought I had to listen to hardcore music and I had to dress that way to have friends. I realized I don’t have to be something I’m not to have friends. I’m more comfortable with myself now. I get along with people, even if they’re different from me.
Now, my music tastes are pretty diverse. I spend a lot of my time listening to underground and hardcore rap along with techno and dubstep. I have been listening to so much of this music that I have been downloading programs to begin DJing and making techno and dubstep tracks. I also joined a club at school called Modern Poets and Composers where we freestyle rap.
I’m more open to other kinds of music now that I hang out with different people and do different things. I’m so thankful I’ve been able to meet new people. I don’t have to try hard to be myself.
Other stories by this writer … I’m glad she came here. Seventeen-year-old Brett’s friendship with his family’s housekeeper gave him a better understanding of illegal immigration. (January – February 2009)
Rebel looking for a cause. S.E. Hinton’s books almost took over 14-year-old Brett’s life. (September 2006)