LANGLEE : How Punk Rock Saved My Life

Last week Welch took you back to his ska band days, so I figured I should do the same with my punk band, Langlee.

The first half of my senior year of High School marked an all time low for me. As my peers began to look towards the future with excitement, I had an unsettling feeling that things would only get worse. Every fiasco and disappointment seemed to culminate all at once. Sometimes anger and sadness can have such a firm grip on your psyche that you become despondent and isolated. In a desperate attempt to remain intact, I regressed back to the only dream that ever truly held me; starting a punk rock band.

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I began telling stories about a fictitious encounter I had with a now deceased punk icon, Darby Crash. In the narrative, I had been directed by Darby to form a punk band and be the “Messiah of Punk”. I quickly realized that people generally react badly if you tell them you’re the “messiah” of anything. In the bible belt, perhaps using messiah and punk in the same sentence isn’t a recipe for acceptance. Needless to say, many were concerned and put off by my rantings. Regardless, it felt great to have something to believe in, even if I really didn’t believe it.

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The first person to join my revolution was my friend Blaine. I added him on to the band as a bass player, letting him know upfront that so far we had “no drummer, no name, no songs and two shows booked in the next month” but that I had promised everyone I had come into contact in within the last week that this new band would be “punk rock’s second coming”. To this day, I don’t know why he decided to sign on to this bizarre pursuit, but I’m glad that he did.

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Blaine and I started writing and practicing with each other and various drummers. Like any punk band, the majority of our songs were obscene and offensive. “Cousin Kisser”, “Syphilis” and “Dirty Little Trick” were among crowd favorites. The expression of emotions and ideas, all the pent up angst or conspiracy theories, everything poured out into the lyrics without filter. There was an immense amount of liberation in having that sort of an outlet.

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We decided to call the band “Langlee” and provide conflicting explanations as to the orgin of the title. My friend James Spencer ended up being our first drummer. James became, comically, the bands’ most adamant critic; denying my ‘Messiah-dom’ to refusing to “like” our band on Facebook and did his best to squash our ridiculous enthusiasm. We recorded our first demo in the practice space space we had in James’s basement. We promptly downloaded it to flash drive. Then Blaine and I went around Davidson, sticking the flash drive in random peoples’ computers, in attempts to get them to listen to “history being made”.

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We played our first show at a local art gallery/venue called Carolina Art Garden. Our first show was the last the venue would ever host. When we performed there the entire room was empty. I only brought one guitar and broke a string during the first song, luckily a girl in the audience had an extra guitar string on her. To this day it was arguably the most fun I’ve had onstage and the most excited I’ve ever been to play a show.

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James quit after that first gig.  After that Blaine and I somehow got it in our heads that we needed a female drummer. Like most of the ideas came up with for Langlee, the onset was spontaneous and the significance arbitrary. We posted an add in Craigslist that read “WANTED: Chick Drummer for punk band; Doesn’t have to be good.”. Within a week we had been contacted by a girl a few towns away who quickly caught on to our music. She drummed very loudly and we liked that quite a bit.

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We began playing more venues around the area and developed a reputation for being loud and obnoxious. We made and sold spray painted t-shirts wherever we went, each one was unique. Classic Langlee show traditions include praying to Darby Crash before each show, me breaking guitar strings at some point during each set and me wearing a shirt that has “SLUT” written all over it.

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Eventually we found a sense belonging at a new venue. It was located in a former movie theater and was filled with young hooligans. It was called The Bonu5 Room. We played a vast amount of our shows there. The venue could have cared less what we said on stage and encouraged kids to mosh around and have fun, the perfect atmosphere for young punkers like us.

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Langlee then spun into a few month hiatus mostly due to the fact that I started college. Eventually we decided to reform at the end of of 2011. Blaine told me that he heard about “this guy named Luke” who played drums and lived in Davidson. He became not only our drummer, but one of our very best friends. To this day, him and Blaine are in a sick-ass band called Preta. Luke is one of the very few drummer’s who humility outweighs his talent, both of which are incredible.

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With Luke in the band, we released our first and only EP, “The Devil Lives on School Street” in March of 2012. We recorded it in a few hours in Ryan Shannon(guitarist for Pinko)’s basement. Of course we did the release show at the Bonu5 Room and had a hell of time causing ruckus.

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As we’ve gotten older we’ve shifted our energy into other projects. I’m now focused on the Welch & Penn duo and on my solo career as Fountain Penn. Luke and Blaine are still making awesome music together in their progressive rock band, Preta. Of course, when we’re all in town together, we don’t miss the opportunity to do impromptu Langlee gigs.

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No matter where music takes me, I recognize the profound effect this band and experience all together had on me. In forming a vision and then working to make it a reality, through Langlee I learned how to create opportunity. I learned that hiding from  insecurities is much less effective than wholeheartedly embracing them. I learned that whether you’re starting a punk rock revolution or just hanging around smoking cigarettes, being with good friends will help you out of dejection.

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I’ll always respect punk in its various shapes and forms. While many argue over petty genre classifications, which bands are punk and not-punk, to me it isn’t so much about the sound as it is about the sense of freedom, deviation from the norms of modern music and rejection of the elitist mentality.

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True punk defies labels and makes heroes out of the weirdos.

Penn

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