Wednesday, November 11, 2015


This post in no way, shape, or form condones or apologizes for those who commit sexual assault. Sexual assault is a very serious crime and should be treated as such. Any commentary in this piece that could be construed as "positive" is exclusively in reference to the band as a singular entity and not personal praise for drummer Jeremy Villalobos.

People have a funny way of expunging things from history. When Chris Benoit was found to have murdered his wife, child, and ultimately himself, the WWE made it a point to erase him from history. Never mind the fact that before this happened, Chris Benoit was considered to be the most skilled North American born wrestler of all time. Now in many wrestling circles, the name Benoit is a dirty word. Forget his accolades, forget his abilities. In our worst moments, everything we were and everything we had ever accomplished become meaningless. It is a scary thought. That one decision can make society erase you from existence.

Drunkdriver is a band. They existed. They were from New York. They played for a few years and were beloved across multiple scenes. They broke up in the face of a scandal surrounding the drummer and accusations of sexual assault. These are the facts. We can denounce them and pretend they didn't exist, but does it change the band? People can point to the drummer's scandal, where others can just as easily point out that the vocalist Michael Berdan (now of Uniform) quickly decried the band's accused drummer. Furthermore, he made the statement upon his departure that he could not live with himself if he had continued on with the band. As people, we choose to only see one side of the coin.

What makes the case of Drunkdriver so tragic (beyond the obvious trauma suffered by the victims) is that they had it all. This was a band that was a rising star across the punk, indie, hardcore, and noise scenes. They were on the same career trajectory as No Age and were destined for bigger things. They released two LPs, Born Pregnant (on the eminent Parts Unknown Records) and a self-titled LP that was released posthumously as the scandal broke out in the build up to the band's record release show. Both of these LPs are perfect. Berdan's vocals have a hint of desperation to them that are unique (even in punk music where desperate sounding vocals are common). His vocals howl out as if he's looking for something (but doesn't know what) to missing something (and is unable to get it). Imagine that feeling you get when you feel like you've lost yourself. Now imagine if there was no way possible to reconcile that feeling. That you were lost but you kept trying to fix it because you're oblivious to the fact that you can't find yourself. Guitarist Kristy Greene creates a soundscape that envelops listeners. The minute you turn on a Drunkdriver song, you are in their world where the sky seems a little darker and the air a little harder to breathe. What you hear on those records is special. We don't know what would have happened with Drunkdriver. That's the band's legacy. They weren't a run of the mill band. They weren't figuring things out. They were quickly on the come up having made a reputation as masters of their sound. You can't help but come away from a Drunkdriver listening session without asking yourself "why?"

Here's a fact of life: punctuation matters. We can make a tragic misstep and stamp a period to it thus ending this part of it (or entirely). We can put a question mark on it, meaning what we were or where we're going is clouded in uncertainty. We can add an exclamation point to emphatically restate who we already were. Ultimately we write our own stories and we can determine how they're punctuated. The biggest tragedies in our lives are always our own doing. I'm not talking about 'if an iceberg hits your cruise liner' kind of tragedy. I'm talking about the kinds of things that get us written out of history and make people uncomfortable at the mention of our name. Life is something that becomes increasingly out of our control as we get older, but despite that we will always have the choice on whether or not we want to be a villain.

We shouldn't forgive Villalobos for what he did because it is unforgivable. What he did is one of the worst things a person can do to someone (and in his case it was to multiple women). At the same time, we shouldn't forget Drunkdriver. What happened at the end aside, the band's other members put their lives into it and it isn't fair that a highly accomplished section of their careers is now a taboo. When people look at Drunkdriver now, it is a discussion on the punctuation to their existence. Some people look at what happened and say it was a period. They're partially right. There are a great deal of people who used what happened as a reason to never talk about Drunkdriver ever again. Other people would look at what happened as a question mark. No one knows how far Drunkdriver would have gone. We will never know. They ended due to an extreme personal calamity. It wasn't because they lost it or they weren't going anywhere. They were the best they had ever been with the world in front of them. That's Drunkdriver's legacy. Question marks, incredible recordings, and an ending that people can never reconcile.

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