Tell Me a Story: In Loving Memory of Erik Petersen

Today, if you were to order all of the songs in my iTunes in descending order, you’ll see mostly the songs I listened to in high school hundreds of times. It’s a lot Green Day, Frank Turner, and Weezer. Peppered amongst those songs is no shortage of Mischief Brew songs. My most played Mischief Brew song (“Thanks Bastards”) is placed right in between Brand New and Neutral Milk Hotel. That’s the level of greatness I placed Mischief Brew on when I first discovered them. This great fucking band whose music I just loved. When I first started listening to them, that was all I expected them to be. Their music proved to be much more than that to me in the long run. Mischief Brew was the gateway band, for me, that brought me into the world of DIY punk.

When I went to see Mischief Brew for the first time, I was expecting something like a House of Blues type venue. It was not even close. The venue was a small dive bar in Jacksonville that could fit 300 people max, and wasn’t even close to full. Unfortunately, I didn’t grow up going to house shows in middle-school or early high-school, so the thought of seeing a band I loved so much in such a personal setting was very exciting to me.

The first time I actually met Erik was a few years later in Toronto. I was coincidentally in town seeing the Red Sox play the Blue Jays the night Mischief Brew had a show. The timing could not have been more perfect. So after the game I walked the short 3km to Hard Luck Bar, just in time to catch another one of my favorite bands, Owl & Antler. After the show I caught up with him and asked if I could interview him for a documentary I was making at the time about DIY punk called Trying It At Home. He was more than happy to be in it.

Before the interview even started, we were deep into conversation about baseball, music, and other things; We hit it off instantly. He gave me a fantastic, memorable interview that I ended up using most of in my documentary. This bit he said was the closing monologue on the entire documentary:

“This is not our day job. It’s something we do for fun. Because we don’t know how to live life without doing it. Cause it’s been our lives forever. As soon as we started listening to punk, we were like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re gonna play in bands and release records. I don’t know what I would do without it. I’d probably cease to exist, and melt, and poof into a pile of dust if I didn’t have it.”—Erik Petersen, Trying It At Home, 2014

I ended up hanging out with Erik, his wife Denise, and the rest of the band, all night. When they dropped me off at the hotel I was staying at around 4AM, I insisted on giving Erik some money for the ride. When he declined, I told him to take it because I downloaded his music illegally off the internet. He chuckled, said “Alright!” and took it.

I feel like it’s important for me to mention that this is still all very surreal for me. At where I am now in life, this is nothing new to me as I’ve done a music video for just about every single one of my favorite bands. But at that point in my life, it was still a strange feeling to me to be hanging out with one of my favorite musicians just like I do with all of my other friends. This wasn’t a quick high-five while he’s on stage, or an awkward meet and greet that I paid a hundred dollars to go to. We were driving around and hanging out at peoples’ houses like I’d do with any other friends of mine.

The next interaction I had with him was a few years after that. It was at Plan-It-X Fest. We caught eye contact and he immediately approached me, and we picked up our conversation about baseball and music, as if years hadn’t passed since. I checked my e-mail one day, a few months after that, and much to my surprise, had an e-mail from Erik. He wanted to take me up on my offer to set them up a show in Savannah. This had low-key been a dream of mine for a while. Billie Joe Armstrong himself could have called me and asked for a Green Day house show in Savannah and I’d have been equally as excited. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the show I booked last minute due to a last minute conflicting funeral I had to attend. But I was still over the moon about being able to help out one of my favorite bands with a show.

We exchanged messages in the weeks following the show. I told them if there was anything they ever needed, to let me know. I even offered my services to make a music video for something off of their upcoming new album. Much to my surprise, he was genuinely interested in doing a video, and started planning it immediately. He said they had been playing with the idea of doing a baseball themed music video at a Philadelphia Phillies game for one of the songs. He didn’t know it, but at that time, I was doing video production for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, a minor league baseball team. Again, everything worked out almost too perfectly.

A month later, I found myself on an airplane to Philadelphia, being picked up at the airport by Erik. You can watch the video for yourself to see how amazing of a weekend this was. By the end of the whole experience, I was happy to call Erik, Denise, and the whole Mischief Brew crew close friends of mine.

Imagine if your favorite band called you and invited you to fly to them, stay with them, and make an awesome music video. This is how I feel pretty much every time I make a music video, which at this point in my career has included Leftöver Crack, Days N Daze, and Crazy & the Brains.

After that, hanging and talking with this fantastic group of people was standard for me. The gravy on top of all of this was really the 2nd music video I did for Mischief Brew this past March while they were in Asheville. They were on tour with another band I’m friends with, Everymen, so we shot music videos back to back for each band, with the bands cameoing in each other’s videos.

I live my life in a manner where I always try to do as many things as possible, make as many things as I can, and form any sort of connection with somebody whenever a chance presents itself. I figure the more that I put myself out there, the more influence I can inflect on the world. A huge worry of mine is going through life, having made no impact on this world, and being quickly forgotten. It was inspiring to be so close with someone who had very obviously left their mark on the world, and was still very active and constantly producing new material.

I was thankful for every single second that I spent with Erik. I always felt honored to be hanging out with someone like him. I’m impossibly happy that there is no regret on that end. Any chance I had a reason to see him, call him, text him, whatever, I used it. One time after work I drove several hours away to see him in Charleston, then turned around and headed home, only to get in around 4am with work beginning at 8am. The thing about having friends that live far away on tour is that you never know when you’ll see them next. It could have been their last south east tour for several years for all I’d known. There’s no, “Oh man I wish I’d made it to that show,” or “I wish I talked to him more than I did,” here. The foundation for Erik and I’s friendship was pretty simple: We just enjoyed interacting and creating with each other.

Obviously I was heartbroken when I heard the news of his passing. Erik was a man who had a massive positive impact on my life through his art before I even met him, and continued to have that impact as I grew closer to him. Let there be no doubt: Erik was nothing short of a hero to me. Everything from the way he handled and presented his art, down to how he treated and interacted with the people around him, was a massive impact on me growing up, and surely one that will never be forgotten. If I did a poor job of explaining how… well I probably did. Go pick up a Mischief Brew album and give that a listen.

Rest in peace, Erik!
Written by Jak Kerley of Shibby Pictures.

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