Eric Navarro

Eric Navarro performing a stand-up set.

Season One: Episode Eight

The Hard Times editor and Punk Rock Seinfeld creator Eric Navarro talks with Ryan about his opening track selection: “Tell That Mick He Just Made My List of Things to Do Today” by Fall Out Boy.

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Eric: Many, many years ago, that Pretentious Friend Only Listens to Podcast on Vinyl article I did, my Marc Maron reference was “it’s just so much more satisfying to skip the first 15 minutes by hand.”

God damn, I used to be so much funnier than I am now. Dude. I had a five-year stretch. It’s so funny because I had a couple of things that feel like when bands have a couple hits on their first album, and then they never have a hit again. They have a career, which is sweet, but they, but they never reach that-

That’s how I felt where I was like year two in, in comedy, I had my biggest –my most far-reaching success. And then it just became shrunk into a very small audience. But then it kept me, you know, employed forever. Whenever I hear bands talk about music stuff now, it’s so fun because as a musician, I only understood what local musicians went through and now I kind of have this parallel to be like, I can really appreciate what some of these musicians must have gone through at certain points in their career.

Ryan: My guest today is Eric Navarro. Eric and I go way back. We worked together at our college radio station, sorting through piles and piles and piles and piles of CDs that the radio station would receive in the mail. While we were sorting through the onslaught, he mentioned that he was trying to put together a band, an indie hip-hop, pop punk band to be pedantic about it and asked me to play bass.

We had fun. Some people, most people thought we sucked. I just thought we were ahead of our time. Don’t scour the internet trying to find recordings. It’s not important. What is important is that a few years after our time in college, Eric switched over to standup comedy and contributing articles to that crusty internet rag, The Hard Times.

If you’re not familiar, it is like the onion, but for alternative music culture. In addition to writing content, he also currently serves as an editor along with some other contributors to the Hard Times, including Brendan Kelly of the Lawrence Arms, and other projects, Eric created Punk Rock Seinfeld, on which Kelly voices a crust punk version of Kramer. Because, of course, Kramer is a crust punk.

Eric’s opening track selection is a mouthful. He chose “Tell That Mick He Just Made My List of Things to Do Today,” which starts off Fall Out Boy’s 2003 debut record Take This To Your Grave. Thanks for tuning in. Let’s make a mixtape.

[Intro music by Scotty Sandwich]

Ryan: So, Eric, why did you pick this song?

Eric: Alright, well, the parameters were: first song on a playlist. First song on an album. And first and foremost, I believe that you need something to have high energy if you’re gonna kick off a playlist. Oh, an album. Album, yeah. But I kind of interchangeably use that.

But first off, I need energy period in whatever music I listen to.

Ryan: For those of you who are, listening, right now I have Eric on video, we’re doing a Zoom chat, and Eric is pacing around his room, just to emphasize the amount of energy that Eric needs and, and thrives off of.

Eric: No, it very, it is very true.

I used to think certain genres just sucked. It turns out I was like, no, no, no. I just didn’t like certain tempos, so I understand where like my personal music taste can differ from a lot of people, which is why, for me, the opening track on, on an album, I wanted to have a ton of energy just to get going.

And as far as this song in particular, not only does it kick off an album in a perfect way, but it is the first song on what I think is the greatest pop punk album of all time. Up until this song, all the pop punk influence, that was pretty widespread before it, went into this song.

There’s parts of it where you can go, oh, I know. You can kind of pinpoint at least the timeframe of where these different sections kind of came from. It’s almost like you threw a bunch of tropes together and they just did their Fall Out Boy version of all these pop punk tropes and did all the kind of, in my opinion, the best type of moments that you can have in a pop punk song they nail in each part of this.

It’s kinda like the best pop punk song, on the best pop punk album, by the best pop punk band. So the fact that it opens that album is, it’s just, and for me, someone who likes a lot of energy in music, that absolutely nails it for me. That was my initial, like just surface, or not surface, but like gut reaction of this song when you, when you set that prompt.

Ryan: Full transparency. This isn’t a genre that I, I typically listen to more often than not.

Eric: Yeah. I spared you the emo rap.

Ryan: You spared me the emo rap. Yeah. So of course I went back and listened to it. The record came out in 2003. Man, it’s 20 years old. Which is insane to think about right now, but going back and listening, hearing those pieces that they pulled from, but also hearing, it sounds like the beginnings of what you think of, of what comes out of pop punk and emo for the next decade plus. It seems like it represents- this seems very foundational. Of course. I mean, I feel like Fall Out Boy probably was a very foundational band in this era.

Eric: Yeah. So you’re, you’re nailing it. So here’s the part you don’t know. Which is, just not knowing that genre. Your instincts are absolutely right. But here’s the piece that’s missing is that Fall Out Boy, much like this song, is also an amalgamation of a lot of bands they were inspired by.

Because they actually came from, most of the band came from, like their singer was a drummer for a ska band and everybody else was in hardcore bands. So the fact that they all got together kind of to- this was almost like their: “alright, we are the talented members of our bands, let’s make a band and actually try to make it.”

It was a coordinated effort to write that genre. And kind of expand on it, there is an album that came out in 2001. Tell All Your Friends by Taking Back Sunday was a massive influence on this record. But it’s purely emo.

There’s a band called Newfound Glory and, at the time, they were called A Newfound Glory and they put out an album, I forget the exact year, I think ‘99. Something about sparkling and fading and, I don’t know, spark, all that glitters ain’t gold, or I don’t know, I forget what it’s called.

Ryan: Just a little post-production note. The album is Nothing Gold Can Stay and it was released in 1999.

Eric: That album, it sounds like this Fallout Boy album. Take This To Your Grave sounds like a mix between Tell All Your Friends by Taking Back Sunday and the A Newfound Glory album from like 1999. And, if you listen to those albums back-to-back, you can really hear- oh, and also you gotta mix in The Getup Kids who are considered kind of the godfathers of the Emo/Pop-Punk 2000s hybrid and their singer hates that. He has apologized to the world for inspiring Fall Out Boy and stuff. It’s a very funny thing when you’re just like, “I hate that I inspired a massive influential genre of music. Damnit, I’m sorry.”

Old man Matt Pryor. Love, love him.

Ryan: When I asked you to pick a song, I anticipated either a Fall Out Boy song or one of Kanye West’s early-

Eric: Oh, interesting. Yeah, I would’ve, uh, yeah Anything off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is pretty interesting.

Ryan: I know it’s one of your favorites.

Eric: Oh yeah. That intro intro’s pretty good. Nicki Minaj, great for a feature.

Ryan: And now look where he is.

Eric: Oh yeah. Has anything happened with him? I haven’t really been paying attention.

Ryan: I stopped paying attention a long time ago. I’m not keeping up with the Wests.

Eric: I was keeping up with the Wests only when he was Twitter beefing with Pete Davidson and kind of Michael Che.

The Michael Che stuff was amazing. I forget exactly how the post went. He posted something like a text from Pete Davidson, respectfully being like, “Hey, let’s be adults about this.” And he posted it with comment that was like, “yeah, look at this dickhead,” or something like that.

I was like, “damn, Kanye got his ass.” Oh man. Yeah, so I could have picked a Kanye song. You’re right.

[Break music by Scotty Sandwich]

Eric: Through the Punk Rock Seinfeld page, on Instagram, I follow somebody who is visiting, who’s been, or not visiting, but just living in Japan, I guess, for the last year or two. And all the posts are just video after video of local alternative music, but mostly punk, punk-adjacent genres in Japan.

And just constant, like they have this thriving local scene. It’s so cool for just punk bands and watching the crowds it’s so wild to see. Crowds discovering for themselves how to best enjoy a punk show in the same way that I did when I was a teenager in, you know, Maryland. It’s crazy to see this through the internet now.

I don’t know. It’s like watching music kind of grow exponentially and how, I don’t know, genres mix and match and, I don’t know. It’s just pretty crazy right now what’s happening with music. It’s exciting.

Ryan: Yeah I love how, you know, everywhere you go, I mean, this- It’s kind of one of the main thesis statements behind what I do here and on Global Garage is: The world is massive. We have a lot of differences as human beings, but you go to a small music scene-

Eric: It’s the same. It’s all the same.

Ryan: It’s so cool being able to go to a completely different country, find a small club show, and people are engaging with it in the same exact way.

Eric: That’s something I was showing my, – my dad says, hi, by the way- Me and Ryan are friends for anyone-

Ryan: Is he here?

Eric: No, no, no, no. I saw him earlier and told him I was doing this.

Ryan: Oh, okay. Well say hi to your father for me.

Eric: I will. I was showing him the newest Punk Rock Seinfeld today, and I was saying how it’s- ’cause we have so many episodes that are just about going to a local show. And that experience. And I was saying how Seinfeld works perfect for it, because the experience is universal. That’s what we’re going for. What are all the universal experiences that you have growing up in the punk scene and everything that happens because of it, and then who best to discuss it, but the Seinfeld gang.

Local scene culture is so interesting. It’s so much more interesting than punk culture. Just because that’s such a shared experience that you get anywhere. That’s so cool. Oh, dude. So to pull it- I know we always go off track, but pull it back to the song. Did you read the lyrics by any chance?

Ryan: I did not. Should I pull them up?

Eric: Okay. Yeah. Pull ’em up and I wanna hear- you know what? Let’s get a live reaction of Ryan reading Fall Out Boy lyrics. How about you read the lyrics and react and I’ll give you context after to explain how exactly this happened. Lyrically this song is very interesting.

Ryan: I really hope I don’t get hate mail for this episode if I, if I react one way or another.

Eric: Oh, no, no, no. You’ll see exactly what I mean. There’s nothing controversial here. You’ll know you’ll get it exactly once you see it.

Ryan: “Light that smoke, that one for giving up on me.”

Eric: Yeah, it’s a pretty emo line. Pretty standard. Yeah.

Ryan: “And one just ’cause they’ll kill you sooner than my expectations.” It’s so melodramatic.

Eric: Yeah, I know. They’re really going for it.

Ryan: “To my favorite liar. To my favorite scar. (To my favorite scar)”.

Eric: “(Favorite scar)”.

Ryan: “I could have died with you. I hope you choke on those words, that kiss, that bottle. Confess. (So bury me in memory).”

That was me doing the, in parentheses. That was terrible.

“Now ask yourself. Yeah. Out of the insides said, I loved you, but I lied.”

Eric: Alright, here we go. You ready? You ready for the hook? Here’s where we takes a turn.

Ryan: Jumping into the pre-course.

“Let’s play this game called when you catch fire, I wouldn’t piss to put you out. That is-

Eric: For a pop punk song in 2003. Yeah.

Ryan: it’s pretty brutal.

Eric: Pretty brutal. That’s a good word. We’re gonna come back to that. Keep going.

Ryan: “Stop burning bridges and drive off of them so I can forget about you.”

That’s quite insensitive to tell someone to go kill themselves.

Eric: Yeah. Because, you know why? Because you broke up with me. That’s the, that’s the charge, by the way.

Ryan: Well, I mean, that’s the thing with, with this era of emo and pop punk. I mean, that’s why there’s a whole band dedicated to making fun of it called Masked Intruder, which takes that trope and just extends it so far.

Eric: Jarrod Alonge with The Sunrise Skater Kids gets some credit as well. Satirical pop punk.

Ryan: And so the chorus: “so bury me in memory. His smiles your rope. So wrap it tight around your throat.”

Eric: You’re dating a new guy and it’s gonna be the literal death of you. Alright, verse two. Let’s see where we go from there.

Ryan: Oh my God, “On the drive home joke about the kid you used to see, his jealousy. Breaking hearts has never looked so cool as when you wrap your car around a tree, your makeup looks so great next to his teeth, (his teeth).

Eric: Yeah, so I already feel it’s just the same lyrics over and over after that.

Ryan: Yeah the outro is “so bury me in memory around your throat.”

Eric: Yeah. So here’s what happened. So, you know, I said two of the members were in hardcore bands. And the singer was originally just gonna be a drummer, and then they found out he could sing really well, and they’re like, “oh, holy shit. Get up there.” And so when he and the bassist, who would later just be the lyricist, but the two of them were writing the lyrics for this album together, what their bassist told the singer, he was like, “okay, when you write your lyrics, it’s gotta be brutal, man. Brutal.” And you said it, dude. It’s gotta be brutal. Now here’s the thing. The guy he was saying it to was like a 15-year-old kid who liked metal and ska, and he didn’t know that the bassist meant brutal honesty.

Like, do the Taking Back Sunday thing. Be brutally honest. Even if it’s ugly, it makes- it’s like Pinkerton, like Weezer Pinkerton style, it can make you look bad, but brutal honesty. But he misunderstood and felt like brutal death metal, and so he wrote a brutal death metal version of an emo lyric, which is why that’s so interesting.

I think that’s so interesting. It’s just, it was kind of a miscommunication.

Ryan: If I had no context of it and I read that, I would not think it was a very upbeat emo pop-punk song.

Eric: Yeah. No, not at all. And there are so many lyrics on that album that are just, that are exactly that brutal. What I thought was kind of cool is that makes it kind of a unique song. But on top of that, even the lyrics that are not as insane, and also the insane lyrics, are all done really well. Those are some pretty poetic ways to state everything that they’re stating.

And also from just a storytelling perspective, it’s all very concise they’re conveying multiple moving pieces of information within the same lyric and you’re telling me a story that progresses the entire time.

[Break music by Scotty Sandwich]

You also learn, while you’re learning your own taste, you learn how to differentiate between your own, what you find good and what you kind of can-  if you can find core concepts of what makes a “good song” or makes a “good album” or whatever, you can identify it and then see the difference between the two, which I think is really important if you’re critiquing or having an opinion on music.

And that’s where like with Hard Times, in like Spring 2023, Hard Times had to start incorporating more comedy, but not satire. And part of that was a lot of rankings, like this band, this album, or this song in this genre.

All these rankings that are just- it’s a way to just make jokes and have fun talking about bands and songs and albums we like. And, in doing so, I started to realize, “oh, actually, you know, it doesn’t really matter what these rankings are, but it does matter to people.” And so even though I shouldn’t be taken seriously as a music critic, I’m still writing things that are a critique or opinion on specific things in music. And it’s like, “oh, okay, I should be responsible with this. I should be responsible about what I say.” And really think about how it all comes across.

Just because I like something or don’t like something, I really have to think about how is everybody in this fan base gonna feel about this? How are the- a lot of musicians end up seeing these things and I know because they comment on them and so, how would the person who wrote this song feel?

You don’t want it to change your opinion, but you at least wanna think about it in a way to be responsible, to not just go, my personal opinion is what’s right here.

Ryan: What’s the mix of Hard Times readership? I mean, I assume that you have a lot of people in bands that are active. I mean, I feel like the content that you’re putting out resonates really well with bands, but also music fans in general. Do you have a lot of broad readership?

Eric: Specifically, starting in 2020, the readership expanded a lot. And so it was at the point where I think we hit a certain- I’m trying to think of the word for it, but whatever, we hit a certain point where every person who identifies as alternative culture, punk, metalhead, whatever you wanna, call it, they all know about us and the people who like us. And what we noticed is there are far more younger people who are getting into alternative culture as a concept. They’re 13 and they’re like, “oh, what, what’s this punk? The Ramones. Oh, okay.” And then at some point they’re like, “oh, what’s the comedy version of punk? Oh, Hard Times. Oh, okay.”

We’re getting a lot of that. But we also get a ton of more, especially since 2020, because we posted about lots of stuff we post about anyway, like class struggle and police brutality and stuff. And also politics and whatnot there was a lot of politics stuff happening in election year. But all that was stuff we do anyway. But that’s what people wanted to read about and hear about, especially during COVID where internet use skyrocketed. And internet culture became way more widespread.

Because it’s not just us, it’s everyone. There are way more people who are on the internet, on social media and all these websites finding out about all these things, who, it’s not that they were on the internet and didn’t know about them, it was that they just weren’t as active on the internet until COVID happened.

The combination of us getting a lot more of a spotlight on us because of the subject matter we were covering lined up with the subject matter that everyone else was talking about, combined with way more regular people who- most alt-culture people are way more to be likely to be on the internet than “normies,” for lack of a better term.

And so that perfect storm happens and we get a ton of people who have no affiliation with alternative culture who follow us, but it still is the vast majority alt-culture people. So it has expanded to that, but we put these rankings out and people are just- the goal is people should just be excited. Like, “oh, cool. Some more content about a thing I like.”

But, you know, 300 comments of “you ranked my second favorite first and my first favorite second, I’ll kill you. And your mom.” It’s like Jesus Christ. So after hundreds of comments of that, you’re like, I guess these rankings matter to people a lot.

I try to be mindful but I do like to throw in every ranking- I like to throw in one of my personal opinions that I know does not jive with the fan base. And just feel like, not to be like a troll, kind of to be a troll, but mostly because this is what I actually feel.

I’m not pretending to like something. I’m gonna tell you a thing that I believe that you might not believe, but I’ll give you one. I’ll give you one of those. Everything else is fun and funny. Ha ha feel good. Here’s the one where you should go listen to this album again because you were wrong to doubt it. I find myself saying that a lot while I write these things.

Ryan: What is really interesting, I mean, talking about the ratings, it is really interesting seeing Pitchfork’s been doing a series lately where they’re revisiting some of the rankings from classic albums that have stood the test of time. Some records that they are admitting that they, you know, maybe missed the mark on, with the review. So it’s kind of interesting to see this series of them reflecting on their initial reaction to a record, and how it’s held up now. Which is kind of a, I dunno, it’s cool to see that.

Eric: Yeah, it’s interesting. Yeah, music media is very fun. I think you have to find the people you like to read. That’s what I’ve really learned. Because if you go into honestly any kind of field of like critique, and I learned this about film critique. It took me forever to find, because I always thought, oh God, I hate movie critics, and then I found the ones I like and I’m like, “oh no, this is great. This enhances the experience.” I think it’s the same with music stuff.

Ryan: Music is so subjective. Not everyone has the same, the same tastes, but so naturally a critic who favors one style versus another is gonna have an opinion that you either align with or you don’t align with.

Finding out who those people are that have very similar tastes or musical outlooks to you is handy to either fuel new recommendations or discoveries or avoidance or the like.

Eric: One thing that I really do like about the way that we’re doing the rankings at Hard Times is that it’s- no one’s volunteering for stuff they don’t like.

No one’s going “Ooh!” Unless, unless the headline is supposed to be a joke about you not liking them. Obviously. No one’s going “oh, I wanna rank this band who I hate”. The goal is to have people be happy with them. And it’s very funny when people get so mad in the comments, and this wasn’t an example of that, but it was just, to put it on a scale:

So I did a ranking of the band Less Than Jake. My one controversial thing, which I didn’t think would be that controversial, was ranking their album Losing Streak third as opposed to second. A Hello Rockview was number one and I was not gonna change. I know you don’t- Yes, I know. It’s not your world. So it mattered to people.

One of the comments in it was just the name of the album I put third, basically implying, “I think this one should have been number one” and have some like fire emojis or whatever. And they had a blue check mark, so I looked and it was the drummer of the band A Day to Remember. That dude weighed in to tell me I was wrong.

Ryan: To that point, that’s a metric, that’s a metric of success.

Eric: Yeah. I was gonna say, I don’t think he read it. I think he just was like, “oh, I like this album,” but how cool is that, that this dude in one of the biggest bands in the world happened to see that in this feed and goes, “Hey, I just wanna shout out my support for an album I like by this ska band.”

And I was like, oh, that’s so cool. It’s that kind of stuff where you’re just like, oh yeah, there’s a responsibility here. You have to try, you can’t just-

Ryan: You’ll never please everyone. But I think part of it’s also opening up that conversation and giving people a chance to say “Hey, this is my favorite, or this, this band that you’ve probably never heard of is, is really good. This is my, my favorite,” in hopes that someone reading the comments, doing an anger scroll is going to think that they should check that out and then, you know, maybe they do. It’s giving people a voice and a platform, I think for the conversation, which I guess can be very much abused.

Eric: But it’s also fun. Even when it’s chaotic or, because you do get really good stuff in there too, but it’s all fun. Every bit of it is just, I don’t know. That’s what’s so funny. Creators always talk about, I don’t know, pick a term for people who do whatever for not real celebrities. They always talk about, “Don’t read the comments, dude. Don’t read the comments. Never read the comments.” I read every single comment. They’re awesome. All I’ve done my whole life is read internet forums. This is just an internet forum about something I post, if it’s mine, or something one of my friends made. If it’s somebody else’s. This is great. This is fun. This is really fun, the whole spectrum of it.

Ryan: Thank you so much for chatting with me. It’s always a pleasure to see what tangents we go on.

Eric: Yeah. Dude, thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. It’s so much fun though, dude. I always love talking this stuff and I think it’s really cool what you’re doing. Good luck with the podcast.

Ryan: Thanks for tuning in. Be sure to like, subscribe and rate the show on your preferred podcast provider. As I’m told, it helps the algorithm gods. You can find a full transcript of the show at letsmixtape.com, or you can also find a link to the Spotify and YouTube playlist. For season one, Scotty Sandwich from the Sandwich Shoppe composed our theme music. Join me next week when I talk with French musician, Nick Pulpman.