The Secret History of My Favorite
by Celeste La Coca

The trains to the City were painfully slow. You stared out the window at the asshole of suburbia. Through chainlink and barbed wire you gazed at a landscape of glass and neon, plastic and dust, piled up against the graffiti strewn backside of so many half empty strip-mall towns whose very names required your face to form a frown in order to pronounce them.

Eventually they piled out of trains, relying on the remaining half inch of tread on a pair of black Converse All-Stars to deliver them downtown. There at Rebel Rebel, they flip through 12 inches from the otherworldly stars of the British indie charts. Intoxication is tempered by a gnawing disgust with their own lives. They are mute and invisible tourists from a crass and laughable sliver of the earth. Long Island is not Manchester, it's not even Brookyln. And all the beauty they see is impossible to describe, at least for now. But sometimes even the worst stutterer can sing, and so off to Radio Shack to steal a microphone.

Michael spray-painted his hair silver, in an attempt to look like Andy Warhol, but it only made him look like he had just seen a ghost, which of course he had. He listened to The Smiths and Joy Division. He met Andrea that year, impressed by her conceptual wearing of a "Les Miserable" t-shirt. Andrea would attempt to lure him out of the house to socialize amongst the living. Once there was a terrible incident revolving around the proposal of a round of mini-golf. The only kids not perplexed to the point of contempt by his oddness were a group of glue-sniffing skaters he would drive to Taco Bell. In each one he saw a scabbed up James Dean. In this way a vacant lot became his Griffith Observatory. His notebook began to contain more than just doodles of vampires and Molly Ringwald.

Andrea's parents moved to Florida, and she did a year in Purgatory, sitting under umbrellas in the searing sunlight, listening to The Cocteau Twins with a bunch of switchblade-wielding Goths who drove around in a hearse. She hated them, but sympathized. She took a photo-class and danced at a club called Visage where she once met They Might Be Giants. She finished high school half a year early and returned to her friends on Long Island. Living in a rented room on the wrong side of the tracks, she took buses to the drugstore, where she worked as a clerk. Her bed was beside a stack of the landlord's romance novels piled so perilously high, that she was in constant danger of being buried alive beneathe the pathetic fantasies of the working class. She could sing a little, though she was painfully shy. Michael could empathize.

Darren lived a bottle's throw from the highway, on a street full of kids who looked like extras from Over The Edge. If it wasn't bolted down, it was thrown off the overpass. He hated them, but he sympathized. Michael had been to his Kindergarten birthday party and they had once again become friends in their teenage years. He quit the football team and spent afternoons playing guitar. He liked R.E.M's "Fall on Me". His older brother left behind a stack of New Wave records which sounded much better without him around. Though no one would confuse his blue jeans with Michael's nailpolish, the things they held in common were the things they held most dear.

Gilbert went home sick one day from High school, and did not return. Some called it "clinical depression," but most thought he just liked to sleep in. Michael went by his house one day to cheer him up and after witnessing him play "Just Can't Get Enough" on his parents out of tune piano, he asked him to join his band, which at that time did not exist. He preferred New Order to Joy Divison, and soon Michael sort of did too. He had been to France.

It took a year to find Tod in the dank dormitories of The State University of New York at Stony Brook. The gang had managed to crawl all of 15 miles away from their hometown to the once respected but now blighted state school. Misfits of the working class are often unaware that they'd be better off at an art school in Northampton. They'd be better off anywhere but here. Instead they stick together like a pack of hungry dogs.

Tod played drums like Budgie and had a Soviet flag hanging above his bed. He would later come up with the name "My Favorite," and Andrea has yet to forgive him. He looked kind of Goth, but watched One Life To Live all afternoon and then listened to Slowdive records. No one knew his last name.

Stevan was Michael's best friend and a local celebrity equally famous for writing a novel in a weekend and having sex behind the coat rack at Rips, the local discothèque. He was still at the tender age when alcoholism could be used to accessorize. He had a band of his own whose first tape Michael "produced" in the same fashion Warhol "produced" The Velvet Underground & Nico. He played guitar. Michael and their friend Lambert slept on the floor in his parents house for the first semester of college. People found this arrangement a bit odd. Stevan didn't.

Kirk was their high school's musical prodigy. He could play The Smiths or Ozzy Ozbourne with the same precision. He could sing and had an almost supernatural charisma. The band was convinced that Kirk could lift them out of the sumps of Stony Brook. Kirk was less convinced with them. Their friendship ran deep, so much that one some times got the feeling Kirk was in the band solely out of some misguided sense of loyalty.

For the first year, the gang played shows alongside punk and hardcore bands at shitty all-ages nights at Long Island bars. Michael wore boxing gloves, and painted backdrops for shows. One such backdrop depicted a decrepit looking radio tower, and the light from the neon Michelob sign it was hung adjacent to gave the entire thing an eerie glow.

They recorded 8 songs on a tape and called it The Day The World Turned Blue. They were 20 years old and beautifully clueless. Michael and Kirk wrote the songs and Darren played bass. Gilbert hung around and played keyboards on a few songs. Stevan played a couple of guitar tracks. The engineer's favorite band was Journey. By this time Kirk had joined a ethereal post-Goth band which had a deal with Shimmy-Disc records in NY. After that he refused to play anything except an acoustic guitar in My Favorite. The resulting tape with its oboes and violins and maudlin mumblings sounds kind of like The Sundays on Prozac. After they had spent whatever money they had on making this tape, Kirk quit, leaving the band in serious jeopardy. The current members of My Favorite do not consider that tape a "My Favorite" record and stopped playing songs from it shortly after Kirk quit. Although it is not without some merit, the band wishes each copy had been buried, so requests from the public are often met with physical violence.

Andrea and Michael bought a stack of Sex Pistols and Jam bootlegs, got all riled up and decided that the band should stay together and prove everyone wrong. Its members stepped into new roles. Darren returned to guitar. Gilbert picked up a bass and did his best, and Stevan became the rhythm guitarist. They became the most curious of art-school ensembles, rejecting the sounds around them, and instead casting themselves as the band in some imaginary film set somehow both in the past and the future. They were cult heroes without followers. They were stars with no charms beyond their radiant dislocation and loneliness. Michael's lyrics also blossomed with the bitter fruits of their new found lowered expectations. A noir videoscape emerged, full of restless skinheads, moping ghosts and fallen debutantes. Michael's bandmates themselves wondered how a boy who rarely left his house could fashion such a far away world.

Andi & Michael and a few friends started doing a mod culture zine called Absolute Beginners and drank cappuccinos in strip-mall pizza parlors with an "X" on their hands and their heads full of European dreams. Stevan, Gilbert and Tod were not straightedge, and not drinking cappuccinos. The student houses which all of them hung around were full of drugged out philosophy majors strung around the rooms like so many dimming Christmas lights. This divide caused alienation within the gang, since headmaster Michael's ideology at the time was nothing if not sobering. Darren meanwhile drank Yoo-hoo with no sense of irony about it.

Stevan soon grew bored and quit, rarely leaving his room and fashioning some profoundly disturbing soundscapes on his 4-track. Michael hand-picked Matt "Spike" Kelly as his replacement. Matt had survived four years in the Army and worked with Michael at a record store in Port Jefferson. He could barely play at first, but soon became quite competent. He also could fight, which was a plus when you're playing "Boy's Don't Cry" on bills centered around Oi bands.

Michael's introduction to the concept of American indie music was a review of a Bratmobile 7" in Sassy magazine. Before that, indie music seemed an exclusively British concept to him. Felt, The Wedding Present, Brilliant Corners and of course Sarah Records. His only reference point was the NME. The only action he could conceive of on this side of the pond was to hurtle their demos at the Sire Records building with the tepid dream of being the next Ocean Blue. The politics of labels like K Records and Kill Rock Stars seemed more in line with those of his beloved Sarah, and the Marxist-ish Red Balloon Collective which he would hang around with in the Student Union. All of this appealed to him much more than the prospect of propositioning Seymour Stein. The gang recorded four songs and called it The Brighton Riot Tape, and took a bunch of photos of themselves dressed in AC Milan soccer jerseys. They sent these to a handful of small indie labels in America. Of the few which responded, many did so in a way which could best be described as unsupportive. One label however called "Audrey's Diary" passed the tape to Jennifer Silver who had a small label called "Swingset." Chip Porter was planning on ending Audrey's Diary and thought Jennifer might like them. She did, and put out a notorious pink sleeved single called The Last New Wave Record which featured the songs "Go Kid Go," "Absolute Beginners Again" and "1986". Both Chip and Jen became true friends and confidants for the group. They had recorded the single with the producer Kramer, who had done the Galaxie 500 records which Stevan and Michael had been quite fond of. The record was then played on the John Peel show, so the band naturally assumed fame was waiting in the next room.

They were now playing with proper "indiepop" bands like The Push Kings and Holiday, Papas Fritas and Tullycraft. A scene full of smart and friendly kids from a variety of coastal colleges. Although some crowds stared at them as if they were some low-rent Duran Duran, overall they were happy to be part of any kind of community. It was as if they had entered the Ivy League through some service entrance door that had been left ajar.

Tim Alborn, an Assistant Professor at Harvard who had been the first in America to release a Magnetic Fields single, contacted the band about doing a single on his label Harriet Records. Since Michael had been obsessed with the book Harriet The Spy, the labels' namesake, in elementary school, he believed the coupling was fated to be. They recorded the 7" record The Informers & Us, which was a self conscious "disco" record about AIDS and poverty and a bunch of other untenable subjects. It made its way onto the CMJ monthly sampler disc and received a handful of glowing reviews from people who were still struggling to grasp a young band doing moody plastic pop during the height of grunge.

Matt quit My Favorite shortly after The Informers & Us to focus on school. Michael felt badly that he did not try very hard to change his mind. Matt's intensity occasionally made him nervous, and The Faves were beginning to move away from pure guitar pop towards synthesizers and shambling orchestration, making his role less defined. Matt's irrepressible spirit was always one of the things which inspired the band when things seemed dim. He would be missed.

The next year or so was a misguided waste redeemed only by some inspired shows in Boston & DC. Most of their energy was spent doing demos for an arty scout label of Geffen's, who had the resources to finance an album and tour. The label was enamored with the song "The Informers" and requested more songs as soon as possible. At this point the band frantically recorded some very uneven versions of the songs "17 Berlin," "Let's Stay Alive," "Modulate" and "Working Class Jacket" with a bored assistant engineer off hours at a ridiculous corporate jingle studio in Manhattan. Desperate to complete the demos, the band stalked the unimpressed assistant until they could finish the sessions. As it was, the demos took months. Predictably, after the mania to complete them, the label was not impressed with the songs, and declined any involvement. From the year's sessions, the band only saw fit to release "Modulate" and "Working Class Jacket" as split singles with Boyracer and Mad Planets respectively. The year had produced no contract, and a bunch of recordings which the band was not very proud of.

Soon after Tim Alborn told the band of his plans to end Harriet Records, they accepted an offer to put out a full length album from Peter Green, whom the band had contributed the Brighton Riot Tape track "Cult Hero, Come Home" to his Double Agent Records debut 7". Peter was a smart and imaginative Boston indie kid who had interviewed Michael for his Splashdown fanzine the year before. Peter was committed to introducing My Favorite to an audience who needed them, but could not find them. With a vision and aesthetic which excited the band, Peter went to work. Thus began the partnership and friendship between My Favorite and Double Agent which continues to this day. In many ways Peter is the 6th Fave, displaying an uncanny combination of patience and enthusiasm. The Secret History could not have continued without him.

The rest of their history is not so secret, though full of more ups and down and a year and a half of inactivity which Michael spent in convalescence feeding ducks. Recent years have found them emerging like the second coming of Pulp, outsiders finding their way inside from years in the wilderness. Their art remains in its own way quite fierce, as though toughened by the days spent transversing a barren landscape of signs and memories. Everything else you need to know is in the songs themselves. Or ask Michael; he's known to be a talky lad if you catch him in the right mood.