When I was in high school, my first weekend left home alone I awoke to find my family’s Bichon Frise, Chienna (who everyone called Noonan for an unknown reason), motionless on the floor. She was hardly breathing, but she was warm and though her eyes were glassy, she was weakly blinking — a sign of life. Being that it was the weekend, I didn’t know of any open clinics, or the extent of her illness. I called my mother and agreed to drive the dog to the emergency veterinary clinic off George W. Bush Turnpike, where she and my father would meet me. Just as my parents arrived, the vet issued a fairly harsh diagnosis: Noonan had precious little time left. They’d be surprised if she lasted more than a day or two and recommended putting her down. Important to note: My mother is very strong-willed. And being a medical woman herself (and married to a doctor) and thus skeptical of anyone else’s diagnosis (especially when so definite), she did not accept the vet’s “expertise” nor the recommendation. Instead, she declared that she would take the dog home and nurse her back to health.
I kid you not: it worked. After receiving a lot of fluids and care, Noonan miraculously recovered. She wasn’t exactly perky but she was a dog again. A geriatric dog who required geriatric care, but far from a dead dog. Still, over the next couple years (yes, the dog lived multiple years after this incident, with recurring resuscitations), Noonan’s condition grew worse. She started going deaf. Her eyesight faded. As we approached “the end,” Noonan was no longer just a geriatric dog. She was a zombie, kept alive well past her expiration date. My mother and sister LOVED that dog, and it was excrutiatingly painful to even consider losing her. But in the end, it was my sister (who had received the dog as a gift when she was a little girl) who made the call and Noonan was put down.
All of which I tell you because…I don’t want Cassavettes to become a zombie dog. Yes, this is notice that we are breaking up.
This band has had five years of unbelievably good fortune and we’ve accomplished more than we probably should have. But it paid off because we worked hard, we loved each other, and we loved this band. During our growth period, Cassavettes felt limitless. It was special. It meant something unexplainable to us, and because we were very, very lucky, it seemed to mean something to a lot of other people. That deep connection with the audience was genuine, and it was an extension of our friendships with each other — the very core of the band. It was the hook upon which we hung our hat.
Cassavettes was not necessarily a band of musicians, it was a group of best friends playing music together. If we could go back in time and assess by musical fit and style, we probably wouldn’t have ended up together (and we probably would have lasted only half as long). But what made it special was the unspoken connection, the brotherhood. We were lucky to be able to go through these experiences with people who meant so much to us. We shared every success, every failure, in the exact same way. To use my standard NBA reference, imagine when a basketball player hits a game-winning shot and his teammates mob him, hug him, knock him to the floor with laughter and tears. When this band scored, it felt like that. That sensation of pride that with teamwork and patience WE accomplished something together, something that means everything to US — well, it’s just very, very special. And I’ll tell you right now that no matter what I do going forward, no matter what successes I have in music or life, it’ll feel different. I don’t think I’ll ever feel such a deep connection personally to any future teammates and the “team” that we comprise. And that’s OK. I was fortunate to experience it once because it’s something I’ll never forget. I come from a family with two sisters. Mike, Scott, and Matt are my brothers. Cheesy, yes, but also true.
What made this decision so difficult was the nostalgia for all that. Mike, Scott, and I have known each other since we lived in Texas together — the roots are fairly deep now. And when Matt joined the band, he became an “honorary Texan.” He fit so seamlessly into conversations, into our friendships, into our lives. But after going through five years of growth (together and separate from one another), that “limitless” feeling started to fade at some point. We all knew deep down that the band was wrapping up some time ago, but each time we thought that way, we were hit by a pang of guilt. Cassavettes has been the heart of our existence for five years now. It’s been our main thing. It’s been the justification for us living our lives the way we do. Scott wouldn’t have ever lived in Boston if it hadn’t been for Cassavettes. I probably would have moved away after college, or I’d have pursued some other goal. Mike, in a roundabout way, met his wife through a few shows and some shared band connections. So, to question Cassavettes, we were questioning the very foundation of our lives, and to make that kind of a radical decision, it takes time.
But at some point, after floating in what we’ll call a “musical purgatory,” you just look at each other and admit that it’s time. That dog we loved so dearly is dying and we have to let it go, lest it become a zombie dog. That moment finally came last night with feelings of relief and regret. I’ve invested what many people consider the “best years of their life” into building this band, as have the other guys. It’s not something you want to let go of easily. But this decision feels, for lack of a better word, right.
We are all planning other things, and excited to start a new chapter. Matt will be moving to Nashville to play the dirty blues with Scissormen. Scott and Mike will continue to play spooky surf rock in Beware the Dangers of a Ghost Scorpion! And I will continue the “solo” route I started paving with my CD a year or two back, taking along Scott and Josh as part of my band. As former Cassavettes, we’ll all be rooting for each other.
So, here’s what’s going to happen. We will play our final show on December 18 at the Middle East Upstairs with our friends The Luxury, Autumn Hollow Band, and Barn (make sure you get your tickets EARLY!). Matt Snow, our longtime drummer who left the band a couple months ago to prep for his move to Nashville, will return to play the finale. Again, it just feels right to have all of us up there. In fact, Josh Kiggans, who manned the drums for us over the past month, insisted that Matt return to the kit. After five-plus years, it’s his rightful throne.
We will play a longer-than-usual set, and hopefully be able to play everything you want to hear and everything we want to play. Furthermore, we will have open season on our merch box (“everything must go!!!”), so come ready to take home some swag.
We want this to be more party than funeral — a nice summary of the band’s existence. Because as I wrote years ago, on the first incarnation of the band’s website, “fun is priority number one.” That’s been our rule of thumb. December 18 is going to be fun. Just like the past five years have been fun. Please be a part of it, because since the beginning, this has been a shared experience for all of us. Let’s share one more.
A trip down memory lane…
An early shot (2005?) of the band in which Matt had to be pasted in (poorly) by Tim Coughlin
Our first birthday show (notice the number 1 candle), July 2006
Hanging in Austin, our first SXSW. 2007
At Rubber Gloves with the Sterns, 2007
Photo by Gene McCullagh, Texas 2008
Our 3rd birthday show at the Paradise. July 2008. Photo by Sooz
Nashville, 2009. Ironically, we were playing a backyard show at the very house at which Matt will soon reside.
A classic. 2005 by Este Aladro