Sounds like: Poison the Well, Keepsake, I Have Dreams, and who cares.
This file includes two very early demos (one without bass), as well as a demo version of “Take Him Away,” The Audition EP, a Bound and Gagged Records comp appearance, and all available artwork and lyrics.
Stream the above files here.
From Clown Rushmore To the Flying Squirrel:
The History of A Terrible Band With A Beautiful Soul
A biographical essay by founding member and guitarist
In life, there are few things like your first band. What else can compare to a bunch of awkward kids playing poorly-written songs through a shit pile of borrowed and malfunctioning equipment in some of the worst and most laughable places imaginable, all in front of people you’ve never met?
Nothing compares. And that’s what makes your first band such a milestone.
Every Waking Moment was my first band. That is, if you don’t count the handful of aborted musical experiments I was a part of that thankfully never saw the light of day (there was a Middle Finger Salute somewhere in the ninth grade as well as a Die Trying later on that year when we got more mature). Originally, Every Waking Moment consisted of myself on guitar, my long-time, drug-addled best friend James Hartsell on the drums, and my other best friend, Mike Andrews on vocals. The search for a bass guitarist began soon after we formed, but sifting through the ragtag crowd of goofballs and losers we hung around was like panning shit for gold and it produced no immediate results. We were the only people we knew who could sort of play our instruments and were not involved in other, better bands. So we shelved our low-end concerns to be dealt with at a later date and starting trying to write songs. After our first practice, which was sometime in early 2001 we knew two covers: “Fertile Fields” by Good Riddance and, clueless as we were, “There Is A Black Hole In the Shadow of the Pru” by American Nightmare (we didn’t know the rules yet). Although we hadn’t decided on a name, we had several ideas, all of which are far too embarrassing to print here. Come see me on my deathbed if it’s really that important to you.
Okay, here’s one: the Mourning After [shudder].
We practiced in James’ bedroom and living room for quite a while, writing a handful of cringe-inducing musical atrocities that fell somewhere in the vein of Poison the Well, Keepsake, and all the rest of the terrible, screamy/moshy Florida bands we were so enamored of at the time. I don’t know how James’ parents put up with our bullshit even going so far as to let us covertly store our equipment in and around their living room. “Is that a new coffee table?” “Nope, that’s a bass drum with a duct-tape pentagram on it.” “So it is.”
As our high school graduation was fast approaching so was our hastily-slapped together first show. With certain embarrassment looming on the horizon like a cloud of deadly radioactive dust, at the eleventh hour we recruited a guy I skateboarded and worked with, Chris Ladwig, to handle bass temporarily. He had just started playing guitar in a pop punk band at the time called Runner Up. He went to another high school so he hadn’t been in the initial bassist running. Honestly, nobody had seriously been in the initial running because we were about as fun to listen to as undergoing invasive rectal surgery. While Runner Up definitely trod the same ground as a lot of goofy bands like MXPX and Buddah-era Blink 182, they had their shit together: nice equipment and a decent place to practice. They even had a van. And eventually, not having to stress over all those details, they managed to write some great songs.
Chris bailed on the show at the last minute unfortunately, but not before he gave us a name that sounded like it had been shat from the bowels of a mongoloid coffee house poet: Every Waking Moment. So we ended up playing our first show (my first real exposure to the Daytona Beach hardcore scene) bassistless, which wasn’t ideal to say the least. But we made the best of it. After all, we were sharing the bill of what turned out to be a sizable show with Downpour from Georgia (a chaotic metal band I still stand by) and Miami’s infamous thug sons, Trust No One. And no matter that; we were playing at the Church, that most storied and legendary of Daytona Beach venues. We learned “Blistered” by Strife in an attempt to get the kids moving around and it worked – to an extent. Everyone hated our original shit though, but somehow – against all conceivable odds – we made some friends and got thrown on some more shows. This was all thanks to Billy Regar, who up until 2008 booked shows in Daytona for longer than anybody could remember. Billy didn’t flier at the mall, Billy didn’t usually book any bands with guarantees, and Billy set up D.I.Y. shows at the aforementioned Church – which was really the rec hall next to a church. He’d somehow finagled the use of the building and managed to put on shows there for years. Unfortunately we ended up losing the place in 2003 for good when some of the higher-ups of the church administration dropped by and spotted anti-religious pamphlets on somebody’s distro table. Some people are just too punk for their own good.
I remember at our second show (this one was at the now defunct Happy Daze in DeLand, Florida) Chris actually showed up and played our set. But he wasn’t really interested in staying with us after that show, although he and his band mates always supported us by lending out their great equipment and sitting through our set without visibly cringing. Before our third show we found the guy with the best haircut we’d ever seen at the time, Matt Fisher, who took over for Chris. Matt had played bass (and sang) in a local pop punk band called G.I. Joe. Matt was ecstatic to be in the band because he wanted to play “hardcore,” even though we embodied the most pussified version of it that existed. Don’t get me wrong, we tried. But back then, none of us really knew too much about the genre. I mean we counted Poison the Well as an influence and we liked some of the Victory bands, but we were basically in a cave with a dying flashlight when it came to writing cohesive music. Matt eventually adopted/was saddled with the moniker Matt Moment, which sounded as stupid back then as it does today, over a decade later.
This was also about the time that we found our practice space. It was a storage facility which had an official name, but we simply dubbed it the Unit. This place was, for years, the only spot in town bands could practice. Every band I’d ever been in, until 2011, ended up using it. Sure we were kicked out numerous times, but the ownership of the place changed hands so frequently it was never really a concern. But this type of lackadaisical attitude came with a price as the Unit was a cesspool like no other.
The place was next door to a well-known crack house and across the street from a motel notorious for prostitution stings. I used to wave to the barely-clad, undercover female officers as they trolled the street out front. The Unit also doubled as a repo lot and an unofficial neighborhood dumping ground. The owner never came by to check on anything, leaving tenant concerns up to a succession of Daytona Beach’s finest who resided – one dirt bag after another – in an efficiency apartment at the front of the lot. There was the “Crack Lady,” she of the husky voice and incessant twitching and scratching; and then of course there was John, the guy with the degenerative nerve disease who had a voice like Kermit the Frog and a face like Michael Barryman from The Hills Have Eyes. To be fair, these freaks’ constant drug use went a long way to keeping them out of our hair. They couldn’t be bothered with the band down the way when there were bugs crawling out of the walls. John did attempt to befriend us by giving us insight into what had brought him to his present circumstances. He would hold up one trembling, tooth-gnawed, sore-covered hand and say, “This is what drinkin’, druggin’, and whorin’ yer way around Florida will getchya.” He ended up dying in the apartment up front, but he also used to punch his dog so who gives a shit.
One night, mid-practice, a young street grifter, who told us he went by the name of “Angel,” hopped the barbed wire fence and headed down to our garage. He said that he wanted to be in the band and proceeded to wow us with his guitar and vocal stylings. He played “Reign In Blood,” “Seek and Destroy,” and a Pearl Jam song that I don’t remember (it wasn’t “Even Flow” or “Jeremy” so I don’t know). Against all odds, the guy was a pretty decent musician. But in the weeks that followed, Angel took to waiting outside of the Unit for us to come play so, as amazing as it was that he was a closet rock god, we had to start practicing at odd times to avoid him. He managed to catch up to us a few weeks after our initial meeting. Mike wasn’t at that practice and Angel was begging us to kick him out and let him join. After that practice, he never showed up again. Matt suggested that perhaps he was an angel. I was of the mind that while anything was possible, angel or not, given the neighborhood, he was probably on PCP.
So, on we went. Playing local shows, writing songs, implementing terrible ideas to get people to like us, and eventually branching out and playing shows in other towns around Florida. We had found a slightly comfortable niche in Daytona with a few other heavy bands that had sprung up at roughly the same time: the Autumn Offering and Of A Divergent Blood.
If I may digress here, I’d like to give a bit of background on these two groups, as they are intertwined into the musical history of myself and my town. The Autumn Offering was Daytona’s own personal Hatebreed. I’m still transported by visions of pit chaos whenever I hear their signature chug fest, “Doomed Generation.” All the neck armor and spin kicks you could stand. The guys in the band were a bunch of characters. Sean, the bassist, was (and still is) the most intense person I’ve ever met. Their drummer, Mike Bortle, comprised one half of the Bortle Brothers. The Bortles weren’t human; they were a species all to themselves. I’d heard first hand accounts of their Holly Hill dwellings and I was told it was not uncommon for them to throw discarded chicken bones on the carpet, or to find their step dad dead on the couch. The Autumn Offering eventually got signed to Stillborn Records, due to Sean’s persistence in haranguing Jamey Jasta. When they started getting big, their singer Dennis somehow ended up dating the drummer of Kittie. He left the band (or was kicked out?) not long after and became a sheriff. Now the band’s on Victory and all the original members are gone. I actually see Sean in Daytona all the time; he just wrote a true crime book that was featured on Dr. Phil and is in the midst of advising on the set of his first movie. Every Waking Moment’s first out of town jaunt was with the Offering and it culminated with Sean getting in a fight with a dude who looked like Pete Steele, someone trying to stab the guy, and then later on that night, Sean and I paying a bum to buy us Miller High Life tall-boys. Thanks to our extremely low tolerance of alcohol, that’s all we needed to get good and wasted. So we yelled like idiots for a while and kept everybody up all night by jumping on the beds at the motel we all threw in for.
As for Divergent, Mike Bortle’s little brother Brett sang for them. Then there was Jon and Bro Tom handling guitar duties. Jon was actually a pretty competent shredder even though he had arthritis. After a Divergent set, he would always try to high five people, but upon contact, he would wince in pain and then you just felt bad. Tom liked to do the over-the-shoulder, behind-the-back guitar spin (from Strife’s “Blistered” video), but he invariably ended up chucking his piece of shit Telecaster across the room because he refused to invest in strap-locks. Divergent was also very heavy on horror-themed lyrics and song titles. Some of their more choice tracks included, “You’d Look Good In A Hefty Bag,” “Blade Through My Back,” and my personal favorite, “Burned At the Stake.” I knew their drummer Justin from back when we were both in high school and we had tried to start a band in his mom’s garage. He looked like a surf punk back then, but after being recruited into Divergent he grew his hair and beard out like a viking. Little did I know, in the years to come, Bro Tom and Justin would play integral parts in the next bands I would start.
For a short time in late 2001 and into 2002, along with these two outfits, Every Waking Moment made up the third (and least liked) part of a triumvirate of new Daytona hardcore bands.
Mike decided that even though we didn’t have a demo, we needed tee-shirts. James, being the only artistic one in the band, drew us up a design. Later we found out that he had ripped it off from one of those magazines where metal bands show off their tattoos. James’ treachery was revealed the first time Dead To Fall came through our town and the singer took his shirt off during their set. There was our stupid design, tattooed across his chest forever. James was kind of a dick.
We recorded our first attempts at songs with a guy named Jim Nefferdorf. He had played in a ska band called Brownie Points, who used to be a huge deal in Central Florida. They ended up “maturing,” leaving behind their original ska sound, and writing songs that sounded like the Foo Fighters. But Jim had a home studio and he recorded a two-song demo for us. Horrendous as it was, we managed to get more shows out of circulating it. Mostly in towns in South Florida that no one has ever heard of, like Lake Wales, Sebring, and Stuart.
That being said, those trips were some of the best times of my life. We had no idea what we were doing and no care for how we were perceived. Matt had squeezed a minivan out of his parents so we felt like our trips were the real thing: tour. “Get in the van! Let’s fuckin’ go!” We didn’t give a shit if two people watched and we went home with no gas money. We had no concept of ourselves at all. And almost every night we allowed James to make a spectacle of us mid-set by breathing fire and lighting his cymbals ablaze. It didn’t matter. We were just having a blast. It was truly a case of doing a band for the fun of playing music with your friends.
We played anywhere and to anybody. We slept anywhere that was offered. It was the only time I’ve ever really allowed myself to be a free spirit. We made friends with all the nerdiest bands in the state, but we didn’t care. Unlike all the more popular groups, they liked us. That being said, I’ve always been proud of the way we carried ourselves. We didn’t succumb to any of the trends that came with the underground scene at the time. We never looked cool. We never acted pretentious. We were a mismatched goof troop of morons, just playing a bunch of noise for strangers.
We actually made it out of Florida a few times: twice to New Orleans, twice to Baton Rouge, and once to Atlanta. The Louisiana trips were awesome. Sleep deprivation prevailed on those long I-10 drives because we liked to leave in the middle of the night. I remember Mike driving the van like a lunatic on those journeys, proclaiming himself the Serpent King while he gobbled Twizzlers by the fistful. I hallucinated for the first and only time in my life on the way to Baton Rouge. I saw a woman in white cross the road and watched a highway overpass turn into a medieval drawbridge lined with gargoyles. And the kids in Louisiana loved us. I’ve never seen such unbridled enthusiasm over such a mediocre band. A great time was had by all on those trips. Once, we stayed with our friend Andy from Daytona in his dorm at LSU and drooled over college girls who refused to speak to us. Andy is still on the list of the top ten nicest people I’ve ever met. You want proof? The guy majored in tuba. Another time we were part of a five band show held in a really nice suburb outside of New Orleans. We played in some girl’s backyard, with her parents’ blessing no less. They even let us crash in their massive house and cooked us a continental breakfast the next morning. I also learned to change a tire on that trip thanks to Karim, a Daytona hardcore elder statesmen who pitied us enough to come along and keep us alive. He eventually tour managed the Black Dahlia Murder, toured with Cannibal Corpse, Danzig, the Haunted, and pretty much everybody who doesn’t suck ever. I once saw Phil Anselmo actually nod at Karim in recognition when we saw Down at Scion Fest. Fuck.
The Atlanta trip started with two flats and a ticket before Matt even picked us up and ended with us playing to nobody for zero gas money and, ultimately, an eviscerated transmission. This last event caused us to be stranded at a stranger’s apartment for three days. Our transmission was shot due, in part, to Matt’s auditory diet of power metal bands like Sonata Arctica and Rhapsody. He had dubbed the van “Berkenfuer the Mighty” and Matt felt that Berk could withstand any abuse he could dish out. Searching for the venue in Atlanta, he took the van down a steep, unpaved incline trying to get back to a main road. The move was a death sentence for the transmission. We at least found someplace to stay, though our reluctant hosts did force us to watch Faces of Death, Biker Boyz, and Big Money Hustla$. While we were there, one of the guys who lived in the apartment got his motorcycle stolen. Secretly I was ecstatic because it seemed the black cloud that had been following us around all week had finally decided to piss on somebody else for a change. When we finally made it home we realized we were supposed to be playing a show so we drove straight to the only other venue in town after the Church’s demise: the Seabreeze Coffee Connection. The place was also known as Castle Greyskull because the guy who ran it looked like Skeletor. He lived in the back room with his common-law wife who we called the Snake Lady, due to the dry-heave worthy belly dancing routines she put on while bands played. Casting off all the frustration of those previous days, we probably played the best we’d ever played that night.
By this time, we’d gotten to a point where we’d written some competent songs. Forgoing another home recording with Jim we headed to Goldentone Studios in Gainesville to record our new EP. We soon found out that Goldentone was also a home studio, but the engineer, Rob, had much better equipment than Jim. He’d also recorded Against Me! and Less Than Jake which was a selling point for us. The five songs we banged out that day became The Audition EP. One of the tracks (“Take Him Away”) even made it onto a compilation released by the long-defunct (and never really funct) Bound and Gagged Records. There was some androgynous-looking boy-girl on the cover with a knife, which was par for the course at the time. But Backstabbers Inc. was also on the comp and we considered ourselves very lucky to be in the same track listing.
We never said no to a show. For a band with no label backing, no money, and no clue of what we were doing, we played a lot. And most of our shows turned out to be complete shenanigans: there was the time we played at a skating rink and covered “Firestorm” in front of two hardcore guys and a bunch of teenyboppers; the time we played at a combination pawn shop/comic book/video/hardware store; the time we played at a skate park on top of a quarter pipe and Mike fell off; the time we played in a motel lobby; the time we played Lake Wales and ended up exploring a reputedly haunted hotel and running into a bum who may have been a ghost that ate birds; the time we drove three hours and didn’t get to play at all because the cops shut the show down as soon as we got set up. Our good friend and South Florida show-procurer Andy (not the same as LSU Andy, but topping the nice guy list nonetheless) had decided it was alright to stage a show in the middle of a park without asking anyone, permits be damned. We were forced to scramble for a place to stay, which turned out to be an off-season summer camp that looked like Camp Crystal Lake. We stayed with the kid whose parents owned the place. He had a house right on the grounds and let us run amok, riding bikes and belting each other with volleyballs and hockey sticks in the gymnasium and bouncing each other off the trampoline all night. When it was time to go to sleep, I found a plastic bat and slapped Mike in the forehead every time he closed his eyes. See? I used to be fun.
Eventually, we self-released The Audition EP (which meant Mike made covers at Office Depot, I burned the CDs, and together we put them in plastic sleeves), but we were on a roll by then so we kept writing songs. It was 2003 and we had finally come into our own, sound-wise. We’d written another five or six songs that were much heavier, darker, and thrashier than our other material. We were trying to break away from the whole done-to-death, pretty/heavy thing. We had a lot of fun playing that last bit of material. It felt like we’d actually accomplished something. And it seemed that finally, kids in our own town were watching us because they sort of liked us, not because they felt obligated to.
This was unfortunately about the time that we got the bad news about our buddy Sean Ladwig (first bassist Chris’ little brother), who drummed for our friends in Runner Up. At fifteen he found out he had leukemia and he lived only about a year after being diagnosed. Sean was a great drummer and a funny kid who was gone too soon. We played a show down in South Florida the night before his memorial service, drove back early the next morning, and piled bleary-eyed into the church like a bunch of hobos. Sean and his family were fairly religious (the rest of us were not). It was a sad morning and something I’ll always remember. Runner Up’s roadie, Chad, was so fed up with the focus of the service (it was more about God, less about Sean) that he renounced Christianity right in front of the church.
Some of the guys from Runner Up, along with Chad and our friend Danny, put together their own “heavier” band around this time. I actually ended up filling in on bass for their first show, but they finally settled on the only guy in Daytona who played bass and had equipment: Shane Spiker. The band was called Virginia Is For Lovers and they were just as bad as we were. Regardless, we did a South Florida weekend together and had a blast. The idiot factor on this trip was doubled, so naturally we had twice as much fun. We played one show in the podunk burg of Haines City and found out we were the only two bands that made it (and years later we found out the proprietor was a child molester, but that’s neither here nor there). So out of the eight of us we assembled a few other bands to fill up time. One we called Earnhardt (which later morphed into Total Recall), but the most notable of these was a spur-of-the-moment grindcore outfit we dubbed Sand Blasted Herpital Fetus. I, in a sense, drummed for the ten minutes we existed. Chad handled additional screaming and James strapped on my guitar and assaulted everyone in the crowd with feedback and burp voice. The weekend culminated with the aforementioned show that took place in the lobby of a motel. I don’t know how that one came about, but I do know it would probably never have happened in the age of Facebook. Back then, everyone flew by the seat of their collective pants at all times. No one even had cell phones. VIFL (we pronouced it “vif-ull”) ended up writing a song about our trip together, but unfortunately they never recorded it. While we were all good friends, it was still kind of cool being the elder band for once. I guess it made us feel like we were well-seasoned road dogs.
But, alas, all things good and bad eventually have to end. While we were doing our best Converge/Pg. 99 impersonation, we were all doing a little drifting apart. To be honest, it was mostly all of us drifting away from James. Our dissension had been brewing for some time and it finally came to a head one night on the way home from a show in Tampa.
We drove past an accident site on the opposite side of the highway, just as passers-by were getting out of their cars to go help. In the split second it took us to pass the scene, we all saw what appeared to be a dead body in the wrecked car. And then James started laughing. It wasn’t so much that we were offended, or that we thought he was crazy. We’d just had enough of his trademark behavior: trying to shock others for attention whether it be with his attitude, his drug use, or his bullying of the band members. I’ve said before that James turned out to be the worst best friend I ever had. We had a lopsided relationship and when we called it quits, I wasn’t upset about it. James actually commented on an earlier version of this story a few years back. I wasn’t updating the blog at the time so I didn’t see it for close to year. But he was pretty salty. Anything that I’ve typed about James I would have no problem telling him – calmly, I might add – but we haven’t seen each other in almost a decade as of this writing. And I have no problem with that. I will say that being his friend since the ninth grade made me into a much tougher person. He was a bully, but he was also the last bully I never punched in the teeth.
A few weeks after the Tampa show we scrapped doing a new recording and Matt and I started concentrating on a new side project: Total Recall. It was a much simpler format than Every Waking Moment. We just wanted to play fast hardcore and punk like Kid Dynamite and Strike Anywhere. But that band, and the subsequent tales and adventures that came with it, is a story for another day.
We played our final show as Every Waking Moment sometime in 2003. The Coffee Connection was packed and the tiny room was sweltering. I guess that provided enough motivation for everyone in the band, except for me, to get naked. It wasn’t by choice at first, but some of our friends decided it would be funny to rip off Mike and Matt’s pants. I’m pretty sure James just stripped of his own accord, as he was no stranger to nudity in social situations. I removed only my shirt and cautioned those same friends and band mates against the grievous bodily harm that would befall them should they attempt to forcibly strip me.
The highlight of the show wasn’t our performance, although I thought we put the band torest admirably. See, Matt had this thing he used to do with his balls. He would pull the extra skin up to his belly so it resembled some sort of wiry-haired animal. He called it “The Flying Squirrel.” Within seconds of being nude, he had shown everyone his little-known talent and imparted our final gift to the scene that birthed and nurtured us and our stupidity for two hilarious years.
So, I guess you could say we went out, not with a bang, but with a disgusted, idiotic cheer. Which really is the only way I’d want anyone to remember us.