If anyone that hasn’t met me judged me by my 8th grade yearbook alone, they’d pretty much only know one thing about me: I was a huge fan of a band called The Moffatts.
Nearly everyone that signed my book wrote something about how they hoped my dreams came true and I would one day meet The Moffatts. The Moffatts was a band of 4 brothers during a time where boy bands like NSYNC and The Backstreet Boys were ruling the airwaves, or at the very least claiming most of the locker door real estate at my junior high school. But I was very quick to tell anyone who would listen that, unlike these groups, The Moffatts had talent. In a similar vein to Hanson, The Moffatts played their own instruments, wrote their own music, and didn’t dance around on stage. They were serious musicians, I told everyone I met within 10 minutes of meeting them, and it was only a matter of time before you’d be hearing their music just as much as those other guys’. But also unlike NSYNC and BSB, The Canadian Moffatt brothers were virtually unknown in my tiny town in the Midwestern United States.
At the time the internet was still a vast and mysterious place, and my family’s version of it involved typing in a web address, hitting enter, and going to make lunch while the page loaded. But it was also an amazing place where I could suddenly be a fan of a band in an area with absolutely no fan base. I could pull up pages made by 14-year-old girls in Canada or Asia or wherever (who presumably had an internet connection that allowed them to MAKE these slow-to-load pages in their HOMES, a concept that made me assume they were millionaires or from the future) and feel like a part of a secret, underground community made up of people that got what it meant to appreciate music. It was also where I could find crappy, pixelated pictures of the brothers to print and cover my walls, school folders, bedroom doors, desk, closet, etc. etc. with. It was there where I found interview transcripts; lists of favorite movies, songs, colors, T.V. shows and such for each brother (I would of course note and memorize these things so that I could bring them up in conversation as soon as we were in one another’s presence); biographical information about their childhoods and families; and other stalker-friendly bits of information to feed my hungry obsession. My brother was involved in extra-curriculars that required him to get to school a good 30-45 minutes before classes started, and since he was my ride I usually had a lot of time on my hands in the morning. Luckily, a few of my junior high teachers never locked their doors and I was able to slip into the internet world on weekdays using a fancy DSL connection that loaded pages, with pictures, in large chunks in 10-15 seconds. It was truly spectacular.
When Napster first came out and before they could figure out how to deem it illegal, I suddenly had a way to download live versions of performances where occasionally, you could tell which song the band was playing over the screams from the crowd surrounding whatever crappy recording device was used to grab the track. Occasionally I would find a gem of a studio recording of a song they hadn’t put on a record and that made me smile for at least a week afterwards. Of course obtaining these files usually involved leaving the dial-up connection running for 2 or 3 hours, which was tricky since we only had the one phone line. But I didn’t care — my unwavering love for the band drove me to do whatever was necessary to stay just as on top of the band happenings as the fans who were able to listen to them on the radio and watch interviews with them on TV.
When I think of how easy it would have been to be a fan of this band now, just 12 years later, with the ability to follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook, or purchase their music in seconds, I am baffled as to what I would have done with all the spare time I would have had. Maybe I would have better math skills or something.
Junior high was also a time in my life where I was trying to find out who I was, and I had decided the year before that I was going to become a famous writer. This hobby worked out nicely with my main hobby, which required me to sit patiently at a computer for hours at a time waiting for my internet to load. This naturally lead to my writing a 150 page fan fiction book where bad weather and car troubles lead the brothers to staying with a complete stranger for a night (who was strikingly similar to me in many ways). One of the brothers then of course falls in love with said girl and for reasons I can’t remember now, her parents agree to allow her to roam the country with the band in their tour bus for several months. In other words, it was literary gold. But seriously, although it lacked in form and maturity, it became a popular read for my bored peers in study halls and my audience of 15 or so people drove me to keep writing night after night.
Like so many tales of a first love, mine too has a bit of an end story. As I grew older, the brothers did too and their attempt at changing from the bubble-gum pop sound in the album I cherished so much to a more edgy rock one did not take and the band broke up after my freshman year of high school. During the year where they were promoting the new album, the brothers changed their look and their image as a whole, chopping off their long Hanson-esque hair, showing off new muscles, and swearing more. Mostly, changing from boys to men. I remember rolling my eyes at some of the pictures I found (on my then slightly faster dial-up connection), and I even remember saying things like, “Oh who does Scott think he’s kidding? These are the kinds of things he’ll look back on in a few years and be embarrassed about.” It was as if I knew them as a mother does — better than they knew themselves.
Years rolled by after the band’s break-up and I moved onto other hobbies with the same amount of main-stream popularity, like collecting musical soundtracks, and turning my self-absorbed writing to a xanga instead of the fan fiction book. Classmates that I didn’t talk to much, if at all, in high school would ask how The Moffatts were doing, even in my senior year, if we were ever forced by unfortunate circumstances to attempt a conversation. To an uncomfortable amount of people I grew up with, my love for this band was perhaps the only thing they could think of that they knew for sure about me.
In a way it is pretty embarrassing for an adolescent love to be equated with me as a main character trait, but a part of me knows it’s probably true. It’s how I would imagine someone would feel about relationship they took far too seriously before they could drive. But like it or not, this obsession really is a large part of who I am today. The months and months of nightly writing made me feel comfortable at the keyboard and allowed me to never panic at the thought of a mere 5 page paper due in English class. This skill carried me through high school, college, and even late night lesson planning sessions. Believing so strongly in a cause that almost no one in my world even cared to know about taught me that it’s okay to be different. (Of course at the time I thought I was different in that I was going to be the leader of a musical revolution that would change the course of popular music as we knew it and not different in the same way regulars at Medieval Times are different.) The Moffatts also helped me hold onto the hope and innocence that so often leaves a person far too early in life. My belief in their talents and success combined with my vigilant hope that I would somehow one day have the opportunity to show them just how awesome I was kept me in a childhood world while everyone around me focused on learning how to apply 15 coats of mascara without clumping and how to flirt the correct amount in a note written during science class. I didn’t have time for both those things and preparing my words for our first conversation, so clearly one thing had to be put on the back burner. Their music was also pure and innocent — the lyrics were always filled with simple rhymes about a cute girl they had a crush on or what it really means to love someone, things that they as 15 and 16-year-old writers must have thought they were experts on and we as their audience were nothing if not enamored with the idea of being the girl of their dreams. They were my Justin Beiber, but with long hair, guitars, and much sexier brown eyes than his. Phsh.
It’s now been over a decade since The Moffatts as a group put out any new music, although each of them has pursued alternative musical careers either solo or in pairs. The twin brothers have even recently begun new careers as a country duo, playing small gigs in Nashville and building a fan base slowly and steadily online. When I came across their act online, I immediately joined their fan mailing list, feeling very much like a proud aunt that has watched them come so far and is anxious to see where their careers take them. A few months back I got an email about a contest where you were asked to identify which brother answered each question a certain way, and the winner would receive an autographed photo of the duo in the mail. I skimmed through the items to find that I could still remember their personalities from their childhoods — knowing that they had changed over the last ten years but also knowing that like me, a part of them would have still been the same old nerds they were when they were young. I took the quiz for old time’s sake, feeling slightly like I was an addict that had gone so many years without making a slip and was now again engaging in reckless and foolish behavior. I just was curious to see how well I’d do, I told myself. My photos just arrived this week, and a big smile spread across my face to see the signatures scrawled above their faces with a note of best wishes to me. I remembered those signatures. I once spent about 45 minutes downloading a scanned copy of them and transferring them to an iron-on sheet to put them on my pillowcase.
As an adult, I can now look back and laugh at the person I was back then. But a small part of me, the part that’s found inside all of us that holds on desperately to the nostalgic, the silly, and the beloved with both hands, will always be a fan of The Moffatts. When one of their songs comes up on shuffle, which happens a few times a year, I always pause, smile, turn it up, and sing along. It’s like watching movies that were sacred to you as a child; you remember each breath, each skip, each moment you will forever associate with certain lines of lyrics. It all comes flooding back to you like it never really left in the first place. And as I anxiously await the arrival of new music from the duo, I can’t help but think that it never really did.
But don’t worry, sweet husband of mine. I won’t be making any pillowcases this time.