Two of my best friends are brothers; one is a comic artist and the other a musician. We used to play in a band together. Bands, actually. The most successful was probably our high school band, a pop-punk/screamo outfit that consistently covered both Finch’s ‘Letters to You’ and the Limp Bizkit version of George Michael’s ‘Faith’ [cringe]. In later years, when our college band was in full swing, we were more purposeful (and more pretentious) in our efforts to make, you know, music. That particular band – which idolized groups like The Receiving End of Sirens, Thrice and Gatsbys American Dream – was an artistically rewarding project but also, rather predictably, unsuccessful in most tangible respects. But we loved it, and few things bring people together more than making music.
After college we scattered. I moved to the Oregon coast while the musician relocated to New York and the artist eventually settled in Detroit. We saw each other only on vacations and holidays and soon the time of our music-making receded into the past. But we stayed in touch and, all these years later, we’re still close.
A year or so after our diaspora, I saw an advertisement on Absolute Punk for a band recruiting a singer and I immediately felt pangs of longing for those days when I could swing a mic and scream my lungs out until I was empty and exhausted and satisfied. But I wasn’t a singer anymore, not really, and I was on the wrong coast anyway: the band was in New Jersey. With a little prodding I convinced the musician, newly of New York, to audition for the spot. He had never been a singer before but he had talent and passion and a better feel for songwriting than I had ever hoped to have. All of that was abundantly clear in the demo that he put together as his audition tape. He got the job.
And that’s how Kevin Dye joined Gates.
Obviously I love Gates. I’m also terribly biased. Whatever. When the band released Parallel Lives earlier this year, they delivered an album that was universally praised (by people far less biased than me) and deservedly so. It’s an astounding record full of beauty and boldness and the kind of unwavering honesty and depth that will bring you back and back and back again. As the album unfolds with soaring crescendos and crisp harmonies, different themes start to emerge and resonate, each with their own unique contribution to the experience. And among the many stellar moments of Parallel Lives, I find myself particularly drawn to the album’s final, eponymous line: “All we seem to be are parallel lives caught crossing.”
That line – as well as the song and album around it – suggests that we are no different from the countless people who live, nameless and faceless, on the periphery of our lives. It suggests that the only places where we are unique, where we can find meaning, are those few places where, by chance or design, our lives have crossed with someone else’s. That suggestion is true and troubling and, in its own way, absolutely beautiful. Who would we be if we had been born elsewhere or in a different time? Which of the people that we hold so dear would have been excised from our lives? And then, since we were born where and when we were, how lucky are we to have lived the lives we’ve lived, with all the crossings and connections that have made us who we are?
I can’t recommend Parallel Lives strongly enough. It’s an incredible record and I couldn’t be more proud of Gates and all that they’ve accomplished. I hope that you’ll give this band and this album a chance to cross into your life, to see what unexpected things they may weave there. Because, for my part, I’m endlessly fortunate that among all the chances and fates of the world, my life – which could have remained forever parallel to so many crossings – crossed with the paths of Gates and, long ago, an artist and a musician.