Participants exiting the women's session of the smoke-sauna at the historic site in Karneve, Lithuania.

Garrett Conover is a craftsman, writer, photographer, and former wilderness guide. A sauna-enthusiast, he lives in a permanent wall tent along the Wilson Stream in Willimantic, a few paces from a lovely log sauna.

His book, Sauna Magic, was published by Maine Authors Publishing & Cooperative.



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April 2023
Interview by Devon Harris
Photos provided by Jackie Stratton

On a snowy night in December, I drove to meet Jackie Stratton, owner of Cedar Grove Sauna, at her property in Montville. She had proposed that we do our interview inside her sauna and, while I wasn’t about to turn down a free session, I wasn’t sure how my technology would fare. Before running out the door, I—ever the optimist—filled a Cotopaxi fanny pack with frozen ice packs, zipped my phone inside with the recorder poking out, and hoped for the best. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried—my technology stayed cool on the floor of the sauna. And Jackie was right: There was something predestined about our conversation happening in the small, dark, heated room. Lit only by candles and the fire of the wood stove, we undressed, sat across from one another, and quietly discussed the magic of sauna as we experienced it firsthand, together.


Where are you from?

I grew up in New Hampshire. I went to college in Colorado and lived out west for a bit, but my dad’s family’s from Maine so I knew I wanted to live here at some point. I thought it was just for the summer, but that was a decade ago.

Did you move right to Montville? What was it like then?

No, I moved to Waldoboro. I was doing an AmeriCorps position with a couple of different land trusts. I think Waldoboro is a lot different now, but when I moved there it was initially really challenging to make friends. I’d see a car drive by with someone under the age of 50 and be, like, “Where do you live?!” But then you kind of peek into this world with lots of vibrant, young people, and it’s been lovely ever since.

I can relate to that feeling. Who or what introduced you to that community?

When I first moved to Maine, I didn’t have a place to live, so I set up a few Couchsurfing places. Have you heard of Couchsurfing?

I’ve done it, yeah.

The first person I met became a really good friend. He grew up in the area and so every time he invited me to do something, I went. It definitely takes time. I think Mainers are very private and a lot of socializing doesn’t happen in public places, and so in order to be included in that you have to be invited to so-and-so’s house. So it’s just, like, stacking up enough invitations to really feel like you’re part of the community. I’ve bounced around since then—Rockland, Appleton …—and then I moved in with my partner here when the pandemic started.

When were you introduced to sauna?

I was back in New Hampshire after college and got invited to a sauna in the Durham area. I went and it was a group of women and they sang songs and then potlucked after, followed by the men. That was my first glimpse into the potential magic of it.

The first full winter I was here, a group of friends and I renovated a friend’s woodshed into a sauna. A lot of them lived off grid without water, so it was like their weekly bath. We’d get together every Sunday and sauna and potluck, and there was a big pot of water on the stove, with a bucket to take your bath, and we’d feast afterwards. We did that every Sunday from September through April for maybe three years. It made winters not just tolerable, but amazing. It was a really intimate space to be in with friends.

When did you build your own?

In the winter of 2019 I heard about somebody on the West Coast who had a mobile sauna. I thought that would be amazing here, because, of course, we have the ocean to plunge into. So that summer, in 2020, I bought a horse trailer. I had some pretty basic carpentry skills, but really didn’t know anything about building. And, on a horse trailer, everything is curved, nothing is symmetrical or square. It was a huge challenge. It was coming up to November and I hadn’t made much progress. But I had set up a plan to leave my full-time salaried position in December. We had a sauna on the property, so I thought, “I wonder if anyone will come here?” So on winter solstice, I put out an invitation on Instagram. People just started booking. I was, like, “OK, this is a thing.” So over the course of two days, I figured out how to start a website and create a booking system. All while I was finishing up my other job. It all happened very quickly.

When did you finish building the mobile sauna?

Not until January of 2021. And, actually, the sauna that we started with here was owned by a friend. She had moved off the property but hadn’t moved the sauna yet, so I asked her, “Can I start a business in your sauna?” And she’s, like, “Yeah, but I want it back.” So in the summer I shipped it off to her and bought an unfinished shell to finish myself. That’s what we’re in now.

I saw that you’re currently building a second sauna on the property. Is the new one going to have a similar design?

It’s going to be larger. This one is more of a womb space. There are no windows in here, which is more traditional. You’re being hugged by walls of cedar. The new one, it’s on a place on our property where there’s more of an expansive view, so there will be windows. But it’ll have many of the same design elements, the same ventilation. I learn a lot with each sauna I build, of course.

I wanted to talk with you about winter. I grew up in Maine and then lived mostly out west until the pandemic. I started to develop this fear of winter the longer I was away. One year, I got a membership to the Y and started using the sauna every day. I fell in love with it. I was, like, “OK. I think I could move back to Maine if I had access to a sauna.”

I call it “the melt.” People come here and they’re all closed in on themselves. And then when they leave, some aren’t wearing shoes. They might not have put their pants back on. Their shoulders are dropped. They’re just, like, sauna drunk. Totally blissed out. And here, unlike at a gym, you’re outside in a bathing suit or naked in an environment you would never imagine yourself in. I think the best times to sauna are when the weather’s the worst—if it’s wildly windy, if it’s pouring buckets, if it’s a blizzard—because you’re out there getting kissed by something that you would normally run and hide from. You have this layer of warmth over your whole body—it’s like a superpower.

I found a quote that read, “Bathing is best enjoyed in a place where you feel safe enough to put aside your social roles, relax your body armor, and open your psyche to the moment.” It feels like that’s what you’re describing.

I think it’s a place for a lot of transformation to occur. There’s a Finnish proverb that is something like, “All people are created equal, but no place more than in the sauna.” You really succumb to the heat.

Besides milder winters, I think I was drawn to the West, at least in part, because I was pushing back against the culture I grew up in, which felt so serious. Working hard for the sake of working hard. I wonder if you identify with this, having gone to school in Colorado.

Yeah. It was more play.

Here, sauna almost feels like this rebellious act of just reveling in pleasure and leisure.

Absolutely, yeah, I feel that too. When I arrived in Maine, I had the Western vibe of, like, “We play hard and we follow our passions.” But so many people here are too busy working to do those things. It’s amazing to have something to offer people that is about deep rest. Really hard working people are allowing themselves 90 minutes to just melt their bodies.

And then there’s the communal aspect. I was thinking how even at the Y, I made so many friends in the sauna.

I just started offering communal sessions, which was always the plan, but, of course, I chose not to during the pandemic. It’s been so well-received. The first one was a queer community session, and one of them told me that all six of them, who hadn’t known each other previously, had a barbecue together a few weeks later. I’m really interested in offering these opportunities for people to meet who already have some common ground, but just don’t know each other because they live in Maine.

Especially in the winter, when that isolation can be so emphasized. You’re drawing people out of their homes.


I might go take a plunge …

Yeah, I’m ready. A funny thing about socializing in the sauna is that no two people are ever in the same flow.

Is there a certain amount of time that you try to stay in the cold bath?

No. I’m pretty anti-statistics and numbers. Sometimes I’m in for three minutes and sometimes it’s, like, five seconds. But a magical thing happens when you go back in the sauna after getting really cold. You actually don’t experience temperature.

I think it’s amazing that, with the mobile sauna, people are actually excited to jump in the ocean in the middle of winter.

I’m very committed to having a water element wherever I bring the mobile sauna. One of the goals is just to provide a time and place for people to interact with the ocean. Whether it be watching it, smelling it, or getting in. Especially in winter. I think people might drive to a place where they can see the ocean and sit in their cars—I’ve done that a lot—and so it really resonates with people to have a safe, comfortable place to be by the water.

There’s also a large amount of people who are getting into cold water dips in the winter; each year it’s more and more. And it’s something that people like to do collectively, because it’s safer and you have, like, accountability buddies. The sauna makes it possible for them to do, like, seven dips, as opposed to one.

Do you have thoughts on the element of nudity in the sauna?

Yeah, I do. I have a few formative youth experiences related to nudity. My best friend growing up was born on Martha’s Vineyard and we would go stay with her family sometimes. Martha’s Vineyard was, I think, a lot like Maine in that it felt like a really safe place. And so there was a bus system and we were, as 13-year-olds, allowed to just do whatever we wanted and take the bus everywhere. We would go to the nude beach at Gay Head. I remember how amazing it felt to feel the sun on my skin. It was so freeing.

In high school, I was a runner, and some friends and I would run naked at night. And then, when I was in Boulder for college, I did the Naked Pumpkin Run on Halloween for a few years. Have you heard of it?

No, but that sounds very “Boulder.”

It is. I think I found it somehow on the internet and you had to email somebody to get the information. You just show up at this person’s backyard and carve a pumpkin upside down, so that when you put it on your head, you can see through it. And we’re all drinking, like, pumpkin beer from the local brewery. Everyone’s given a contractor bag and we walk together downtown. We go up to the top of a parking garage and everyone gets naked and puts their clothes in their bag. And then, when we’re all ready, we run down the ramp onto the street and just run through the streets naked.


So I’ve always been curious about nudity. Everyone has insecurities about their body, and I certainly have mine as well. But here, there’s like this special magic of the cloak of darkness. We’re in a pretty dimly lit space right now, and I hope that gives people permission to choose to come in the dark if they want, and be naked with themselves and their friends. So far, I’ve only done community sessions at night with the goal of helping people feel safer to be naked if they want.

We have this idea of what bodies should look like, based on what we see in the media. And, of course, it’s not at all true or reflective of what people actually look like. I think every time we give each other permission to see each other’s bodies, it’s just helping to validate that we’re all human, we’re all really beautiful, and, like, fuck the media.

This is shifting gears, but I just want to end by congratulating you on the success you’re having. I saw you write that this has felt like the most “organic” thing that you’ve ever done. What does that mean to you?

I have really been honing my observation skills of witnessing what people want and trying to make that happen. And it just so happens that with this, my dreams are aligned with a lot of other people’s dreams. So to put something out into the world that is wanted with such vigor is just really satisfying.

I was also privileged enough to already have a sauna on site, so my investment was—it wasn’t zero, but it was close to it. And so each month and each year I was able to improve the space. A contractor I know gave me some advice. He said, “For the first several years, reinvest everything you make in your business and make it amazing.” So that’s what I’ve done. I’ve figured out how to live very frugally so that I can pay for the mobile sauna and the new sauna here. It’s ironic that I’m having a hard time resting when that’s what my business is about. But I always say, “I have summers off. That’s my rest.”

You might be the only Mainer to have that.

I know. And then it turns out nobody else is free.


So I just take my dog everywhere.

After talking with Jackie, she suggested I connect with her friend, Garrett Conover—a sauna-enthusiast and Maine photographer who recently published his first photobook, Sauna Magic. Below are a selection of photos and captions by Garrett. 

To give context to his photos, here is an excerpt from an interview with Garrett published by The North American Sauna Society. Read the full interview here.

“To me, most sauna photography featured young, beautiful models inserted into un-fired saunas as backdrops. While well-composed, such images are mostly over-lit, overly-posed, and carry little bearing on the real essence of sauna. My first quest was for radiance and authenticity, so I made a self-imposed rule that all interior shots would be made in real context, in full heat. The more I got away with pushing the equipment into temperature extremes, the more I knew I could eliminate fakery, and allow actual radiance to infuse the specifics of each shoot.

My second self-imposed rule was to only shoot real sauna bathers in context, as their willingness to appear occurred. This approach guarantees diversity in age, physique, and human beauty, without imposition of ambient cultural tastes pushed by “youth and beauty” marketers and advertising myth-makers.

Overall it is very important to me to never violate the sanctity of sauna, and to be accepting and body-positive in all aspects of imagery.”

Garrett Conover was co-founder and co-leader of wilderness canoe and snowshoe and toboggan trips during a 30 year career as North Woods Ways in Maine, Labrador, Quebec, and occasionally Minnesota. He is currently a craftsman and fabricator at Sheldon Slate in Monson, Maine, and lives in a permanent wall tent along the Wilson Stream in Willimantic, a few paces from a lovely log sauna.

His book, Sauna Magic, was published by Maine Authors Publishing & Cooperative.

To purchase individual copies or wholesale for your store, please email




April 2023
Words and recipes by Zak Kuras


A few years ago I worked with Togue Brawn from Downeast Dayboat Scallops. Togue sources her scallops directly from local fishermen all over Downeast Maine, and they are far and away the best quality scallops I have ever had. When I first started Brother Shucker, I was looking for ways to stand out from the “raw bar crowd” with some of our dishes, and really wanted to utilize the high quality seafood we have access to in Maine. As a topping for raw scallops, I experimented with traditional chili crunch oils and our version was born. What started as an exclusively scallop topping has now become one of my favorite condiments for many different dishes, both in the food trucks and at home.


When buying scallops, it is important to try and find the highest quality you have access to. START LOCAL! There are fishmongers throughout Maine who source right from the docks. Look for the labels: “Gulf of Maine” and “Dayboat.” These scallops are as they sound: harvested in Maine and sold on the same day. This is important—other scallops can be kept on the boat for up to two weeks, which requires preservatives that can alter the taste and firmness of the scallop. Peak dayboat scallop season starts in December and ends in the spring (dates vary).


1-3 cups neutral oil
½ cup shallot, finely chopped
4 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons ginger paste
2 tablespoons lemon juice (or other citrus)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon gochujang or kimchi paste
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped


Add the shallot to 1 cup of the neutral oil and slowly simmer on very low heat. The key here is to make sure the shallot does not burn. Meanwhile, mix all remaining ingredients except for the garlic in a bowl. Mix well—this will ensure that the flavors blend faster. As the shallots begin to carmelize, add the finely chopped garlic and stir. Again: make sure nothing burns. Turn up the heat on the oil for a minute or two until it starts to sizzle, carefully pour the oil over the spice-mix in the bowl and watch as it bubbles (this is my favorite part). Stir well. You can use the oil immediately, but the longer you let it sit, the more flavorful and spicy it will be. To serve, slice scallops thinly on the horizontal, arrange on a plate (or half shell), and spoon oil over.


While many prefer to eat oysters—especially Maine oysters—raw on the half shell, there are plenty of other fun and delicious ways to eat them. Whether you’re looking for a less slimy option or a warm savory bite, one of my favorite ways to prepare oysters is to broil them.

Everyone has heard of Oysters Rockefeller with its bread crumbs and spinach, but I prefer a simpler topping: compound butter. When oyster toppings get too complicated, the essence of the oyster can get lost. This is fine when you’re buying bushels in New Orleans for $40, but when working with the fresh and complex cold-water Maine oyster, I like to let the bivalve speak.

Compound butter is a simple way to give a little “pop” to your oyster without overpowering it. It’s exactly what it sounds like: Butter with some stuff in it! You can experiment with different additions, but my favorite is smoky harissa. Make your own following the recipe below or save time by buying the premade paste in the international aisle at the grocery store.


We in Maine are blessed with the awesome variety of oysters produced in our state. There are over 150 oyster farms of all shapes and sizes with over a dozen on the Damariscotta River—my hometown—alone. This may make it seem like a daunting task to choose the right oyster, but don’t worry. It’s hard to go wrong. In my top three are: Heron Island Oysters, Johns River Oyster, and Glidden Point (Glidden was my first job in the oyster industry, and produces some very high quality oysters).


6-8 dried Chile peppers*
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon coriander seed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons cider or white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
¼ - ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
*I prefer New Mexico Chile peppers and Chile de Arbol- these combine for a nice smokiness and have a good amount of spice and flavor. Depending on how much paste you are making, I recommend at least 3 of each. These often come dried, so it is best to rehydrate them before adding them to the food processor or mortar and pestle.


Hydrate your peppers and remove the seeds. Mix everything but the oil in a food processor or high speed blender. While blending, slowly add the oil until you get the desired pasty texture. It should not be too oily or runny.

Now that you have your harissa, it is time to combine it with the butter. My preference is always quality grass-fed or Amish butter. Unsalted is best, as the oyster will contribute enough brine and savory umami flavors. When making the compound butter, I generally say two tablespoons of Harissa paste to one stick of butter. This gives the butter a great red color but won't overpower the oyster or whatever else you use the butter on. Gently melt a stick of butter in a saucepan or microwave safe bowl, and stir in the paste until mixed well. You can stick this into the fridge and it will solidify and last for weeks!

After shucking your oysters, turn your oven on to broil, and find a grill or grate to balance the oysters on. This can also be a baking rack, crumpled tin foil or even a thick layer of salt. Place the oysters down, taking care not to spill the liquids, and gently place the desired amount of harissa butter on each one. When the butter is cool, it is easy to make little pads of butter for each of the oysters.

Once on the heat, the oysters do not take long. I find that it is better to undercook rather than overcook them. All we are trying to do is lightly poach the oyster in its own juices and the delicious butter.

When you pull the oysters off the heat, you can eat as they are, or add some chopped chives or lime zest for a little extra zing.




April 2023
Interview by Devon Harris
Photos by Stephen Wells

Tell me about your first time surfing.

I dragged this enormous 10-foot board out and the waves were probably head-high to overhead. This was in October at Scarborough Beach, which has pretty fast and steep waves. It took me probably 30 minutes to paddle out and I think I was out there for only one or two waves before I went back in. I was, like, “Wrong time. Wrong place. Wrong board.”

My partner, Jen, was there and she had scored some Heady Topper beers from Vermont. So I’m, like, “I’m just going to sit on the beach and drink these.” I was so shaken. But I persisted and I met some other friends who surfed and slowly learned what I was doing. I think that’s probably the experience that most have. I think 50% persist and are lucky enough to find people that will actually help them, and the other 50% sell their board on Facebook Marketplace and find another sport on land.

Are you from Maine?

I grew up in Richmond, Virginia. After university I was living in Washington, DC, which, for me, was a really soul-crushing place. We made the decision to move to Maine before we had ever really come to Maine. And then we visited during a snowstorm in January and fell in love. The snow was blowing and the roads were nuts and I was, like, “This is enough chaos and variety to keep me intrigued.” It’s been just over 20 years now.

How did you know it was the right place for you?

I never once doubted my move to Maine. It fits my personality quite well, I think. I can be very introverted and self-reliant, but, at the same time, I’m happy to help others when I’m asked. I feel that Maine is like that too. Like there’s this blanket of warmth but at a bit of a distance. I kind of like that space. And, creatively, I have a ton of support here. There are just so many people doing amazing work and willing to help with whatever you’re trying to do.

When were you introduced to photography?

I started with film a long time ago. I have boxes of slides and still love to load the slide machine, and hear the click and whir, and smell the bulb and dust, and all of that. I had gotten away from it over the years, but at the beginning of the pandemic I pulled out my first film camera, which was my dad’s old Nikon FTN. I started collecting film cameras and now I have, I don’t know, I’d call it 70 cameras. Sometimes I wonder if I love the mechanics of cameras more than I actually love photography, but there’s nothing cooler than taking a roll of film, throwing it into an old camera that probably hasn’t been shot in 30 years, and getting results back. Composition and photo aside, just the fact that it still makes something—it’s really cool.

What drew you to photographing surfers?

I realized that there was never anyone out taking photos. Surfers are really vain—and for good reason. In every other sport, there are tons of images of you, right? In surfing, people are so excited to see themselves on a wave that it’s really easy to please people. It’s such a challenging environment that half of the shots you take have water marks on someone’s face, but they don’t give a shit.

I grew up near York Beach but I never went surfing. It felt very intimidating to me. But I spent years sitting on the beach and watching the surfers, and I loved that it was a part of my community. I still felt that I lived in this surf culture, even though I was so far removed from it. From my vantage point, it was just these black dots on the water, and I was imagining their experience. And when I look at your photos, it’s like I get to zoom in, and it’s exactly as I imagined. There are these moments of pure joy and play, moments of insane battle with the elements, and then these quieter moments of what feels like self-reflection or meditation.

I definitely gravitate towards those moments between the waves.

Are you still shooting mostly film?

In the water, probably half of my shots are digital. The old film cameras just have a hard time wanting to operate when it’s that cold. I basically last about as long as one battery, which might be an hour. A lot of times I’m floating in the impact zone and just getting flushed constantly. I feel quite wimpy after half an hour when I can barely feel the shutter button.

What I find I do with digital, though, is really imitate my film practice. Slow, methodical. Have you heard of Ricky Powell, the “Lazy Hustler?” He was a photographer in New York City, with a little point-and-shoot, who just happened to always be at the right place at the right time. He captured some of the most iconic images of the ’80s, as far as the rap scene. He was there with the Beastie Boys and Run-DMC when they were first starting. But he called himself the Lazy Hustler because the guy just sauntered around, took a picture with his point-and-shoot, and that was it. I kind of feel like I’m the same way with my photography—where I want to capture as few images as possible. I’m a bit of a lazy photographer in that way. I love when I’m out shooting good surfers. They’re really the ones doing the art on the board, I’m just trying to capture it.

Tell me about the best day you’ve had on the water recently.

December 19th, 2021. Totally incredible. The light was perfect, the wave was right, the snow was coming down and the camera was set correctly. I also got a spot at Higgins on the road right there on the beach, so I could take my camera, put it away, get a board and come back out and surf.

It’s beautiful when everything lines up like that, from the parking spot to the light.

It doesn’t happen often, but yeah, it could have been the parking spot that really made it.




April 2023
Rob Reider is a musician, archivist, dad, and all-around awesome human living in Falmouth, Maine with his wife and son, Dallas. Shortly after graduating from Bowdoin in 2007, he joined the much loved pop-punk band, the Friday Night Boys, and toured with bands like All Time Low, Cute is What We Aim For, and AFI—to name a few. My middle school self was absolutely stoked to do this interview. In addition to an awesome music career, Rob and friends started the Sad Dads Club—an online community, creative outlet, and support network for parents navigating the grief of stillbirth.

How did you get into playing music?

When I was in the fourth grade, I saw the music video for Green Day’s “Basket Case.” I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. About a year later my dad got me a guitar. I couldn’t really make sense out of the instrument—nobody showed me chords and I couldn’t just look online—but finally I got a couple lessons from my sister’s friend’s brother, who was a touring musician. Every lesson he would ask me, “What song do you want to learn?” So I just learned how to emulate styles I liked: punk bands, ska bands, that kind of thing.

While I was still in middle school I started a band with two other friends. It was just two guitars and a drummer. Eventually I got a bass because I was, like, “I think we need this. I’m not sure why, but I’m studying band pictures and I think this bass is a pretty important job.” That first band was called Stalefish.

Great name.

It later changed to Local Disturbance, then Five Minute Delay, then The Exploited. Eventually it turned into what my high school band would be, which was a ska-punk band called Look Out Below. We had horn players and a whole brass section. I think there were, like, 10 people in the band.

How did you start performing?

I went to a Quaker school that was very supportive of artistic endeavors. They would have all the bands play in the student lounge or performing arts center. It was a really good way to just get the experience of having to understand all the logistical requirements for playing a show. And then recording—my math teacher was the bassist in a serious band that played out in DC, and he had a four-track in his basement. For a school project, people were filming an episode of the TV show Friends, or what was supposed to be a spoof of Friends. He was, like, “You guys should cover the theme song in your ska-punk style and I’ll record it.” And, like, “While we’re at it, I’ll just record whatever original songs you got.” That was our first demo tape.

What was the music scene around you, in Maryland and DC, like at that time?

It was thriving. The internet was an emerging tool and I could find other people locally—using, like, America Online—who were into the same music that I was into: The Unidentified, The Smizokes, The NoGoodniks, The Ratchet Boys. Paul Levitt recorded pretty much every ska-punk band, and later pop-punk band, in Maryland. He just had this humble studio in his basement but he was such a talented producer. Dan Hess and his partner, Michelle Chin, were also hugely influential. Dan was the singer for The Ratchet Boys and they put on tons of shows. Part of their whole thing was to make sure the younger bands got to play with the older bands, opening for shows and setting them up with bigger opportunities. All these factors just made for a really self-sufficient, tight-knit alternative music scene. Everyone knew each other. In some ways, it was the most fun period of time playing music in my life. It was so pure and uninhibited. There was no competition. I think when competition enters, even if it’s in a healthy way, it just kind of muddies the cause. This truly was a scene where nobody had a desire to do anything beyond playing in a band that was a part of a scene, writing the best songs they could, recording them, and then having those recordings forever.

After high school you moved to Maine to attend Bowdoin College, but you stayed pretty connected to the Maryland music scene.

I was just watching it all from the computer in my dorm room. I had reached out to an indie label out of Chicago called To Define Records and was doing some work for them. I don’t remember what exactly my role was, but I was, like, “I’m going to check out local bands and tell you if there’s anything going on here.” One of the bands I found for them was called The View From Here. When I came back to Maryland for winter break, they invited me to jam with them and we ended up starting a new band together called The Spotlight. I went back to Bowdoin but every time I came home on break, I was playing shows with them, practicing, recording, whatever. And then while I was at school I was just networking nonstop. At this point I was aware that some of the other local bands were starting to do their own touring, so Mike—one of the other guys in the band—and I pieced together a tour for the next winter break. Two shows in Illinois, then one in Indiana, Ohio, Delaware, New Jersey and Baltimore. We bought a van and just figured it out, and, honestly, it couldn’t have gone better. All the shows were great. We had a really good response from people. We sold shirts and gave out CDs and partied.

I imagine it was hard to focus on school while being so invested in the band. Did you ever think about leaving?

Definitely. Other bands from the area were starting to get signed to labels and I was, like, “These opportunities are out there and they’re happening for people our age.” I felt as though time was fleeting. This was towards the end of my sophomore year, and a lot of my classmates were going abroad, so I decided to take a semester off of school instead to focus on the band, with the understanding from my parents that this did not mean I was going to graduate late. So that summer we booked a coast-to-coast tour. We played nonstop—some really good shows, but a lot of really terrible shows too, where no one showed up. Tons of hilarity occurred and stories that we still, in private, relay to one another. But it was definitely an eye-opening experience to tour that long. Like, what if every show isn’t awesome like it had been the first time? Does it deflate you? Does it inspire you? Do you, like, go to the mall and hand out CDs?

When we got back from that tour, things were starting to get tense internally and it was just getting harder to coexist. Everything came to a head when we were practicing for a big show just outside Baltimore, where All Time Low was headlining. We got into a pretty big argument. We played the show but some people weren’t talking to each other. We effectively broke up right after that show. This was in December, so my and Mike’s time away from school was coming to an end. So, yeah—we hung it up and went back to school that spring.

Let’s fast-forward to when you joined the Friday Night Boys. I told you before we started, my sister and I were huge fans of your music. This was around my freshman year of high school.

Andrew Goldstein, who started the Friday Night Boys, was a friend of mine. He sent me a link to his Myspace page and was, like, “Check out these songs I’m doing.” The two songs I remember hearing were “High School” and “Better Than You.” I loved it. I was, like, “Let me play bass for you. This is awesome.”

You mentioned when we last spoke that you thought Myspace played a big role in the band’s success.

The numbers were meteoric. He’d post a new song and the number of plays would just explode. I think that people were sharing a lot of music those days and the songs that Andrew was writing were really resonating with that group of internet-rabid, slightly younger music fans who were into that pop-punk, power-pop sound.

Being in the Friday Night Boys was different from your other bands in that you weren’t having to bootstrap the entire endeavor. You had the same managers as All Time Low and went on to get signed by Fueled by Ramen.

We booked one more tour ourselves and played a showcase in New York City at the Knitting Factory for John Janick, who was the owner of Fueled by Ramen at the time. Not many people know this, but Fueled by Ramen started as a ska-punk label back in the ’90s, and it was one of the first labels that I was mail-ordering CDs from as a kid. They were being sent to me by John Janick from his University of Florida bedroom. Well, he brought us out to dinner after the show and a week later I got a text message from Andrew that said we were getting a contract sent over within the week.

You went on to record your album Off the Deep End, and tour with bands like We the Kings, All Time Low, Hey Monday, AFI, Sum 41, Cute Is What We Aim For, The Ready Set—so many bands that really epitomize an era of music in my life—before breaking up in 2010. What happened?

We had just finished a tour and were getting ready to record our follow-up album, but it just never happened. People were all over the place and eventually Andrew emailed us, like, “I’m sorry. I can’t do this anymore. I’m burnt out.”

It’s interesting to go back—I think we could have trusted ourselves a little more. I think a lot of us had really good and creative ideas that could have contributed to strengthening the band and the longevity of the band, but we all let go a bit and sort of thought, “Well, the label knows best. We’re just going to blindly follow what they say.” And it just didn’t work.

When you moved to Boston, you shifted gears and started the label Bob Records. What inspired that transition?

I’ve always loved DIY labels, starting with Asian Man Records back when I was 12 or 13. When I learned that that label was run out of Mike Park’s garage, the doors were blown open to me, like, “You can do anything yourself.” Up until that point I had been, like, “Yeah, I can book my own shows. I can make CDs for my band.” But I hadn’t thought about doing it with and for other bands. I never had any sort of vision of Bob Records being a full-time thing, it was just a good way to become initiated into a music community that was already so established.

What were some of the bands that you worked with?

The first two releases were a seven-inch and a cassette tape for a band called People in Cars. It was, like, prog rock and indie rock and metal-ly but also pop. Other local bands like Krill; Rye Pines; my own band, Rococo Bang; Gin War; Mohican..

When we first spoke you said something that stuck with me—that “the DIY ethic will never go out of style.” Why is it so important for people to put out music, even if it is in this small-scale, somewhat unpolished way?

A friend of mine who’s an author told me—and I think he got this from Stephen King—“When you finish something, it’s no longer yours. It belongs to the world.” Even if it’s a lo-fi home recording that you do on a whim—if it’s done, put it out there. There is going to be someone with whom it resonates. If you’re having fun then you’re achieving the ultimate goal.

At some point Bob Records transitioned to a mainly digital platform—tell me about that shift.

I had moved out of Boston and started digging through my collection of physical music. I was finding albums that weren’t anywhere online. I was, like, “I should digitize these.” So with the blessing of the artists I started putting them up for free download on my label’s Bandcamp page. Ten out of 10 times the artists were, like, “Yep. That’s totally cool. I can’t believe you still have that. I don’t know if anybody’s going to care.” But people do care. That’s the thing. I think a lot of artists are self-deprecating and they feel like once time has passed, or if they don’t get asked about it often enough, they think nobody cares. But that’s just not the case.

It’s amazing to me that you have this collection. I’d be surprised if I have one CD in a storage unit somewhere, and that’s kind of sad to me.

I am still buying CDs, tapes, records. I just got a tape in the mail the other day from this band, Pilau, who’s the best hardcore band in DC right now. I unfolded the J-card and there’s a picture of the band and where they recorded and who they thanked. That’s the stuff that I loved when I was 10 years old and I still love it now at 38.

Did you hold on to any of your own merch or CDs from your middle school and high school bands?


In our first conversation you mentioned that this digital archiving project was something that you undertook as you were navigating the loss of your daughter.

Absolutely. My wife and I—our first born was Lila and she was still-born on December 13, 2017. That February an old friend of mine from Maryland was visiting. He was doing his best to cheer me up and we spent a lot of time talking about the ska scene that we both came up in. There were all these bands that we could remember but the music was nowhere online. Since I had so much of it in my collection, he was, like, “You should put out a compilation.” It didn’t distract me from what was going on but it gave me a direction to move in. It was illuminating in a time that was really dark. I don’t want to suggest that I think it’s bad to spend time in sadness—because I do think that’s important—but there can be a balance. For me, that balance came in the form of putting together this ska/punk compilation. I wasn’t escaping from my present state, but I was acknowledging the totality of my being. I was slowing down a little and looking back and integrating everything that I had experienced in 33 years. It was an important lesson in grief for me. I was giving myself grace and patience, but I was also giving myself some direction.

Which is what you’ve been able to offer others with your platform, Sad Dads Club.

Two friends of mine, Jay and Chris, unfortunately both had the same tragic experience as my wife and I. We started an Instagram and website, where anybody can contribute writing. And twice monthly we do a meetup on Zoom, where we just chop it up. We laugh—we cry, too—but we laugh a bunch. Eliminating alienation is the goal of Sad Dads Club.

What piece of advice would you give to people who are grieving?

Know that you are not alone—that is the one thing I’ve learned through walking through life this long. I just have such profound compassion for everyone. I see people and I think, “You have to have something.” The gift of aging is profound and beautiful, but you cannot go through it without the tradeoff of—I’ll call it unimaginable pain. And somehow we survive and live with it the best we possibly can.

And try to see the totality of our lives.

Try every day.



April 2023
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