The Shark That Became My Friend

Hate mail? Death threats? Its all in a years work

"Don't be surprised if some bad shit comes your way."

It could have been the hour—well past 3 a.m.—or the fact that I was very drunk, but somehow when I reached this, the final line of a MySpace message sent from one "Brad from Bad Teenage Mustache," I took "bad shit" to mean "You're dead, Griley."

And then I began to cry.

Brad's message was something like the thirteenth "Fuck you!/No really, fuck you!/No really, really fuck you!" missive I'd received inside of eight hours, and while the first few were easily brushed off, the later ones had become increasingly more hateful—to the point that, yes, I was convinced some 18-year-old kid in a band was going to kill me.

What had I done? Simply: fucked with the wrong band. And not Brad's band, but Brad's friends' band the Shark That Ate My Friend, a trio of early-early-twentysomethings from Orange who play, in their own words, "spastic, obnoxious, really loud" and "Nintendo-ish" electro-rock. In my own words (from a live review that had hit stands earlier that day) the band was " . . . not great but, oh, the spectacle . . . " ["Of Course, Dad," Aug. 31]. Also, I noted, they owned a lot of expensive equipment and, going off remarks made by the father of one of the band members, it seemed to have been purchased for them. "Are these all young rich kids?" I asked.

That question, it turned out, was my fatal—I feared—error, as Brad and (at last count) at least 25 of the band's friends wrote in to answer it: no. The Shark That Ate My Friend is poor. Very—fuck you!—very—no really, fuck you!—poor. I received letters well into the end of September. Eventually, it grew so bad that with each one, I feared a new outcome: slashed tires, a drink thrown in my face, a black eye. I was (I can admit this) totally panicked, but nothing ever happened.

That is, until a few weeks later: "Hey, those guys are staring at you," a friend nudged during a party. "Isn't that the Shark That Ate My Friend?" Almost as an involuntary reaction, I stepped back, attempting to hide. And yet they found me.

"Aren't you our friend on MySpace?" asked one.

"Please don't beat me up," I stammered.

While I didn't know it at the time, the exchange marked the beginning of a pleasant, if at times rather awkward, friendship. I've since run into the band (keyboardists Steve Lance and Mitch Eaton and drummer Brian Van Ryte) all over Orange County and, a few weeks ago, sat down with them to reminisce about the days following that first review.

"It was a very emotional period," jokes Steve. "It was definitely the biggest issue confronting the youth today."

"Actually," Mitch interrupts, sounding serious, "we were kind of crushed. We thought about not being a band."

Fortunately for the Shark (which actually isn't nearly so lame as it reads—it's a line from Life Aquatic) they stayed together, playing house parties on the weekends and, yes, working hard at their day jobs during the week to pay for those instruments. They've even been recording. And while I'm still not keen on their tunes ('tho fans will tell you the songs are a brilliant and ironic take on video game rock), it's not a slight against the band's focus: all three guys have been playing in groups (some bigger than others) for the past half decade. The Shark, they say, is about having fun. "I've been in bands that were all about changing the world of art," Brian says. "This isn't about taking it seriously or not. It's light-hearted—no business meetings, no manager."

As for everyone who wrote me, well, know this: "There's no hatred," laughs Steve. "We're buddies and we go to parties together."

Also. Brad from Bad Teenage Mustache was reportedly very drunk as well when he wrote that message.

How about that.

 
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