Twenty-five Years Ago, Farside Created a Sound That Still Resonates Around the World
Farside (In the background: Zach de la Rocha, who played guitar for Farside for a while, and Kevin Murphy, who became their permanent lead guitar player.)
When Farside broke into the local hardcore-punk scene of the early '90s with Rochambeau, they didn't really fit the mold of what was going on at the time. They weren't really performing hardcore music, and they certainly weren't of the same punk mold that flooded Orange County through the '80s and '90s. But that didn't stop vocalist Michael "Popeye" Vogelsang and the rest of the band from creating and performing the thoughtful, catchy rock music that came naturally to them.
"We all met through the hardcore scene—but obviously Farside wasn't that hardcore—so we just decided to try something different and kind of made it up as we went along," Vogelsang says. "We didn't really have a plan, and we were mostly just amazed that people gave us the time of day. There really was no goal. We just wanted to make some music, and some people liked it."
The impact Farside left with their three full-length records and couple of EPs can still be felt across the musical landscape. Their tunes, which bridged the gap between post-hardcore and '90s emo music, spread across the country into the ears of young fans—including members of Get Up Kids; Saves the Day, whose name actually stems from a lyric in Rochambeau's "Hero"; and Gaslight Anthem, who cover Farside's "I Hope You're Unhappy"—but Popeye and his band mates were mostly worried about studying for college exams and not being late to their part-time jobs.
"It's not like we started the band to be the biggest band in the world or to make that much money," Vogelsang says. "We never thought more than a month ahead, so every time something cool would happen, we'd just take a step back and think, 'Isn't this great?! Aren't we lucky?!' We were all going to school and had jobs, so we definitely never sat back on our laurels and thought we were part of something huge and amazing.
"I always figured the bands that came before us were the really good bands and that there'd always be bands after us that would be more popular and more significant," Vogelsang continues. "It wasn't until someone would send you a letter from somewhere else in the world or you'd walk down the street and see someone wearing one of your T-shirts that we'd be reminded we were in the middle of something really cool."
Even 25 years later, it's tough for the songwriter to look back on the band's legacy and influence. Sometimes, while cooking dinner, Vogelsang will throw on Rochambeau, Rigged or The Monroe Doctrine, but it's more to see if it stacks up to his memories than to gloat or stroke his own ego. He's still surprised by how many people, both in OC and around the world, remember the band's contributions.
"Once in a while, I'll play a solo acoustic show somewhere on the East Coast and throw in a few Farside songs, and everyone knows the words and sings along," Vogelsang says. "It's hard for me to take it all in because I can't believe that anybody still cares about it. I still meet people and get messages on Facebook and stuff where people will tell me how much an album meant to them, and I don't even really know what to say to them. It's like, 'If you knew what a dork I really was, you might have a different opinion about Farside.'
"It's great to still feel connected to all of it and to see that the community is still alive and thriving," Vogelsang continues. "I guess we contributed in our own way, and it's such an honor to see that. I'll still bump into a younger band who's a million times more successful than Farside ever was at a show, and they want to shake my hand and thank me for being an inspiration. The whole time, I'm just thinking, 'But didn't your record go platinum?' It's super- flattering, but I'd feel weird if I sat back and thought I had something to do with that."
Despite breaking up not long after dropping what many consider their masterpiece, 1999's The Monroe Doctrine, the split wasn't a bad one. "It became a question of what there was left for us to do anymore, so we just kind of went away quietly," Vogelsang says. "We didn't do a last show. We've never done a reunion—although we get an offer every once in awhile, but we're all just cool with where we left it.
"I've always appreciated that it didn't end in a weird way," Vogelsang continues. "After you log that many miles and that many years with a group of your buddies, you want to be able to hang on to that and have fond memories. We had plenty of disagreements, but I'm so thankful we never had any huge blowouts or anything."
Those friendships are what made Farside's journey so special in the first place. Aside from forming their own brotherly bond, the longstanding relationships the group created throughout the rock scene and community—in part because they were known for being exceptionally well-behaved at venues—are, to Vogelsang, the most important part of the band's legacy.
"Looking back, I can't believe we got to do all of the stuff we got to do," Vogelsang says with a laugh. "I still can't give enough thanks to all of the people we got to work with and who supported us over the years because that's what made it fun. We were all just a bunch of goofballs who didn't know what we were doing."