Anyone who has stuck around here long enough will know that I have a soft spot for Midwestern Emo, a subgenre of emo music that does not necessarily hail from the midwest. The genre revels more in the melodic guitar lines of indie rock than the unrestrained anger of the emo’s forefathers in the hardcore punk scene. YouTube’s algorithms have done a great job of helping me find Midwestern Emo, with the band Camping in Alaska being one of the highlights.
When I first heard Camping in Alaska a few years ago, there was very little to be found online about them, other than their debut EP, Please Be Nice (2013), which was on YouTube. From reading YouTube comments, I gleaned that the band wrote and recorded the songs when they were 17, and the songwriter, Austin Davis, now hates the songs. There is a certain amount of youthful exuberance to the songs, tempered by a healthy amount of teenage angst and shimmering guitar lines. The vocals have something of an amateurish quality to them, unrefined and occasionally gruff, though that is the style that I tend to lean towards, so there is no complaint from me. A lot of the songs on the album are about hanging out with friends, unrequited love, and gradually realizing that you might not be as great of a person as you always thought you were. I can understand Davis looking back on things that he wrote at 17 and cringing a little, particularly when the songs have titles like “c u in da ball pit” and “there’s no “brian” in team”. Regardless of Davis’ derision, the songs have an earnestness to them that stands out and resonates with me and, given the play counts on YouTube, a lot of other people.
My favorite track on Please Be Nice is the second track, “why can’t I be snowing”. The song opens with Davis’ gruffly singing about listening to the song “Pump Fake” 3000 times. “Pump Fake” is a song by the Pennsylvania band Snowing, a short lived emo band with twinkly guitar lines and whiny screamed vocals (they are essential listening). Lyrically, the song is concerned with Davis’ insecurity about the songs and music that he writes, and how they are not finding an audience:
I listened to pump fake 3000 times
And thought about my friends for generations
Sitting home alone
After a fucking shitty show
Where no one showed up like they said they would
Perhaps my favorite part of the song comes around 1:20 into the song where Davis screams “two, three, four” and then proceeds to the lines:
No one even cares
Oh how I wish that they would care
I hope that I die
So some people might
Listen to the songs I write or wrote
Again, he is thinking about how no one is listening to the music he is writing. Though, he goes as far as wishing that he would die, thinking that maybe that would prompt people to care about his music. At this point, the song also reveals that beyond wishing he had an audience, he wishes that the person he is in love with would share those feelings for him:
Now we're awakened staring at the ceiling I know it's hard
When you're young and feel as if the world is closing in around you
Now we're awakened different buildings and on different sides of town
You know I think about you but more than you think about me
And finally, Davis explains that he wishes his band was the aforementioned Snowing, because then maybe people would love him and his music:
Why can't I be snowing
Why can't you fucking love me
Why can't I be snowing
Why won't you fucking love me
Even if no one seemed to care about Davis’ music when he was writing Please Be Nice, a lot of people seem to care about it now. The band just released a 3 song EP called Hollow Eyes and went on a short tour celebrating the ten year anniversary of Please Be Nice. Unfortunately, I did not learn about the tour until it was over. But, upon learning about their new songs, I discovered that they had released two albums after Please Be Nice, 2014’s Bathe and 2016’s Welcome Home Son, which I did not know about somehow . So, at least I have a bunch more of their music to keep me occupied with until they hit the road again. Apparently, the band fell apart after Welcome Home Son due to drug problems, with Davis struggling with a heroin addiction. The re-emergence of the band in 2023 hopefully means he was able to pull himself out of the prison of drug addiction.
Buy Camping in Alaska’s music HERE.