Why I Love John K. Samson

and The Weakerthans

(Enough to Get a Tattoo on my Arm)

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by Dowsing’s Erik Hunter Czaja

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It must have been 2004 when I was sitting with my high school best friend Tim, staring patiently as he cycled through his Winamp playlist with a pile of what would soon become burnt CD-Rs for our car rides through Suburban New Jersey. I remember the red marker he would use on each CD and the Shadows Fall decal on the side panel of his car’s back right window. I was 16 and constantly looking for new music, and Tim crucially aided my quest at a time when downloading music online was sketchy and scary to me.

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In the middle of a queued playlist of Screamo/Emo/Hardcore jargon and such, “A New Name For Everything” by The Weakerthans came on. I remember that it was satisfying and distinctly different from anything we ever listened to at the time. I asked Tim about that song until I got home and took a further look into the band’s catalogue. I found their CDs, read about their concerts and immersed myself in their story, sparking my connection with their music.

I soon tumbled through normal teenage emotions. I found comfort in the lyrics of John K. when I was feeling low. I felt uplifted by his imagery and wordplay in describing everyday objects. I was inspired by his references to “obscure” literary components and to his lifestyle, creating lyrics that could only be penned by a landlocked Canadian.

Because the band toured sporadically and had only a limited catalogue to delve into, I waited eagerly for their next announcement. Any announcement really. With The Weakerthans, patience was key.

I vividly remember my first time seeing The Weakerthans – it was in 2006 at the TLA (Theatre of Living Arts) in Philadelphia, PA. They played with The New Amsterdams (Matt Pryor of The Get Up Kids) and Greg Graffin (of Bad Religion). It was a night I will never forget. I got to see The Weakerthans again in Brooklyn a few years later. It was similarly amazing, though for some reason the memory of that one is a bit fuzzy now.

I regretfully wasn’t able to attend the full album shows they played in New York City. I believe this was my last chance to see the band, and that’s a sad thing to realize now. With The Weakerthans you really had to capitalize on every opportunity to see them play, but I was busy with school, starting too many bands and touring all over while also figuring out how to tell my parents that I was going to try to play music and not use my degree.

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I wrote an ode to John K. when I was 19 years old – it’s called Amateur Cartography. We officially released the song when I was 22, my admiration showing through as I shout out to him in the second verse. Now at 28, people still request the song, which I wrote to connect with my desire to travel, make friends and meet my hero.

I like to mark the turning of the seasons each year by listening back to selections of John’s songs. They soothe me like an old friend with warmth and chill. As fall nestles in, I find myself clutching onto the waves of ‘Left and Leaving,’ followed by a Winter of longing with ‘Reunion Tour.’ I spring back to life with ‘Reconstruction Site,’ and find balance in the summer humming along to ‘Fallow.’

These are all the best records in their own right, and having his solo work to sprinkle in is the icing on a delicious 4-layer Vegan Carrot Cake. The songs and albums resonate with all my different moods, and I play them heavily when the timing is right.

As I spend the days and weeks and months layering my life with John’s music, I can’t help but smile when I think of the long-awaited treat I receive roughly every five years: A new John K. release of some sort. I got my Weakerthans tattoo to remember where I’ve been and where I’ll go. Also, it’s pretty cute.

About the Author:

Erik Hunter Czaja plays in the bands Dowsing and Pet Symmetry, has a Masters degree in Urban Planning, and one could say is a fan of Amateur Cartography.

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Read our new interview with John K. Samson here

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Dowsing’s ‘OKAY’ LP is out now – you can buy it here

John K. Samson’s ‘Winter Wheat’ LP is out now – more info here

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facebook.com/Dowsingband

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