I didn’t want to start 2023 on the couch crying about another friend dying, but here we are.
I found out in between Golden books. Having just read Richard Scarry’s The Bunny Book, my daughter hopped off my lap and went to grab the next one while I, instinctively, grabbed my phone and started scrolling through Instagram in the moments between.
Pat Graham posted one of his amazing photos—he has always been, to me, one of those photographers who was able to capture the real essence people on stage, and not just the ‘vibe’ of a show or a guitar mid-smashing, not just photos to be cool, but photos to show who these people who’s music we love so much are—a beautiful, multi-exposure one of Jeremiah playing drums.
I read the caption and gasped, my little girl, only a year and a half old, looking up at me confused, The Shy Little Kitten in her hand, as if maybe she had grabbed the wrong book.
“Jeremiah was incredible to watch, and to hear. His approach to everything in life was stylistic, artistic and most important with love,” read Pat’s caption.
Wait. Wait. Wait, I thought. I had just found out he was sick.
I’d also heard, maybe, (somewhere?) he was gonna get better.
No, I thought, immediately thinking of his son and his wife.
And then of Issac and of Eric. And everyone.
I cried for Pat, posting that photo, knowing he had thousands to choose from, knowing how much of a part of that family he was.
Tears streaming down my face, “It’s okay, baby,” I said to my daughter, now on my lap, “Papa loves you so much.”
I keep reflecting and thinking about Pat Graham’s words and how true they are, “everything in his life was stylistic, artistic and most important with love.”
It’s Jeremiah’s handwriting on The Fruit That Ate Itself, a small EP on K that I was lucky enough to do the album cover for. I wish I could find the scans of it, I’m sure they are burned on a CD-R in a binder of projects from the time, but right now they’re lost to me, but I can still remember the blue ballpoint ink on white notebook paper.
Modest Mouse written over and over again to get it right. Stylistic.
It was this blocky, but wireframe style, an homage to connect-the-dots coloring pages. The dots of the connect-the-dots drawing, they’re the drumbeat of the design, the backbone. Artistic.
How can something sound both like a machine and have so much emotion, so much heart? Jeremiah’s drumming was that; it was precise with incredible clockwork and timing. But so much personality. So much love.
His cymbal crashes will echo inside me forever.
Closing my eyes, I can see his head shake and bob as I listen to that album now, I can see him on stage looking over to see what Isaac’s doing, and then back to signal something or other to Eric about what’s happening.
We (either Issac or me or both) didn’t want to use a font for that album, I can’t remember why now, but in cases like that, it’s kind of a relief.
Picking a specific type to fit a band can be so hard, but with Jeremiah writing out the song titles and everyone’s name, and even the K records logo, it fit automatically. Because it was him. His hand.
I worked on another album sitting at my computer next to Jeremiah, Satisfact’s third release “The Third Meeting At The Third Counter.”
Satisfact was Jeremiah, Josh Warren (who I shared an adjoining bathroom with on the seventh floor in A-Dorm at Evergreen in 1991), Matt Steinke (who’s band Mocket with Audrey Marrs I also got to work on a cover for) and Chad States (who I think would later be on at least one Love as Laughter record, if I remember right).
The first two Satisfact album covers are so good — the first one this field of black punctuated by a retro-futurist satisfact in all caps with “the unwanted sounds of” in lowercase and a tiny pattern graphic. Simple and new wave. The second album, self-titled, all orange with the type and design in white; a distorted lines and distressed type face, perfect in its simplicity.
The third album, Jeremiah and I worked at together on a blood red duo-toned photo of a stage with the lights flaring hard into the lens, illuminating their equipment on stage. We blurred the type in photoshop, not what they had used before, and the result, I think, now, doesn’t really fit with the other two. We worked on it for hours, but it never felt quite right, I don’t think.
I feel in a way that album cover maybe let him down, though he was always too nice, too kind to every say anything. I love him for that. But also, I’m sorry, and sorry I never got to say sorry about it to him.
“Are you gonna be your own goddamn best friend?”
—The Fruit That Ate Itself, lyric.
As someone who knows a lot of people and has known a lot of people over the years, I never think of myself as having that many good friends.
I have friends, and am as friendly as I can be with everyone I meet, but in terms of good friends? I only have a handful.
Kate Bingaman-Burt is one of those good friends. Jon Grant is another.
Jon lives in Spain with his wife and young son, Kate lives here in Portland with her even younger son.
Kate texted me a week or so before the show here in Portland, “Do you have tickets to the Modest Mouse?” I told her no, “You can probably get them though, right?” I didn’t want to try, though, since I had just written a long-ass essay about how I wasn’t gonna go. So while, sure, maybe I could have? I felt weird if I wasn’t going asking for a favor. Even for Kate. I told Aaron and he was like “They are like $50 on stub-hub.”
I loved getting texts from her at the show, and thought briefly, “Maybe I should have gone,” but my wife and I had just completed our nightly go-to-bed ritual of bath and books and bottle and I knew that’s where I was suppose to be, not at the show.
Kate loves going to shows alone, and I love that for her — and I love her for that.
Jon and I were part of a little motorcycle group (I’d never use the word gang to describe this motley, nerdy bunch who’d camp out at hot springs, cook hot dogs on a fire and drink a mix of whiskey and cheap beer) that would ride from Olympia to Las Vegas every summer. I can’t remember what years it was, but I do remember that I had one of those iPods that looked like a pack of gum.
The way we rode those motorcycles, there’s really no good reason we are still alive. We would call each other and in a robot voice, ask “are you ready for a death race?” and then jump on the bikes. I would stand on the foot pegs, wearing just a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, no protective gear, opening up my Triumph Bonneville all the way topping out at maybe 125mph, my eyes watering.
I remember trying to do some trick, maybe Passing Jon in the opposite lane across two double yellow lines as we weaved through the Modoc National Forest, listening to The Lonesome Crowded West screaming Cowboy Dan into my helmet and the iPod came loose, and at over 100mph, the wind took it and I saw it in the rearview mirror hit the ground and shatter into pieces. The rest of my trip was without music.
But Jon loved that album and didn’t hesitate to get on a plane in Spain, fly to Seattle and see them perform it on December 17th — to try and see Jeremiah drum in Seattle like he and I had done years before — and then fly home.
I got a text to the group chat a handful of us motorcycle guys still use, “Where my death racers at?!” He was there alone. We chatted while he was there, alone, and he shared a video of them playing Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine from his perch at the top of the balcony.
When Jon shared that video, I did regret not going. I regretted not seeing them one last time, but more importantly, I regretted not being there with Jon. To share in that joy with a good friend.
That was just two weeks ago.
“On the way down, they saw a lot they don’t remember And if you asked them how, they couldn't say how they got there, And if you want them now, you could just pull on the lever.”
. — Lyrics from The Way Down on The Fruit That Ate Itself.
You can’t get your friends back, you can’t get those times back, you can’t actually pull on the lever.
Having my tears touching the soft, soft hair of my baby girl while she points out rabbits and bunnies is a weird place to be, emotionally. There’s a cognitive dissidence that happens when you remember the past so strongly from someone’s death, but on your lap is the joy and potential of so much life, the future.
I miss Jeremiah even though we haven’t talked in years—like so many friends, people nowadays can felt kept up on others’ lives by just scrolling past pictures on Instagram.
I’m gonna miss seeing his pictures from behind the drum kit in front of thousands of people, being so thrilled that he got to do that for a living, make music and drum in an amazing band.
But more than rock and roll, I’m gonna miss his sense of style and his shots of his cats or a building or a parking lot or the fog as it rolls in across the Puget Sound.
More than anything, though, I’m going to really miss pictures of him being a dad, his boy wilding out with spiders, the love in the capture so overwhelmingly strong and true.
In 2023, let us all be better friends, more present parents, and remind everyone how much we love them while we still have a chance.
Love you, Jeremiah.
I have written about Modest Mouse before, remembering making the cover for The Lonesome Crowded West and what life was like back then.