Matt Francis is a filmmaker/media designer out of Virginia Beach and the drummer for Feral Conservatives, an indie rock band. You can check out his website at mfrancisfilm.com.

Say goodnight, mean goodbye

On our six-month anniversary, I had driven us to see a movie. “Ray.” The movie was good, and on the way home we stopped to pick something up for dinner. Today was a different day than every other day of my life so far: I needed to break up with someone. I don’t know how to do this. I was not assertive and mostly felt guilty for what was coming. We never left the parking lot for the grocery store, and I sat there with my stereo running, my CD player spinning Something To Write Home About through the tape adapter. I couldn’t leave the car, yet I couldn’t form words past the lump in my throat. It took her prompting, and mostly me confirming her suspicions at my capricious behavior. Matt Pyror offered his wisdom: “How can you tell me everything will work out? A pointless fight, when you’re always right and everything will work out …”

We drove home with the sound of the Get Up Kids filling the divide between us. It was only a few feet, her body turned toward the window, but it might well have been an ocean.

I think the Get Up Kids are entirely responsible for me dating a girl from Kansas the following year. The Get Up Kids could (or maybe should) have run their course in my life. There are few bands with the longevity to be completely intertwined to two break-ups and three failed relationships and still hold regular play and a place in my heart.

The Get Up Kids played their final show in Detroit one evening in May. My best friend Eric and I were there, sweating in the pit, compressed in a wave of perspiring bodies and bass attack, arms raised. This was our morphine. He was coming off of a serious relationship that ended poorly (and in emotionless dry-humping). I was in love with a girl from Kansas and this was all I could think about (it somehow made sense that the Get Up Kids were from Kansas). They played “No Love,” which we shouted back with all the force in our lungs. For Eric it was a release, moving on from a bad relationship. For me, I was leaving behind the girl I left crying in a Meijer parking lot. A final act of closure. Looking and moving forward.

We had a lot of plans in life, and together. In just around a year, my Eric-financed film would premiere to just over 500 people. With the profits, we would purchase our first piece of equipment, a JVC HD camera at the cusp of the HD-everything movement. In around two years, I would stand alongside Eric on his wedding day as best man. We would move 600 miles to the Eastern coast of Virginia to pursue our film company with zeal and a business license. A second film would premiere. We would cast for a third, even garner interest from investors.

In around six years, Eric would dissolve the company after shunning me from his house for six months at his wife’s promptings. We wouldn’t speak again.

That summer I made the pilgrimage to Kansas City to visit my girlfriend. This was transcendent; I felt like I was walking on sacred ground (and not only because I thought so highly of girl). I got to see and drive the roads and landmarks the Get Up Kids would make passing reference to in their songs. When we were first separated the summer after we started dating, I had never felt longing like that before. The Get Up Kids’ On A Wire was my solace and my temple. Here were Kansas boys singing emotive songs about distance and heartache with titles like “Wish You Were Here” and lyrics “I built an altar for you out of Polaroids and pins.” This got me through.

The relationship didn’t last. The Get Up Kids broke up in 2005. We made it a year beyond that.

The Get Up Kids reunited in 2008. It started with a couple of one-offs. Then an EP was announced. Next a full US tour. Eric and I got tickets for the Norva show on November 4, 2009. Last time seeing them on their farewell tour, we had to drive around two hours. For their comeback tour, they played a couple of blocks from Eric’s house.

The next morning, we were driving to Michigan for a wedding, leaving early. For some reason, Eric made it clear that I had to drive myself the 20 miles home, sleep for seven hours, and then drive back to his house for departure. No sleepover. His mom used to insinuate we were gay for sleeping in the same bed (he had a king) while he lived at home with his parents. No question now.

His wife picked us up from the concert and not even a couch was my consolation (to preserve the boundaries of their marriage that seemed built on strictly enforced boundaries). The night started with a happy hour that was not happy and felt longer than an hour. The whole night had that pre-buzz aura where you drink hardly enough, retain all your inhibitions, lack the looseness of the blow to your cerebellum and yet are stuck with the tired, depressed side effects that rest between sobriety and abandon.

The Get Up Kids released their latest album and first full-length since reuniting, There Are Rules, on January 25, 2011. Big guitars with the emotive vocals we’ve come to know and love, but with a lot more subdued moments relying on keys and samples. The rhythm section was complex and creative, beyond even what I had come to expect from the band. To say the rest of the album was huge made the final track massive; a brilliant fusion of all the elements that made their newest release a true culmination of their career. “Rememorable”:

“Fade away / Before this all goes to waste / I fear that these words may prove fatal / I’m gonna lay all my cards on the table / Just look how far we’ve come / And you’ll send us ten steps off / You’ve got it all / You’ve got it all so wrong …”

I had no one to share these thoughts with. My musical discussions had waned for the most part, relegated to lurking Internet message boards. Who else was excited about the new release and could genuinely stack it against their previous discography? Wait, why was I losing friends?

The record was three days fresh. It had just been released, and I was still in the discovery stage where each listen brought a new layer to light. I was driving towards a Lynnhaven Starbucks. Neutral ground. It was a short drive, 15 minutes at most. I had to get this out of the way because I was moving that afternoon. The sky had been threatening gloominess; it finally sprung forth a cold, light rain. I was going to sign the paperwork; the divorce would be final. I had a 50-foot Mogami cable next to me in the passenger seat – this was what Eric wanted. This is why he changed our agreement, post-separation. He kept insisting I was getting more of the equipment, and this was true; we were dividing the monetary assets 50/50.

It was short, punctuated by indecisive rain drops. We signed the paperwork. We exchanged leftover assets. We stood in the parking lot. Normal people would say “bye” to each other. This is what normally happens when two people are separating for any length of time, most certainly an indefinite period of time. No words or gestures exchanged. Hands pulled door handles. Keys in ignition.

“You’ve got it all so wrong / Why don’t you go away / Why don’t you go away / Why don’t you go away /Why don’t you go away / Why don’t you go away / Why don’t you go away …”