Frick Versus Frack
It’s not that I wanted to yell at Brian.
I mean hell, the meeting was supposed to be about what songs made the fucking record. It started with the song Soldier, a song I wrote and was really proud of. Brian wasn’t a fan. He made that clear from the start. He kept going on and on about how he hated the damn chorus despite the fact the rest of us pretty much loved the song. It was practically a given to make the cut. Brian wouldn’t let it go though. He has a tendency to get like that anytime a song he dislikes makes it, anytime he gets outvoted. I love the guy, I do. But seriously? It drives me up the damn wall. It happened with Something That I Already Know, and it happened with Masquerade. Fans even noticed it when they requested us to sing it at soundcheck parties.
So I got mad.
I might’ve overreacted.
“God Brian will you stop about the fucking song?!”
“Nick you refuse to listen to me and maybe consider-”
“You know why you don’t like the chorus? I’ma tell you why, because you’re not the one leading into it or leading it! The group isn’t just you! If the rest of us want it, you’re gonna have to compromise and deal!”
Okay, maybe I overreacted a lot.
“Shut the fuck up and let me talk!?”
My rage went from…well forget zero to sixty. It went from a hundred to two hundred within two seconds flat. If I’d been calmer I would’ve realized I hit a sore point and back off. Problem was that I wasn’t. I was seeing red.
“You shut the fuck up! You shut the fuck up!”
Later when we watched the footage I laughed at Kevin cracking up in the background at Brian cursing. But right then I wasn’t seeing the humor. Honestly, I wasn’t trying to be a jackass. I was frustrated. Mainly because during the entire process of making of this damn album it was like walking on eggshells. Being that self conscious wears you down. No one spoke about this huge elephant in the room. Oh sure, it came up once when Brian told us about the vocal therapy and how he was diagnosed with Vocal Tension Dysphonia. But then…nothing. No discussion, no plans, nothing. We planned like nothing was wrong for the twentieth anniversary. It took Brian forever to get his lead down for Soldier and I felt like Howie should’ve gotten that verse. He nails his shit within two takes. It’s crazy. Producers were even asking me what happened to Brian. Producers! And we as a group weren’t talking about it.
“You guys! C’mon…” Jen cried, trying to calm us both down. Wasn’t happening.
“You said, you wanna hear…” He kept trying to talk but I didn’t want to hear it. “You said, you wanna hear everybody-”
“You shut the fuck up! I swear to God don’t fucking talk to me that way!”
“I’ll talk to you however I wanna talk to you.” Brian said, almost calmly.
“You don’t get respect outta me that way.”
“You wanna hear everybody around the table!” At the time I didn’t know why he kept wanting to keep at it. Let it go and move on, that’s all I wanted him to do.
“Don’t be a fucking dick like everyone knows you are. You hear me?”
“You want their opinion. And when you hear it? You don’t wanna hear it!” Hear what? I wondered. You bitch and moan about a song cause you didn’t get your way?
“DON’T BE A DICK!”
“You don’t wanna hear it!”
“Trust me you don’t want it from me baby! Trust me. I’m not afraid of you anymore!”
“Nick!” Now Kevin realized how quickly shit got real. “How ‘bout we all act like adults.”
“What? You were afraid of me?” Oh now he wants to act innocent.
“No, he knows what I’m talking about dude!” I didn’t want to go into it. It was years ago and I didn’t want to bring up all that again. But Brian knew what I was talking about. He fucking knew. That’s when I didn’t care about pussyfooting around him anymore. I was done. I had had it. I stood up, unable to sit down without wanting to hit things. “What about fucking vocals on songs?! Are we gonna talk about that?” I could hear AJ talking trying to diffuse it too but I wasn’t really hearing what he was saying. I was too angry. “Are we gonna talk about the fact you don’t necessarily sound as good as you used to? Are we gonna talk about that?”
“That’s what you wanna talk about? Let’s talk about it.”
AJ kept talking but we both ignored him.
I stared Brian right in the face; I could see how much that hurt. I should’ve stopped, looking back. No matter how much it needed to be said. “Are we gonna talk about that? And talk about when we get in the studio and producers come to us to tell us that they got problems because of your fucking voice?”
“Yeah because I can’t do your job anymore.”
It was a low damn blow. As low as mine was. Back in our heyday, as the two blondes our voices got compared a lot. He knew it. We both did. It killed any guilt I had at the time about what I was saying and how it was coming out.
I looked at Jen. “No, no, no! This is the truth.
“How about…” Kevin looked up at me. “We speak from a place of love instead of a place of anger.”
“I’m not angry!” Lies. “I’m fucking being real!” Well, mostly. “Because everyone wants to sugarcoat it!”
“We’re not sugarcoating…” Bullshit. “But there’s a way to come from a place of love…”
“Wait a second.” I hated everyone trying to talk over me to calm me down.
“When producers come…”
“Stop!” I snapped at Jen. I needed this out. “When producers come up to us and are saying ‘What’s wrong with Brian’s voice? What’s happening with Brian’s voice?’ And you wanna sing on the records dawg and you sound great on records cause you can do a fucking little bit of editing… But when we gotta go on stage and sing that shit! And we gotta do a world tour?! I mean this is kinda, this is the thing I’m trying to say!”
“You take the good and the bad dawg.” It took everything I had not to yell how he didn’t do that with me. When I had all my shit going wrong, Brian wasn’t willing to do that with me. Not back then. “We’re a group.”
“Can you sit down for a second?”
No Kevin, I’m not a fucking child! “No I don’t wanna sit down.” With Kevin, I was trying not to yell.
“Here’s what I think-”
I kept staring out the window. It was easier than trying not to look at the dirty brow I knew he was giving me. “I want someone to really talk about what’s going on!”
“Time out!” He hadn’t snapped at me like that in years. “Sit down for a second and show some fucking respect!”
But you don’t wanna fucking show me any! “How about show me respect and let me stand up?”
“I respect you, stand up then.” He still managed to make me feel like a kid. “You’re getting two different arguments here.” Kevin knows everything. I swear to fucking god. “You busted your ass.” He knew my anger stemmed from Brian’s needed me to give him leeway when he wouldn’t from me. “I appreciate that. We all appreciate that.” Do you? “Somehow it got blown up into an argument between you and Brian into a competition over lead vocals. And there’s a lot of baggage here…” No shit. “From the fucking past twenty years that is coming out now.”
I leaned against the table, still listening to the man who never lost the ability to read my damn mind.
“And yeah, we need to talk about Brian’s vocal issues. We need to talk about that. We need to find a way to make it work. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”
I shook my head at them. “I need a fucking break.”
Before they could answer I was walking out. For the first time in years I felt like I needed a cigarette. The cameras followed of course cause we agreed to let everything get recorded. Later, we’d decided to edit this part out. I think it’s for the best. What was left it showed enough resolution over the issue. I just went to the end of the hallway and leaned against the wall. One of them was going to come out soon enough anyway.
It was Howie, who ended up following me.
I guess he understood the situation the most. See, Kevin loves me. Kevin gets me better than anyone. That’s why we butt heads the most. I also knew in other situations he would’ve been the one to follow. But this was a rougher one. Brian’s his cousin. He really is family. I get it. I got it in that moment, too. Kevin has always been the mediator. The one to jump in the way he did there and attempt to talk us down. Sometimes? I think that’s why he quit. Because he got sick of it.
“Hey, you okay?”
No, I wasn’t. “Fuck, I’m still pissed. I feel like an asshole but dammit D…” I shook my head. “No one’s talked about it! No one’s talked about it since the doctor told him what was up and he told us he was getting vocal therapy.”
I’m not used to that, even now.
“We need to work it out Nick but Kevin was right too.”
I snorted because it was true. “Kevin’s always right.”
I could see Howie trying so damn hard not to laugh. “Don’t keep telling him that. My point, is that while right, you said it cause you were pissed.”
“I’m not just mad.” I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. It felt too short. Lauren had convinced me to cut it. “I’m frustrated.”
“I am too.”
I raised a brow at him as I glanced over. In some ways Howie’s like a river, always calm and runs deeper than you would think. He keeps a lot to himself yet never manages to fucking break. I always admired that about him. That’s why an angry Howie is the scariest damn Howie you ever meet. Because it’s just that damn rare.
He nodded, “Do you remember before we met Max and Denniz, how things were?”
I chuckled at first, mainly because I’d been thirteen/fourteen and dealing with the first of the many vocal puberties in my life. “Yeah.”
“It was me and AJ leading everything.”
Oh shit. “That’s right.”
“Then I got pushed to the background in favor of Brian. I stayed there with Kevin till he left.” Howie shrugged before shifting his gaze back down the hall towards the conference room I’d stormed out of. “It sucked. I felt like my voice was forgotten. I get why he doesn’t want to step aside. That feeling…I mean, we all want the world to hear our voice.”
I nodded though in a way I knew I’d never understand that. Despite all my craziness and my own baggage to deal with, they never took my lead vocals away. Even at my worst. The main three had always been myself, Brian, and AJ once we found our sound. Hearing Howie bring up something even I’d forgotten, it got to me. It wasn’t much but Howie’s side of things made it so I didn’t want to break shit.
Seeing I was listening, he kept going. “But I feel you on this too. Because I’ve been in the back? It’s crazy for me to see Brian almost…” He shook his head. “Almost choke out vocals instead of willingly letting the rest of us step up instead. I can’t imagine how it feels for him. I can’t. But I get frustrated cause it feels almost like he’s acting selfish.”
“I didn’t say he was being selfish.” I said to him softly.
“You didn’t have to.” He wrapped his arm around me, leading us back slowly. I let him. “I did.”
“You know, I don’t hate him.” There’s this part of me. That kid who idolized Brian since I was I thirteen year old punk kid, who needed to make that clear. That part of me who still to this day wants Frick and Frack, not Frick versus Frack.
Howie laughed, surprising me as he rolled his eyes. At least he didn’t wink. “Nick, I didn’t think that for a second. I don’t think you’re even capable of hating Brian. We’re brothers. We’re all brothers. Brothers fight and say bad things because we know no matter what; we’ll still love each other. Now c’mon, you need to talk this out with him. We all do.”
He was right. I needed Brian to know I didn’t hate him. The way I needed all of them to know. Part of me was still pissed off beyond belief. But not at Brian. Not really. We get together sometimes, him and I, and just talk out all the shit we should’ve talked out then. Not all of it though. Not yet. That’s why some of it came out in the middle of that argument and kept blowing up. Still, beneath all the baggage of the past was just me, wanting Brian to be the performer to know him to be. I hated seeing him go through this. It was killing me, and all I wanted was for him to get better. I wanted him to be as carefree as he used to be just as much as he wanted it. Back to when we could sing and goof off.
Back to a place where we could stop being Frick versus Frack.
Back to when we could be the unstoppable Frick and Frack again.
I had the faith that one day, maybe it would happen.