As promised, the Paul Stefano retrospective continues. Today, Atom recants some of his favorite Paul Stefano moments. Sit back and enjoy!

I have known Paul Stefano since first grade. Some of my first memories of him have to do with making up songs with him in music class. I think my favorite was ‘Run Run Run’, which we added ‘… through Paul’s hair. Run run run, you’ll get lost!’. I have laughed an extraordinary amount while spending time with Paul Stefano. I can’t really conjure up a mental image of him smiling or laughing, yet he consistently had contributed to everything that would make me and everyone we knew laugh.

Paul hung out with us all the time. He was just as important part of the group as any of us. And yet, though we were all pretty openly expressive about how much we all cared about each other, it wasn’t ever entirely clear to me if Paul actually even liked us. Greg was the first of us to leave for college and I remember our teary goodnight that saw him off. Paul, as was typical, was unmoved and stoically guided us to spell ‘penis is hard’ on the sign that had removable letters of the local plant nursery (the church’s bible quote board with adjustable letters had long since been locked).

I don’t know why, but it makes sense to think about Paul in the context of his automobile debacles. Paul was the first of us all to drive and somehow, he procured, upon getting his license, a white Mercury Topaz with a tape deck. We spent millions of hours driving around Montgomery County in this thing – to playground with swingsets, arcades, the mall, Taco Bell, Dunkin’ Donuts, miniature golf, Dairy Queen, bowling alleys that sold cigars out of vending machines, and among other destinations, to a parking lot that had a sign that said, to our amusement, ‘Reserved for Questar’.

Paul’s Mercury Topaz was a monumental noun for us. We drove it downtown on record buying excursions, to Trenton, NJ to see punk shows at City Gardens, to blow two tires on the right side of the car and then get a ticket for doing so next to the art museum. We drove it back from seeing the Random Children play with Fugazi under conditions where the defogger made it so the windshield would not relent from opacity unless we opened the windows to let in the sub-freezing temperatures. During this ride, Paul Stefano monotone delivered sayings like ‘We must have coldness to survive.’ or ‘Death on a stick’ were born. This car was not treated well. I was not present for all of these events, but it feels like it. I can imagine Paul’s baritone voice in each of these events.

• Springfield Township High School Parking Lot – I think just a few hours after 16 year old Paul was awarded this car, that Chris (or Jeb?) (editor’s note – It was actually me!) stabbed a pencil (editor’s note – scissors) through the vinyl dashboard. This was undoubtedly a rude welcome to the Mercury Topaz, but seemed fitting as to make sure the car wasn’t being led on about a future that was not to be for it.

• E. Mill Road – It was a slick fall afternoon out on the way to the Plymouth Meeting Mall, home of Church on the Mall (my favorite place of worship anchored near a Spencer’s Gifts). Paul was driving slow enough while approaching the hairpin turn just before Ft. Washington State Park, so that he was able to repeat at least three times in his calm deep voice, “We’re going to crash. We’re going to crash. We’re going to crash.” BANG. All were okay, but were crashed.

• Church Road – Chris, Brian, Greg, Ralph, Jeb, Paul and I had planned to go camping in New Jersey. The plan was to rent a canoe and get a ride from our campsite and then canoe all the way back to the site. During this trip, I only ate Boo Berry cereal (which Paul and I had spent all of our pooled money on because it was the first time we had seen it in a grocery store in years and years). Also on this trip, Jeb (who was pathetically stuck with inept partners Ralph and me in his canoe) got a clod of mud thrown on his head by partying hillbillies while we canoed past these bathing pigs & Chris laughed at the event while out of his mind on Capri 120’s and True cigarettes. Anyway, before all of that happened, Paul was driving one carload of us in his dad’s Pontiac (not sure why we didn’t take the Topaz) while I was driving the other carload. I have no idea what precipitated the accident, but Paul drove all the way up on a halfpipe-like dirt/tree embankment not 4 minutes from our houses and plopped the car back down at the base. I think something was messed up with the door and it was definitely bad enough that we had, at the very least (and we did do the very least we could do), to ask Paul’s dad to pick up his mangled car and go back to get Brian’s car to bring the balance of us.

• Somewhere in Wyndmoor – This one may be lies, but doesn’t seem like it. We were all skateboarding near a big hill in Wyndmoor. My brain tells me that this was in the era where we would only listen to Bad Religion’s No Control – for what that’s worth in dating when this happened. I couldn’t really skateboard, and still can’t, as a physics teacher, understand how an ‘ollie’ works. Anyway, we’d skateboard back and forth on the street. I don’t really remember the details, but Jeb definitely put Paul’s car in neutral. Paul’s car was definitely PUT in neutral and Paul’s car definitely rammed the back of another car. I think Jeb ended up paying the damage off for a number of years.

• Friendly’s Parking Lot – Down the street from Jeb’s parents’ house was a Friendly’s, which became a bank-Starbucks combination probably more than a few years back. It was here where we somehow figured out that his Mercury Topaz key not only opened, but started my 1990 Toyota Camry. It was only minutes after this realization that I was bound in the back seat while Paul drove my car all the way to the airport before letting me out and returning us to more familiar areas.

• My Parents’ Front Porch – This isn’t really automobile related, but it is automobile facilitated. During our senior year spring, Paul and I hung out a lot. I guess we all did, but it seemed like there was a stretch of time where we had both been accepted in to college and weren’t too engaged with the last year of high school, so we went to Dairy Queen nightly. It wasn’t too rare that Paul would just come by and pick me up for our BlizzardTM ride. One night, the doorbell rang at my parents’ house, and I answered it to see Paul standing with his parents’ dog Clancy on a leash with him. Clancy was a nice but gross dog, whose fur felt like pubic hair. Most of my interactions with Clancy had been witnessing his 3 foot vertical leap that he repeatedly performed when one rang the door of his parents’ house. So I answered the door and said, “hello.” Paul didn’t address me, but said, ‘Clancy, go.’ Clancy started to pee all over the front step outside my parents’ front door. Clancy finished up and Paul walked him back to his car. There was no goodbye, no laughing by Paul, and no Dairy Queen trip that night. The interaction was as short as described. This event felt very Paul.

I’m struck that Mike Parsell, who had been hearing about Paul for years and years from the rest of us, but hadn’t even met him aside from one evening in passing at Jeb and Emily’s wedding, contributed something about him. There aren’t many people about whom you could ask people who haven’t even really met to write. There also probably aren’t many people about whom a whole mess of people would care enough to write whose reponse would be, “I don’t care.”

Though it is likely that Paul may not even like me at all, I love Paul Stefano. For some reason, I kinda want him to be annoyed that I love him.


Going thru the mountains of photos that I have accumulated over the years it became apparent to me that they all seemed to have an understandable, if not completely obvious, box in which to fit. In other words, I could easily define them. These photos were of this band and this band’s significance in my life was “x”. Or, these other photos were of this location and this location played a significant role in my life because of “y”. Yet, looking these categories and boxes of images and memories over, there was one figure that seemed not to fit in any particular role or box but was important none the less. Perhaps I was looking for too much simplicity in my organization or perhaps I was just trying too hard but honestly, Paul Stefano seems to need his own category.

I think every group of friends has a Paul or at least, I hope they do. The person within the group who truly was unique thanks in part to that person not being able to be the person they truly wanted to be.

Let me explain.

I don’t recall meeting Paul. Perhaps it was at one of Atom’s D.A.R.E. events hosted by his mother, but from the very beginning, Paul was always in our group of friends. He was there for elementary school thru high school. He was there in cub scouts and boy scouts, and there for every stupid inane event in-between. Yet, Paul was never completely absorbed by our group of friends and our interests. Paul was never officially in one of the numerous bands our group of friends launched (besides a short lived stint in our ska band, French Toast) because ultimately, I don’t think Paul really liked the music we were all into. Sure, he liked Fugazi or a couple other bands but Paul was far from being into punk music. He came from a musical background (his father taught many of us how to play and ultimately hate numerous woodwind instruments) and Paul always supported us by being at our shows. But Paul liked sports. He didn’t dress the way we thought a punk kid should so he was always the awkward guy with the sharp witted comment ready to poke fun. Everyone loved him but something seemed different.

When we went off to college, Paul and I roomed for the first year. During that time, Paul made a lot of new friends. He assimilated into the environment much more easily than I ever did. He joined a Fraternity and became more popular than he had ever been in High School hanging around us losers all the time. It was almost as if, finally, Paul was given a fresh start and was allowed to be his own person and he seemed to thrive in it.

Looking back, I wonder if given the opportunity, Paul might not have chosen a different social group when he was younger? Would he have enjoyed going to parties or going on dates rather than sitting at the local taco bell listening to Bad Religion cassettes? Would he have enjoyed being more popular in general? Of all my closest friends from that time in my life, Paul is the one person I have the least amount of contact with and that’s a shame.

And thus, Paul Stefano deserves his own category because I believe any one of us who knew him will have our own recollections and definitions of him as a person. I’ve asked folks to give me some of their thoughts on Paul and I will be posting them here in the coming days. However, as I do, be sure to remember your own very special Paul (whomever he or she was). They were pretty great people.


Is it really possible that I am already becoming forgetful on this blog? I mean, sure, it’s been over a year since I started posting stuff here, but looking in the “draft” file today, I found this. Apparently I meant to post it a while back yet, forgot to…duh. So, let’s get over on it…

Roy sent me a link to this article the other day. It originally appeared on the blog (fantastic name by the way!) back in 2009 and I wanted to share it here on this blog as well.

The Internet search plight of Franklin is simple. The band known as Franklin, a post-hardcore act from Philadelphia, existed way before Google, forming in the mid ’90s and calling it quits before the dawn of the new millennium. The sound they crafted burned its way into the hearts of some that still might wanna listen, but if you Google the words “Franklin” and “Philadelphia,” or “Franklin” and “Music,” it’s next to impossible to find any links to the band. You’ll find plenty of links to the more well known Franklin named Ben in the Philadelphia area along with the more well know Franklin named Aretha, but nothing about the mid ’90s post-hardcore band that produced a handful of singles and two full-length albums. And that’s why I’m writing this.

Franklin’s 1999 self-titled album, on the now-defunct Tree Records, was at least ten years ahead of its time, combining experimental elements of dub and reggae into its brand of DC post-hardcore. It was rhythmic, technical, loud and daring at a time when every other band in the world wanted to cry about ex-girlfriends and lost childhoods. And when the label died, the album went out of print. So I’m doing something I don’t normally do. I’m sharing it online. Not in the hopes of ripping off a defunct label or a defunct band, but to share an album that I believe is truly groundbreaking. That is if you can somehow find your way to this entry in a Google search.

As a live band, I don’t remember much about Franklin. I saw them a few times in basements, but was probably too worried about what other people thought about me to truly enjoy the music. I think some of the members of the band (which consisted of members Ralph Darden, Brian Sokel, Greg Giuliano and Joshua Mills) also helped out Atom and His Package from time to time. And I know that members of Franklin later went on to play in Chicago via Philly band The Jai-Alai-Savant, and that Darden also DJ’s under the moniker DJ Major Taylor (a nod to the song of the same name from Franklin I assume…) But for a brief time in Philadelphia in the mid to late ’90s, the band known as Franklin produced a groundbreaking body of work. Something that sounds as fresh and exciting today as it did ten years ago.

So what did we learn today? If you plan to form a band that’s going to release some obscure genre-breaking music in your short career, make sure to name your band something that’s easy to find on the Internet. Even the Ralph Darden Experience would’ve been easier to find in today’s big world of the Internet. I can’t blame Franklin though. They were around before Google, and if there’s any justice in the world, their music will be around to see its end.

Download the S/T album here.

Sorry for the delay folks but, you know, I’m getting old.


I stumbled across this photo of Franklin playing quite randomly. A fella by the name of Bryan Sargent (why does that name sound familiar?) has a flickr page with thousands of photos. Towards the end, there’s a whole slew of interesting shots taken in Philadelphia of several bands including The Smash Everyone Jazz Quartet, Spirit Assembly and several others…

Make sure you go take a peek!

No details available about this picture but it sure is Ralph up close and personal.

The Science Of… – 7/12/99

Sometimes, you can ask a friend to do a thing and nothing under the sun will get that friend to do that thing. Of course, that’s not saying he’s a bad friend, it’s just stating a fact.

For example, The Science Of…

Mike passed me a plastic bag of cassette tapes he unearthed many months ago and in it, I discovered this wonder. I had asked Mike to give me a few thoughts about the The Science Of… as I prepared for this post. He agreed. But it’s been some time now and dammit, I’m getting impatient. Thus, I thought by posting this article, it might urge him to quicken the pace!

But, until then, all I can offer are my very brief two cents. The Science Of… featured Mike Parsell on the drums, Eric Wareheim on the electric piano, Carly Van Anglen on the bass and Dave Moylan on the guitar. They started in the late 90’s but I don’t know the how or the why. Eric, Dave and Mike had played together many, many times in many, many incarnations like I Am Heaven for instance, but I dunno how this got going. An instrumental group, they brought Carly in thanks to her totally amazing bass talents. I had the pleasure of playing with Carly in Astir-Few and know of what I speak.

The Science Of… would never officially release anything, but they did some touring and they would slowly evolve into a band called Sola in the coming years. This demo, however, definitely shows their wickedness with a funky ruckus.

Mike, your TURN!

Editor’s note – 7:54PM: Mike came through and sent the following!

Ok, fine. Here it goes.

I think The Science Of started after 12 Tone System ended and Eric and I played in a never named band with Double D Don Devore for a while which just kind of fizzled out the way a no-name band would.

I kept telling Eric and Dave, “I know this girl Carly who fucking rips on bass.” You see, I had seen her with the band Astir-Few. It was around this time that I went to the Pennsauken Mart and bought a bubbler and a cozy (ed. note – Look it up. “nuff said.).

Eric tied a fireplace lighter to the ceiling of my living room on a string that was just long enough to reach all sitting stations in the room. We smoked a lot of bubbler and listened to a lot of Can, and the album Moon Safari by Air. We realized that a funky bass line and a Fender Rhodes with some reverb was a fucking sexy-ass combo. The bubbler was right about that. Then we started to jam it out with Carly. Dave and Eric were blown away by Carly’s ability to shred everything in sight and the band was born.

We had so much fun being in this band together. All the songs were formed by hours and hours of jam sessions where we would all get in the zone. Later we added Greg Giuliano on percussion, which was sick, a highlight for me was a song called “double drums song”. We did a bunch of Philly shows, a small tour, recorded a demo, and that was it.

And that’s that!

Demo 1

Demo 2

Demo 3

Demo 4