Ask me where in Italy I grew up, and the answer will be a variation of middle of nowhere, you won’t know it, let’s change the subject (you’ve never heard of the place, I promise). Ask me what’s the nearest important city and I’ll tell you there isn’t one: to get anywhere worth going, you’ll need a car and at least an hour.
My early twenties involved a fair share of Death Cab songs played while driving on winter nights, heating at full blast, speeding through empty roads with nothing but fields in sight for miles. “Marching Bands” carried me straight where lack of prospects and flight anxiety had no intention of taking me; I swallowed its words like shots at a party, as if I could wind up on the other side of the ocean if I got intoxicated enough.
The opening verses spoke of a Manhattan I doubted I’d ever see, and therefore could picture just as I liked. Maybe it wasn’t as insufferably cold and rainy as my hometown. Maybe it was the kind of city I imagined I’d thrive in: big enough to never feel dull, to lose myself into and not be found unless I wanted it. Until the next stretch of orange lamplight came into view, I could pretend I was heading to a place just like that. The streets I knew like the back of my hand could be anywhere. Cloaked in the darkness of the cabin, I could be anyone and the truth didn’t hurt as much: just like a faucet that leaks, and there is comfort in the sound.
Over a decade, one move abroad and some thousands of air miles later, the beam of headlights on a deserted road is still the first image “Marching Bands” brings to my mind. These days I listen to it through headphones, on the top decks of red buses or on crowded tube platforms; on my own, but never really alone. It feels a bit surreal. I tell myself it’s because I’ve come a long way.
(Song recommendation by Iris)