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October 18-24, 2006

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My Former Self

Photograph by Dave Lepori
Self Reliance: My Former Self is one of San Jose's unsigned successes.

Do It, You're Self

San Jose's My Former Self rock overtime

By David Sason

WHOEVER SAYS today's youth is lazy hasn't met San Jose quintet My Former Self, whose members range in age from 19 to 24. Despite juggling jobs and college, the band members' do-it-yourself work ethic has earned them Warped Tour appearances, opening spots for Yellowcard and Fall Out Boy, and endorsements from companies like Dean Markley—all without a record label.

"We've set up our own tours, promoted ourselves and put out all of our own records," says bassist Seth Cummings, age 24. "It's a little frustrating sometimes, but we hope it all pays off ... soon."

More surprising is the accomplished musicianship of My Former Self's debut album, All We Can Ask for Is the Truth, an unrelenting half-hour of pop-punk energy with tinges of metal and jangling soft rock.

"Like a Drug," with its slow-building verses and explosive chorus, holds up to just about anything currently on modern-rock radio, and the gentle breakup ballad "Just Forget Me" shows tasteful restraint in its slide guitar, strolling drums and heartfelt lyrics. "I found so much beauty in the idea of failing, irony has nothing on me," coos singer Tyler Florence. "I guess this is how it's supposed to be, just forget me."

This mix of punk energy and confessional lyrics—plus the verbosity of the album's title—would have many classify My Former Self as emo.

"If 'emo' means putting a lot of emotion and passion into what we write, then yes, we are," Cummings says. "The word has a negative connotation in the scene right now, but a lot of 'emo' artists influenced us, and we're not ashamed of that."

Like every band and its mother (maybe literally), My Former Self hosts a popular page on MySpace, but understands the criticism of those that use the site. "MySpace is a great tool, but just because a band has a lot of 'friends' doesn't make them a great band—it's the live show where a band like us can show that we're more than just a website," explains Cummings, whose band's synchronized amplifier leaps are known to whip crowds into a frenzy.

Despite appearing at local festivals, Cummings laments the general predicament of South Bay bands. "Without a rock venue like Slim's or the Great American Music Hall, bands don't have a lot of inspiration to work hard," he says. "San Francisco clubs are extremely hard for San Jose bands to get into, because they are not local, but also not considered regional or national touring acts."

Still, My Former Self keeps busy playing free shows at local schools, including its members' alma maters, Valley Christian and Silver Creek. "We have a couple shows coming up encouraging students to learn about the proposals and candidates in the upcoming election and to vote," says Cummings, who insists that "checks and balances" pervade their songwriting process. "We try to send out a positive message, because we know that adolescence can be a difficult time." The band's Japanese fans (courtesy of MySpace) will be assuaged with The Truth's release on the Nutcase Entertainment label this month, but the band remains patient domestically.

"We've been holding out, waiting for an offer that we're happy with," Cummings says. "But in the industry today, it seems as though you have to accomplish a whole lot on your own to be taken seriously." My Former Self should have no trouble in that department.

My Former Self plays Oct. 20 at the Cave, 2165 Lucretia Ave., San Jose, to benefit local peers the Fighting Jacks, whose equipment was recently stolen. (

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