Harrod & Funck
The now disbanded songwriting duo Harrod & Funck played in a now defunct coffee shop called The One Way Café in Morgantown, West Virginia.
These days I would avoid an establishment called the One Way Café, preferring the Everyway Café or Leave My Theology Out of It And Just Make Me Some Damn Coffee Café.
I’d heard of Harrod & Funck from my friend Jessie, who’d heard about them from her sister, Michaelanne. Jessie also turned me on to Radiohead. She got me to read The Brothers K and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.
Jessie and I lived with two other girls in an old, carved-up house on Willey Street. Yellow-orange carpet covered the wall by the stairs, as though it had crossed the floor with such gusto that it just couldn’t stop.
It was 1997, the year that Joshua Harris published his crazy popular book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I had not properly kissed dating hello (Lo, my path to virtue was made straight!)
Campus Crusade for Christ was not only the hub of my spiritual life but my social life in college.
In Crusade circles, it was perfectly acceptable to say things like “I’m dating God right now.” It was a kind way to let someone down easy or to justify one’s lack of prospects. I was busy writing papers in my overalls. I didn’t drink. I knew nothing much of dating, save a few chaste outings with a pastor’s son.
But I was good at crushes. I had a crush on my creative writing prof. On my Victorian poetry prof. On the lead singer in the praise band who wore hemp necklaces and spent long hours in the pottery studio.
Jason Harrod & Brian Funck played a dynamite show at One Way, to an audience that was both full and intimate. In the middle of the set, Harrod asked, “If you don’t leave your room, what good does it do you?”
That question became a catchphrase for me, something I’d repeat if I felt too vulnerable to do what I was expected to do, if I felt like checking out instead of showing up.
I’d liked Harrod & Funck as I listened to Jessie’s CD on my boom box. Is it any surprise that after the show, I had a certifiable crush?
Bonus: as a reporter for the student newspaper’s Arts & Entertainment section, I interviewed Harrod & Funck. I wanted to send them a copy of the piece when it ran, but I chickened out, and then I forgot.
How can I say what Harrod & Funck’s tender, gritty, stripped down, jazzed up, Neil Youngish, coffee house music has meant to me? I’ve listened to their live CD so many times that I’ve almost worn a groove on it.
I like to listen to this album start to finish, including the jokes (Funck: “My last name is Funck. It means ‘spark’ in German.” Harrod: “My name’s Harrod. It means ‘department store’ in English.”)
I like to listen to songs on repeat, like “Carolina,” throwing my harmonies in the mix, a Harrod & Funck & Sheets who play gigs only in my car (sometimes the kitchen.)
I savor the double-take delight, like sesame ice cream, of “I Will Find Jill C”: “You inspire me to climb trees, and to kiss the bark and to kiss the leaves.” Reader, I dare you not to swoon.
I brace myself for the bittersweet tenderness of “Lion Song,” the first dance at a friend’s first wedding.
“If you don’t leave your room, what good does it do you?” Maybe it was just an offhand remark between songs, a goofy rhetorical question. But Harrod’s words are a koan I’ve carried all these years. Maybe I’m jamming with my writing, or a rogue prayer, or a decent idea, or a kind intention, but if I keep them to myself, what good does it do?
The words that nourish us, those words of life, creep in sometimes where we least expect them.
I listen to songs, and the spaces between. I’ll keep listening.
Nicole Sheets is an assistant professor of English at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. Her work has appeared in Image, Mid-American Review, DIAGRAM, Western Humanities Review, Geez, and other journals. She blogs about travel and style at http://wanderlustandlipstick.com/blogs/wanderchic/ Nicole has also started a podcast series, Rambunctious Vernacular, in the vein of This American Life at http://rambunctiousvernacular.com/ She’s awaiting Jason Harrod’s forthcoming third solo album, Outposts (more info at http://jasonharrod.com/)