Oh, the memories… The good old days… We all can think back to that special childhood home of ours where we grew up, drove our parents crazy, avoided our homework, and generally caused as much mayhem as we possibly could. “259 Park Dr.” was the address of the home in which Alive & Well singer and guitarist Matt Vernon grew up, located in a tiny little borough called Bellmawr in New Jersey.
Vernon and the band are excited to be releasing a music video to accompany the new single, which has been a long time coming, seeing as the song that the album comes from, From Basements To Beaches, was released in 2016. Vernon wrote the song to be a relatable journey for the listener, one that will resonate with them and make you look back fondly on that special house that was more than just an address, but your own personal sanctuary where you learned how to grow up. It was your place to find yourself, make mistakes, and carry with you some remarkable stories that you’ll never forget.
The video for “259 Park Dr” conjures up a lot of these memories, as you observe the band members chilling together, watching old home videos, and rocking the fuck out. With a few words regarding the video, Vernon commented, “Alive & Well has always embraced a challenge with our videos, or with anything for that matter. This video was a collaborative effort from everyone including band members, Alejandro and his crew, and about 30 of our dearest friends to really make something special for 259 Park Dr.”
Although it is just being released now, the music video for the song was shot over two years ago, but was put on the back burner for several reasons. After sorting some personal matters, the band members regrouped and realized that this video was too important to just throw in the scrap pile. It’s also meant to act as a turning of the page of sorts, a send-off to From Basements To Beaches, and a welcoming to Alive & Well’s next chapter. After a short hiatus, the group, along with new recruit, guitarist DJ McCauly, are currently working on their next release.
As a special addition to the release of the “259 Park Dr.” music video, Vernon has joined us today for a rundown of his top five favourite memories, directly from 259 Park Dr in which he gives us all the juicy details of his rather eventful childhood.
“Alright, to start off there is a consistent thread through most of these stories. I was raised by a single mother who worked her ass off to support me and my sister so that left our house with less adult supervision than that of my friend’s houses. The things done at 259 Park Dr. were completely unbeknownst to her until it was too late.”
1. About The House
“259 Park Dr. is a four bed, one and a half bath that my grandparents bought when they started their family. They sold it to my mother and father when they started their family. The house was pretty much identical to the rest on the South Jersey suburban street besides the fact that my grandfather built a large garage addition on it. And when I was in eighth grade I burned it down. I found a lighter while taking the trash out, started fucking with it and threw it in the trashcan and went inside. Fifteen minutes later the garage was completely inflamed and when our lawnmower and gas tank went off with an explosion the fire company and half my neighborhood was already out front to witness it. What the fire and smoke damage didn’t destroy, the water damage did when the fire department flooded our attic to extinguish any remaining embers. I was absolutely mortified, not only did I destroy our home but I had pushed my overworked and underpaid mother one step closer to a nervous breakdown.
I went to school the following day and it was like the needle pulled off a record player when I walked into the main hallway, everyone stopped what they were doing, no one said a word. Rumours were spread that I was making a pipe bomb or ‘smoking drugs’ and the days following that I was taken to be evaluated by a child psychiatrist. I didn’t even know I was being evaluated but they had me repeat my story of what had happened a dozen times checking for inconsistencies. The doctor asked to speak with my mother in private and gave me a sheet with columns of words on it, he asked me to ‘circle all the words that describe how you felt when you watched your house on fire.’ They left and I got to circling ‘sad,’ ‘embarrassed,’ ‘regretful,’ ‘awful,’ and the like.
While double-checking to see if I missed any I started noticing some odd ones: ‘happy,’ ‘excited,’ ‘sexually aroused.’ They were checking to see if I was a full-on pyromaniac. Turns out I’m not a pyro and I just tested positive for being an idiot kid who made a mistake. Over the months things got better, the insurance company paid out big and my mom immediately was able to replace the junker car she was driving with a new convertible, we were living in a suite in a hotel that had a pool, hot tub, and basketball court and I started my first band.
The first song we wrote was called ‘Matt Burned His House Down’ a four-chord jovial pop-punk song describing the event with a simple yet contagious chorus, ‘Don’t play with lighters, don’t play with lighters, don’t play with lighters or you’ll burn your house down.’ I shook off the rumours and instead steered into the embarrassment and embraced it, I left eighth grade shunned and started freshman year of high school a minor celebrity, I mean as far as high schools went. 259 Park Dr. was rebuilt better than ever, with one added paramount feature; a double firewall separating the garage from the house which rendered that room soundproof.”
2. Meat Movie Mondays
“For a stretch there we took to adventurous cooking on the grill. My friends dubbed the house ‘Grilligan’s Island’ and while we were there pretty much every night, Monday’s we would try to come up with the most absurd meat-based meal and then gather around the TV, put on a movie, and talk over it. The only one that turned out pretty good was a heart-attack-inducing double bacon cheeseburger but the buns were grilled cheese made on Texas toast. So from the bottom-up, that’s Texas toast, cheese, Texas toast, burger, cheese, bacon, burger, cheese, bacon, Texas toast, cheese, Texas toast. One of the failed ideas was putting two packs of hot dogs in a blender with a Miller Lite. It looked awful but I was determined to drink meat.”
3. Rock n’ Roll Wake Up Call
“Two days before my mother’s 55th birthday I slipped word to my mom’s new boyfriend not to sleep over. He had already had one heart attack and I didn’t want to kill him just yet. At the bar I pitched the plan to Rock n’ Roll Wake Up Call my mother. We all knew what it meant but never thought we’d use it against the innocent. We assembled a three-piece band and two audience members and stopped for party decorations. Back home at 259 Park Dr. we started loading gear from the garage, up the stairs and into my mother’s master bathroom. We stacked the cabs and amps in the bathtub and put most of a drum set in front of the toilet. At 2:30 am the bathroom is fully decorated with streamers and balloons and five drunk idiots wearing party hats as we flipped our amps on simultaneously and when the feedback started to scream the drummer counted off and we went into a fast hardcore punk riff. My mother did not kick the door down, she simply pushed it open and glared at me and we all shouted ‘SURPRISE!’ and then I knew we had to leave. Now. We have it on video.”
4. Mace Party
“The garage was home base, I had installed carpet and furniture all from things being thrown out in the neighbourhood. My best friend Kyle and I had put a couch on a dolly and rolled it a quarter mile back. We had everything we needed to party and hang out in and I had even invested in a fog machine and strobe lights for certain occasions. One party I was sitting on the couch and I happened to look down into my girlfriend’s purse and saw what looked like lipstick but said ‘mace’ in fancy lettering. I asked if that was in fact mace, she said yes and I grabbed it.
Without telling anyone I opened the reservoir of the fog tank, sprayed in some mace and shut it. Within a few minutes people started to cough a little, then a little more. They demanded to know what I did and after I told them some people left, but some didn’t. That small group made an immediate wager to see who could last the longest in the room. One by one we all quit and ran into the yard and most of us threw up from it. Afterwards, I invited the few participants in and made everyone breakfast as we sat around with swollen eyes.”
5. Praise Be Karen
“There are a hundred more stories, some I can’t remember and I can’t name all the people involved as they’ve gone on to lead respectful and successful lives with families. 259 Park Dr. holds a special place in all of our hearts. We were not interested in going to clubs or doing what kids our age were into, when someone invited a newcomer to a Park Dr. party there was a 50 percent chance they would immediately leave. When you opened the back door of the garage to a cloud of cigarette and weed smoke, 30 kids drinking anything they could get their hands on, dildos being used to hit people in the face if they were shut out in beer pong, and of course loud and aggressive music being blared; it wasn’t for everyone. But it was a place where if you asked to show someone a song they would shut up and listen to it. When the nights died down we’d discuss all of the things we were experiencing and afraid of as we were becoming adults. Some of the people who hung out there have gone on to get married and almost all of us are still close friends ten years after I moved out.
There is a common phrase amongst my friends to say ‘Karen Vernon is a saint.’ Even to this day it is said as if it was a prayer with absolute sincerity. She had every right to kill any of us at any time and she never did. Praise Be Karen.”