If you go through a breakup and you’re in a pop-punk band, chances are good you’ll wind up writing a fun, sentimental song about it — but what if the breakup is with your pop-punk band? In the final months before Victoria’s Open Relationship split up, the band’s drummer, Melissa Edwards, turned to zine-making for an outlet on dealing with the transition. Chock-full of band anecdotes, photographs, past gig posters, and a timeline of every show the band played during their four years together, Open Relationship #IRL is one part scrapbook, another part nostalgic autobiography.
The 55-page zine contains eight chapters: one on Open Relationship’s first show at a house party, one about the several bass players they went through over the years, four on various out-of-town shows and tours, one about their adventures in DIY basement recording, and a final chapter on their encounter with Nardwuar. The zine reads like a collection of short stories, but with Open Relationship as a common thread throughout.
The motive behind Open Relationship #IRL was largely personal: in the introduction, Edwards says that this was her way of processing the band’s breakup as they slowly drew closer to their final show. Still, even though these stories are very particular, the observations Edwards makes could have anyone imagining themselves as a young person in a punk band — overcoming fears of being a novice, growing as an artist, going on road trips with friends, and quietly celebrating personal firsts. The zine’s narrative voice has all the simplicity and charm of a conversation with a good friend and, combined with Edwards’ emotional honesty about mourning the end of this chapter of her life, the result is touching.
As somebody who’s never gone on tour myself, I have had the perpetual frustration of asking recently returned friends what it was like. All they ever do is give me far-away smiles and say something to the effect of, “It was the best time I have ever had, but I don’t know what else to tell you.” That’s probably why my favourite parts of Open Relationship #IRL were the ones about touring. Describing the joys of being on tour is apparently difficult because it isn’t a single exciting story, so much as the summation of several little stories: a weird rock ‘n’ roll bar, a new friend, a surprisingly well-attended show, and so on for weeks or months — punctuated by long drives. Friends always tell me how addictive touring is, but I understand how it would be tough to describe exactly why. Which details are important to the story? Edwards handles this with a bullet point list of tour anecdotes ranging from two lines to half a page. In that three-page list of broken-down minivans, surprise sleepovers with old friends, and visits with favourite family members, you get that sense of a priceless adventure.
Nearly every aspect of the band is covered in Open Relationship #IRL, thanks toEdwards’ attention to meticulous detail. The discography includes information on every small-run cassette, including release dates, reissues, and status as of August 2014 (sold out, available, offline, unreleased, and so on); a poster gallery features three pages of scanned and resized show posters; and a fan art section features images of comics, drawings, and even a photo of an Open Relationship tribute tattoo.
While Open Relationship #IRL serves as a final posthumous morsel for dedicated fans of Open Relationship, strangers to the band will also enjoy it as a well-crafted, coming-of-age story. Just like pop punk, Open Relationship #IRL is for anyone who has ever been to a house party, gone on a road trip, broken up, grown up, or felt moody about any of the above.
If you want to read Open Relationship #IRL yourself, you can order a copy through firstname.lastname@example.org or borrow a copy from the zine library at Horses Records in Vancouver.