by chuck bell

Sometimes, the best bands are those that spring up momentarily between more permanent outfits. Urbana, IL three-piece American Football rose from the ashes of Midwestern  legends, Cap’n Jazz, among a series of side projects involving Mike Kinsella. Kinsella primarily played the drums in Cap’n Jazz, while his brother Tim screamed and hollered in his oft-out of key screech. After the demise of his brother’s band, Kinsella decided to gather some of his fellow Chicago scenesters to form his own band, The One Up Downstairs, where he would play guitar and sing. They recorded 3 songs in 1997. However, the band broke up shortly thereafter, and the EP did not see the light of day until its digital release in 2006.

Artist: American Football
Song: Never Meant

Mike Kinsella retained drummer Steve Lamos (formerly of the Firebird Band, a Braid side project) from the One Up Downstairs for a fuller version of the band, which they called American Football. Although they only existed for 2 years, yielding a self titled EP and full-length, American Football managed to single-handedly put Polyvinyl Records on the map, now home to such indie-pop stars as Architecture in Helsinki and Of Montreal. The EP was certainly a departure from the chaotic sound of Cap’n Jazz, focusing on chiming guitars, dynamic time signatures, and Mike’s plaintive vocals, which stood in stark contrast to Tim’s caustic melodies.

Although the EP introduced their fresh sound to the Chicago scene, it is the full-length that is their true masterpiece. The opening track, “Never Meant,” is as close to perfect as a song can get. The first few seconds catch the band tuning up and calling out directions to each other, but right after the 4-count, it takes off running. Both guitars intertwine beautifully as Kinsella reasons with himself over a breakup in an obvious state of denial: “I just think it’s best/ cause you can’t miss what you forget.” The rest of the album plays with this same formula, occasionally employing strings, trumpet, and even a wurlitzer, to illustrate the end of a relationship in symphonic fashion.

Artist: American Football
Song: Honestly

Despite the buzz that American Football had created for themselves, they were decidedly a studio band, and parted ways shortly after the release of the full-length. Since then, Kinsella has had a number of side projects. He has filled in on drums for his brother’s band, Joan of Arc, on a number of their albums. Cap’n Jazz even reunited for one album under the name Owls. For the past 6 years, he has been playing under the moniker Owen, in which he plays all of the instruments and records the songs himself. Though these songs are good and often emotionally devastating, Kinsella has still yet to reach the classic heights of American Football. However, I suppose you can’t miss what you forget.


  1. Posted April 16, 2014 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    each time i used to read smaller articles that also clear their motive,
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  2. Kennie P
    Posted April 22, 2014 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    looking for a track list for mixtape called Cheer Up Emo Kid from site from maybe 2009? american football was on it and i think their song “never meant” was on it. if anyone has any info i would appreciate it.

  3. Jason
    Posted June 6, 2014 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Not dead anymore, suckaaas! AHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!1

  4. Posted September 18, 2014 at 1:32 am | Permalink

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  5. Posted October 30, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

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  6. despa cheeto
    Posted April 18, 2019 at 7:13 pm | Permalink


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