Updated: Apr 15, 2020
written by Greg Chidley
I can still remember the colorful shirts, scratched CDs, and the endless nights listening to Scary Kids Scaring Kids on repeat. The year was 2007, and places like Chain Reaction in Anaheim, CA were quintessential stomping grounds for the confused, kind-of-sad-kind-of-not teenagers and young adults that had become connected to “the Scene”. Considered by most as the Golden Era of Emo Music, it objectively went on to shape an entire generation's musical preference, regardless of the direction our paths took us in. Even some of today’s most popular electronic producers and DJs have cited their roots in events like Warped Tour and records like The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, and recently My Chemical Romance reunited and was able to sell close to 7,000 tickets in under a minute, completely selling out the Shrine in Los Angeles. Tickets for that show shot up to $1,000 in resale value almost instantly. For some, “The Scene” lived on and would continue to grow into a way of life, however, most of us grew older and stopped asking about bands like Chiodos, Haste the Day, or BlesstheFall.
Still, the one band in particular that always comes to mind when I think of that era is Scary Kids Scaring Kids. Scary Kids was the shit. No other band seemed to capture the specific sound of the Scene quite like they did. Melodic guitar hooks and melodramatic, yet intense lyrics cascaded atop a symphony of quirky synths and it drove fans wild. Tracks like "My Darkest Hour" and "The Only Medicine" became hits, drawing in fans of both fun, upbeat synthesizers and metal-influenced guitar solos. When their second and final album came out, simply titled Scary Kids Scaring Kids, the hype got even bigger. Songs like "Faces", "The Deep End" and "Snake Devil" had showcased a more mature, perfected sound, and their name just kept getting higher and higher on lineups. Regardless of the venue or time of year, it’s actually quite hard to remember a time the sextet came to Southern California without drawing a massive crowd. So what happened to Scary Kids? How could a popular post-hardcore band with a massive cult following release just two full-length albums and then seemingly dip out? The answers, unfortunately, lie in tragedy.
DJ, Pouyan, Steve, Chad and Tyson started Scary Kids Scaring Kids as juniors in high school in the almost nonexistent town of Gilbert, AZ. Naming the band after an infamous Cap’N’Jazz track was their first step towards Emo-Alternative Royalty, as the band set out to bring a new and unique sound to post-hardcore music. Until Jimmy Eat World broke out into the mainstream in 2007, not too many popular music acts had come out of Arizona. Scary Kids Scaring Kids quickly rose to the ranks of local heroes in the Scene, headlining multiple successful tours, gaining critical acclaim and even landing a deal with RCA Records.
But things weren’t perfect. I remember when I first noticed something was strange: Tyson Stevens, the prolific SKSK lead vocalist, had become absent from shows, relying on touring bandmates to fill in on vocals. Specifically, a time at Warped Tour in Pomona comes to mind where singers from various other bands on the bill stepped in, lending their voices to the band for different songs. Then, the shows started happening less and less, the hype around the band grew quieter and quieter and eventually, the inevitable news of a farewell tour was announced. I can still remember tearing up as the last Mod Sun note rang out in Pomona’s legendary venue, The Glass House. Scary Kids were about to take the stage in Southern California… for the last time.
I’m a skeptic. I remember thinking, “well that’s it… for now”. We live in an age where reboots and reunions captivate audiences of all kinds almost stronger and more intensely than the first time around, and I honestly held on for a long time thinking it could happen. They could give it one last tour, one last album maybe. They’d all get bored eventually. But it never came.
I remember that morning in October 2014 perfectly. I was living in San Francisco at the time, and my older sister (a die-hard Scary Kids fanatic since day one) called me, sounding like she was about to cry. Tyson Stevens was found dead in his sleep at the age of 29 on October 20th, 2014. There’s speculation, accounts from the other band members --- official police reports --- all that stuff. I don’t know. Who cares how it happened. The reason almost never even mattered to me. The world had lost another amazing musician too soon. One last tour, one last album, one last something would never happen.
Then, In September of 2019, something happened. Rhythm Guitarist Chad Crawford wrote and served as vocalist for a reunion track by the band called "Loved Forever," honoring Tyson and featuring several throwback lyrics from some of their more popular songs. And then it happened. The band announced a reunion tour slated for January 2020, showcasing their classic first album The City Sleeps in Flames from beginning to end. Ex-Saosin frontman and long-time friend of the band, Cove Reber would be lending his vocal talents to the tour and in partnership with To Write Love On Her Arms, the band would finally get to honor Tyson’s legacy.
Scary Kids reuniting is important. Sure, the regurgitation and reinvention of everything we’ve ever known and loved is getting stale (damn you, JJ Abrams!) but to me, so much of it becomes about closure. As a fan, you devote yourself to these artists because they’re able to speak to you in ways nobody else can, and that’s special. You relate to their lyrics about depression, wanting to give up, and wanting to go away forever, yes, but then you relate to their lyrics about rising above those dark times as well, reminding you that they're only temporary. These moments and memories help us express ourselves.
I’ve come to find, more often than not, life takes us full circle. I was less optimistic and less hopeful the last time I stood in Chain Reaction watching Scary Kids Scaring Kids, pouring sweat, screaming my favorite lyrics, and a lot has changed for me since then. I’ve worked on myself as a human, as I’m sure we all have in the last 10 years. We treat musicians like idols, and like something to believe in so much so that when one doesn’t make it and loses their fight, it’s hard to accept the same won't happen to us. But we fight on every day, singing the words we’ve come to know and love as second nature and seeing where life takes us. In a lot of cases, those words echoed on and helped us grow this past decade. And when a group of musicians recognizes how important those words and melodies are to their fans, and they reunite and put their pasts aside and make whatever they have to make work between themselves work, it’s a special thing. It becomes about mutual respect between fan and artist. A fan service worth the reboot. And Tyson did that for us. Scary Kids is doing it for us. Today is January 15th, 2020. I am going to see Scary Kids Scaring Kids in Los Angeles in just a few short hours, and I can barely contain my excitement.
Rest In Peace Tyson Curtis Stevens.
Greg is the Founder and Director of Operations at Faded Morgana. Here he is pictured with a giant Funko Pop of Captain Crunch, the famous Cereal Icon. He's a photographer and doesn't care what Ernie thinks.