10 years later, NEPA music scene reflects on Captain, We’re Sinking album ‘The Future Is Cancelled’
When a band makes emotional music that is as deeply personal as it is universal to anyone who has loved, lost, and lived to tell the tale of heartache, confusion, and existential dread, it stands the test of time.
10 years after Captain, We’re Sinking released “The Future Is Cancelled,” the Scranton punk quartet will reunite to perform their seminal album live front-to-back for the first time ever on Saturday, July 22 in the lobby of the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre, just a few blocks away from the former Cafe Metro where they and many other local musicians cut their teeth and left lasting marks on the Northeastern Pennsylvania music scene and beyond. Scranton indie punk outfit Those Clever Foxes and Wilkes-Barre hardcore group Worn will open the all-ages show.
Just re-released as a deluxe edition via Run for Cover Records, the influence of this acclaimed album and the memories it created remains strong a decade later, so NEPA Scene asked friends, fans, loved ones, and fellow musicians to share their thoughts and recollections of CWS at the time – Bobby Barnett (vocals, guitar), Leo Vergnetti (vocals, guitar), Zack Charette (bass), and Bill Orender (drums) – and the impact “The Future Is Cancelled” had on their lives.
Ben Walsh of Tigers Jaw, who will be filling in on bass at the Kirby Center and one more anniversary show at PhilaMOCA in Philadelphia on Sunday, July 23, helped NEPA Scene gather stories and comments from members of The Menzingers, Petal, Scumbag Petty, Three Man Cannon, Cave People, Golden Apples, World’s Scariest Police Chases, Those Clever Foxes, and more. What we received was as touching, hilarious, surprising, and beautiful as the album itself.
“I want to write about CWS as one of the greatest punk/emo bands of the early 21st century. I want to yell and babble and share them with anyone who would listen. ‘The songs! Listen to the songs!’ I want to complain they are criminally underrated. I want people to feel they are missing out on the secret. In fact, they are. The energy and urgency are real. The rhythms and melodies have a complexity and deep emotional resonance you don’t find in contemporaries. The lyrics build worlds that are reflections of the deeply personal thoughts, situations, and stories that we tell ourselves in order to explain the world.
Thing is, I can’t say those things on their own. You see, everything there is true, but it would be dishonest not to mention CWS are also some of my best friends in the entire world. They are my family, both literally and figuratively. They shaped who I am not only with their music, but with their love and friendship. Their songs hit me on a level completely inaccessible to the rest of the world. The love, loss, pain and beauty they share in their songs describes my real life in a way I can’t articulate it myself. Best fuckin’ band.
Many of my Captain stories change depending on who’s telling it. Names and dates vary, as they do in any good story. I’ve got too many Captain stories to remember. One that always comes back to me is a Midwest tour from over a decade ago.
They called me a week or two before we were leaving for Flint, Michigan. You see, they had no car, so Augusta – bless her heart- of Cayetana/Gladie, let us borrow her blue 1980s/’90s Cutlass Ciera-adjacent sedan, under the condition I was the driver, and I drove the Captain boys out to Michigan. I learned about comic books and life and the supernatural, and we tried nine different types of jerky at a Jerky Outlet. Only time I ever had a crocodile – or was it alligator? This was a pre-smartphone situation. We got stuck in a terrible snowstorm and nearly missed the house show in Flint. Seeing a car wreck straight out of a CWS song led us down an existential road of conversation.
When we finally got there, a sewer pipe of some kind was leaking and some drunk kid was swinging around a shit-soaked shirt. There were costumes. There was booze. An unnamed CWS member tossed a pack of firecrackers into a dark room of people making out. There’s no real conflict, beginning, middle, or end to this story. It’s a snapshot of a time I’ll love and look back on forever, one with some of my best friends who happen to play in one of my favorite bands.”
– Tom May (the Menzingers)
“‘The Future Is Cancelled’ is a punk record that, with its anthemic songs, helped Rust Belt kids who watched their parents struggle through recessions, addiction, and small town isolation feel less alone. It always allowed the pang in my gut to feel softened. Of all the punk records to come out of Pennsylvania at that time, ‘The Future Is Cancelled,’ with its theatric storytelling, will resonate with the past, present, and new music listeners for years to come.”
– Kiley Lotz (Petal)
“‘The Future Is Cancelled’ is an incredible, emotional, chaotic, and relatable collection of songs that resonated with me profoundly when I first heard it. I remember my first listen, probably in the Dickson City Denny’s parking lot – where we used to play each other whatever new songs we were working on – hearing the opening cacophony of ‘Adultery,’ having my mind blown by Bobby’s lyrics and vocal delivery, and then the huge payoff when Leo joins in to sing the signature Captain trade-off chorus. I wouldn’t shut up about the album and talked about it or played it for just about anyone who was around. Zack’s basslines are so smart and catchy, Bill’s drumming suits the album perfectly, balancing precision and off-the-rails energy. There is a palpable energy to every vocal track. This is a special album, and I’m grateful for the inspiration it’s given me.”
– Ben Walsh, (Tigers Jaw, Scumbag Petty)
“My first, very vivid memory of Captain is a stampede of kids from the outside of Cafe Metro [in Wilkes-Barre] running in to jump and dive on people as soon as they started playing – I’ve loved them ever since. My favorite part about Captain, We’re Sinking is the connection I continued to have with their music, especially with ‘The Future Is Cancelled.’ I remember driving around in my friend Jesse’s convertible hearing it for the first time and being so excited because, even on the first listen, I knew it would be an important album to me. It was the album of the summer that year. I spent a lot of time learning – and eventually yelling – the words to TFIC – especially “Lake” – on nightly drives with my best friends. I loved and still love that album very much, and I’m thankful they are back to play it! Thanks for all the memories, Captain!”
– Kaitlyn Kishbaugh
“I have a memory of the first time I heard the song ‘Lake.’ Bob and I were jamming and he played it for me in my basement in Philly. We were starting a band called Sheep, drinking Old E, and I thought it was going to be one of our songs. I was stoked – it was so heavy and a real ripping tune, a great one. Long story short, Sheep didn’t do a whole lot with the song – Sheeeeeep – so when I heard it made its way onto ‘The Future Is Cancelled,’ I was happy. I still wish Sheep had the song to this day, but I’m slowly learning to live with it and let it go! Happy 10 years, fellas!”
– Pat Brier, (Goro, Sheep, Queen Jesus, Three Man Cannon, Pay for Pain)
“I will never forget the first time I heard ‘The Future is Cancelled.’ I was in a van with Three Man Cannon going from Scranton to Philly for a West Philly house show. Pat Brier had an ‘advance copy’ and he put it on. I remember him saying that Bob was nervous the album ‘wasn’t punk enough.’ I don’t recall being that blown away by a record on first listen ever before or ever again. To this day, it’s one of my all-time favorites, and there aren’t many days that I don’t listen to at least a few songs.”
– “Pat the Hat” Flynn (management)
“From the first palm-muted few seconds of ‘It’s a Trap’ on a CD-R, handed to me in a hallway of the Holiday Inn in Gainesville, Florida, CWS has always had an important connection with me. That built up a hell of a lot of anticipation for more, and that was delivered in a nice little package called ‘The Future is Cancelled’ – song after song, anthem after anthem, sing-along after sing-along. Doing what so many bands fail to do – live up to the hype that their previous release created. The screams of ‘Lake,’ the sadness of ‘A Bitter Divorce,’ the catharsis of ‘Brother’ – it ticks every box and hits every emotion. Unfortunately, the band will always be dead to me until they play Manchester Punk Festival.”
– Kieran Kelly
“From the very first time I saw Captain, I was floored by the way their melodies and singing styles are both so equally demanding of attention. I was at a high school gym somewhere and these guys were screaming these incredible melodies, very simple lyrics, just plastering them into my head. I can still feel that energy years and years later.”
– Russell Edling (Golden Apples)
“In 2016, my mother, one of the only people on Earth that loved me unconditionally, passed away just weeks before I planned to travel to Florida for The Fest. I walked into the Crowbar in Ybor City as Captain, We’re Sinking hit the first notes of the opening track from ‘The Future Is Cancelled.’ Every emotion I had been holding back for the past month erupted inside me. There I was, watching one of my favorite bands while balling my eyes out. It was total catharsis. I love this band. I love this record. I could get every lyric they’ve ever written tattooed on my body. I am honored to be included as a tiny part of their history in helping to share their music with others. Punk rock ruined my life, but Captain We’re Sinking might have saved it.”
– Dan Rock (World’s Scariest Police Chases)
“I feel really lucky to have been a part of ‘The Future is Cancelled.’ I remember the excitement of singing in the recording booth but being nervous at the same time because it was the first time I had ever done something like that, but it was a lot of fun. It feels like a lifetime ago! We were young and free before Bob and I were married and had our two beautiful daughters. That feeling returns every time I listen to the album.”
– Kara (Boles) Barnett
“‘The Future Is Cancelled’ is an album I never get sick of. My favorite part of the album is hearing my cousin, Kara Barnett, sing. The album brings me back to a wonderfully fun and chaotic time of early adulthood, living in South Philly with my best friends, including the members of Captain, who basically lived at not one but two of my apartments. I’m happy the future settled down, but love that this album is a soundtrack to that special time.”
– Kate Flynn
“I remember trading Bobby my beloved ‘Ocarina of Time’ N64 cartridge for a burned CD of ‘The Future Is Cancelled’ before it came out. I loved that game but, once I listened, I knew I had come out on top. This record blew my mind. It was loud and urgent and heavy while still being so thoughtful and melodic and melancholy. It was all anyone could talk about at the time. Every time I come back to it, I think, ‘Wow, they really did something here.’ 10 out of 10!
– Dave Tomaine (Cave People, Scumbag Petty)
“‘The Future Is Cancelled’ is not only one of my favorite albums of all time, it’s also the soundtrack to one of the happiest times of my life when I moved back to Philly in 2013 and was surrounded by the people I love and the music community that I hold so incredibly dear. NEPA forever!”
– Bree Howard
“Some of the first shows Home Outgrown worked on were with Captain, We’re Sinking, and it brought us all so much closer together. Worrying with this band throughout the years brought us so many friendships and memories and made our friendships stronger. These songs bring us back to a time where we were all just figuring shit out and immersing ourselves in community and friendship and they, and the band, mean the world to us.”
– Mel Grinberg and Hannah Northrup (Home Outgrown Presents)
“I am not kidding when I tell people ‘The Future Is Canceled’ is perhaps the best front-to-back record produced by any of our local talent of any genre. Either way, definitely deserves a high place amongst “Smiles Are the Batteries” [Bedford] or “Ride of the Blueberry Winter” [The SW!MS] territory in terms of overall songwriting, creativity, and longevity. So many people I know into post-hardcore love CWS upon first listen. It grabs you, for sure. I first played a show with Captain in my shitty little ska band called The Big Green at Cafe Metro in like… ’07? Menzos just became Menzos after they were briefly ‘Gramercy Riffs’ – which is honestly a dope-ass name for a band – and CWS played Metro with my ska band and Menzos. I think we played one of the first Menzo shows under the name Menzos, like ever, at Backstage [in Kingston]? Sometime before the Big Green/Captain/Menzingers show on Thanksgiving Eve at Metro in ’07 or so.
Love this music scene and its history and very grateful for it. Looking forward to playing again with Those Clever Foxes, but the fact that it’s a Captain show down the street from Cafe? Sacred ground. I still rewatch that Big D set they did in the Metro parking lot to try and calm shit down after the show sold out with tons of kids not getting in. Best nights of my youth, and Captain, We’re Sinking very much contributed to the soundtrack.”
– Matt Duffy (The Big Green, Those Clever Foxes)
“The first time I heard ‘The Future Is Canceled’ was in the fall of 2013 when I was a sophomore in high school. At the time, I was only a few years into my music career and had already found solace in the fact that there were so many incredible bands from Scranton that were really doing it. I idolized them all and still do. I remember hearing ‘Montreal’ on the way home from school in my friend Eóin’s car. I’m pretty sure I listened to nothing else for the next several months. I even remember getting my driver’s license in February 2014 and the first song I played was ‘Beer Can.’ Any time I hear that song, I think of skipping school and driving my mom’s Jeep Grand Cherokee around hoping I wouldn’t get caught. This record just brings me back to so many pivotal moments in my teenage years, yet I can listen to it now at 26 years old and it fires me up the same way it did then, maybe even more now than ever.
To have this type of introduction to this record and then flash forward almost a decade later and my band played two shows with CWS in 2022, one of which being at The First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia, a venue I always wanted to play, and the other being at my own music festival’s inaugural event is just wild. When we decided to put together the first Good Things Are Happening festival, my immediate thought was to have Captain, We’re Sinking reunite and headline the show. That will go down as one of the coolest days of my life. A lot can change in 10 years, but ‘TFIC’ will forever be one of the best things to ever come from NEPA.”
– James Barrett (musician, Good Things Are Happening Fest)
Captain, We’re Sinking “The Future Is Cancelled” 10 Year Anniversary Shows
with Those Clever Foxes and Worn
Location: F.M. Kirby Center (71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre)
Date: Saturday, July 22
Time: Doors at 6 p.m., show at 7:30 p.m.
Cost: $20 in advance, $25 at the door
Purchase tickets at kirbycenter.org.
with Sun Organ and Five Hundred Bucks
Location: PhilaMOCA (531 N. 12th St., Philadelphia)
Date: Sunday, July 23
Time: Doors at 7:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m.
Cost: $20 in advance, $25 at the door
Purchase tickets at philamoca.org.