In Guest List, Paste’s favorite artists and auteurs reveal the music that’s inspired some of their most seminal works.
Summer camp is defined by music, from fireside sing-alongs to Top 40 hits smuggled in on secret MP3 players. The sonic landscape of Camp Midnight, the monstrously funny new Image OGN from Ben 10 co-creator Steven T. Seagle and The New Yorker cartoonist Jason Adam Katzenstein, leans a bit more ghoulish and ghastly thanks to the camp’s supernatural inhabitants. Katzenstein, a musician himself, provided Paste with a perfect playlist for summer nights spent around the campfire, roasting marshmallows and praying your bunkmates won’t eat you in your sleep…
Jason Adam Katzenstein on the Music Behind Camp Midnight
I blast music while I draw. My hand moves to rhythms. I need a loud song for strong bold lines, something acoustic for a passage without dialogue, an ‘80s ballad for a few panels of romance and so on. I also play keyboards in a band, Wet Leather. Our rehearsals and shows were often the only thing getting me out of my apartment while I was drawing Camp Midnight.
Skye’s got a lot on her plate: her parents just got divorced, she’s been sent away to summer camp and, well, she’s afraid of being eaten—or at least socially humiliated—by a group of monsters. She needs some distorted guitars in her life, a punk rock anthem or two and some lyrics about growing up.
“Dammit,” Blink 182
I don’t know how to make a coming-of-age soundtrack without this song on it. Blink 182 has a way of making teenage life’s little humiliations feel simultaneously lighter and like the most dire things that can ever happen to anyone. I couldn’t have done middle school without this band.
“Monkey Gone To Heaven,” Pixies
In an earlier iteration of our book, when we met Skye she was wearing a Pixies shirt. When I was a kid, Pixies were the band that made me feel good about being a weirdo. Their songs were angry, strange, beautiful and unlike anything I’d ever heard. I used to listen to Pixies albums and draw creepy, surreal landscapes after school. Now I get to listen to Pixies, draw creepy, surreal landscapes and call it work!
Allison Crutchfield sings, “Place me precariously/ skinned knee/ I want to leave,” and her voice cracks with disdain and vulnerability in all the right places. I love the ironic well-wish of the chorus, “I hope you like Kenosha so much you stay there forever and we all lose touch.” It’s something Skye might say to her “step-monster.”
“We’re Going to Be Friends,” The White Stripes
One of the tracks on White Blood Cells where Meg and Jack trade drum crashes and distortion for something sincere, simple and acoustic. There’s a moment on the bus to camp when Skye and Mia don’t talk, but you see their faces change as they slowly realize that this will be a friendship. It was one of my favorite moments to draw in the whole book.
“Little Fang,” Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks
Here’s a little funky horror-pop tune for that moment when all of the other kids at summer camp reveal they’re secretly monsters!
“Lost in the Supermarket,” The Clash
Sometimes, when nobody else is looking, Skye gets to just be terrified. She’s alone, nobody is who they appear to be; it’s like that feeling of being a little kid and holding onto somebody’s leg in the grocery store who turns out to not be your mother.
“Zero,” The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Skye isn’t just going to spend this summer curled in a little ball. She’s going to be the coolest kid at camp! She’s going to strike fear in the heart of her witch nemesis, Abcynthia, get the best bunk in the Medusa cabin and get the quickest time in the obstacle course! If she’s anything like me, she’ll want to blast this song on repeat and remember she’s a badass.
“Nothing Matters When We’re Dancing,” The Magnetic Fields
Hey! This comic has romance! This is one of my favorite romance/slow dance songs, great for when the sun’s setting and you’re on the dock on a hot camp summer night with the person you’re falling in like with.
“Here (In Your Arms), Hellogoodbye
This one is mostly here because the music video is an homage to Wet Hot American Summer, which is the best comedy about summer camp ever committed to celluloid. Plus, keytars!
“Bottomed Out,” Sleeper Agent
I found Sleeper Agent the summer I started drawing Camp Midnight, and I played the record Celebrasion on repeat while drawing. Sleeper Agent, like The Cure, is great at putting macabre lyrics into joyful pop song structures. I love mashing up genre conventions, which is probably why I drew a horror comedy comic.
“Bros,” Wolf Alice
This plays over the “credits” of our book for me. It celebrates your best friend; the refrain goes, “There’s no one, no one quite like you.” It’s a song for Skye and Mia if I’ve ever heard one. To me, it sounds like summer. Also, I just love it and listened to it a lot while drawing Camp Midnight!