He Is Legend’s ‘I Am Hollywood’ Turns 10 Years Old

he is legend

On August 5, 2005, I was sitting in a chair in a stranger’s apartment in Bakersfield, CA, 6 hours from my own home. The apartment belonged to the members of a local punk band called Gramercy Riff; a band I didn’t know existed before that night. Sitting directly across from me was one of my best friends. To my right, in a recliner, was Craig Owens of Chiodos. The other five members of his band were milling around the apartment, socializing with other people whom I had never met before. Just hours before, Chiodos had performed in the dingy, underground basement of a pizza place on a bill that included much more intimidating bands like Full Blown Chaos and Sworn Enemy. Chiodos’ set was filled with songs from their debut LP, All’s Well That Ends Well, which had just come out less than two weeks prior.

As my friend and I sat around awkwardly, drinking Steel Reserve tall boys and eating Chili Cheese Fritos, Craig kept to himself mostly while the rest of the band partied the night away, regardless of the fact that they had to shoot a music video the next morning. Soon though, Craig and I began talking, and one of the first things he asked me was, “Have you heard these guys before?” He turned his laptop around to show me a music video that I didn’t recognize. There were puppets and shots of the band performing the song, but I couldn’t hear what was being played due to the party taking place around us. Craig insisted that I check out the band when I found the time, and he made sure that I remembered the name He Is Legend.

When I got home the following day, I recalled Craig’s recommendation and found He Is Legend’s Myspace page. Their music was unlike anything I had heard at the time. Within minutes, I was in love, but I was also disappointed in myself, as their debut full-length had been out for nearly a year at this point. They also had a fantastic 8-track EP that had come out shortly before that. How the hell had I overlooked these guys?

I had a lot of catching up to do…

I revisited the video that Craig had showed me for the opening track off of He Is Legend’s full-length debut. “The Seduction” is one hell of an introduction and first impression for discovering a band. It’s immediately aggressive, catchy, and wholly interesting as you’re thrown headfirst into the world of Schuylar Croom’s writing. When that growling chorus comes in, it’s settled; you’re on board. You’re ready for the Legend and everything is has to offer.

You know you want it. You know you want it. You know you want it. You know you want it.

I Am Hollywood is nearly impossible to pin down with a single genre descriptor. From the dance-y nature of tracks like “The Greatest Actor Alive Or Dead,” to the smooth, jazzy build-up of “Dinner With A Gyspy,” to the pure, unrelenting intensity of “I Am Hollywood,” there’s something to love for fans of everything from emo, to metal, to southern rock, and various sub-genres in between. The album has infectious choruses, heavy breakdowns, chugging metal riffs, upbeat verses, and obscure lyrics that somehow manage to stick to the walls of your mind. I think I know nearly every word to this album, and that’s without ever intentionally setting out to learn them. Even if I don’t comprehend the deeper meanings of the ostensibly esoteric storylines that Croom has written and recorded, every verse on this album has instilled itself in me over time.

Schuylar Croom’s impressive vocal range and unique delivery are front and center, but the album wouldn’t be the same without the guitar work from Adam Tanbouz and McKenzie Bell, the drumming by Steven Bache, the undeniably commanding bass playing of Matt Williams, and even Adam Dutkiewicz’s production. These are all factors that contributed to creating one of the best heavy albums of the last decade; an album I was late to fall for. I think it’s safe to say that I made up for lost time, though. I’m nearly certain that I’ve listened to I Am Hollywood more than any other album in the past decade.

The front and back of my 'I Am Hollywood' CD booklet, purchased in 2005 -- with wear, tear, pinholes and tape rips.

The front and back of my ‘I Am Hollywood’ CD booklet from 2005 — with wear, tear, pinholes and tape rips.

Four months after discovering HIL, I was able to see the band live for the first (and only) time while they were on their ‘Dead By Dawn II’ tour with Haste The Day and From First To Last. The show was at (the sadly now-defunct venue) The Pound in San Francisco on December 13, 2005.

Two musicians took advantage of the low ceiling and exposed plumbing that night. One was Sonny Moore of FFTL, and the other was He Is Legend’s frontman, Schuylar Croom. Sonny Moore’s attempt was less than successful as he made an applaudable effort to hang upside down and play guitar simultaneously, which resulted in him falling headfirst to the stage. It wasn’t pretty. He seemed pretty affected by it. However, earlier in the night, HIL closed with their debut’s title track, “I Am Hollywood.” The band’s entire set is in my top 5 most memorable live experiences to date, but the ending is what really stands out in my mind. After absolutely owning the stage for the entirety of their performance–like some kind of burly, southern Bert McCracken–Croom began to climb out over the crowd on the pipes that protruded from the ceiling. He then hung upside down directly above me, with his legs wrapped around the plumbing, and began shoving the microphone into my mouth as we all screamed “I am Hollywood!” in unison.

It was sweaty. It was intense. It was glorious.

In the past decade, no one has made an album like I Am Hollywood, not even He Is Legend. I feel that if this record had been released yesterday, myself and many others would be just as ecstatic about experiencing it as we were 10 years ago. And hell, it’d probably be even more well-received. It’s already outlived countless albums in my mind and in my listening rotation. The replay value is inexhaustible. The raw energy and creativity still feels fresh with each and every listen, and while I certainly enjoy a lot of what He Is Legend have put out since this album’s release, in my eyes, I Am Hollywood remains their magnum opus. It’s as good as a debut can be. I thought that the first time I heard it, and a decade later I feel that more strongly than ever.

Ten years is a long time to spend with anything, and since 2004, I’ve had both friendships and romantic relationships deteriorate. I’ve moved countless times and cycled through various jobs. I’ve lost touch with family members and dealt with death. In the end, though, music is constant and stable. You can’t argue with it and it doesn’t die. It’s always there if you want it to be, and as I Am Hollywood turns 10 years old today, I’m pleased with the fact that it’s resonated with me for as long as I’ve been aware of its existence, and I wholeheartedly look forward to another decade of its company.

I am Hollywood. Watch where you point your finger. I am Hollywood. You better remember…

Editorial written by: Brian Lion

Brian Leak

Editor-In-Chief. King of forgetting drinks in the freezer. Pop culture pack rat. X-Phile. LOST apologist.
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  • K. Bennett

    Before Oct. 2, 2005, I had no idea who He is Legend were. That is the day I traveled from my town in Louisiana to Fort Worth, TX to see one of my favorite bands Funeral for a Friend. They were opening up for Story of a Year. Also playing this show was Anberlin (who I knew and loved) and a band I had never heard of… He is Legend. The entire show was amazing. Funeral for a Friend killed. But He is Legend blew me away. Have been a fan ever since. Put their sticker on my car that next day and never looked back. Between their stage presence and how cool the dudes seemed when not on stage. The band came out and started playing… Schuylar was nowhere to be seen. Then he came skipping out on stage looking to be covered in blood and throwing glitter or confetti out of a small basket. That leaves an impression. At one point Schuylar was standing on the merch table dancing while one of the other bands was playing.

    Punkrockvids was actually at the show filming.


  • Brian Lion

    Glad to hear that you had a positive experience as well. Schuylar is an incredibly charismatic and entertaining performer. When I first saw him come out with the boots, long hair, and huge beard, knowing they were from NC, I did not expect to see him dancing the way he was and getting into the music in an almost flamboyant way. It made the experience all the better. I met him and Matt after the show and they were both super nice and friendly. I have a pic somewhere of Schuylar putting his beard on my face.