Word Count 500
By Mike Cecconi
“We could call the band The Cognitive Dissidents,” Ethan considered, “you know, like, a pun on the phrase Cognitive Dissonance?” “I know what cognitive dissonance is,” Julia acquiesced, “but don’t you think that’s too precious, too-clever-by-half?” “Yeah,” he agreed, “but it’s supposed to be pretentious, isn’t that the whole point?”
They’d both spent years buying music at Freakbeat on Ventura, suffered the slings and arrows of the elitist clerks there as part of the price of the privilege of their purchases. God forbid you buy Bob Seger’s greatest hits or some dance-pop for your niece’s birthday without a side glance and a mention of some too-cool-to-have-heard-of hipster band they worshipped. Even when you bought something by the newest hotness, they’d say “I liked them before they sold out, you should get their original EP on vinyl.”
So, they created The Cognitive Dissidents and started asking if they had any of their imaginary releases in stock. Their debut “Sensitive Love Songs” that only existed on cassettes hand-colored by the bassist’s boyfriend Stevenson. Their split-disc with the similarly fictional Filth Collins entitled “Don’t Quit Your Day Job”. Their magnum opus “Failure” that could only be bought from the trunk of Stevenson’s van after shows during the month of July. They were always playing near enough to be known but far enough to never have been, like Albuquerque or Santa Cruz or the time they were arrested in Anaheim for playing in Daisy Duck costumes they’d just stolen from Disneyland.
At first, the clerks not wanting to come off as uncool would just say that those records were too rare or expensive to stock there, check eBay but after a time, Ethan or Julia would hear the staff talk to other customers about The Dissidents too, talk to each other about them, they would brag about having been at the Daisy Duck show or how they used to own “Failure” on wax cylinder but their ex took it when they broke up and left the yappy dog instead. After a few months, they couldn’t go into any record store in L.A. without hearing a badly tattooed clerk at Amoeba or CD Trader chatting how when he was going through a rough patch, listening to “Sensitive Love Songs” saved his life. They even tried telling some of them, no, this was all a joke they’d made up to mess with jerks, but no one believed them. They were now as real as Santa Claus or God.
Eventually an actual band started touring under that name, as The Cognitive Dissidents, and built a career atop of that lie. They never got sustained radio play or a contract with one of the bigger labels, but it turned into a solid living for years. They weren’t friends of Julia or Ethan’s, just a band who’d heard the story third-hand and realized they could cash-in on someone else’s myth. Neither Julie nor Ethan ever saw one dime of it, but then again, that’s the music biz, isn’t it?