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Nic Brown deals with the memories of the band he built, loved and left

If you listened to what back in the ‘90s they called alternative rock, you might remember a song called “What I Didn’t Know.”

Photo by Abby Tripp

It was the biggest hit for a band out of Greensboro, North Carolina, called Athenaeum. The drummer for Athenaeum, Nic Brown, co-founded the band when he was in eighth grade.

But a few years later, just as the band was reaching its commercial peak, he got bored with the music, and he quit.

He’s now a creative writing professor at Clemson and the author of three novels. But for years he’s been haunted by his musical life—so much so that he was embarrassed when somebody brought it up.

So he decided to write about it. The result is a memoir called “Bang Bang Crash,” which arrives in bookstores Feb. 21 and is available for preorder now.

Nic talked with me about losing the joy of music, and refinding it in different ways—including one band with a wild backstory.

We also talk about finding the beauty in a pop song, loving your old bandmates … and in his case, what a life in music does to your teeth.

Music in this episode

  • "What I Didn't Know," "Flat Tire (The Truth)," and "Radiance," Athenaeum
  • "Save the Birds," Falcon!


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Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary, On My Mind, which airs every Monday.