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Love, Death & Photosynthesis

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During the heyday of the late '80s indie underground, high school sweethearts Bela Koe-Krompecher and Jenny Mae Leffel moved together from small-town Ohio to the big city of Columbus to pursue education and a dream of something more. When they arrived, the two met Jerry Wick, a prickly malcontent and lead singer of the punk rock band Gaunt, and the trio quickly forged a co During the heyday of the late '80s indie underground, high school sweethearts Bela Koe-Krompecher and Jenny Mae Leffel moved together from small-town Ohio to the big city of Columbus to pursue education and a dream of something more. When they arrived, the two met Jerry Wick, a prickly malcontent and lead singer of the punk rock band Gaunt, and the trio quickly forged a contentious friendship that would be challenged for the next 20 years by addiction, mental illness, homelessness, divergent whims and tragic paths. They bonded over their obsessive love of music, especially the scrappy, welcoming world of independent labels and bands, where heroes could be a neighbor, a bartender or even a know-it-all behind the counter of a record store. Through the label Koe-Krompecher and Wick launched, and the music Leffel made, these three friends gained fans nationwide and garnered unexpected critical acclaim from The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, SPIN and more while sharing the stage with bands like Superchunk, Mudhoney and Guided by Voices. At its heart, Love, Death & Photosynthesis is a story of the love between friends and the power of music to pull people together—often in spite of themselves—in the universal search for connection.


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During the heyday of the late '80s indie underground, high school sweethearts Bela Koe-Krompecher and Jenny Mae Leffel moved together from small-town Ohio to the big city of Columbus to pursue education and a dream of something more. When they arrived, the two met Jerry Wick, a prickly malcontent and lead singer of the punk rock band Gaunt, and the trio quickly forged a co During the heyday of the late '80s indie underground, high school sweethearts Bela Koe-Krompecher and Jenny Mae Leffel moved together from small-town Ohio to the big city of Columbus to pursue education and a dream of something more. When they arrived, the two met Jerry Wick, a prickly malcontent and lead singer of the punk rock band Gaunt, and the trio quickly forged a contentious friendship that would be challenged for the next 20 years by addiction, mental illness, homelessness, divergent whims and tragic paths. They bonded over their obsessive love of music, especially the scrappy, welcoming world of independent labels and bands, where heroes could be a neighbor, a bartender or even a know-it-all behind the counter of a record store. Through the label Koe-Krompecher and Wick launched, and the music Leffel made, these three friends gained fans nationwide and garnered unexpected critical acclaim from The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, SPIN and more while sharing the stage with bands like Superchunk, Mudhoney and Guided by Voices. At its heart, Love, Death & Photosynthesis is a story of the love between friends and the power of music to pull people together—often in spite of themselves—in the universal search for connection.

44 review for Love, Death & Photosynthesis

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jay Hinman

    Terrific memoir and a real multifaceted tribute to best friends, soulmates and to the early 90s underground music world that enveloped both the author and myself. It’s also a fairly harrowing escape-from-alcoholism story that tells a familiar story in an unfamiliar manner, time-jumping and with the sort of perspective that comes not just from age but experience. Very gritty and satisfying read, something that I suspect will have many more pressings after the first 100 are gone.

  2. 5 out of 5

    John Spiller

    "Love, Death & Photosynthesis" called to mind a passage from Big Star's "Holocaust": Everybody goes Leaving those Who fall behind Everybody goes As far as they can They just don't care Bela Koe-Krompecher grew up in rural Ohio, where he meets Jenny Mae Leffel, who would be a friend, lover, artist, antagonist, and ultimately, a homeless shell of herself. BKK moves to Columbus, where he becomes a behind-the-scenes mainstay of a thriving indie music. There, he meets Jerry Wick of the band, Gaunt. They, to "Love, Death & Photosynthesis" called to mind a passage from Big Star's "Holocaust": Everybody goes Leaving those Who fall behind Everybody goes As far as they can They just don't care Bela Koe-Krompecher grew up in rural Ohio, where he meets Jenny Mae Leffel, who would be a friend, lover, artist, antagonist, and ultimately, a homeless shell of herself. BKK moves to Columbus, where he becomes a behind-the-scenes mainstay of a thriving indie music. There, he meets Jerry Wick of the band, Gaunt. They, too, have a fraught friendship. BKK is every bit as broken as Jenny Mae and Wick, but he manages to find his footing outside of the realm of drinking and music, leaving Jenny Mae and Wick behind. "Love, Death & Photosynthesis" is a series of vignettes that whipsaw back and forth across decades. The forward and backward leaps in time did not work for me. At times I found it difficult to understand what was happening in the greater narrative arc of BKK's life. That's a minor quibble, though. BKK shares numerous great stories that feature the known (The Ramones), the gone-but-not-forgotten (Jim Shepard, Jack Taylor), and the known only to the cognoscenti (Ron House and Mike "Rep" Hummel). This book also reminded me of a different era of music consumption, where records were purchased solely on the recommendations of certain tastemakers (Tim Adams at Ajax, Robert Griffin at Scat). If you came of age in the indie music scene in the late 1980's/early 1990's, this book will resonate with you.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

    Heavy and poignant reflection on friendship, loyalty, substance abuse, mental health, and the Columbus, OH music scene of the 1980s and '90s. Heavy and poignant reflection on friendship, loyalty, substance abuse, mental health, and the Columbus, OH music scene of the 1980s and '90s.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mollie P.

    Bela’s keen descriptions will transport you into a different place, a different emotion, and a different year each chapter. Be prepared to laugh, cry, and almost taste the nostalgia off the pages.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Shane Hankins

  6. 5 out of 5

    colin gawel

  7. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kevin J.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Richard Sanford

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emily Bolognese

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alexa

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

  14. 5 out of 5

    Karl Nehring

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mark Singer

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joe

  17. 4 out of 5

    Coolbrother Kyle

  18. 5 out of 5

    Beth Biester

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nick

  20. 4 out of 5

    Branden Barnett

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jane

  23. 4 out of 5

    Christian Brandt

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lydia

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Stepp

  26. 5 out of 5

    Trish

  27. 4 out of 5

    Micah Siegmund

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jorgen

  29. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chris Chambers

  31. 5 out of 5

    Sam Stagg

  32. 5 out of 5

    Mike

  33. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Thomson

  34. 4 out of 5

    Angel Lemke

  35. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Nieberding

  36. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Plunkett

  37. 4 out of 5

    Raymond Rusinak

  38. 5 out of 5

    Saskia Koe-Krompecher

  39. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Broussard

  40. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

  41. 4 out of 5

    Torri

  42. 4 out of 5

    Dan

  43. 4 out of 5

    Donna Davis

  44. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

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