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Music / American Football

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Pictured: the re-formed and expanded band in 2017.
Not pictured: the house from their album covers.note 

"Let's just forget
Everything we said
Everything we did
Best friends and better halves
And the autumn night when we realized
We were falling out of love
"Never Meant"

American Football are a Midwest emo band from Urbana, Illinois, and easily one of the most iconic bands in the scene, originally active from 1997 to 2000. The band is made up of:

  • Mike Kinsellainvoked: Lead vocalist and former bassist. He was formerly a drummer
  • Steve Lamos: Drummer.
  • Steve Holmes: Guitarist.
  • Nate Kinsella: Touring bassist from 2014 onwards.

The band's history traces back to 1996, when Kinsella (drummer for cult emo band Cap'n Jazz) and Lamos (a guitarist for many other bands) collaborated with brothers David and Allen Johnson on a couple of songs under the name of The One Up Downstairs. However, the band splintered before these songs could be released.note  Not wanting to give up music, Lamos and Kinsella later began playing with Holmes, forming what would become American Football.

As you can see from the original years active, they weren't around that long. In their original run, they only had two releases: an EP and a full-length studio album, both called American Football. Whenever people talk about this band, it's almost always in regard to the second release.

Initially, the album's release had a similar experience to works such as The Velvet Underground & Nico and In the Aeroplane Over the Sea — nobody really cared for it, nor did they pay any attention to it, and the band broke up shortly after its release, with Kinsella later working on the solo project Owen, and playing drums with Owlsnote . Over time, however, people began to listen to it and began to praise it for its mix of emo, math rock, and indie. When the deluxe edition was released in 2014, demand was so great that it caused the website where people could order it from to crash.

After 14 years apart, the group reunited the same year, adding Kinsella's cousin Nate as a bassist. The band has since toured the world, selling merchandise and even releasing a music video for "Never Meant", the first track off of the LP. In 2016, the band announced the release of a new album for the first time in seventeen years, also called American Football.

In December 2018, the band released another single, "Silhouettes", for their third album — also titled American Football. This album follows a significantly different Dream Pop-oriented direction.

Despite originally lasting for only three years, they're considered a landmark in both "classic" emo and '90s indie, as well as being considered essential /mu/core. They helped codify the Midwest emo sound, a brand of emo focused on twinkling guitars and heartfelt, confessional lyrics and vocals.


  • American Football EP (1998)
  • American Football (1999)
  • American Football (II) (2016)
  • American Football (III) (2018)

American Football provides examples of:

  • The '90s: Towards the end of the decade.
  • Anti-Love Song: A good portion of "American Football".
  • Band of Relatives: Became Type 1 when the band re-formed, with Nate Kinsella joining his cousin Mike.
  • Book Ends: "Honestly" both begins and ends with the lyric "honestly".
  • Concept Album: American Football's overarching theme revolves around the relationship between Kinsella and his college girlfriend, and despite trying to make it work, they know that it's dead by the time college finishes, if not dead already. Honesty, depression, regret, and trying to move on are recurring themes.
  • Downer Ending: "Stay Home" is the penultimate track on American Football and is about being willingly shut away from society because of depression. The album then ends with "The One with the Wurlitzer", a very somber instrumental.
  • Emo Music: One of the bands that people most often think of when talking about the genre's "classic" (i.e. pre-2002) era and considered by many to be the archetype for the Midwest emo subgenre.
  • Epic Rocking: "Stay Home" at 8:20, and "Silhouettes" at 7:22.
  • Fading into the Next Song: "Stay Home" into "The One With The Wurlitzer".
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: The band's name comes from a poster Steve Lamos' girlfriend pointed out while at a social outing, which said: "Come see American football, the most overpaid athletes in the world".
  • Idiosyncratic Cover Art: The cover to their long-awaited second album is a shot from inside the house shown on the first album.
  • Insistent Terminology: Their album cover, as well as their merchandise, is displayed with the first line "americ", and the second line "anfootball". Subverted with the actual title of both the band and their works, it's simply "American Football".
  • Math Rock: Very much there: The time signature for "Never Meant", for example, switches between 3/4 and 4/4.
  • New Sound Album: LP2 has a more straightforward indie rock sound, while LP3 takes things in a significantly more Dream Pop-influenced direction merged with elements of their first album.
  • The New '10s: Found more success and reunited in this decade.
  • The New '20s: Still going strong with the new lineup.
  • No Name Given: Officially, their debut EP and second and third album are all titled American Football, though the EP is often referred to as American Football EP and said albums have the official subtitles of "LP2" and "LP3".
  • Please, Don't Leave Me: "But the Regrets are Killing Me" and "Stay Home".
  • Self-Titled Album: All their albums are called American Football.
  • Sigil Spam: More like House spam. But following the band's revival in The New '10s, the house on the front cover of the debut has become sort of the band's "logo" in a sense. The house in question is a college-based house located in Urbana, Illinois and was taken by photographer Chris Strong and is strongly associated with the band since and considered a staple of a feel of the band's rural emo sound. The house became so famous it's considered an emo hot spot and the band themselves sell endless merch for it, even going as far as to do a Call-Back for the 2016 album with the cover being taken from inside the house.
    • Sadly, the house was unable to return for LP3, due to it being placed for sale on Craigslist. Fearing this could eventually mean the demolition of the house, the band formed a pact together with the album cover's photographer and their label to plan on buying the house when the time came for it, which successfully came into fruition in 2023.
  • Studio Chatter: At the beginning of "Never Meant", you can hear the band warming up a bit as well as somebody saying "We're gonna keep that one, right?".
  • Title Drop: More often than not, a song's title would be the song's last lyric. The only exceptions are "You Know I Should Be Leaving Soon" and "The One with the Wurlitzer". On LP2, all the song titles are the songs' first lyric.
  • Uncommon Time: They do draw from Math Rock, after all. One example would be "But the Regrets are Killing Me", which is in 12/8.