Earlier this year, Cleveland songwriter Sean Richardson woke up to a Facebook notification from another musician in the local scene. “Dude… how come I just found out about this and how long ago was it?” the post said, attaching a self-shot video for a metalcore song Richardson wrote under the name Seanny Whiplash called, “I Love You But I Don’t Miss You.”
The video looks like a cringey high school film project: two (very) timid actors walk hand-in-hand and awkwardly make out underneath a tree while Richardson, doused in fake blood and lip syncing along to the melodramatic lyrics, looms uncomfortably nearby. He creepily peeks around trees to watch the couple and passionately lip syncs in a suburban field and on the steps of what looks like a bland local government building while his metalcore love song blasts loudly with blood-drenched subtitles flashing at the bottom of the screen.
Richardson filmed the video over six years ago, and had mostly forgotten about it. But it had resurfaced on Catatonicyouths, an increasingly popular Instagram page dedicated to posting the cringiest, most gut-wrenchingly bad music videos and live performances on the internet. The man behind the page, Mike Bachich, has spent years combing through YouTube, online forums, and local music message boards compiling the worst of the worst. He’s assembled thousands of poorly shot and even more poorly performed music videos, edited down to a minute and highlighting only the very best (bad) parts for Catatonicyouths’ 150,000 followers. Catatonicyouths has become rock ‘n roll’s unofficial Hall of Shame — a place for music fans to make fun of those who got it all wrong and still put it online.
More than 77,000 people have seen Richard’s Seanny Whiplash performance on Instagram alone since it was uploaded on October 17. In addition to the account’s 150,000 followers, it’s been viewed about 200,000 times across Bachich’s Catatonicyouths Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“It’s a little bitter sweet, because when I’m making the video I’m like, damn, this is definitely going to get me out there,” Richardson told The Outline. “It got me out there, but just in a different way.” It’s the kind of video you’d scrub off the internet if you were applying for a job, or that you’d quickly delete from your Instagram if someone you just met is scrolling through your page. But somehow Bachich, who Richardson has never met or crossed paths with, had found it.
Bachich, who’s played in Philadelphia bands Nothing and Carnivorous Bells and has spent years touring and doing merch for other bands like mewithoutYou, used to spend hours a night scanning through YouTube pages, bouncing from related video to related video, finding the worst music he possibly could. He did it instead of watching TV and would often share his spoils with fellow musicians on tour. They’d laugh at them, but Bachich told me that he knew they were always laughing at themselves too, immediately sharing stories about similar bands they were in or played with throughout their careers.
“I think we’ve all been there,” Bachich said. “Everyone’s made really bad music at some point or made a really terrible video or has played a really bad live show. There’s that mutual understanding between everyone. If everything in our lives was filled 24 hours a day, everyone would have a video on Catatonicyouths probably.”
Bachich’s Instagram used to look like a typical musician’s account: snapshots of his life on the road and the occasional meme. But after Instagram updated its video limit to one minute in 2016, Bachich started uploading his edited internet findings. He half expected all his friends to unfollow him. Instead, thousands of strangers began following his page almost overnight, liking the videos, commenting little jokes about each one, and sharing them on social media or by word of mouth.
Eric Hudson, who plays guitar in the St. Louis-based emo band Foxing and met Bachich on a tour with Philadelphia band mewithoutYou in 2015, said that he’s overheard venue staff talking about the page, and found bands in their green room gathered around a phone, laughing at the videos. “The main thing that’s so funny about it is a lot of fans are musicians,” he said.
“Music journalism covers music in such a serious, high-stakes way where it makes all these people out to be so smart and important and high-taste individuals or whatever. Then there’s a page like this where you get to laugh at the narcissism of it all. The page is cool because it’s relatable and it allows you to laugh at yourself for things that you’ve done.”
The joke hits home for many music makers, especially those who have cut their teeth playing in the DIY circuit for years across the United States and have played terrible shows with no one in attendance. Musicians know the lows that come with playing music, so watching another artist going through that familiar, constructive, and devastatingly embarrassing phase is like looking in a mirror. Small musicians like “Seanny Whiplash” are featured alongside hugely successful artists like Flea, whose unnecessarily psychedelic take on the national anthem at a Los Angeles Lakers’ game in 2016 has become one of the pages most infamous videos.
It was Ozzy Osbourne’s “Winter Wonderland” duet with Jessica Simpson, which first introduced MTV music editor Patrick Hosken to the page.“I think a big part of the appeal is that it does show this humanity and that’s a little bit more rare now,” Hosken said. “It’s like… yeah, that was a thing. That stuff’s important from a cultural and anthropological standpoint and it’s very fun to see. Part of the reason why it connects is it’s human moments or things we either forgot or haven’t thought about in a long time.”
Everyone on Catatonicyouths sucks — that’s something Bachich takes great care to ensure. The more his page has grown, the more background research Bachich has had to do on an artist he finds or gets sent by a fan to make sure the band isn’t making terrible music on purpose just to get featured on the page. Some bands — like Lie or Liar, another metalcore band — have even reached out directly to Bachich about premiering their new songs on the page. Getting featured on Catatonicyouths has become more than a badge of honor for musicians; it’s a legitimate signal boost.
Since Bachich shared the Seanny Whiplash video, Richardson’s inbox has been flooded with emails and messages from strangers reaching out to share their own musical mishaps, offer sincere recording advice, and send vocal coaching tips that he says has genuinely helped him become a better performer. “Now there are people who recognize me from it,” Richardson said. “People who haven’t even seen me live are like, ‘Hey, are you Seanny Whiplash?’” Richardson, who just graduated from film school, has been hired to do video work based off the “I Love You But I Don’t Miss You” clip . He’s even scored opening slots from bands he’s a fan of, like Kissing Candice, who reached out to him and asked him to open for them in Cleveland in front of about 200 people — his very first show — after seeing the video getting shared and bashed online. “They saw people making fun of it and the vocalist Joey was telling me, don’t let that get to you. He was like, ‘We started out as a two-piece with just a guitar and a laptop and look at us now.’ And they’re a touring band now.”
Bachich’s view on music soured as he toured throughout his twenties, growing tired of living a hectic life on the road and spending months on end with squabbling musicians.After years chasing a stable career in music, playing countless disappointing shows or spending months away from home selling merch for other bands, the “work” of making music became stressful. To cope, Bachich developed a kind of gallows humor familiar to most working musicians, which became the basis of Catatonicyouths itself; the page’s tagline is “musicians are cowards.” In Bachich’s view, it’s important for musicians to appreciate the dumb things. “You should definitely just be laughing at all this,” Bachich said. “Even the music you legitimately like, they deserve to be laughed at. It’s all just really silly.”
Though Catatonicyouths might just seem like a mean-spirited cringe compilation, it’s more lunchroom teasing than schoolyard bullying. The comments on Catatonicyouths are rarely mean for the sake of being mean, like you’d typically find on YouTube or Reddit. It makes the page oddly welcoming. And if you dig far enough through the comments, you’ll find people asking where they can hear more from an artist, because they actually like what’s been posted.
For Richardson, this comic pessimism held a meaningful lesson. “I always say, what is life if you can’t laugh at yourself?” he said. “I’m not going to lie, my video’s very cringeworthy, but once this stuff is out there, it’s fair game. You’ve just got to have tough skin."