Before the pandemic hit, Pat Finnerty was just another workman musician, leading his own locally beloved band in Philadelphia and taking on mercenary gigs as a sideman guitarist. Once the music industry shut down, Finnerty found himself with two valuable tools: lots and lots of time and a loathing for a semi-obscure guitarist-turned YouTuber. Thus was born his hit YouTube series, What Makes This Song Stink.
“I was like, I don’t know if anyone’s gonna watch this, but I’m gonna have a lot of fun doing them,” Finnerty says. “I know there’s millions of people that are gonna get this ’cause there’s millions of people that watch Beato and maybe 10 percent of them will know how ridiculous this man is. But it’s so niche!”
But what started as a parody of producer/guitarist Rick Beato’s odes to chord progressions and countermelodies has grown in ambition and scope (that being said, Finnerty has never lost sight of his original target: every mention of music theory is followed by a muttered “Beato”).
Finnerty had Lenny Kravitz duke it out with himself (Kravitz) in the Kravitz Bowl over which is a bigger steaming pile of dreck, American Woman or Fly Away. He organized a protest attended by dozens, demanding that Train’s insipid Soul Sister be banned from the airways.
All this has led up to his most elaborate stunt: offended by the awfulness of Machine Gun Kelly’s Emo Girl, Finnerty wrote and recorded his own pop-punk LP under the name August Is Falling. Finnerty had a simple plan: first write the awful song, then play the Warped Tour and then buy a hot tub. (In a followup video, Finnerty was dismayed to learn the Warped Tour is now defunct.)
The gag took an unexpected turn when the songs were sent to Butch Walker, the producer behind hits by Fall Out Boy and Taylor Swift. Walker was so taken by the parody that he remixed a song. Soon, August Is Falling was the top punk band on Bandcamp and was getting reviewed by the Darkness singer Justin Hawkins on his podcast. What elevated the whole concept was that Finnerty and his followers played it totally straight, treating August Is Falling like a real band (one that now has its own Wikipedia page, a sure sign of making the big time.)
“The Butch Walker thing is still unbelievable to me,” Finnerty says. “It’s almost like, where does the joke start and where does it end? I don’t know, but I think it’s more about the people that liked my videos, because I gave it to them and they had so much fun doing the comments.”
There’s a downside to escalating silliness to such a degree: eventually, you can’t top yourself. Getting a music industry legend to remix your song, having the album become popular in its own right – Finnerty is a long way from humbly mocking 3 Doors Down’s lazy use of sus2 chords, and he’s the first to tell you he doesn’t know where he’s going from here.
“It’s something I think about a lot. I’m just like, ‘Oh my god, what am I gonna do now?’” he said. “I guess I go for quality over quantity. I’m kinda winging these things.”