Another missed call, another voicemail. I call my mailbox, and the message is twistedly ominous: just distant laughter, not particularly threatening but completely unrecognizable. I check to see the number, and the caller ID identifies the culprit. “David Vandervelde,” it says, as in the mellow folk-rocker from Michigan, a mid-afternoon act at Lollapalooza 2007 and the dude I just interviewed for a story via cell phone a week ago. Though he seems like a classy, laid-back guy, I wouldn’t call myself “friends” with David Vandervelde, unless you consider a fifteen-minute phone interview (with bad cell reception) grounds for friendship. There’s no explicit reason for him to call and leave such a cryptic message. I am really, really confused.
Two days later, my phone buzzes again with “David Vandervelde” lit up on the screen. I’m ready to answer this time—I’m thinking, “What the hell is this all about?”—and Mr. Vandervelde seems a little surprised that I picked up the phone. “Oh, hey. Andy, right?” he says. “Yeah,” I say. “Uh, what’s up?” “I called the other day since I didn’t recognize your number in my phone,” he says. “And I got your voicemail, and it’s absolutely hilarious, man. Could I call back and just get that? I really want some guys to hear it.”
My voicemail used to be epic: the music of Ace of Base’s 1995 hit “Beautiful Life,” except with me singing along and encouraging listeners to leave their name and number (“It’s a beautiful life, so leave a message,” was the chorus), but that got a little old, and a change had to be made after some accusations that it was too unprofessional (and too off-key). My new voicemail poked fun at my cellular critics; “Hi, this is Andy, and I am a complete and utter professional. Please leave a message of five to seven words, and I will reward you with my time,” I say, before very awkwardly adding, “Keep it real?” Apparently Vandervelde can’t get enough of my goofy, clumsy attempt at humor.
I oblige to his request, and think that’s the end of it. I’m dead wrong—another missed call from Vandervelde the next day. And then, the next night, as I’m climbing into bed, Vandervelde strikes again. “Hello?” I answer. “Oh, geez!” says a muffled voice, with giddy laughter from what sounds like a small army of listeners. He hangs up quickly, probably thinking I’m a little irritated by now. Should I feel honored, I wondered? A somewhat well-known indie-rock star is virtually prank-calling me—how often does that happen? Did the Allman Brothers persistently call Ben Fong-Torres to get his killer answering machine? Well, anyhow, I’m fine with it, David, if you’re reading this. And if you’re willing to somehow land me a record deal, I can supply you with an endless stream of clever voicemails. (Andy Seifert)