American Football’s 1999 self-titled debut album has become a cult classic, a highly rated album that is often cited among the most respected releases of early emo. Yet one of the most memorable things about the record is the simple, white facade of the house that adorns the album cover. So what happened to this house? Well, turns out American football just bought it.
The house is at 704 W. High Street in Urbana, Illinois and over the years has been a popular student residence while becoming a bit of a hotspot for fans of the band hoping to snap a quick selfie.
Interestingly, none of the band members lived in the house at the time of recording, with the band feeling that the house which was a “friend of friends” place perhaps captured the mood of their record.
“You know, none of us have ever lived in this house,” Mike Kinsella told The Line of Best Fit in a 2014 interview. school together in Champaign. It’s just a college town, so most of the population are students. The reason we kept coming back to it has less to do with how iconic it might have become, and more with the fact that it’s pretty much one of the only images affiliated with the group. People always use the same old promotional photos, because there’s only, like, three photos of us all together from 1999; I have a big face, and the other guys have baby faces. But that cover photo, I always thought there was something about it that represented life in some sort of island college town, and speaks to the sound of the record, I think.
Chris Strong, who took the photo, confirms Kinsella’s assessment. “I think the house is one thing because for 20 years there was no visual associated with this band,” he told Vice. “Everybody sort of hung on to the house because there really wasn’t anything else to watch.”
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According to Polyvinyl Records, the house was originally built in 1893. Located across from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, it has hosted decades of house parties and punk shows all around the property – d a halfpipe in the garden at the back porch in the basement. In 2020, it was the official “venue” for Nether Meant, one of the first virtual concerts held in Minecraft during COVID, bringing fans together at a time when they simply couldn’t be.
During the band’s 2016 reunion album, the band returned to the house, being granted access inside for a cover.
Now, 24 years after American Football first used the house front of 704 W. High Street for its album cover, they’ve come full circle by joining some of the other key players in their history. to buy the house.
In a statement, the group wrote:
Last fall, we learned that 704 W. High Street in Urbana might be selling soon. Shortly after, American Football, Polyvinyl, Chris Strong, Atiba Jefferson and Open House Contemporary made a pact: we would all but make the house together before the developers could tear it down and build a condo.
Today, with heartfelt joy, we are thrilled to share that we have collectively purchased the Home of American Football in an effort to preserve its place and legacy within the community that built it.
Here’s to keeping this landmark alive for many years to come.
Label Polyvinyl, which also helped buy the house, added: “Beyond being a literal home for its many tenants over the years, The American Football House has become a nostalgic dream of possibility and beauty from the start. We couldn’t let that dream go.”
Kudos to American Football for keeping this piece of their legacy intact.
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