As a songwriter and lyricist I've come to terms with the fact that I can't simply sit down and 'work' on a song. I've found that the good ones usually arrange themselves somewhere out in the ether and are beamed down to me. When that happens I grab a pen no matter where I am and wish for the best.
Ooh Girl was kind of like that. I was renting a tiny apartment by the beach during the last days of Fall in Santa Cruz. I'd broken up with my longtime girlfriend a month before and was getting mentally prepared to face the holidays and my crazy family solo for the first time in a few years. In the middle of my self pity I remembered what a friend had told me about manifestation. I put aside my skepticism and spent a few minutes imagining my dream girl. What she wore, what she looked like, where we would meet, how everything would happen so simply and beautifully. I immediately had a storyline in my head. When I sat down the song just came to be.
I never knew it would end up being so popular or that people would identify with it so much. I've seen little kids doing covers of it on YouTube. I've been stopped by a marine fresh off the boat from Afghanistan that told me he'd play the song every morning before deployment and think about his home and his wife. But the most common question is always 'so...who is the girl with the dark hair?' I always enjoy telling people it's a song about no one. It's a song about meeting that dream girl, not the happily ever after part, just the one moment or night when it happens. That first eye contact that make your heart flutter. It's a feeling we all crave and I'm so stoked the song captured a small part of it.
In the Spring of 2009, I was in my third year of living in Seattle, and had never felt more trapped. Caught in a vortex of heartache and frustration after another failed relationship, dealing with a band on the rocks, and coping with the crushing corporate monotony of my day job, I was ready to hang it all up and drive back home over the Rockies - Chicago, specifically - to live with my parents and get a fresh start. I stumbled through the summer largely alone, clumsily attempting to tie up loose ends with my remaining obligations and living like there was no tomorrow, as I knew I'd never be coming back.
It took that period of self-indulgence and confronting the three years prior head-on to bring me to the realization that moving back home wasn't what I really wanted (I didn't know what it was exactly, but moving back into the basement wasn't it), and that as soon as I got back to Chicago, I'd start fantasizing about escaping again, taking the first ticket out of town and making the same mistakes all over again.
The song I wrote in this period, Empty Road, alludes to many things - wanderlust, self-loathing, nostalgia for times that have hardly even passed by - but what I mostly wanted to get across was that while escaping to the open road is an incredibly freeing, and often is a very necessary step towards finding clarity and getting closer to achieving true happiness, it's really just that - a means to an end. For me, that end was moving somewhere new without baggage, (only three hours south to Portland, OR), eventually ditching the corporate job in pursuit of a music career, and getting a lot more sleep, but I like to think the message of the song is universal.
I am a solo artist that makes music to express my talent through wave sounds. The experience of being in different bands throughout my life has made this blend of attractive riffs possible. My influences are mainly from Argentinean rock bands, but it does not stop there. I blend my influences with British and American flavor to create the impeccable rock recipe. Being able to play different instruments, compose, mix, and master, gives me the ability to expose all of my talents on each track you hear. All of these different aspects make a final and tasteful rhythm that wakes your most inner audio sensors in your brain.
The story behind my song "The Journey" was inspired by...well, the multitude of changes that were so rapidly taking place in such a short amount of time. I was graduating from college, most all of my friends were moving away, and on top of being stuck in the post-grad pocket of "what the hell do I do now?", the decision was also clear that I needed to leave the beautiful town of Bozeman, Montana which I had come to know as home, and make the move to Los Angeles. That was really scary for me. In Bozeman it is easy to get really comfortable and I just wasn't growing in the ways I wanted. I started reminiscing; thinking of great times, terrible times, times I've wasted. I started to reflect on everything. I would hum this tune in my head while I was scraping ice and snow off of my windshield which I have always hated doing, but part of me wondered if I'd miss it. Months went by and little by little the song wrote more and more of itself. Later, before I moved out, I sat there on the couch scanning over the house I had lived in for years with two of my closest friends and just wondered "where the heck did time go?"
I still feel like yesterday I was that little kid wondering what I'd be, what I'd look like, where I'd go when I grew up. I'm not entirely convinced anyone ever grows out of that. Everyone has a story; everyone's journey is different, but somehow we all seem to think that ours is the most important. It's just always been funny to me how that works. The culmination of how I felt about everything in those moments is ultimately how this song came to be. So there on that couch, almost half asleep, I deliriously scribbled down what eventually became an entire song. Especially being very new to songwriting at that point, this song remains very special to me. For me it is a record of where I was, where I am, and I will remember to take it with me wherever I am going. I hope that anyone who hears this song feels the same way. Ultimately, everyone is a journey and that journey only ends if we allow it to. And in listening to to one of the themes of the song, I should probably take more of my own advice and not be afraid. Get out there and do stuff with your life. It really is way too short.
The story of Thieves & Gypsys song “Penny Arcade” is one of those stories that makes me try to understand the wondering spirt and wholeness that is called randomness. I didn’t really think much about what the song was about or what the message was until it was finished. It was a bit of a reverse effect on me opposed to the “standard songwriting method”. At the end and once I had a chance to think about Penny Arcade and look at the words and the music, I was able to understand what I was trying to get through to people.
In the early life of Thieves & Gypsys, every now and then I enjoyed playing on the streets in downtown Santa Fe. After a few showings I grew to enjoy the feeling of getting a chance to show off some songs that I had written and getting gas money. At the time I had been seen a girl for a few weeks. Like all flings it was interesting and had its place. A few weeks later she broke up with me during one of my small busking moments. About ten minutes after the break up, a man with a his six or seven year old daughter stopped to listen. He would ask me, at the end of my song, if I knew how to play any reggae music. I told the man “I only play original music” . His daughter looked at me and asked “What if you wrote a reggae song right now” I laughed and said I’ve never written a song on the spot but I could try. At that moment something just came over me and I put my finger to the strings and the structure for the song came out at that moment. Almost like a free style rapper. Then the opening lines to the song and melody followed:
“Penny Arcade a nickel a game
Can drive you insane, right from the start
Head for the heart right for the heart
tell me what you know”
I repeated that line one more time then created the chorus:
“So how low to your pretty little soul?
Tell me stories about what you don’t know”
Once I finished the chorus I simply ended the song. The little girl smiled and laughed then told me “That was not a reggae song!” I replied “Well I tried for you” her father dropped a couple of ones in my case and off they went to continue with their lives. I stayed there for a few more minutes trying to make sure that the song was burnt into my head. i then rushed to find a pen. I stopped a local cafe and asked a waiter if I could barrow a pen I then wrote down the chords and lyrics that had just been given to me out of randomness.
I would later head home call Aaron Jones to come over check out this song I had written. We sat in my living room for a few minutes talking and learning the song together. After I finished the lyrics of the song in that jam session we took a break to get some food.
Aaron and I ended up cooking and talking about bass players and bass riffs that we both loved. We finished eating and asked Aaron to come back to the living room with me to play the song one more time to lock it into our memory for our next whole band rehearsal. Once we finished it I felt like the song was solid and there was not much else to do but show it to Dave (drummer). But once I put the guitar down Aaron started playing a thumping bass riff that caught my ear. I asked him what that “You just played” he answered casually “A riff I like to warm up with”. With excitement told him we need that riff to finish the song. Aaron modified his little warm up riff to fit the song for the opening and closing bass riffs for the song.
We had a rehearsal sometime later that week with the whole band. Dave started the song with a slight reggae feeling. Aaron asked if he could play a “faster punk dancer version” Dave let the song begin and right after the critique Dave executed the idea and Penny Arcade was born.
After playing the song over and over Dave and Aaron finally asked “What is the song about” I felt like I had a blank look on my face. I really didn’t know what to say. I just told them I did not have the slightest clue. I looked at the lyrics and told them the story. I then realized that the song was about simply about that day and my girlfriend breaking up with me and this little girl calling me out to write a song. Then I looked deeper and realized that the opening verse was me telling myself that sometimes I can lie to myself to believe that there is something less to something or a story then there really is. Like how you are in a penny arcade but its a nickel a game. Out side it says penny arcade on the sign but inside the games cost a nickel. That was the original verse that I wrote on the street and it explained the whole song to me. There is always more to everything on the inside then what you see from the outside. Then the chorus when the line is “how low to your pretty little soul, Tell me Something you don’t know” It feels like you are diving in into that idea much more. Like how far do you need to got to understand something and everything in life.
I truly believe that this song was created out of randomness. I don’t think it would be the true and honest song if it was not for the events that happened to me at the time of writing it. If I had not been dumped that day I would not have had the deep thought of “why” in my head. If the little girl did not ask me to write a song there on the spot I had the opportunity to write a feeling that was still raw that didn’t have the chance to be diluted by whatever conclusion I would have drawn with my wondering train of thought. I own the emotion that of the song to Aaron random riff that just happened to fit the song so perfectly to pull it all together.
From that point Penny Arcade is requested before and during show. We believe Its a song that people turn to because of its honest raw message. I’m happy for this song and the randomness that is the fog around it.
Baby / I want to be
the one who makes you act crazy
Don't believe / what you see
I feel tired and lazy
I don't want to fail this Chemistry
I'm not going to change the air you breathe
I just want to make the most of the least amount of company
Lie to me / just be discreet
and don't offend me with integrity
I get mean / when you corner me
and I may seem more like an enemy
But I don't want to fail this Chemistry
I'm not going to change the air you breathe
I just want to make the most of the least amount of company
I don't want to fail this Chemistry
I'm not going to change the air you breathe
I just want to make the most of the least amount of company
I wrote this song about wanting to make a relationship work but not setting the bar unrealistically high. I'm more or less providing a disclaimer for a potential love interest in the verses. The chorus begins with a nostalgic reference to high school chemistry and then proceeds to deglamorize the idea of love in favor of a more pragmatic approach.
"'I'll Take It All' is one of our favorites, because it captured a moment in our early days as a band. Diego and I were preparing for an open mic one day, when I came up with a rhythm using some unique chord structures I'd recently learned. I just couldn't get this rhythm out of my head, which is always a good sign. Diego started singing along and came up with a pretty good melody -- no solid lyrics, but that didn't matter.
The song was only hours old when we packed up and headed to the Stone Bar in Hollywood. Evan had been out of town that day, so he had no clue about the song. I had just told him about the song's time signature when he got to the bar. We ended up being the last ones to go on that night, which worked out well. Why? Because after we did our two songs I asked if we could play a song that we'd come up with earlier that day. Diego immediately looked at me like I was crazy, since he had no lyrics, but I just smiled and pushed him back onstage.
I launched into the opening riff with Evan figuring it out on the fly. Soon the melody that we had worked on at home was gone, and Diego was flowing in a way I'd never heard before! He began singing about what he was seeing: our friends having a great time, drinking, dancing and showing their support for what we were doing. It quickly became the theme of Diego's lyrics and ultimately the song. When we finished, the reaction from the crowd let us know we had just done something special. Now, if only Diego could remember the lyrics!
Fortunately for us, our good friend Don Tonic was set up to record the performances that night and surprised us with a copy. After listening to it, we realized we wanted to keep about 85% of Diego's spontaneous lyrics and the new melody line. With a little tuning 'I'll Take It All' was officially born. It quickly become a favorite closing song at our shows as it sums up the night of good vibes and great people."
On our latest CD "Cougar Bait Blues", we have a song called Bottled Bravery and Canned Courage, which I actually wrote a long time before I cut out (most) of my drinking, which I finally realized was a crutch that was actually holding me back (the part of "Drinking with the Harp Girls" --title of my previous CD-- that I really can't do without....wasn't the drinking). Anyhow, I had been jamming with the horn players from a Northampton band called Primate Fiasco for about a year (they run a jam on Tues nites, where I meet the young players, including the luscious, sax-playing Emily Duff of The Raft), and I wanted to feature them on my next album....so....I rewrote the song as a New Orleans second line groove, and assigned them the Professor Longhair-like riff, which I wrote on a bar napkin, and the luscious Emily, who's actually a music PHD candidate, wrote out for them later in parts (helped by their alto and trumpet players Steve Yarbro and Nick Borges). This also allowed me to have their Tuba player (J. Witbeck) double the bass line.
When we write music, we want it to touch base on an emotional level with our listeners. We don't want to write just another catchy melody (although a catchy hook is obviously important), we want to write something that tells a story. Something that has meaning. With our song "Strength to Stay", we feel we wrote a song with not only a catchy tune, but a song that gives an important message to anyone who hears it. When I (John Clark, lead vocalist and bassist) just graduated from college in 2009, I dealt with a serious case of depression. For weeks on end, I wondered if life was worth living, and seriously contemplated suicide. There was no rhyme or reason why I had depression, or why it chose what was supposed to be an exciting time in my life into a nightmare. Doctors told me it was a genetic issue that was passed down to me from my mother. That's about the best answer I got. I was given anti-depressants that were supposed to help. They didn't. I just wanted to block myself off from the world, crawl in a hole, and be left alone. So that's what I did.
You look up at me, your face covered in fear and dirt
Since my heart's been broken, things just haven't been the same
Is the ground not appealing? I chose it just for you
The box makes its closure...and I'm smiling again
You never liked to hide
You never liked to hide
You never liked to hide
But I must insist you do
The idea of the song Riviera was to have a contrasting mood between the music and lyrics. The jazzy, semi-upbeat atmosphere was meant to make the subject ironic and humorous. And, just to clarify, yes, the subject is about a killer obsessing over a crush, kidnapping her, and burying her alive. Initially, I was afraid to actually sing the lyrics in English and was going to translate the verse to French, but we could never find a translator. We still wanted a French vibe to the song though, so we named the song after the French Riviera, a location my guitarist visited as a kid. The whole thing was deeply inspired by songs like Butcher Pete by Roy Brown and Knives Out by Radiohead. Yeah, I supposed it is a bit morbid, but it's far more interesting than your typical love song.
Etienne Alonzo of Lonely Playground
"Venice", the title track, off of Lyn Saga's first full-length release is a testament to California power-pop. With crunchy guitars and squealing feedback, the song is reminiscent of Weezer-eque riffs. Lyrics are simple, honest, and relatable, juxtaposing the Venice beach lifestyle with the qualms of working a stuffy nine to five job. Saga's expressive vocals further emphasize this struggle and the longing for a more simplistic carefree life on the beach. The lyrics: "I want to be the person that I used to be/On Venice Beach when days belonged to you and me/Before the work and all responsibility..." were influenced by Saga's real life experiences working in a high stress environment as a surgical nurse while trying to maintain the quintessential laid back California lifestyle. "The only thing that I looked forward to during that time in my life was the weekend. All I really wanted to do was to play my guitar on the beach!" states Saga. "But instead my life felt like a Robert Frost poem 'i have promises to keep and miles and miles before I sleep'. And that is what I tried to capture in this song. I think that stressful situations can easily change who you are inside and it's important to step back once and a while to recognize this."
When compiling the songs for our debut album, the obvious choice for our album single was "Become the Road."
Both the subject matter of the lyrics and the sonic elements of the music convinced us that this would be a song that people could connect with easily. Overwhelming feedback from our fans has proven us right so far.
Having grown up in Los Angeles surrounded by freeways and buildings, road images appear frequently in Leanne's lyrics. The titles of songs such as "Stop & Go," "Rear View," and "Become the Road" illustrate this. Rather than thinking of the city's concrete jungle as possessing only negative and ugly qualities, Leanne explores the interplay of modern man and nature, and explores the idea of the road as a metaphor for life as a journey.
The song 'An Ordinary Swiss' is a spotlight on a freudian slip by one of the presidential candidates who stated that his was nothing more than “an ordinary Swiss bank account.” The statement exposes a frame of reference that is so alien to most people as to be an oxymoron. Conventional wisdom suggests a Swiss bank account is used by the non-Swiss for the express purpose of hiding money and avoiding taxes. So, the song, my attempt, is an artistic statement in sound that alludes to that mind-set, probing the context that is capable of such a statement. There is much that is not clearly defined, almost atonal, but there is a theme, some relation to 'G minor' and a suggestion: "erster Klasse oder zweiter Klasse." This isn't a choice for the listener, but rather a judgement pervading that same negative space that later declared that 47% of the people are indolent beggars. It's a funny and scary place.
'An Ordinary Swiss' gives equal weight to the sampled sounds of physical instruments and the sounds born of algorithms. All at once digital, synthetic but ultimately aural, analog and hopefully authentic. One of my goals was to employ sounds of purely digital origin not as special effects but as integral and equal expressive parts.
The the song is number five on the album 'Astroturfing.' The album was released in July and 'An Ordinary Swiss' was made available to listen to in its entirety at reverbnation.com/doubledog55. All of the songs strive for the same broad use of tonal colors riding on groove to express something less tangible than itself – but a something that has profound impact. Frighteningly good fun.
During one of the hotter moments of one of the hotter summer's in recent memory (thanks to all the whiskey and debauchery it was one of the last 3, just not sure which one) lead singer and guitarist Chad Dickerson of Switchmen found himself and some close friends in quite a situation.
His close friend had recently struck up a romance with a charming seductress from Chicago who going forward we will refer to as Liz, and she wanted to come visit him for the weekend and to bring with her a friend for Chad to "get to know."
The friend who we will call Barbie from here forward, was according to Chad, "Scrumptious in all the right places, with a charisma about her that let me know instantly, this would be 3 days I would NEVER forget."
When I wrote "Big Fat Hissy Fit," the BP oil spill was happening. So the lines, "I like my coffee, like I like my Gulf Of Mexico: real expensive and all black," just came out. As a former resident of Florida, it was very sad news to hear. As I kept refining the lyrics, it started to evolve into this kind of social commentary about others and myself. The lyrics dive into the way our minds work when dealing with insecurities and mistakes we make over and over again due to human nature.
The main point the song tries to make is that we are all the heroes of a story that's going on in our heads. No one ever believes they are the bad guy, and with the exception of a few people in this world, no one is completely evil. Just ask any religious extremist group. A lot of people are against them, but they still believe in their hearts that they are doing the right thing! There is no right or wrong...just perceptions of right and wrong.
"Prove Me Wrong"
I don't know why I use the word "buddy" so much. This is the second time. The first was in Le Meu Le Purr's song "Celebrate". I guess I just like the ring of it. I remember writing the first few chords and the melody. Then, "The Hope For Man Is Gone" came out. I don't know from where. Maybe it's was everything on the news, my way of poking fun at myself, or just listening to "The Wall" too much. I've always been a sucker for hope; things can and will get better if you want them to. I thought I should write the song taking the point of view of a king, a tyrant, a president, big business, or even god. "Maybe one day someone will hear it and get pissed off enough to do something about their situation" I thought. Of corse this is 50% bull shit. I'm really just yelling at myself.
Humans is that special kind of post-punk that blends heart-tugging melodies and distorted guitars to embody a certain component of youth we can all remember and identify with. This song is colorful and bright, even when the theme is dark and gripping and even spacey. This song is about how small each and every Human can feel at times "a grain of sand on the beach''. but it also is about how we all no matter how small can make the most out of this life and how we have some kind of purpose being alive here and now ''don't you feel like there something more out there I refuse to believe in nothing we have to exist for a reason'' another line from the song "This is not all that we are". This song is an anthem of life that you can relate to no matter what emotion you are feeling.
“Wine & Excuses” is the oldest song that made the record. I know this because I was still living in Philadelphia when I wrote it, back in May 2010. Earlier that year, there was an enormous blizzard that dropped about three feet of snow in the city. As it happened, I got snowed in at my apartment with a few close friends and a girl that I had just started seeing. What followed was a really fun, but weird, two-week period where no one could get to class or work. Our cars were plowed in and public transportation was shutdown. We were all stuck hanging out with each other for every waking second, drinking far too much alcohol and playing a ton of Monopoly.
While that may sound more like a party than the inspiration for a love song, think again. Most relationships start gradually and take quite a bit of time before both parties are comfortable spending long, uninterrupted stretches of time with one another. Hell, some relationships never end up at that point at all. But when the situation is thrust upon you, it can definitely be a profound experience for both good and bad. It forces you to start going through the lifecycle of a relationship at an extremely accelerated pace – for better or worse.
For me, when Philadelphia finally thawed out and we had to return to our normal lives, it felt like I was waking up from a dream. Part of it might have been the hangover. But some of it resulted from having a very new relationship, and the unstable emotions that come with it, thrust upon me very quickly. It took on a much more serious vibe than I was expecting, due mostly to just the sheer proximity that was unavoidable due to the storm.
All of that freaked me out, and I did what my younger self always did when I felt freaked out – I ran away from the problem. When the wine ran dry and the excuse of being stuck together was no longer valid, I felt way too vulnerable and looked for a way out. It wasn’t until a number of months later that I looked back on things with a clearer head and realized my mistake. But as is often the case, it was too late to handle it differently.
The verses in the song refer to a lot of the details of that week, some more fictionalized than others. For example, the SEPTA regional rail train schedule and the bridge from City Avenue to Manayunk. My car was also plowed in so badly I never thought I’d see it again. (I eventually did, and immediately drove it to Atlantic City for one of our finer collegiate gambling sessions). The choruses are just about the girl getting frustrated with me for not being able to make up my mind. I don’t think they are actual quotes, as most of this was unspoken frustration. My mind probably made it out to be way more prevalent than it was in reality – I have a habit of romanticizing. Finally, the bridge is just about regretting how the whole thing was handled. “Should I figure it out, I hope you’re still waiting around – but I doubt that you will be” is a pretty self-explanatory quote.
The writing process for this one was pretty interesting, since it’s the first song that took on a collaborative feel from the rest of the band. When I first wrote the song, it was a quieter acoustic and piano number that I demoed on Garage Band. But when we were rehearsing up shows to support my solo EP Destinations, we needed a few more tunes to round out the set. We started jamming on the acoustic version of “Wine & Excuses”, leading Pete to suggest we try it in a more upbeat style. Then he laid down that glorious twang in the intro and I started grinning like an idiot. The rest was history.
I credit the song for really pushing us to become a real band that worked collaboratively to write songs. It was also instrumental in helping us find our sound. We jump around a lot, but I think the pop sensibility with some Americana twang and straight up rock and roll guitars shines through in a lot of what we do. We started to find the balance with “Wine & Excuses”.
While recording this song, we intentionally pushed the tempo a little bit since we knew it was going to be the first proper song on the record. Like most of the songs, we tracked bass, drums, and guitars live. I remember nailing this one very quickly and feeling good about it. But then later in the night, we all had a few cocktails and played it back and we thought it was so fast. I think it was just that our brains were fried from an 18-hour day of tracking and all the gin and Sierra Mist we drank slowed our reactions, because after sleep and coffee it sounded great in the morning. It was one of only a small few studio freak-outs that ensued during the sessions for Don’t Paint Your Days So Gray.
Also, for the record, the harmony on “smile right through all the sad, sad, songs that you sing” is a four-part. There was no Auto Tune involved. Meg nailed the super high note on the first or second try, because that’s what she does. It might be my favorite harmony on the record, after the seven-part on the intro
While most break-up songs tend to dwell on the idea of leaving or being left behind, lead singer/songwriter Lydia Benecke of Blue Kid opted to re-empower herself by imagining the slow murder of an ex-lover in the band's aptly titled The Dismemberment Song.
While the lyrics lay out a step-by-step process for disassembling the offending ex's body, the true message of the song is not one of violence, but rather one of taking back control, as best evidenced in the bridge:
"''cause I'm all out of hurt, you've used up all I've got / so I'm chopping you up and still coming up squat / If I wanted to bleed, I'd just roll up my sleeve and saw, saw, saw."
Two years ago, I was fat and depressed. At 270 pounds I felt like the weight of my life was too much to bear, and there were days when I felt so helpless that I could not even bring myself to leave my house. My one-year-old son was diagnosed with epilepsy, my two-year-old daughter was allergic to everything, my husband had lost his job, and I was on the brink of losing my mind. I had given up my career in order to be a stay at home mom and create a strong family…I was failing.
I tried to act normal with my friends and family, but all the while I was hiding binge eating, drinking, and popping pills. I needed to take control of my life…I had been here before….
Gas City is a place where it’s always just after dusk on the hottest night of the summer. Police sirens echo through the streets every hour, on the hour, but no one even notices any more. It’s little more than background noise, like lost children crying for their mothers or the sound of overworked air conditioning units, trying to spit out their final last breaths of cold air before breaking down for good. Single 60 watt bulbs glow electric on booze, pills, stripper’s lace, newspapers from months ago. Everybody plans on getting out one day, somewhere that life isn’t so damn hard, but the city only holds your dreams and hopes out in front of you, just out of reach, just like the moon.
‘Gas City Blues’ is about two people that almost found something like love in a place like that.
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