Since the CD came out, some people have emailed the band or spoken to us to ask what the songs are about. My favorite lyricist, Greg Graffin, has advocated that there is no correct way to look at one of his songs. I concurr. Listed below are our songs and what they mean to me, the songwriter. I simply want you to know why I wrote them and what they mean to me. It is my hope that you, the listener, will take your own ideas from each song.
Thanks for reading,
This song was inspired by a poem of the same title written by Lauren Donohue, a student at USC. To read it, click here.
This song essentially deals with the pressures that we, as a society, put on females in this country. In every movie, TV show, magazine, commercial, and advertisement, women are valued for little more than a pretty face or nice body. In society, are women valued for their intelligence? NO. For their personality? RARELY. For their appearance? ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY. This problem needs to be addressed and dealt with.
It greatly upsets me that almost every close female friend in my life feels these pressures, although I, as a male, really have no idea what it feels like. All guys, including myself, need to take a serious look at the way we view and treat women. The menacing glances, the catcalls, and the little comments we make to each other need to stop.
Men, however, are not the sole source of the problem, in my eyes. Judgemental comments from other females are almost as bad. Many women, I feel, invite problems because of the way they dress. The hallways at the school in which I teach often seem like fucking lingerie runways. The girls need to realize that if they consistently portray themselves in such a light, people will value them for little more than the "features" which they "promote".
By saying this, am I a hypocrit?...YES. I'd be lying if I said I was perfect in the way I view women. But I'm trying. Having a 13 year-old sister has really helped me to improve. To think that guys are viewing her as a piece of ass has really helped me not to make similar mistakes.
During my first year of teaching, I was required to attend a class AFTER SCHOOL once a month. The class was boring and pointless, so to kill time one day I re-wrote the words to this song (it was originally about religion).
Once again, I tackle the issue of materialism. It's fairly self-explanitory, so I won't really get into it, but I just hate the fact that so many of us view ourselves (and other people) by the number and quality of our possessions. My students are very bad about this, but I guess that's just one of the things young people in particular struggle with. It just bothers me so much to see so many of them overly concerned about the type of shoes they have, the brands of clothing they wear, the car they drive, the type of rims on their car, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...
This song marks our first and only attempt at ska.
I wrote this song two or three days before our last session in the studio. Joanna had never even heard the song until five minutes before she had to sing her parts.
If you have the new CD, on the tray card (under the actual CD), it says "In Memory of Jim Wingate", my grandfather. He passed away in August of 2000, but has made more of an impact in my life now than before his death.
My grandfather is the most loving man I have ever met, and among the many things he has taught me is the significance of a positive frame of mind, even under the most trying conditions. The song "Jim" doesn't showcase the theme of positivity as much as, say "Nevermore", but it does hint at it. The central focus of "Jim" is that we are all very well off in life, regardless of wealth, class, or opportunity. There is ALWAYS someone less fortunate than we are, and it is important to remember that fact, as well as its repurcussions. For example, what right do I have to complain about tearing my ACL. Sure it sucks, but at least I can still walk. There's plenty of people who aren't that lucky. What right do I have to complain about the paltry amount of money that myself and other teachers make? We're not paid nearly enough, but 1) at least I have a job, 2) it pays the bills (not to mention recording costs), and 3) I have the most important job in society--what a tremendously wonderful responsibility!!
The bottom line is that there are people in this world that are in some very fucked up situations (physically, economically, socially, etc., etc.). I am so fucking lucky to know the people I know, to have been the places I've been, to have the things I have, and be the person that I am... for me to complain would be an insult to so many people. If I died today, I would feel lucky to have lived as long as I have. I feel so blessed for so many things "I have no right to complain".
I am rather obsessed with the mathematics of music and the beauty of music theory. One day, I was contemplating the power of the tonic and its effect in popular music. As a songwriter, I constantly feel like a slave to the tonic's mesmerizing power and I thought that it would be cool to write a song that established a clear and strong tonic, but ended with an unresolved chord. I saw an immediate parallel between this musical idea and a long running problem of mine...
In short, this song details my tendency of running away from my problems. I find that it's easier to work through them if I completely put them out of my mind until I'm ready to deal with them at a later time. Frequently, however, that time is never.
The rest of the song is fairly self-explanitory except for the line, "Like Xeno's Paradox I'm trying, but my life is unresolved." For those of you who've never heard of Xeno's Paradox, let me break it down for you: Imagine two points, A and B, and that you're trying to get from A to B by traveling half the distance at a time. For example, if you're 64 meters away from B and you travel half the distance to B, you will be 32 meters away. Then 16 meters. Then 8, then 4, then 2, then 1, then 1/2, then 1/4, etc. Xeno realized that although you would get extremely close, you would "mathematically" never get there. And that's how I felt--that no matter how hard I tried to deal with my problems, they kept creeping back up, that they would never resolve. Hence, Unresolved.
The insightful lyrics to this song were co-written with Kevin Foster Langston. I asked him to write the explanation for this one, and this is what he sent me...
Jerry first approached me about co-writing a song with him during a Fling show on Greene street. Why I remember that, I do not know. He wanted to use my sense of humor, wealth of music knowledge and overall cynicism concerning our culture to help him compose a song that would utilize some of the more "generic" sentiments and phrases from Top-40 radio.
In other words, he wanted to poke fun at a lot of the poppy-love shit that cloud our airwaves, and he wanted me to help him with it. Why? Because I, like him, know, only too well, how shitty our mainstream music is. It's devoid of any meaning and genuine emotion. It's kid-tested, mother-approved, mass-produced and shallow. Shite. It's all shite.
But it gave us plenty of ammo when we sat to compose the song. Jerry already had a tempo and melody as a foundation, and we went from there. We really did try our very best to make it as stupid, trite and un-fucking-bearable as possible, and I think we did well. It took us longer than you'd imagine to write the song, but we weren't going to settle for anything short of brilliance and perfection. In the end, we were both shamefully impressed and horribly embarrassed by what we had created. We knew it was bad enough to get our point across.
And, yes, some of those phrases are familiar. We did quite a lot of borrowing from some of the more prominent pop acts of our time. If only "Drops of Jupiter" had been released at this point, we could've used the incomparable line, "Can you imagine no love, pride, deep-fried chicken?" See, it's this shit that we're talking about, here. Give us some lattitude!
Oh, and I know Jerry is concerned that some of you might think this is a serious composition. It's not. If our tongues had been planted any more firmly in our cheeks, they'd have busted through the other side. It's sarcasm. It's satire. It's funny. It's not serious. Besides, I would hope you were smarter than that.
But I digress.
The following conversation really happened, and it more or less hammers home the previous sentiment I've relayed. The interview exists in video form, and I am trying to work with Jerry to make it available to the fans. You've got to see it. It's fucking hilarous...and all-too sad.
Transcript of Interview with Jeremy Touzel on 5/5/2001 (Cinqo De Maio!)
KEVIN: Whatís up, Jerry?
JEREMY: Itís conclusive. Iíve interviewed literally hundreds of people, and the results are overwhelming. Guns Ní Roses kick Bon Joviís ass. Itís not even close. (turns and yells to stranger) Itís not even close. (turns back to camera) Guns Ní RosesóBon Jovi is justóall they did was suck. I mean, can you top "Sweet Child of Mine," "Paradise City," "Welcome to the Jungle," "November Rain," and "Pour a Little Sugar on Me?" Come on!
KEVIN: You just said "Pour Some Sugar On Me." Thatís not Guns Ní Roses.
JEREMY: Yes it is, too, Guns Ní Roses.
KEVIN: No, itís not.
JEREMY: Who is it?
KEVIN: Thatís Def Leppard.
JEREMY: It doesnít matter! Guns Ní Roses shouldíve wrote that song. (begins to walk away, but stops) What did Bon Jovi do? All they did was suck and do a little soundtrack to Young Guns Two. YOUNG GUNS TWO. Come on! I mean, please! Jesus Christ!
KEVIN: "Generic," man. Itís all about "Generic."
JEREMY: "Generic," itís all about "Generic." One day the world will realize that "Generic" is the song of all songs, the song to end all songs. When people hear it, theyíll realize thereís no point in writing a song, because you canít top "Generic." The lyrics just permeate into the heart of every single person. I mean, everyone can relate to that experience of being in their room, so alone, waiting on the phone. I mean, every one can relate to that!
KEVIN: "I can relate to that."
JEREMY: "Whether youíre young or old."
KEVIN: (kneeling down) Hey, Iím down on bended knee.
JEREMY: (begins singing) "Because Iím down on bended knee for you. I miss your kiss, oh how I wish I wasnítÖ"
JEREMY: (singing) "But I still say, you are my fire, my one desireÖ"
KEVIN: "Howís it gonna be."
JEREMY: No, itís I want it that way! Dammit Kevin! (continues to sing) "I want it that way, tell me why!"
KEVIN: "I want to take you for granted."
JEREMY: I want to take you for granted. (sings) "And youíll know that itís true when I say ĎI love youí Ďcause youíre tearing up my heart into pieces."
KEVIN: Itís the song to end all songs--
JEREMY: It is like, once you hear that song, thereís no point in writing another song.
KEVIN: No, there isnít.
JEREMY: There is not.
KEVIN: And Guns Ní Roses rules.
JEREMY: Even Guns Ní Roses, of all bands, cannot top that song, because Kevin Langston wrote lyrics that deeply move the human condition. Everyone can relate to it.
KEVIN: Hey, Iím in touch with the human condition.
JEREMY: Exactly. Thereís no point.
By Kevin Foster Langston
The lyrics to this song were written a long, long time ago (back in the 9-6) one night while I was working at the River Room in the G-Funk (a.k.a. Georgetown, SC). It was originally a slow, death metal song called "Arnaud du Tilh".
In my freshman Western Civ class, we read a book called "The Return of Martin Guerre" which detailed the life of a 14th-Century Basque Frenchman by the name of Martin Guerre (I'll call him MG from now on). In the book, MG is a farmer who suddenly abandons his family, much to the shock of his confused wife. A few years later this guy, Arnaud du Tilh (AT), rolls into town, bearing such a strong resemblence to MG that everyone in the village thinks he's MG, including MG's wife. AT assumes the life of MG for a couple of years and everyone is pretty happy, especially the wife, who likes the "new" MG even better. Then, the old MG comes back to town and the shit hits the fan. He gives the people in the village some lame excuse for abandoning his family, but has AT executed, which makes everyone unhappy, especially the wife because she never like the real MG anyway.
Just weeks after reading the book, a very similar situation emerged involving yours truly. My role in the love triangle was parallel with Arnaud du Tilh's, and I was accordingly "executed" from the relationship. Since it was my first significant relationship, I was pretty traumatized by the whole thing. Writing the song was a good way of putting it all behind me.
The title changed four or five times until I settled on "The Tempest", which was chosen because of the song's allusion to the aforementioned stormy situation. Ironically enough, I read the Shakespearean play of the same name the next semester.
I've heard the movie "Sommersby" is also based on "The Return of Martin Guerre".
The first lines to this song were written at my granddad's house in Nashville after watching a BP commercial with a similar rhyme-scheme.
Another old song, "The Void" deals with my frustrations growing up in the G-Funk. I felt really tied-down as a teenager, both by the G-Funk's small-town environment and my mom's tight grip on my life. The year I spent in Australia really helped both situations, and I have since become extremely close to my mother.
As I saw my brother's band, Junction 51, writing and recording songs for an album, I decided that I wanted to do the same, which led me to compose 30 songs during my freshman year at Clemson. I was very proud of them, and when I came home for the summer, I showed the three best to my brother, James. He looked me in the eye and told me in no uncertain terms that my songs were not good. He said that he was glad I was writing songs, but that I was a little to concerned with quantity and that I should spend more time writing each song, instead of getting it done and moving on to the next one. To this day it is the single greatest thing anyone has ever told me. From that day forward, my goal became to write quality songs. After a three-month break, "Nevermore" was the first song I wrote.
The day I initially wrote "Nevermore" was one of the saddest days of my life. I was extremely lonely and isolated. The song was intended to be a depressing song, but somehow changed during construction. As I examined my depression, I looked to the lives of three of my best friends. One friend was extremely depressed also, another (my brother) was perpetually happy, and the other made me less sad when in her presence. After realizing how little fun I must be to hang out with and seeing my brother happy in any situation, I decided to turn my life around. I chose not to dwell on the negative aspects of my life, and with the help of the aforementioned female friend, I began to enjoy my life, for the first time in many years.
Since then, I have been as optimistic and happy as my brother. The negativity will consume me "Nevermore".
The is only the second song I've ever written in which the vocal melody was written first. After picking up the second batch of Sinators T-shirts, I had to drive across Columbia in five o'clock traffic. Instead of wasting the time just sitting in the car, I started singing a melody I'd been messing with and writing lyrics to join it at every red light.
I won't go much into the meaning behind the song because it's similar to that of some of our other songs. Essentially, the songs says that we all, at some point, need to take a step back from the routine and listen to the "music of our lives". One might comment that this is the same message we convey in "The Child", and I would have to agree. However, "The Child" conveys a problem that we, as a species, share. This particular song is directed to a specific person in my life, hence the 2nd person voice.
The music for this song was written after my first exposure to Hot Water Music. I don't know if they're the inspiration behind the non-bar chord verse, but the influence is there, if not in chord voicings, then in song structure.
As the brother song to "Deaf", "Blind" shares "Deaf"'s subject, expounding on the consequences of what happens when people let their schedule take priority over their life.
Though their titles are similar, "Blind" was not named just to match "Deaf". The original names I was throwing around were "Unaware", "Lost", and "Busy". I wanted to convey the fact that the subject of the song was unaware of what he's losing... that he was blind to the feelings of the person he cares about, hence the title.
All of the new songs we've been working on are in groups of three, so I thought it would be cool for each trilogy to share, not just similar muscial ideas, but similar song titles as well. Since the other two songs in the trilogy are named "Deaf" and "Blind", I figured that we might as well call this one "Mute". The fact that "Mute" is an instrumental song makes the name that much more appropriate.
The music to this song was inspired by the french Christmas carol, "Entre le Buff". This lyrics to this song were written when James and I went to Europe in the summer of 2000.
Towards the end of my first trip to Europe, I concluded that even though capitalism is prevalent in Europe, its reach is not nearly as expansive as it is in the United States. Before you label me a communist, know that I think that capitalism offers many advantages over rival economic systems. It's just that I think it has reached a place in our society where things are becoming more important than people, and I wished to articulate this in one of our songs.
Note: This is the only Sinators song in which the vocal melody was written before the guitar line.
This song was originally written for a friend of mine who lost someone very dear to them in an automobile accident, but like many Sinators songs, its meaning changed as the pen hit the paper.
During my junior year at USC, I began to notice how busy daily life seemed to be. Strangers rushed by me in the streets, seemingly possesed by a force compelling them to hurry to some unknown destination. Then, I noticed that I, too, was unable to call my mom or write my little sister because of my hectic schedule. I remembered how alone I felt many years ago in my life, when "friends" were too busy to return my calls, and so I wrote "The Child" with hopes that our lives (especially mine) would never be too busy to make time for freinds and loved ones. Today, I try to keep in close contact with all of my friends and family, and I hope they all know the significance they have in my life.
Most of this song was actually written last year while I was on duty as a hall monitor (during PSAT testing) at Dreher High School, the school at which I teach. The idea for the song had been in my head for a while, however...
One day I was cleaning out my bedroom, and in the process, I found my ID tag from USC's Martin Luther King Day of Service. I specifically remember sitting on my bed and thinking for around 15 minutes about Dr. King and what it must have been like in the 60's. I remembered seeing those clips of white policemen violently spraying blacks with waterhoses, pictures of Klansmen, and photos of bathrooms and water fountains that said "White" and "Colored".
I wanted to write a song about my feelings into the matter, but I knew that if I wrote a song about something as significant as that period of time, I needed powerful and meaningful lyrics. I tried about three different versions and none were really successful, so I put the idea in my scrapbook and gave the idea time to mature.
Months later, as I was in the car, I thought to myself, "If people could be considered colored for something as shallow and insignificant as their skin color, I'm sure I could be considered colored for quite a number of things." Then I thought, "Couldn't we all be considered colored for something in our lives?" This inspired me to write the words to the chorus, which is weird because I normally write the verse first. I especially liked the last part: "I think we're all colored to some degree". As I attacked the verse, I knew that I had a kick-ass chorus and that it would probably work best to be subtle in my approach to the rest of the song, which I believe is much more powerful and appropriate than being blunt about it.
Looking at all of our songs, I am really proud of this one. I wish every song I write could be this poignant and powerful.
The idea for this song came to me after reading "The Stranger", a short novel by Albert Camus, my father's favorite author. I think the opening lines of "The Stranger" are among the best in literature. "Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday. I can't be sure." They're so shocking, so thought-provoking...
Anyway, I wanted to use the death of "Mother" to represent our country's loss of religious freedom. Similar to the narrator in the Camus quote, I can't say that many people have noticed the way this freedom has changed over the years. I'd sound like a fool if I said Americans don't enjoy the volition to participate in the religion of their choice, but in some areas of the US, particularly in the South, certain religions are almost forced upon people.
As a non-Christian, I feel constantly violated by prevailing Christian dogma. Whether it's prayer before a football game, propaganda pamphlets handed out by the Christian marketing machine, or the assholes who pace the streets (often with their children) telling people they're going to hell, I am persistently discriminated against because I choose not to follow a book that some guys wrote a couple millenia ago. I think Christianity has done a lot of good for a lot of people, it's just that I don't like it pushed in my face 24-7. I think the problem lies, not in Christianity itself, but in the minority of Christians who feel the need to sell their religion like the newest N*SYNC CD.
This is the second-oldest song on the album (written way back in 1997) and was originally put to really badly written hardcore music. The music was changed in 1998 to its present version, which closely resembles the Weird Al song, "I Was Only Kidding".
Until I went to college, I had extremely little success in the dating department. I had lots of female friends, but none of them wanted to date me. I concluded that the only way to get girls was to sacrifice my true personality for one that girls would be more attracted to (one a little less silly). I felt caught in a dangerous dichotomy: do I stay true to myself (acting like a crazy fool) which causes the girls to dislike me, OR do I act like a fake and get the girl?
That's why the song is called "Hung Jury"... because I hadn't decided which was the best choice. I'll leave it to you to guess which path I chose...
I know it's a stretch, but the music to the bridge of this song was inspired by Metallica's cover of "Last Caress".
This is a fairly self-explanitory song about the difficulties I encountered growing up. I made a few too many assumptions and learned all too late that the only thing I was sure of was the fact that I was sure of nothing.