FAREWELL HORIZONTAL ALBUM #3 "YOU'RE NOT AN EMPATH" IS LISTENABLE NOW
Our new album, You're Not An Empath, is online. Streaming everywhere + buyable on Bandcamp with all proceeds to charity. All proceeds from the previous album (or rather, both albums during the time the 2nd one's been out) went to Black Rainbow, an organisation that does good things for the LGBTIQ+ indigenous community. The album prior to that it went to the Climate Council. So any dollars spent on the new album will also end up going into some worthy cause or other, to be determined later. Of course, our stuff is free and you can stream or download without paying. "Dig deep... or just dig.(TM)"
The album title changed many times, but I brought it back to its original title. Truth be told, I was trying to change it because I know someone who considers themselves as empath and was worried they'd think it was me taking a swipe at them. That is not the case. It came from hearing that someone who regularly said insensitive things to people also identified themselves as an empath, which I found hilarious. I experimented with other titles, which wore their welcome far too soon, and figured the original title will do, and that I'll just have to hope that other 'empath' doesn't hear about it or assume it's about them.
I thought a blog post just mentioning that our album out wasn't worth bothering people about, so I wrote you some "liner notes" below in case you wanted to know 250 words worth about each song on the album. This info is not integral to your appreciation of the music, so don't feel as though you have to read this.
1. I'll Miss This Headache
Lyrics are about: A vague mish-mash of stress, stubbornness and bad blood, with imagery of sinking ships and sleeping in ditches. I changed most of the lyrics at the last minute because I wasn't feeling them. The new lyrics fit so well that I've already forgotten what the old ones were. To be honest I was never 100% happy with the chorus line about "until the sun comes up". It’s bland, feelgood and clichéd, and I've heard it in Sheryl Crowe's "All I wanna do" which just reminds me of this other kid’s pool party in the 90s where I got dacked.
I usually get titles from the chorus, but this chorus contained no title I liked. I trialed the titles Stoppage, A Walk Among The Eggshells The Rising Tide That Sinks All Ships and more before just using a line from the verse. Did I nail it? Not sure.
The song’s based on a riff where I was aiming for the ballpark of My Bloody Valentine's "When You Sleep" and "Mallorie" by The History Of Apple Pie. Sometimes an existing earworm sits in the back of my head, goes ‘bad’, and maybe an hour later there’s a different earworm - this was probably one of those riffs. Was imagining Cars type stuff for the verse, and ‘Celebrity Skin’ era Hole for the chorus (I dislike Hole, but when enough of them were replaced by session players they became pretty good).
2. Future Plans:
Lyrics are about: The story of a cryogenic freezing company that went broke, had the power cut, and let the bodies melt.
Lyrics don’t always turn out well for me but luckily, these ones complemented the music’s weirdness, darkness, and funniness so well.
There really was a cryogenic freezing company that let the corpses thaw when they went broke. I mean, that was bound to happen eventually. A lot of lyrics were straight from articles about why cryogenic freezing doesn't work. (By the way, Walt Disney died a year before it was invented. Not that it’s an “invention”; inventions generally work.)
This song was based on some slow, moody chords like Pavement's "Newark Wilder” only sped up. This was combined with a chorus rescued from another, crappier song of mine that supported the lyrics "Future Plaaaaaaaaans" really well.
The mix was difficult because it just hits you with a ton shit at once. I had to correct a lot of bad emphases in the lyrics to make them easier to hear through the wall of noise.
Those backwards guitars at the start were fun to make - I played the melody backwards and tried to stack things up, Brian May style. A lot of my songs don't have an intro/outro so I often add them later to get nice, distinctive bookends onto the song.
3. Too Soon:
Lyrics are about: When is too soon to joke at the recently deceased’s expense? It is generally agreed that the funeral is.
Apparently at some point after someone's death, we collectively agree that jokes at their expense may resume. This song's just a reductio ad absurdum - some idiot literally interrupting the priest mid-eulogy with jokes nobody enjoys.
There's this weird pageantry about funerals, especially religious ones. At one funeral when I was a kid we all stood up and the old man in the pew in front of me’s butt-cheeks fluctuated every time he said "Lord hear our prayer" (many times) while his intonation went up stupidly like he was asking a question, and instantly my grief went to the backburner while I desperately tried to suppress the forbidden laughter.
Another funeral when I was very young I just remember looking up at adults who smiled down through their tears. I honestly couldn’t tell if anyone was laughing or crying, so I tried to do both.
I originally wrote this as a 60s bowtie crooner ballad. I tried to rearrange it with piano and strings; it sucked, but I kept the vocal and redid everything else. I decided to just do guitar, but when it didn’t sound full enough, I just piled em up Phil Spector style only with a more Replacements inspired guitar sound.
There are no drums on the track, but I did some DIY percussion using a metal steamer and a plastic microphone box.
4. Bye Bye Black Sheep:
Lyrics are about: Brown-nosing those who reject you is a bad strategy for gaining respect.
Originally it had some stupid lyrics about Roy Thomas Baker, the producer of Queen and The Cars, but not all subjects are worth writing a song about and needless to say, this one wasn’t, much as I respect him and everything. So I eventually just replaced them while we were making this album. I went through my notes and found "bye bye black sheep" and thought there's some interesting connotations in that otherwise stupid wordplay.
I made up a story about the anxieties and need for acceptance of some person who’s thought to be an underachiever by their upper-middle-class family. It is definitely based on real life, not so much me as many of the kids I went to school with. With privilege there’s an immense pressure to repeat your parents’ success and not to fuck up. I went to a private school and many former classmates seem to be determined to prove themselves to a crazy and unrealistic degree. I later bumped into one who was doing an “entrepreneurship”, whatever that was.
This one is, in theory terms, having fun with major sevenths. I love a good major seventh. It came together surprisingly well in the bridge section where the mix opens up and heaps of layers dance around. Most songs had many mixes, I think this one only had 2. That was a fluke.
5. Boring Dreams:
Lyrics are about: ‘Crazy’ dreams aren’t crazy; they’re normal. Dreams that are indistinguishable from everyday life would be crazy.
I was in a conversation when I was younger where everyone was saying "I had the CRAZIEST dream" and then someone says "Me too!" and it just went on like that. And I was thinking that these weren’t crazy dreams; they were completely normal. And that got me thinking about what a truly weird dream would entail. I figured a dream that is as real as when you are awake, that goes through the motions of the working day apparently in real-time.
It's one of a handful of songs where I felt a drum machine was integral to the overall vibe. I used samples similar to Def Leppard on Hysteria, a punched-in pop album that was aesthetically ahead of its time. Even though the song's essentially lo-fi acoustic with a drum machine, I thought I'd see how far I could take it into highly polished 80s pop territory. I overdubbed some sparkly clean lead guitar, one string at a time, as well as some wailing 80s lead guitar. This is stuff I never do, so I just had fun with it.
6. Lt. Naughtyman:
Lyrics are about: The semi-coherent tale of a narcissistic cop who murders an unarmed civilian and gets a stern talking-to and unpaid leave.
This song came out of just wanting to go fucking nuts and be really fast and heavy, like SoCal punk and 80s thrash - all the while clinging onto this modal, echoed melody which reminds me more of the spacious freakiness of the Cocteau Twins. I often try to find links between disparate sections of my record collection, and see if I can bring the extremes together and this is a good example of that.
The riff sounds similar to the Dead Kennedys' "Holiday In Cambodia", but hopefully the song still uniquely justifies itself. Borrows a bit from heavy stuff I liked in high school ike System Of A Down’s “Chop Suey”, which although low on taste/intellect has undeniable force and conviction.
The lyrics are just exploring a warped cop's shameless mindset as they navigate the joys of murdering an innocent civilian, getting a slap on the wrist and a temporary inconvenient media backlash.
The guitar solo is fed through so many wacky effects it just sounds like a weird scream from outer space. I copied it straight out of my original demo because I couldn’t recreate it, it was a one-off audio moment.
7. The Boring Apocalypse:
Lyrics are about: It's an instrumental. Title is about: Early in the pandemic a friend said they didn’t expect the apocalypse to be so protracted and chaos-free.
I demo'd it with guitar playing the tune, thinking I'd replace it with vocals, but then I got attached. So then I started thinking about doing it like a Shadows type thing. Was also thinking about the spacious bop of a lot of peak Sonic Youth (Murray Street - Sonic Nurse - Rather Ripped) with the breathing band-in-a-room being both powerful and gentle in guitar and drum tones.
The hard part with this song was justifying the repetition, considering that changing lyrics are usually your excuse for playing the same parts again. So I added some counter-melodies and altered the instruments/volumes of things until it had a good flow. It needed an ending, so I just layered as much guitar noise as I could and faded it up so that by the end it's just drowning in noise.
As for the title, I got it from my notes, and it was something I'd wanted to use ever since that aforementioned conversation with my friend, but it's too heavy-handed to really extrapolate lyrics from. Instrumentals are a great opportunity to make a statement, especially a bizarre one (see Mogwai, masters of the instrumental song title).
8. Advertiser's Dream:
Lyrics are about: Inspired by my sister memorising ads to be more persuasive when nagging our parents for things when we were kids.
I really struggled with this track. I nearly scrapped it. In the end it turned out all right. Friends have told me it's among their favourites so maybe I'm wrong about it.
The trouble as usual was the lyrics. I changed them so many times, in fact, my enduring memory of working on this album is staring at my computer trying to make these lyrics not suck. I'm still not sure about them. Was the bit about Nutri-grain going too far? Maybe.
It's based on real life. My sister was an absolute SAVANT when it came to memorising every jingle or the features and benefits of some product on TV in the 90s. Not just the ads we all remember. The ads NO ONE remembers as well. She put this skill to obvious uses such as arguing in favour of McDonald's. But she’d also express preferences that didn’t matter, like a preferred brand of paracetamol. Even to this day she'll hum something vaguely familiar and I'll ask and she'll say "It's the Doors Plus theme”. Extraordinary.
It draws heavily on the 60s psychedelic baroque pop as well as power pop. I hammed up the 60s tropes - the cheap organ sound recorded from the built-in speaker, tape echo, layered falsetto harmonies (which I LOVE making, even though my falsetto is hilariously crap), tambourines, claps, the lot.
9. I Give Up:
Lyrics are about: Conformity is exhausting, and the music scene isn’t the refuge it purports to be. Saying “fuck it” can be therapeutic.
Lyrically it’s about social discomfort. It takes a swipe at the music and arts scene - not because I don't like it but because it’s disappointing that this counterculture I grew up dreaming of being welcomed into, turned out to be driven by the same cliquey politics as high school except wearing vintage clothes (as Kurt Cobain sang, “You’re in high school again”). More “scene” than “music”. This is a song is about encouraging myself not to worry what others think of me in the music scene. It goes beyond that, though, into less healthy attitudes about diet, sleep, exercise, and general participation in life. Don’t trust the narrator in my songs.
I was looking for a simple energetic riff like mclusky "Rice Is Nice" but then wrote it into something more like the Kinks' "Till The End Of The Day". A lot of my stuff is basically an old pop song dressed as a more recent alternative song.
It uses an AABA structure, which I didn't know about until a couple of years ago when my mind was blown at how many songs don’t have a separate verse and chorus. Beatles, Kinks, Motown etc - pre-70s stuff. I had no idea! Anyway, this song follows that format but I wrote it before I knew that such a structure was distinct from a typical verse/chorus song.
10. We Can Both Be Bored Together:
Lyrics are about: written one lame night while disabled, when I summoned the energy to socialise but then my friends bailed on me.
So I used to rarely have the physical energy to do much after dark, so on the occasions that I did I'd try and get out, but unfortunately most of my close friends are just as a big a shut-in as me, and it could be hard to persuade them. On those evenings all I could really do was just stay home and occupy myself, e.g. by writing a song about the shitty evening I was having.
Like about half songs on this album, I cut an entire verse/chorus cycle, leaving one verse. When I do this it's just because I didn't feel the 2nd loop added enough to be justifiable.
The drums are beautiful on this, very crisp and powerful, reminds me of Weezer (a little bit).
My partner Sunnyo sang that airy, main "ooh" tune, because I couldn't reach the notes and she was home at the time. She got the part really quickly and we had it recorded in a couple of minutes.
The guitar solo was added at the last minute - I find that it helps to leave some aspects of songs unplanned (or planned but later sabotaged) until the last minute to force some on-the-spot inspiration to be caught in the recording. If you dig up and old song and slavishly copy the demo, it's going to sound tired.