Hollywood, Lullaby, and Dance Through . . . A Deeper Look

Hollywood & Vine

This was the first song that I wrote coming out of Stanford, clean and sober for the first time in nearly a decade. The music was pretty, lyrical, the guitar part is pretty challenging, which I like. The steady thumb playing the rhythm independent of the other fingers, I really like that style. It reminds me of Lindsey Buckingham and Paul Simon.

The beginning lyrics came standing in line at a coffee shop; I just wrote them into my phone. I liked the rhyme scheme of the words, so I went with that. Then I went home and figured out the F major 7 to G part. The lyrics came pretty easily once the song structure became more set. Later on, I was showing what I had written to Luke Reilly when we had gotten back together as Funk & Wagnall, and he asked me "Where's the bridge?"
"What's a bridge?" I asked him jokingly, and then I just busted out the E minor to C part, and it stuck. "Oh, there it is," I said. I recorded an early version of the song at Henry Rust's place in LA, with some sweet mics of his and a mellow atmospheric vibe. I still like that recording. The finished version in the studio is a favorite track of mine, and also a favorite among the crowd reviews that we submitted to.

 Lullaby for the Devil                                                    

I wrote the music to Lullaby for the Devil the same night that I wrote the music to Broken Girl, in my LA apartment, when I was living with my brother Greg. Dark and violent times, post car crash, broken and scared, sick and addicted to all kinds of self destructive vices. I was in the death throes of a twisted and toxic love affair with a girl named Claire, and it was already taking its toll on me. The song's melody stayed with me for five years while I fucked around with the structure, the lyrics, the key, the tempo, etc. Finally I added the D minor part towards the end and it eventually fell into place one night, the same night that I recorded Dance Through the Fire for the first time in my home studio. "Lullaby" is my guitar playing nod to Robert Quine of Richard Hell and the Voidoids: the ferocious kind of biting guitar tone, especially towards the end. The guitar noise during the outro of the song is somewhat symbolic of the madness I went through in LA: my mind falling apart, coming undone. This song is dark. But you already knew that.

Dance Through the Fire

What initially began as a guitar practice warm up in A minor eventually grew into Dance Through the Fire. It began at age 22; I kept adding new parts to it, always returning to the main hook, and the song didn't see it's full completion until six years later. "Dance" is very rhythmically and technically advanced for me as a guitarist. It's got a raw punk and latin feel to it, which is great. It had lyrics briefly, earlier on, but I could never really figure it out as a whole song. And then the home studio happened, and I started messing around with it. I ended up recording what would become the definitive song structure for both "Lullaby" and "Dance" in the same night. My grandmother had just died, and the funeral had been only a few days prior to my recording this. It was an intense and soul bearing experience; I felt her energy with me as I recorded the song from start to finish, something I had never been able to do. I reached inside and pulled out music that I had never known I could play. It was beautiful and it was real.

The drum part was also conceived and produced in my home studio: a minimalist kind of tasteful track to compliment the guitar part. Obviously, when Austin got his hands on it, he was able to enhance and tighten up my ideas, adding in some of his own. This song is an instrumental testament to my sobriety, in that I could never play it when I was using. It was too advanced for me. I have played "Dance Through the Fire" perfectly, without any fuck ups, maybe twice in my whole life. The song is so challenging that even completely sober, I almost always miss one or two things. It's another reason for me to stay clean, knowing that the healthier I am, the more likely I am to nail the song, and continue challenging myself with my writing and playing. On the album, I kept writing songs that pushed certain boundaries of mine, whether it was sound and tone, tempo and overall mix, or just lead runs on the guitar. Dance Through the Fire is a complex song, one that makes the album a little more distinctive of my style.

Lyrics to Hollywood & Vine

She says that it's not me
no clarity in desperate times like these
I try to feel complete but I can't compete
with her insanity

She tells me it's alright
I don't have to fight the hate inside my heart
but every time I cross that line
I'm right back where I started

and I try to call her name again
but I just fall away again
and I'm trying to stay clean again
but I'll just fuck it up again

I take my medicine
she lets me in and I black out on her floor
she says she's gonna leave
but she's told me that a thousand times before

I take my time
try to define what makes me feel like I'm alive
but in my mind
slow suicide's the only way to die

and I try to clear my head again
but I'm too far away again
and I'm looking for my closest friend
but he's nowhere to be found again

these days are killing me
can't seem to breathe and I can't find the door
I walk through dreams, inside routines
that bring me lower than before

coffee and cigarettes
loss and regret, this taste inside my mouth
if I stay just one more day
I know I'll never make it out, and

I'll try to run away again
I need to just stay gone again
and I'll never call her name again
goodbye Los Angeles, my friend

Lyrics to Lullaby for the Devil

How can I save you girl, can’t even save myself
she says she loves me more than anybody else
I don’t believe her words but I believe her mouth
get myself inside, then I can’t get back out

how can I trust you girl, when the lights go dark
standing in my room I tear myself apart
I’m looking for my pills, she’s looking for her man
I try to hold her close, do the best that I can

but every dream is the same, in a different way
got myself to blame, I got myself to . . . 
but every dream’s the same, in a different way
got myself to blame, you know I want to

how can I love you girl, don’t even know my name
she tells me one more time, then she’s here to stay
she wanna hold my hand, she need a little kiss
you ask me what I want, ain’t nothing close to this

how can I quit you girl, her body’s like a drug
she’s got me hooked so hard, now I can’t get enough
she says she wants me all, I hear her call my name
but jealousy is the sweat that’s running down my face

and every drug is the same, in a different way
you know they’re all the same, I know it all is
every drug is the same, running through my veins
and they’re all the same, you know I want this

LA seems so far away
Michelle seems so far away
the crash seems so far away
but Claire seems just like yesterday

Dance Through the Fire

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