I’ve been toying with the idea of getting into a few of the songs I’ve written and explaining… um… well.. I guess explaining myself a little, and maybe disclosing some of the inspirations and so on. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to explain a lyric I’ve written fully.
I’m still a bit cagey about the idea to be honest. It feels enormously bigheaded to imagine that anyone would care, and I’m not entirely sure I won’t come across as a bit of a nob. The other problem is that I’m generally of the school that what a listener takes away from a song is usually probably more important than what the writer puts in. Although I love reading what writers have to say about their songs. Hypocrite much?
In the end I came to the conclusion that I’m actually personally pretty interested in what’s going to come out here, given that my ability to plan a post in advance is fairly non-existent. And also you don’t actually have to read this. I’m not making you. So let’s go…
It seems fairly apt at the moment to take a look at Punchbowl from the strangeday album, Please Intervene. I’ll let you guess as to why once you’ve read on.
It’s not particularly a favourite song of mine actually, but it always seems to go down well when we play it live and I’ve actually had it requested a few times. I just don’t think I pulled out all of the stops when it came to writing the lyrics. It’s hard to remember exactly, but I think I just threw them out one afternoon in the run up to recording the album because I had a chorus and a riff and not much else.
Punchbowl is the name of a ski run in the Jungfrau region of Switzerland. See if you can find it on this interactive map. I’d been skiing in the region for a few years, but for some reason had never made it to this particular run. When I finally did, I quickly decided it was by far my favourite. The top section is kind of like a bowl and it’s fantastic fun to ski/board down.
I apparently loved the run so much that I decided to write a song about it; the chorus is very much derived from the aforementioned experience, although I’d hope people can relate it to more things than just that. “I’ve never been here before but I could get used to this” is presumably the sort of thing I could see myself thinking that first time I went down the run. “It never gets old” is also a direct reference to the run. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking with “came knocking at your door looking for some kind of bliss”. I think it just sounded kind of cool. (Seems I have the wrong words up on bandcamp for that line. Not sure where that crept in.)
I had started to build the song and chorus around my attempt at a Star Chamber type riff. You might not have heard of Star Chamber, but they were a kickass band that we played with back in the day. We’re still in touch with some of the band to this day in fact. I don’t think I really got close to their magic, but it’s not a bad riff. We were looking at maximising the number of songs we got recorded, so as recording approached I decided to flesh it out into a proper song. Kind of.
When it came down to it, it didn’t seem particularly possible to write a whole song dedicated to a ski run that most people won’t have even heard of. So I went down the vague and wooly path where I threw a bunch of lines together that I liked the sound of. You can see a few references to my experience of faith at the time (“squinting to get focus”, “can’t find the shift to cruise control”, “hedge your bets and climb the fence”) and I think “buckle up and pass right through” was both a nod to skiing and to moving forwards in life.
All in all then, not the most profound attempt at a lyric. I think I was trying to tie things up with the middle eight but I’m not sure I made anything clearer. The spin on the classic “gain the world but lose your soul” is by no means a particularly clever or original thing to do. In my defence, I was referring to getting into the mountains (or wherever really) and feeling whole again. A bit subtle I guess, but there we go.
Most of what now interests me in this song comes from bringing it to the table with the rest of the band. Everyone tears the riff up and the stops and starts really add to the feel, as does the weird breakdown in verse two, which I think was Aaron’s idea. I’m also pretty keen on the atmospheric guitar in the middle eight. Almost feels like whale song.
Interestingly (or maybe not) this was one of only two songs on the album that was bestowed with a guitar solo. I don’t know why strangeday go for so few guitar solos in general. Too busy farting about with stops and starts I guess.
So now you know. Enjoy!
Taken down for a spell
Something doesn’t quite make sense
Squinting to get focus
Hedge your bets and climb the fence
I’ve never been here before but I could get used to this
Came knocking at your door looking for some kind of bliss
It never gets old
It never gets old
Putting up with myself
Something to get used to
Do not rest here
Buckle up and pass right through
Can’t find the shift to cruise control
Can’t get off, can’t turn it round
Lose the world and gain my soul