All posts by The Airborne Toxic Event

Something You Lost

She’ll never know, when she tells you goodnight,

The fear that you hide, as she lays by your side.

When you stand, all the faults of a man

Etched right in your face, still she lays there in place.

 

How the warmth of the garden you sowed.

Is the stuff of these bones, once broken and cold.

 

And you go home and you sleep in your bed,

Feel like your dancing in sync with the ghosts in your head.

And she wakes. You say, “go back to sleep,”

You dare never say, the greatest secret you keep

 

Is that you might be alone, that you might have to run,

That the rest of your life will be a series of nights

That you spend in your mind

Staring backwards through time

At something you lost.

 

And you’ll never be home. You’ll never be one

Eyes closed in the sun on a warm day in June.

But on the damp dirty floor of your wintry cold room,

You see her face in the dust. How it fills you up.

 

And you say “Hello. Hello.

Please don’t ever leave. Please don’t ever go,

And you can call me a man.

It’s etched right in my face.

But it could never span

the endless expanse of space

all around us

 

alone.

 

And just this one small home,

One brief moment of time,

The only thing I call mine

is this line that we crossed

And how it came at the cost

Of everything that I lost.

This is all so vulgar. You know, the business of music, this business of discussing it — the point at which the dream life of the song butts up against the day-time reality of logic and punctuation and “analysis” (don’t even get me started on “awards”). I don’t like any of it. Because the whole point of the song is to express something that can’t be expressed any other way. That’s why you have to make it in the first place.

I’m glad we get these moments to share our thoughts, you and I. And I’m enormously grateful there are people who will hear these songs. But there’s a contract here that begins and ends in the song. Meaning—I don’t know how to say what I want to say most of the time, except by singing and writing and scoring and recording something. So I’d rather just get out of the way.

There are a lot of big ideas in this song about isolation and fear, about connection and distance, mortality and fate. But if you’re reading this, it probably means you have already figured that out for yourself and with any luck the song has already taken on a life of its own in your own mind. I’d rather my thoughts remain anonymous behind the veil of the song itself here and wish only for you that if you get this song that you are able to hold on tight to what you have and maybe some day a million trillion heartbreakingly endless amount of time in the future—our ashes will commingle on some distant star and we can both know that for a very brief time we were the luckiest bits of dust in all creation.

The Thing About Dreams

The thing about dreams is that everything seems like you’re riding a wave that’s been forming all day in your mind.

The thing about time is all in your mind. Days turn to weeks turn to years turn to infinite signs: what you’re leaving behind.

And the hell with the rest. You gave them your best. You talked through your teeth and the black cigarettes in your hand.

I always believed you were more than impossible, more than you seem and partly responsible for my life, from my eyes. Let’s stay the night…we’ll leave with the sunrise.

The thing about me, is I wanted to be more than just friends and hardly acquaintances. I want to know why you turn in your sleep, the secrets you keep, the things that you’ve buried so deeply, discreetly inside. My oh my.

And the hell with the words. Or haven’t you heard? Nobody says what they mean ‘til the second or third whiskey rye.

I always believed you were more than impossible, more than you seem and partly responsible for my life, from my eyes. Let’s stay the night…we’ll leave with the sunrise.

The thing about love: it’s never enough. Circumstance changes and life’s always calling your bluff. Enough is enough.

And when you sleep you’re alone. When you dream you’re just one of a million small pieces. My darling, I see you. I’m one.

I always believed we were more than impossible. You’re more than you seem and partly responsible for my lies, from my eyes. And now I’ve said too much and I’m not giving up. I can’t carry the weight of this over-filled cup. I just close my eyes like you’re close to the touch and I dream: You’re not what you seem.

I have no idea what the deal is with this song. I wrote it a year ago and never planned to put it on a record. I liked the Wurlitzer and the beat and that moment when the beat stopped and the piano came in.

Dreams don’t follow any sort of logical pattern (it’s more of an attempt by your brain to create something logical out your spinning stream of unconscious emotions and images, short and long term memories — or so I’m told by the New York Times).

I had a recurring dream when I was kid about flying. I would be standing on the sidewalk with huge ears, like an elephant— and simply flap them and I’d be airborne. I remember thinking “Why do I keep forgetting that I can fly? This is so easy. I have to remember this when I wake up.” As if the only thing stopping me from flying in reality was a mental block I’d acquired from living too long on a planet that told me I couldn’t.

So many dreams are like that: memories of a time when you didn’t so thoroughly know the limitations that life imposes on you. That’s probably why they’re important. Because unlike flying, many of those limitations don’t actually exist.

This song was just a way to wave across the abyss to a memory of something that once made me feel limitless.

My Childish Bride

Have you ever seen a map laid flat, four corners pinned back, all the lines and the legend in black, so clear that you feared it was nearly all in your mind?
And the phrase that fell from her lips left a rip from the top of your shoulders to the point of your hip; and the feeling that you get is if God exists he’s really unkind.
But it’s not what you want to say when you’re losing. All the meaning’s lost in the choosing: the right side, the wrong side, the side that’s been winning. Forget the words, look back to the beginning.
My childish bride, Oh how I, miss your face
Sometimes, I see my life slip by across your face
There’s an ocean on land. There’s a plan. There’s a plan. There’s a fifty-foot tower running power over sand. There was a city on a hill. It was a thrill but the lights are all gone. Now we stare at each other like a sister to a brother, like a pusher to a shover, like a secret to a cover, like a lover to a lover under covers with the stereo on.
But it’s not what you said to me when you were leaving. Oh this mass of bodies, we’re heaving the right way, the wrong way, the way that they taught us. Forget your words, remember they got us.
My childish bride, Oh how I, miss your face
Sometimes, I see my life slip by across your face
Tell me are you real? Do you feel? Do you steal these moments you reveal with those eyes that can’t conceal? Were you wronged? Was your song just some clever thing that you made up? ‘Cause the words are just right and I could listen all night. I could whisper. I could bite. I could write. I could write. I could sing. I could cling. There’s not a single thing I’d ever give up.
But it’s not what you meant to me when you were leaving. Oh this mass of bodies all heaving the right way, the wrong way, the way that they taught us. Forget yourself, remember they bought us.
My childish bride, Oh how I, miss your face
Sometimes, I see my life slip by like a taste of death.
I’ve always liked working on songs with Steven. He has great ideas and more than anyone I’ve ever worked with, walks in the door with a very complete idea of how he wants something to sound. Plus it’s just cool to do something you are proud of with a friend. This is how we wrote the music for “All I Ever Wanted” and most of “All at Once” — we’d both have ideas then we’d sit in a  room with guitars throwing riffs at each other, or bits of keyboards or harmonies or whatever—until one or the other of us would say, “Oh hell yeah…” Then we’d be off to the races.
So on this particular day, Steven walked in with about five pieces of through-composed music with keyboards and drums and whatnot. It was really cool stuff — sounding to my ear something like LCD Soundsystem or Pulp (Steven is a massive Jarvis Cocker fan). And then there was this one weird little track that had some hand claps on it and some simple chords and maybe one little melody line and I thought, “Now we’re talking.” It sounded like a song to me — as if the lyrics and vocal melody were aching to be written. So we spent some time locking in the music together and then I got down to writing lyrics.
This song probably has my favorite line in the whole record: “Now we stare at each other…” I love the stereo, the sheets, the intimacy between the people. It’s something like a shared secret, this love they have, as if nobody else was in on some breathtaking elaborate joke. Which is the best way I can describe true love. A secret joke two people share, a knowledge that somewhere in this very very hard world there can be true comfort, warmth, belonging, friendship — a gentle sharing of burdens, secrets and sweat — that no one else could imagine except the person under the covers with you listening to the stereo.
I love the idea of the map, with every detail, every signpost laid out: you know, life is supposed to go like this. You’re supposed to fall in love with someone like X. And we’ve all been told our whole lives that this certain X has certain attributes and those are the ones we’re supposed to want. But then love comes along it surprises you. The map fails because in reality, you fall for Y or Q or Z — and X seems like something from a fucking magazine: an airbrushed, two-dimensional version of love that has nothing to do with the shocking reality of falling for someone flawed and exciting and cool as shit. Because that’s love: something cool as shit and scary that you just can’t stay away from.
And everyone wanted you to fall for X. And here you are with Y (or Q or Z) and maybe nobody gets it, maybe you don’t even get it. So you’re forced to change, to soften your position, to feel around for a new self— because you are never going to end up with X and lets face you can’t wait to jump under the covers with Q.

Hell and Back

I held on as long as I could possibly—my blind faith pushing me to my knees.
I felt the warmth of a touch and it made me believe, and I knew it well.
I stood at the doorway hoping you might let me in,
My head spinning round, my nerves jumping from my skin,
I felt the stinging, ragged cold of the devil’s hot embrace,
And I knew it well.
And you took me to hell and back, how many times can I walk away from you?
My mind’s like a one way track, and every one is taking me back to you.
And you tell me just one more time and you’re lying like you always do,
And I know it well.
I must have walked a thousand miles or more trying to keep you off my mind,
I’ve knocked on a thousand doors I’m sure, just to see what I might find,
I slept in the arms of a fallen angel crying next to me,
And I knew her well.
And you took me to hell and back. How many times can I walk away from you?
My mind’s like a one way track, and every one is taking me back to you.
And you tell me just one more time and you’re lying like you always do,
And you give me just one more line and there’s nothing that I can do,
If I do it just one more time, then I swear that I’ll be through,
Yeah I know it well.
I wrote this song for the Dallas Buyer’s Club. At the time, I’d only heard a description of the plot and watched a trailer. But the melody and general idea for the song had been stuck in my head since I’d taken a motorcycle trip (on the Lucy, the Harley, not Rhonda the vintage Honda — that would’ve just been dangerous) from Eastern Nebraska to Los Angeles. I’d camped along the way with an old Mexican blanket and a $30 tent from K-Mart strapped to the sissy bar. I would sit there in my helmet humming the nah nah nah’s and painting a picture of a journey involving damsels and devils and angels and tears — it was all very relevant at the time.
I decided to put the song on Dope Machines because I like to think of records as collections of music that is either thematically or temporally similar — that is, music about a set of ideas generally made in the same time period. In a way, this was the first song I wrote for Dope Machines since it was a kind hybrid (never say mash-up, never) of a country swing and something sinister and electro. This aesthetic contrast went on to infect the entire next record. You know: left hand electronic, right hand rock and roll. Or something.
Thematically, the idea of a journey that changes you was laced throughout the record. And, as it turned out, the people from Dallas Buyer’s Club thought it worked for them too and they used it as the single for the entire soundtrack. This song and experience was one of the most surprising and just downright pleasant moments in the entirety of the band’s existence for me.

Time to be a Man

You’re wide awake tossing and you can’t even sleep, with all these secrets you keep. The way home is so steep. And then it’s midnight, and you feel so alone. You’ve got your radio on. You don’t know if you can face the dawn.
And It’s time to be a man. Tell me how does that go? What the hell are you waiting for? The whole world is at your door.
All these lies that you told to yourself. Like you don’t need no one else. Don’t put your pride upon the shelf.
And It’s time to be a man. Tell me how does that go? What the hell are you waiting for? The whole world is at your door.
It’s time to make a plan for the rest of your life. Just stop saying that you’re over it. You know that’s a lie.
But you were never alone.
When she gave you all that she had to give. You have to know where you live. Do you even know what you did?
And It’s time to be a man. Tell me how does that go? What the hell are you waiting for? The whole world is at your door.
It’s time to make a plan for the rest of your life. Just stop saying that you’re over it. You know that’s a lie.
You just have to let it go.
I once wrote a song about Lady Gaga and Freddy Mercury entitled, “Stefani, I’m Tired of Taking Chances.” It was a kind of torch song with lines like:
“And some day, they would all go rather gaga, as you danced on the stage without clothes,
so much like Old Madonna, With that crimson in your cheeks and that nose.
So I know you love David Bowie, because you told me one night in my dreams,
And I wished someday you could know me, we would stay up and listen to Queen.”
That was before I heard the a cappella version of “Under Pressure” that changed my life (at least for awhile) and made me want to make big music about big populist ideas and abandon any pretense that I too didn’t love “Another One Bites the Dust” or “We Will Rock You” or like 10 Billy Joel songs that you’re supposed to hate if you’re a Serious Artist (Summer Highland Falls, anyone?) in favor of obscure tracks by Townes van Zandt or Neutral Milk Hotel.
But I do. I love them. (I mean, I love Colorado Girl too but I’m just saying) I love those big pop songs. I probably don’t love the modern equivalents much (except Adele, of course. Anyone who says they don’t like Adele is lying). Most other modern pop sounds like soda commercials to me. That’s another rant.
The point is I wanted to make some music that was more spiritually similar to Freddy Mercury than Robert Smith or Bruce Springsteen. It’s fun. It sounds huge. It’s catchy and a little weird and there is a sense of abandonment to it. You get to have samples of choirs and you get to equate manhood with honesty and the ability to see past the darkness that can envelope your life in favor of the light you can bring others. And then when you sing it, you feel like Freddy and you can embrace your inner Freddy-ness and God Damn this song makes me want to stand on stage in a skin-tight onesie with a thick-ass mustache and just belt.
I’m not saying that will happen (though you never know, I mean why start a rock band if you’re not willing to put on your mother’s dress and dance around onstage?) All I’m saying is the trappings of pop music are no better or worse than the trappings of “art” music and the main thing is to not feel trapped. I think Freddy could get behind that.

California

Someday they’re going to write about us, living here in the shadow of this gathering dust,
As the waves build up and drown the light, while we’re hanging from buildings on a Saturday night.
And the words she said… I could barely hear over the blare of the speakers and the smell of beer,
As she got up to speak, she lifted her dress. I remember her face but I forget the rest.
Here in California, I was
Just a name and a number, a face in a tumbler.
Here in California, we’re all stuck in the same scene,
all nightmares and daydreams
in California
She I said, “I got money, but I got no friends,” as we drove through the valley in her daddy’s Benz.
She said, “These pills wear off, but the pain don’t end. I never thought it would matter so much to pretend.”
And the thing about her that haunts me still: as her hands fell down to the steering wheel,
And a shock of light fell across her face, she said there’s only two ways out of this place.
Here in California, I was
Just a name and a number, a face on a tumblr.
Here in California, we’re all stuck in the same scene,
all nightmares and daydreams
in California
Oh I hope it’s clear: There’s no room for us anymore in the atmosphere,
But darling I always liked the desperation in your eyes,
The way you’d dance in the glow of the Hollywood Freeway lights,
Someday they’re gonna forget about us and we’ll wonder if we were ever good enough,
It hit me last night in this song I heard, I remember the feeling but forget all the words.
Here in California, I was
Just a name and a number, a face on a tumblr.
Here in California, we’re all stuck in the same scene,
all nightmares and daydreams
in California
I wrote this song with Linda Perry one afternoon in her studio in the Valley. She was super cool and very talented. We talked about Betty (my ’66 Chevelle) and Rhonda (the ’74 Honda CB 750 — she was into old bikes and muscle cars too).. Then we went inside and started working on other things in the big room: songs that had parts she would sing and I would sort of sing back and we tossed ideas around but nothing really came of it. I got dizzy so we went to the kitchen. She said, I have this little idea and she sang a piece of a melody about California and I thought, “whoa there. That is something.” So we spent the rest of the afternoon writing the song. She mostly wrote the melodies (though I had some ideas). I mostly wrote the words (though she had some ideas) and we both walked away feeling like we had captured something about the state where we live.
I grew up here. My folks were big hippies. I was born on a commune in California and raised by very idealistic people who didn’t have a penny to their names but believed strongly in their children, you might even say their country. I feel very tied to this place and very resistant to its cliches. The SNL skit on Californians is funny and I wonder sometimes if that’s what the rest of the world thinks of us: dithering, spoiled people obsessed with their appearance. I understand it because most of what California exports (besides food) is the culture of white people who moved to Hollywood to get into films and yes many of those people are dithering, spoiled and obsessed with their appearance. But outside of maybe 10 square miles in the heart of Los Angeles, you don’t find many people like that here.
People have always moved to California to find a a new life. And always they have run up against a hard reality. The idea of Utopia always always begs the question of Dystopia. Whether it was migrant workers in the 30s escaping the Dust Bowl only to find a harsh world of shanty towns and corporate farms completely disinterested in their well-being… Or Berkeley hippies (like my folks) in the 60s protesting the war and Governor Reagan (Until I was 12, I thought Reagan’s first name was “That Bastard” since that is the ONLY way he was ever referred to in my house) who found that dropping out of society only created new, sometimes harsher societies as communes became cults and high ideals failed under the weight of so many corruptible human impulses.
People still move here to find a better life. And it only takes one look into a migrant shantytown outside the polluted fields of the San Joaquin Valley to know it is still a harsh life.
I don’t have a point I’m trying to make. Of course California is also the stuff of dreams, of aspirations, an oasis for high-minded people who live in a multi-cultural soup on the borderlands of the future. In this way, it’s more like Hong Kong or London than Chicago. Everyone is from everywhere else. And there are only a few of us who are from here. And everyone thinks we’re simple.  And white. And we’re not. We’re complicated (And Mexican. Mostly.)
So I guess I could just say, as Jackson Brown once said of America: I love it here because my family is here and because it’s all I know

Dope Machines

You keep me up some nights, trying to figure what you mean.
I don’t know if it’s right. I don’t what you’re asking.
When you laugh and you say, “I was only joking.”
And it still feels wrong. I’m always asking these questions:
“Are you just playing dumb? Or trying to get a reaction?”
When you laugh and you say, “I was only joking.”
We got our eyes on screens, all of these dope machines.
Isn’t it funny how they feel so much like dreams?
Am I trying too hard, oh I’m not trying at all…
I see it in your eyes, I feel it in my bones,
You coming out tonight? We gonna end up alone?
Just so I could pretend I was only joking.
We got our eyes on screens, all of these dope machines.
Isn’t it funny how they feel so much like dreams?
Am I trying too hard, oh I’m not trying at all…
I got three or four things I’ve always wanted to tell you.
I got two or three secrets I don’t think you could handle.
A little closer to me, I was never joking.
Come a little closer to me, I was never joking.
It’s fair to say this song is a companion piece to One Time Thing, filling in the gaps of a particular kind of fling: so many pictures and texts — the digital detritus of attraction and flirtation in the modern world. Camera phones. Social media—we’ve taken all these things that are central to what it means to be human and digitized them into simple binary equations, algorithms and questions. Things like: Who do I like? Who likes me? What group(s) do I belong to? All these buggy little programs create a digital self that is a (mostly) polished reflection of our actual selves. And they’re addictive because they take the important questions, the ones we obsess over as humans, and quantify them into digestible bytes. Our social instincts, insecurities, and ambitions are primed and we are all over that shit.
On balance it’s all pretty stupid, because we know that we are far more complex than these silly little brands we turn ourselves into online. But if you consider for a moment how this entire thing is just a metaphor that we’ve agreed upon: that websites are “places” (which they absolutely are not, they’re programs), that these pictures and quotes are “people” (which they’re not, they’re like little magazine ABOUT people) — it’s fascinating. Two billion (or some number) people have all agreed upon one system of metaphors, these images on screens that we decipher in our brains and codify into massively complex virtual societies. What a bunch of brainy schmucks.
And if you happen to be reading this on some such device, in a metaphorical “space,”, well then allow me to simply say “hello and I hope your life brings you joy and that we can meet some day and have a coffee perhaps, or a pint.” Since that was the point of this whole thing anyway: to make us feel connected when we are in the lonely metaphorical spaces of our minds.

One Time Thing

When I woke up today, I got your message on my phone. You said, “Hey I had fun. Did you ever make it home?” I tried to read between the lines, “Oh yeah I’m doing fine. Feels like my head is made of moonshine and cheap-ass wine.” My best friend told me I should just stop looking for a sign.
So OK, you told me it was just a one time thing, a spark on gasoline. So what could I say? If you tell me it don’t mean a thing, yeah, somebody told me you were mean.
Then in a couple of days, I get this photograph of you. The message says, “You lonely too? Do you want to tell me what to do?” I thought maybe it was a line, when we spoke that one last time… ”sounds like your breath is full of moonshine
and cheap-ass wine.” My best friend told me I should just stop looking for a sign.
So OK, you told me it was just a one time thing, a spark on gasoline. So what could I say? If you tell me it don’t mean a thing, yeah, somebody told me you were like a machine and so damn mean. My mind’s torn to pieces every time I try to jump up on this trampoline.
Why don’t you tell me what you mean?
Why don’t you tell me I was just your mistake? How long can this take? How many sleepless nights can I go over every second while I’m lying awake?
So OK, if this is really just a one time thing, I think I’ve lost something. What else can I say? I don’t blame for a single thing. Yeah, somebody told me I should stay away. But I can’t help it, I want one more thing. Silence is deafening. I can’t put you away. And I don’t blame you for a single thing.
Yeah, somebody told me you were mean
This song developed out of two situations: one of which happened to a good friend and one of which happened to me. I love how he’s quite playful in his insouciance about the fling, while acknowledging (later, begrudgingly) what a massive event it actually was in his life. He kids about all this moonshine and cheap ass wine, meanwhile he can’t sleep, laying awake instead, wondering if he’s lost a chance at something great.

Wrong

All my young life, I’ve been trying to say just one thing right. Now we’ve come to the day. You’re here in my arms, I don’t know what to say.
I believe I was wrong, probably most of my life. Or I’m just hearing it wrong. I’m just watching the fire-light.
I see the look in your eyes, “Am I trying too hard? Am I doing this right?” So I fall down to my knees. I’m not easy to sooth; I’m never easy to please.
I believe I was wrong, probably most of my life. Or I’m just hearing it wrong. I’m just watching the fire-light. And I don’t care if it’s right. I know your friends are opposed. But we’ve still got tonight. We’ll just keep our eyes closed.
This was the first song I wrote for Dope Machines. I wrote it in a very specific situation with a very specific person in mind. I guess I see it as an Ode to Insecurity, though I think the speaker conflates his doubts with his rejection of social mores. Meaning: he chooses to be wrong. He doesn’t care about the values others may want to impose upon him. He makes his own sense of the world, fully aware that it is based upon partial/biased/incorrect information and he’s fine with that, since he’s wrestled with that damaged information and come to an honest conclusion: “I don’t care if we’re ‘WRONG.’ We’re staying here together, eyes closed in our ignorant, blissful embrace.” To put it bluntly: “Fuck ‘em. I choose you.”

Special March U.S. Tour Announced

Yes, this has been a crazy week for us, and it’s only Wednesday. Thanks so much to everyone who has bought our brand-new albums. Mind-blowing. To mark the release of Dope Machines this week, we’re excited to announce a limited run of very special audio/visual performances in select U.S. cities., beginning in Brooklyn and ending in San Diego. For these shows, we’ll be performing the new record, front to back (in addition, of course, to songs from our previous albums), with some surprises in store…

Dope550

Tickets go on sale this Friday at 10 a.m.

Wed March 11 – Brooklyn, NY – Warsaw – ON SALE FRI@10AM
Fri March 13 – Cleveland, OH – Trinity Cathedral – ON SALE FRI@10AM
Sat March 14 – Boston, MA – Paradise – ON SALE FRI@10AM
Tue March 17 – Chicago, IL – Metro – ON SALE FRI@10AM
Thu March 19 – Denver, CO – Sherman Event Center – ON SALE FRI@10AM
Fri March 20 – Denver, CO – Sherman Event Center – ON SALE FRI@10AM
Sat March 21 – San Francisco, CA – The Regency Ballroom – ON SALE FRI@10AM
Sun March 22 – Los Angeles, CA – Tower Theatre – ON SALE FRI@10AM
Tue March 24 – San Diego, CA – House of Blues – ON SALE FRI@10AM

Dope Machines, is out in North America NOW—as is our acoustic rock and roll record, Songs of God and Whiskey. You can get both in various bundles (including vinyl and signed copies) on our website, owned and operated by us, the band.

Note: There is one shipping fee per order… so if you order one item or 20 items, you will be charged one shipping and handling fee.

The album is also available on iTunes and Amazon.