Friday, September 4

The Story Behind The Song. Track 1 - I Tried Again

For those wondering about where I get my inspiration, I thought I'd write a bit about each of the songs on Mantoloking. I'll tell you about where the song ideas come from, the process of how it was written, etc. whatever's interesting. And if anyone's interested in hearing about Kinda Like Fireworks, I can go there as well.

For today, let's start at the top, with I Tried Again.

I Tried Again was one of those sound-first songs. Meaning that a particular guitar sound led to me playing a certain way, which led to a chord progression. Sometimes, my inspiration comes this way. Other times, it works other ways (as you will see.)

In this case, after Kinda Like Fireworks, I went out and bought an Electro-Harmonix Polyphonic Octave Generator (POG). I'll often get new gear after a record to force myself into new territory, and the POG is certainly unique. With it you can make your guitar sound like an organ, or in this case, like five or six sets of metal-chain swings on a playground. At least that's what I hear in my guitar tone for I Tried Again. When I play it, the upper-octave harmonics sound like the musical, high pitched "seee-saaaw, seee-saaw" that I'd hear coming from the swing sets on the playground in Montclair when I was growing up. Steve Fisk called me crazy for saying this, but I'm sticking to it. :)

So anyway, here I am with this awesome swingset guitar tone. I was initially playing the part on my strat (now I use my home-built Telecaster Bass VI). I had the verse part written, and maybe the chorus, too, but I can't remember. Then I took it to practice and we all played together and I started singing a "dum dum de daaa" melody over the chords. That's where the melody came from.

As to the lyrics, at this point, I probably had the verse and chorus chords and melodies more or less worked out, so I sat down with a big notebook and started writing words. "I Tried Again" popped out as a lead line phrase, and I liked the notion that it makes sense to say "I Tried Again" over and over again. So I started thinking about relationships, and how they can be like running over and over again into a wall if they're not working out so well (sometimes people just don't work together for some reason), so I started thinking about the ways that can play out in various circumstances. I always try to make the story arc over the course of the song, so I built from dysfunction to more dysfunction to eventual attempt at escape from one verse to the next. But I still needed a chorus.

The Chorus is what I think makes I Tried Again interesting. I'm reminded of a blog post by Derek Sivers about Kurt Vonnegut talking about our penchant to make drama in our lives. (I think I've read Vonnegut's thoughts about this before in one of his books or something, but Derek brought it back to my attention.) Sometimes people stay in really stupid relationships. The question is why? I think there are a lot of answers: fear of change, low self esteem, etc. But there's another possibility, and I think it's pretty common: boredom. People like rollercoasters. Crazy girlfriends or boyfriends are kind of like a rollercoaster (incidentally, this is why there's a rollercoaster on the cover of Kinda Like Fireworks. And a warning sign of a girl next to it :) They provide highs and lows. Sometimes more lows than highs, but a person who I respect once said to me that no person is so irrational that they stick in a situation in which they truly believe the cons outweigh the pros. By that logic, most people in bad relationships want, or at least choose to be in them. It's a choice to insist upon being with somebody who's steady and respectful and reliable and doesn't treat you like shit. A lot of people choose to go the other way. And sometimes, if you're a steady, respectful and reliable person, you get the raw end of that deal. People can mistake lack of drama for lack of passion. Or they can be terrified by the possibility that you - unlike the douche next door - might actually work out. It's scary to not have excuses, isn't it? Much easier to have a bad relationship and blame it on your partner. Then it's not your fault when it goes bad!

So anyway, those are some thoughts about I Tried Again. It's about boredom and the desire for drama. And it's about the consequences of seeking that drama out, and continuing to seek it out.

Enjoy! Next up: Track 2, I Just Need My Car.

- Jesse Kates / Download our music for FREE