Here Comes Nothing Fun Facts
You're A Curiosity was originally planned for the completed-but-never-released concept album "101 Things Ghosts Told Me About Life", an album that dealt with the subjects of life, death, fleeting time, and contemplation of one's own mortality. Many of the songs ended up becoming way too dark and heavy in theme to for a T.S. Octopus project, and were mostly ditched, but some of the songs on it were too good to ditch, including "You're A Curiosity" which was going to be the opener on that CD, the song that "started the day". Subsequently, another song was written for this spot on the 101 Things CD called "Wake Up", and it was never decided which one would fill the opening slot. "Wake Up", a similarly styled 12-string jangly pop song, will be released on an upcoming CD by T.S. Octopus, and can be heard in their live sets.
The following info about Mr. Kensington comes from a T.S. Octopus interview done with Starcityscene.com:
SCS: What about Mr. Kensington, is there really such a person?
Tery: That songs is about a couple of things. Mostly, it's a blanket condemnation of rich people. When I lived in N.Y. I used to work in a town called Great Neck which is on the north shore of Long Island. Population-wise and geographically it's very small, but per capita, it's one of the richest towns in the United States. I worked at several different jobs in that town including ones where I'd be waiting on people in stores, and some jobs that involved going into people's homes. Seeing how incredibly self-centered they are, and dismissive of other people made me come to dislike them as a group. One of the neighborhoods in Great Neck is called Kensington, so I just used that as a generalized representation for all of them, they're all Mr. Kensington. It's also in a lesser way about money not being able to buy happiness, and that all the money in the world won't keep you from being an asshole...it seems the opposite is true, the more of it you have, the bigger an asshole you are. It's also not just that area, I've seen the same thing up in Omaha and Lincoln.
Having said all that, I feel the need to add that Mr. Kensington reflected a state of mind that I was in when I wrote it. I don't actually have any long term, deep-seated resentment towards rich people in general. I'm hoping to become a rich asshole myself someday! It also doesn't mean that all rich people are like them, but a preponderance of those I've met are. I also really love the town of Great Neck, it's just the attitudes of a lot of the people who live there I have issues with...
Lying To Me is about someone I was in a band with in the past who was a notorious liar. It sucks to be in those situations, when you can't trust anything the person says. It turned out to be easier to capture the essence of that in a "guy-girl relationship" type format then just between two bandmates or people, plus it's a bit more natural to go that way in the pop music format.
Flower is a funny song to me because it was inspired by a ridiculous conversation that took place between two REALLY stoned guys. One of them was trying to describe to the other how messed up his life was, and how he didn't seem to be able to make ready sense of the world in the way he imagined the rest of us can, but instead of just describing it that way, he was using a metaphor of a jigsaw puzzle of a flower to describe life, and saying that everyone else could look at the pieces and make a beautiful flower, but he could never get the puzzle together, and if he did it didn't look like a flower at all. Just telling the story here, of course, doesn't do justice to just how hilarious hearing the conversation was. The dude talking about the puzzle was super whiny and overwrought, and the other guy who was listening to his sad tale of woe was overly-understanding of his plight. The actual line "everyone else's flower is so perfectly put together" is the only one that comes directly from the conversation, the rest I wrote to give a general feel for what occured.
The following info about Ella Going Backwards comes from a T.S. Octopus interview done with Starcityscene.com:
SCS: Do you remember where you were when you wrote "Ella Going Backwards"?
Tery: Interesting you ask about that one in particular, because that's probably the ONLY one off the album I could tell you about with any specificity. I wrote it on a napkin in the car leaning against the steering wheel when I was driving home from work one day. It was literally penned starting at the intersection of Touzlain & Adams and ending at the intersection of N.63rd St & Holdredge. I actually sat at the stop sign on 63rd st and finished the last verse while checking my rear-view mirror to make sure no one came up behind me. Sometimes I write music first add lyrics later, sometimes the other way around. On RARE occasions I get both, lyric and music, at the same time, and basically as soon as you're done writing down the lyrics you've got a completed song. I remember singing the lyric to myself as I was writing the lyrics down, as if I already knew the song. It's kind of weird when that happens. I need to get those down quickly so I don't forget them. It really sucks if that happens and I don't have paper and a pen around, a guitar is nice too. Lemon-Lime World! off my last album was that same way.
Caution City originally started out as a song called "God" which was a scathing hate letter to God written after my mom died of cancer. That song was pretty much just the music from the chorus of Caution City. "God" was obviously never going to be released, but I lilked the music too much to scrap it so it developed into Caution City. Incedentally, I don't believe in God, so It was quite shocking to me to have written that original version of the song. On a technical note, I had never intended to put C.C. together with Ella the way they ended up. That actually fell together during mastering with Mark Wolberg, and that was entirely Mark's doing. He tacked the the "reversed" ending onto Ella by copying the last few measures and flipping it around, but he didn't move Caution City further away so the two songs would have the normal amount of space between them, so Caution City started while the end of Ella was fading out, and I loved it so much my head almost exploded. We pulled them even closer together so there was like no space between them. I really loved how that came out, just one of those happy accidents, and a great job by Mark.
Magnetic North is actually a really old song written in like 1997. I hadn't intended for it to be on this album at all, it was going to be on an EP to come out sometime in the future. There was a song on an earliler version of HCN called "Blinded By The Sun" that was going to be the album opener, that I ended up pulling, but that made an already short CD even shorter, and I didn't want to release it as an E.P. Jeff and I had recorded drum tracks for Mag North when we did the rest of the HCN tracks, just because Jeff knew that song from when we played in Starboy, so I went back and recorded the rest of that track and put it on. Mastering had already begun on the disk when this switch was made, which tells how late in the process this occured. I like the CD much better with Blinded off and Mag North on. I'm sure Blinded will surface on some future release.
Anytime I record an album, when the demos are all done and I have a close to finished idea of the sequencing, I have a particular group of people, mostly friends and family who I'll let listen to it to get their feedback so I can get some objective opinions, and make any final adjustments to if it I need to. Pretty much accross the board, everyone said of United Lemmings Ltd. "This song is too short, why is it so short? It should be longer!" My reply, of course was "because that's how long the song is!" While writing it, I said everything that needed to be said in it, and adding to it just for the sake of conforming with "conventional song structure" would have ruined it for me. If you think it's too short, play it 2 or 3 times in a row. On a side note, one of the people in this group that I go to for feedback is my father-in-law, who's also a musician, and whose opinion I trust. After listening to the CD he said: "You know, it doesn't ALL have to sound like The Beatles!" True, but since that was kind of one of my goals with this song, then it's a huge compliment.
Quality Western Star is the name of a Truck Dealership somewhere in the midwest, I can't remember where. Back when Guided by Voices was still together, Amy and I used to drive all over the country to go see them. One time when we were on a trip to see them in Oberlin, OH, we paseed by this truck dealer that was called Quality Western Star, and something about the name grabbed me, and I knew I would write a song called that, which I did as soon as I got back home from the trip. Lyrically it's kind of an amalgam of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and Star Light, Star Bright, so it took about two seconds to write.
I have NO idea whatsoever what Braindolls is about! It's just one of those stream of conciousness songs I write every now and again.