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The lyrics are dark, but the songs are buoyant
John Brodeur of Bird Streets
Cris Cohen: And then, in terms of some of the writing choices, specifically “Machine,” which was released as the first single. You mentioned that it's about being haunted by someone who's not around anymore, which is a very heavy kind of thought. However, the song, particularly the chorus, has a very upbeat feel. And it works really well. Was that a conscious choice or was that just the muse whispering in your ear, “This is how this is supposed to go?”
John Brodeur of Bird Streets: That's the ultimate thing in my writing. That comes from listening to artists like… I think all my favorites do that. Elliot Smith used to do that a lot. That's the one who is going to come to mind is always Elliot Smith. But there are a lot of other great examples of that, where the lyrics are dark, but the songs are buoyant and melodic. And in this particular case, it's almost kind of a dance song. It's got that vibe. I think that mostly came from playing it with the people that I played with.
Cris Cohen: But, at least for me, I found myself… you would end up singing the chorus. And it's happy and this great earworm. But then you realize, “Oh my God, what am I singing?”
John Brodeur: <Laugh> Yeah. But we all go through it, right? We all ruminate over things. We all get stuck on memories.
It's really about my ex and when you're with somebody for a long time… we were married for more than 10 years and then all of a sudden it's like we moved on to other things. But there are still those things where you turn a corner, you go into a certain room, and you're like, “Oh yeah. This place.” It's those things. It's heavy, but it's not dark to me. It's just life.
Also, this record doesn't have a lot of big, catchy choruses. The first record had a lot more of that. And it needed that. So <laugh>, yeah. This was the one. This got the call.
Cris Cohen: And that is an interesting aspect because, going from the first album to this one, it's like, okay, this is way more contemplative. I'm exercising some demons on this one, but it's got the hooks intermixed with it. It also reminds me… have you ever heard of a song by Elvis Costello called, “This Is Hell”?
John Brodeur: Oh my God. Off of “Brutal Youth.” Yes.
Cris Cohen: Yeah. Same thing. He's singing about these awful things in this world, but it's such a happy song. It made me think of that. And I would also say that speaks to your talent as a songwriter, that you can do this Elvis Costello thing, where it's happy and catchy, and yet you're addressing some darker subject matter.
John Brodeur: Yeah, he was probably the first songwriter I think that I heard… like him and Michael Penn. And although Michael's stuff isn't quite as dark… but those are the guys that, when I first heard them in the late 80s or whatever, I was like, “That's what I want to do.”
But Elvis specifically, he would write about these kind of heavy, miserable things with just like these huge Beatles melodies. And, you know, he's one of my top three probably.
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