I opened up our band interview for any of us to ask any of the others questions too. Here’s the second (and final) part. —Keir

TO BRYN: You truly became the sole vocalist during this period. How did that change your guitar playing or your singing, if at all?


BRYN: It was a huge confidence booster, really. That all the other band members trusted me to take care of this aspect of the music—especially that Keir trusted me to sing his lyrics—was very reassuring. I get up in front of 150 students every day now and a big part of why I don’t find that intimidating, I think, is because I figure that if you can sing in front of people without being too embarrassed then just talking is easy. As far as the band dynamic, being the lead vocalist made me totally willing to settle back into a more rhythm-based role for guitar, too. Well, that and the fact that by then Brian had become a way better guitar player than me. That helped too.

TO BRIAN: Your current music with Rebekah in the Neuro Farm is obviously a differently awesome animal, but can you draw parallels to anything from this period? What did you learn back then that you applied to what you’re creating now?


BRIAN: I definitely learned a lot in terms of composition, since I only started with songwriting for Honey White (and even then didn’t do that much). And I learned a lot about recording/production from watching Jon in the studio. My role has changed a lot in TNF, since I don’t do much lead guitar anymore, instead doing a lot more rhythm stuff. There’s definitely a lot of continuity from Honey White to TNF though; my love of delay, distortion, and reverb is a love that will never die.

TO BILL: You got to work with more gear about that time, correct? I remember you tried out a new huge snare for that record. How did that change your playing, if at all?


BILL: It’s a little hard for me to remember but I do remember that I did change it up for the recording a little. Yeah the biggest thing was breaking out the full size snare that I hand made myself. It’s funny cause yes it seemed absolutely HUMONGOUS, but really that’s because all my other drums are on the small side. It’s an average sized snare. After years of playing the near picalito cocktail snare, I was anxious to have a big full snare sound and I built that snare around that thought. It definitely changed my playing. At times it was really tough to flow around the kit, pieces were literally twice as far away as usual because of the snare. It was hard to come to grips with the big full snare sound also, but at some points it was EXACTLY what was in order. I remember hitting the snare the first few times recording polarity and just feeling, “yes!” By the end I was slamming the thing as hard as I dared and absolutely LOVING the shotgun like quality.

TO KEIR: Your lyrics were a huge contribution to the band, and I know they meant a lot to you at the time. How do they sit with you in retrospect? Are there any lyrics in particular from these songs that have stuck with you over the years, that you still think about?

KEIR: Lyrics always mean much more to me than they probably should. I don’t think too many people listen closely to them anyway, but as a word guy I’ve always been one of those people who does. Plus coming up with tunes isn’t as easy for me as it is for others, so I like the challenge of augmenting someone else’s music with words. Furthermore, cramming something into a song lyric, and dispatching it within three verses, a chorus, and maybe a bridge, has proven to be a great method of exorcising a particular worry/hangup/problem so that I never have to think about it much again.

On this record I wrote lyrics for “Mercy Rule,” “Blacking Out,” “Island Fever,” “Sweet Oblivion,” and “Famous Last Words.” I still like all of them, and I do think a few of them stack up there with my very best stuff overall. My only problem with them is—with the exception of “Mercy Rule,” which was written earlier than the rest—they all take themselves a little too seriously. I was definitely still in Earnest Young Man mode, even at 27-28. Three of those lyrics (“Oblivion,” “Island,” and “Last Words,”) were about feeling stuck and not knowing what to do next in life, but knowing that the status quo wasn’t it. The latter two were also deliberate exercises in minimalism; could I say what I needed to say in as few words as possible, and still make them catchy or rhyme?


They seem to hold up pretty well. “Blacking Out” as a lyric works much better than it should for having no chorus (!), and though the metaphor is a little ham-fisted (staggering drunk around Isla Vista = USA invading Iraq) I think it’s figurative enough to not come off too pretentious. “Mercy Rule” is sort of a sequel to the older song “Fatal Flaws,” in that it’s a way for me to purge a selfish, whiny, “my job sucks” attitude so that I can get on with life.

Put together with Bryn’s observations on homesickness and loneliness in “Let Go” and “Keep Moving,” plus his own take on I.V. insanity in “Bottlerocket,” the album does lean a bit on the heavy angsty side. Even “Polarity” gets a bit dramatic without words. That’s why “Sean Goes to Africa” is so perfect: it’s a giant middle finger to the rest of the songs—because it’s crazy and funny and as we all know Sean got out and did purposeful things in the world way before we did. And it does all that without words—which in a way renders any of my lyrics redundant, right?