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Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Sleepwalker's Bed: Saints and Prodigals

I don't do well with absolutes, as you can probably tell by the "Greatness/Mediocrity" couplet. But the majority of my family is capable of believing the Bible has all the answers. My uncle once thanked God for the "ties we share not just of blood, but of faith," as if belief were a genetic inevitability like light eyes or wide hips.

Faith is a wonderful thing but one that requires that I exert myself to find. In some ways it would have been easier if I despised it. But instead I doubted, and doubting is hard, and I wished I didn't. I never felt like I fit into either the saintly or wild preacher's daughter archetypes, so I felt like I fraud. I staged small rebellions by listening to rock music and dyeing weird streaks in my hair.

This song, like several on the second half of the album, is about stepping outside the saint vs. prodigal narrative. It's about solidarity with the doubters and the beauty of not having all the answers. It's about coming as you are.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Sleepwalker's Bed: Abdication

This was one of the last songs I wrote for this album. "Abdicate in the Lines," along with the "To Hell With…" tracks, are sort of meant to be "the morals of the story." I meant this song as a sweeping statement against pornography in defense of women.

This is the only track I recorded actual acoustic percussion for instead of just using software instruments, but you would still never find me in the studio playing drums. I made beats with snipping scissors, zipping zippers, cracking knuckles and a squeaking chair to give the percussion an artificial feel— a feel of alteration, of surgery.

Four years later, I think this song — and most of the album, and much of my pre-New York life — makes the female character out to be too much of a helpless victim. But its essential message still rings true: a lack of honesty will destroy a relationship.

Oh, and by the way— "Abdicate in the Lines" means to give up what makes you special in the way that everyone expects you to.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Sleepwalker's Bed: Making My Own Fairy Tale

This song is a feminist anthem.

No, I'm serious! Okay, okay, let me back up.

I wrote this song about a boy. Surprise, surprise. I thought he would save me — not just my soul, but my music as well.

You see, he was a keyboard player, one I considered much more skilled than I was. He could improvise and I couldn't; he made all sorts of nice synth arrangements when I was trapped in piano/vocal; he was in two (relatively) successful local bands and I rarely played my own music live. Becoming his girlfriend felt like watching my ship come in. I saw this future where we played in bands together, he produced my records, and we got married at like 18.

Needless to say, that never happened (and thank heavens it didn't — it would've been domesticide, just like the book trailer!). But I wrote this song about him. It originally had a one-handed piano part and an unsingable vocal line so rapid that all the words got mushed together in an endless breathy whisper. Despite encouragement from friends who praised its innocence and vulnerability, I shelved it.

Then came college, where I learned how to do things that previously seemed outside my own capabilities. I made my own arrangements, I started playing my own music live, and I even learned how to improvise (a little). And I found the courage to pick up this song again and rewrite it.

Instead of waiting for someone else to swoop in and save my music for me, I did it myself. That's the whole story of A History of Sleepwalking, really. To make my own fairy tale.