A song starts with a gut-wrenching, heart-ripping, feeling of utter despair — or just when I’m sitting on my bed thinking about what to eat. It’s always this thing that needs to get out of me. Sometimes it feels as if there is going to be a song explosion or I’m going to vomit. Those times I can finish a song in under an hour, words and all. It’s like the song was already written and I was a radio picking up waves and debuting it on the air. I’ve written some of my best songs that way. The song “Oh No” was a song explosion — it wasn’t there, and then it was there.
Then there is the other way to write song, which is not as easy. In fact it can be quite grueling. I’ll come up with an idea — it might be chords and a line to the chorus or even just a melody that could be a verse or a chorus. So I’ll sit down with the hope of having a “song explosion” and play the idea but nothing happens, and everything else around it sucks. I know the idea is good, and sometimes it’s really good. I just keep trying and trying — it might take a couple weeks or even a few months. Finally, when I have all the other parts and am still probably missing lyrical lines here and there, the next frustrating part happens…What order do the parts go in? It can take a while for a song to sink into its final form, whether it be repeating a chorus again, adding an instrumental part, or the song is already there and you just have to play it 500 times to get the feel right. By the end it’s like the song was finished out of frustration. Neither way of writing songs is better than the other; they both produce great songs and bad songs, it’s just that one is much easier.
Jeff Lewis and I, Chris Jennings, make up the Sun Parade, and we write a lot of songs together. We have gone through both those processes together. “Bottom of the Sea” was written during many cold attic sessions in the late winter. We would come together with many ideas and then throw them out and start again. The lyrics never made sense, the structure got boring, and we didn’t know what to do. We actually tossed the song for awhile and didn’t realize it was a good song until we recorded it in the studio while recording the album, and now it’s on it and is one of our best live songs. Then there is the song “Taste,” which was written in my kitchen one night while Jeff and I were eating food. We were just goofing around jamming and next thing we know we had it. We finish each other’s songs, we write ones together, we just play on the others — it’s all cool.