Yeah‚ you know‚ you have some bad fucking days…
Right. [laughs] Insanity you don't act on?
Right! Exactly.
And so‚ what do you think about that character?
Well‚ it's funny you would say that. I mean‚ both of those songs are just… semi-autobiographical. And they're not really telling any particular story. You know what I mean? It's just imagery. I looked at the progression of my songs on the album and it sort of scares me a little‚ you know? Everything I write is kind of autobiographical‚ and it's just weird when I go back and see the progression of the songs. It's like‚ "OK‚ maybe I needed a break here at one point." [laughter] So you can see a serious difference between my moods in the very first song and the very last song. But they're both coming from me‚ being backed by some experience. So it's definitely a little‚ umm… bipolar I think. Maybe I forgot to take my medication. [laughter]
Well‚ outside of the autobiographical part of it‚ I think it's interesting that you express the characters so well.
You mean like with the vocals?
Yeah‚ the vocals. Those characters come alive in the songs.
Well‚ the other song you mentioned‚ "Blues Jeans Pizza‚" is loosely based around my last year at home‚ both remembering experiences and partially nonsense. You can apply everything you see and everything you hear‚ and your memory‚ to quote-unquote "characters." At least that's the way I do it. Like someone will say something funny to me. Or‚ this is a good example-some would call this "stealing‚" but I call it "listening and using" [laughter]: there's a line in a tune I wrote called "Brent Black" where it's‚ "It's not the drinking of the suds you partake / It's more the clinking and the toast that you make." And that was something that I remember from when I was just first in college in Buffalo. Chuck [Garvey]‚ from the band‚ was telling me about his ninety-year-old grandmother‚ who was from Germany‚ and she used to have a drink every single day and say [in accent]‚ "Charlie‚ my boy! I could have an aspirin or I could have a drink. But a drink tastes better!" And then she would say something to the effect of‚ "The drinking is not as important as the clinking." And that would be her toast! [laughter] I just thought that was the funniest thing. When you're writing‚ you take something you hear like that‚ and you can apply it. I kind of want to enact a character that I make up‚ or somebody who is real‚ who I can give a new personality or a changed personality. That's sort of my style in writing‚ I guess.
Right‚ definitely. I've been listening to you guys for over ten years‚ and it's funny to watch the whole songwriting process evolve. Some of these great songs have really lasted. But also‚ I guess maybe my ears have matured. I can pick up a lot of different things that I really appreciate more now.
Well‚ I hope that my songwriting now isn't the same as it was when I first started in the band‚ because I'm a completely different person. I'm a dad of three‚ married‚ and I have different concerns with the world and a different lifestyle altogether. I feel like I've matured‚ and in more than one way. And I think that my songwriting is going to take on more interesting topics than‚ like‚ you know‚ "Dr. Graffenberg." [laughter]
Something that is a little more challenging to people's sensibilities‚ I guess.
How does it feel to play those songs now?
Well‚ I had stopped playing "Dr. Graffenberg" because I just thought it was… really stupid. [laughter] We had stopped for a while‚ but people wanted it back‚ or someone wanted it‚ so I decided to just take one for the team and play it. But I still feel completely idiotic singing it. "Don't Fuck With Flo" is another one where I'm just like‚ "All right. Whatever."
How old were you when you wrote that song?
That was the second song I wrote‚ I think. Or my third. I was probably like eighteen or something. [laughter] I'm thirty-eight now‚ so I was probably twenty.
Well‚ do you still identify with that person?
[long pause] No! [laughter] What‚ Flo? Or the guy who wrote that song?