Skip to content

Song Sources – “Ones and Zeroes”

October 2, 2014

This is part of an ongoing series about our recordings. To read more in this series, click on the category “Song Sources: Stories behind the recordings.”

This is the song I wrote after seeing Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. Maybe I should go to the movies more than twice a decade …

Lyrics

Unfortunately, I’m still playing a different game from everyone else, and mine doesn’t give me a cool flaming sword. But everyone else has one. #pleasehelp

The lyrics read as if it’s a breakup song, but they’re actually about how I don’t get along with some types of technology. On my personal blog, I wrote a post about what it was like to spend an entire year without owning a phone and without touching Facebook and the like (though 6 months I cheated and posted to Twitter). I still don’t own a phone, not even a ‘dumb’ phone. Shortly before embarking on that experiment, I wrote a few lines and verses trying to get into words what it felt like to have the world start to require electronic interaction at the expense of basically everything else. This set of lyrics is what I came up with while thinking a bit about the Scott Pilgrim movie. The aesthetics of the movie are sort of built around technology intermingling with organic life. It’s like we were all turning ourselves into cyborgs.

Oh I can’t imagine, a heart like an engine
It goes on and on and on and on and on
It’s been far to long in coming, it’s all become so numbing
It goes on and on and on and on and on

A picture of a human heart.

I’m a pretty staunch humanist, so it’s pretty depressing. I’m also “a little” anti-social, and while a lot of older people seem to think that sitting at a table with your phone in hand is an antisocial activity, it really isn’t. Being completely wired into these devices is hypersocialization. People are literally so connected all the time that they can’t get away from each other. Someone sends a message and you’re expected to either respond immediately or wait some predetermined number of minutes before replying so you don’t seem desperate. Until my now-wife moved in with me, I didn’t have the internet in my apartment. Smart phones have become so ubiquitous that people just take and post photos of anything and everything all the time and it’s completely obliterating any sense of compartmentalization and privacy.

Turn out the lights
Put on your coat
It isn’t just the good ones that go —
It isn’t just the good ones that go

Sometimes you just want everything to stop being so noisy, whether it’s the person or people you’re with or maybe the whole world.

It’s probably a good thing I don’t have access to The Button.

I suppose one could just go hide somewhere for a while instead, but explosions look cooler.

You’re not alive unless you’re bleeding
This victory’s just conceding
It goes on and on and on and on and on
I don’t have a lot of answers, I made a mess of second chances
It goes on and on and on and on and on

I was a little disappointed that I never came up with something else to replace the “on and on and on and on and on” line in the second verse, but I really couldn’t find something else that both sounded monotonous and a little mean at the same time, so I reused it. Paradoxically it makes it easier to screw up the lyrics.

And I’m not sorry for impropriety
I’m not sorry for insecurity
I’m just sorry that I’m breaking your heart

The ending sounds more sarcastic when discussing a song about technology rather than two people fighting, but it was pretty bitter being addressed to another person, too. The song wasn’t meant to be sweet, I guess.

By the way, the best thing that ever came from my hatred of cell phones? This wonderful Christmas present I got last year:

Music

I have a feeling the solo would have sounded a bit different if I’d used this instead.

When I first wrote it, the song sounded completely different. It was much quieter, and I think I actually wrote it on the banjo. I think the transformation into a pop song was one of those cases of trying everything until something sticks that we sometimes employed in band practice. Just adding the drums was a big change.

Having Jen double the vocals here didn’t really have any special meaning this time around. To be honest, the biggest reason was that I wanted more of Jen’s vocals in the song and I preferred the unison vocals to a harmony. It does add a bit more of an edge than my vocal would have had alone.

The verse is built around a really simple I-vi progression for the main lines, with a build during the “on and on” parts, with the guitar and bass doing slightly different climbs. The first time through it deflates a bit by modulating to a minor chord, and the second time it goes to a dominant 7th chord to build tension.

The solo was originally improvised in practice and I did my best to duplicate it in future play-throughs.

Recording

Like all the tracks on this recording, the piano is Chris’s upright, and the drums were recorded to a scratch track Jen and I did on another day. Building the rest of it was fairly straightforward and there’s really not too much to talk about on this.

I was definitely a little disappointed with my guitar solo. I’ve had trouble recreating the sound and feel of the first time I played it, and listening back to it, I wanted the guitar to scream a bit more and ended up sounding too polite, and it just sounds different from what I was hoping to capture. We used the DQcaster through the lead channel on the amp, and Chris fiddled with the settings on my fuzz and amp until he heard what he wanted. We did come up with a pretty cool little trick where we put a de-esser on the guitar to compress the guitar around 2Khz only. I later went back and overdubbed in some feedback to get a bit more sound.

Otherwise, I’m pretty happy with how the track came out overall.

Here’s how to play it if anyone’s interested:

Verse

D                 D6(B)           D                      D6(B)
Oh I can’t imagine, a heart like an engine
D            A/E         D/F#     D           G             Gm (the guitar does D5 > D/E > D/F# > D/G > G > Gm)
It goes on and on and on and on and on
D                 D6(B)           D                      D6(B)
It’s been far to long in coming, it’s all become so numbing
D            A/E         D/F#     D           A            A7 (the guitar does D5 > D/E > D/F# > D/G > A > A7)
It goes on and on and on and on and on

Chorus

Bm                     A
Turn out the lights
Bm                     A
Put on your coat
Bm       A             Bm     A                 G            D
It isn’t just the good ones that go —    Oh
Bm       A              G        A                (back to verse pattern)
It isn’t just the good ones that go

Last time through the chorus ends on a Bm, then

                          G                             A
And I’m not sorry for impropriety
G                         A
I’m not sorry for insecurity
G                           A                          D
I’m just sorry that I’m breaking your heart

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: