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Song Sources: White Noise

October 24, 2022

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.”

Inspired loosely by Don Delillo’s novel of the same name, the lyrics share one of the themes in the novel, such as fear of death, and of whittling away at the things in your life while simultaneously hoarding things with the thought that they can somehow save you from death. For the song in particular, the narrators fear truly simplifying their life because they worry that it feels like dying, even though they feel suffocated by the amount of clutter in their life.

By Author Don DeLillo; publisher Viking Adult.Original uploader of image was Csuper at English Wikipedia – Photo of book cover, widely available online, Public Domain,

Chris Freeland called this song one of the “corners” of the album, something that helps define the edges of the album’s content. It’s another from the pile that I gave him in 2020, and another song that despite a literary connection (which I’m quite fond of for Midway Fair), probably wouldn’t have ended up on an album without outside influence. Chris’s work on the recording made a big difference in this case, resulting in a much more sophisticated track.

Apparently the book has been adapted to a film. Maybe I’ll get some extra plays from confused moviegoers …


It started simple, threw out one thing at a time
Last night’s dinner, some unworn old clothes
We started simple, how’d it all get out of hand?
Who knows, who knows

White noise
The constant background whispers
White noise
It can all be done without
We are all scattered in the end
Isn’t that what scares us most
That everything gets lost

As times got leaner, we had less and less to give
But we gave it anyway, willing and uncowed
Destroyed the baggage, it all seemed a waste of time
Who knows, who knows

I won’t let your love be wasted, please don’t be a waste of mine
I won’t let your love be wasted, please don’t be a waste of mine
I won’t let your love be wasted, please don’t be a waste of mine
I won’t let your love be wasted, please don’t be a waste of mine

I wrote the song with some half-remembered snippets of the plot rolling around in my brain. At some point after I finished the song, I went back and read a synopsis and realized how much of the story I had completely forgotten, but the scenes that really stuck out to me were in the early parts of the novel, with the characters cleaning out the refrigerator or tossing possessions in the trash, and the overwhelming tension reading it of

but I need my things

and of the novel making me ashamed to think that.

Most of the later scenes of man-made world-ending disasters didn’t stick with me quite as much.

The song of course isn’t a retelling of the plot of the novel, and was just inspired by it.

So I thought: What are the things that I feel like I need? “Need” is a weird, loaded word. What does it mean to need a thing if it’s not something actually necessary for keeping you alive? Some part of me needs my guitar because it’s one of the things that helps me make sense of the world. There are things in the house that remind me of people I love, or are memory tokens. I’m sure I don’t need the hundreds of books on my shelves, and gosh are they a pain when moving house, but they teach me about other people or inspire me.

So the characters in the story got to the point where they had stripped everything from their lives together, reducing whatever life they had built to a nihilistic argument that “we’re all scattered in the end,” so nothing really matters.

Music and Recording

I was still getting back into the swing of recording in early 2020, but except for Chris’s drum part (which he wrote), the original demo was surprisingly complete: It has the stacked lead vocals (“we” was very important in the song), the “bing bong” chimes on the guitar, the arpeggiated guitar, and the lead guitar theme is almost exactly the same. There are things I still prefer about the original vocals, particularly a couple lines in the bridge. But I had to rerecord it since it wasn’t to a click track.

I tried for a much more dynamic arrangement, mostly muting parts when they weren’t absolutely necessary and layering up the slide guitars, and then sent it to Chris for drums.

This was one of the tracks where I gave him completely free reign, and what he sent me back still makes me giggle because it’s so clever: In the verses, the bass drum is on 2 and 4, where the snare would normally be. There’s no snare in the verses. Chris lifted the chorus part from one of his parts on an OXES song. The snare plays what would normally be done on the hi-hats, and the hi-hats play what would normally be on the snare. Everything shuffled around. It’s delightfully weird.

We fussed over the dynamics quite a bit during mixing and this one went through a lot of revisions until Chris was satisfied with it.

I always got the sense that he was much more attached to this particular song than I was. Chris told me once he has always thought of me as more of a rock singer (he wants me to wear a leather jacket, while I’m over here wearing a sport jacket), and maybe this is more like the material he thinks I should write more of. I’m not sure if I avoid writing stuff like this because I am not good at it (because, duh, I don’t practice writing it), or if it’s just not what I really want to be good at. It’s certainly fun to sing, though my rapidly advancing age and the two years I took off from regularly performing meant that the shouting, half-screamed chorus was extra rough on the vocal chords. I’ve gotten a little closer to being able to do it without immediately making myself hoarse.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Steve Patton permalink
    October 24, 2022 11:42 am

    Hmmmm. Yep! Minimalism is a pretty limited practice. When you come down to it, what do any of us need beyond sustenence? I don’t even know after 75 years if I could answer such a question, but clearly posessions are burdensome in so many ways I am often tempted to test the limits. I will have to check out the novel. Interesting song, although I’m not sure that i would have understood the concept from just listening to it without knowing what you share here.

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