It’s been almost a year since we last spoke Thrifty Astronaut and Nick has certainly been busy crafting the follow up to the superb ‘Caffeine Heartache’. Rather than run with the usual Q&A interview we decided to set Nick a challenge and describe to us track by track his new record ‘Apple-Eaters’. Each track description is also accompanied by a stream which means you can listen as you read. How cool is that?
1. Oh Orwell(or Oh Well)
This is one of the songs on the album that took the longest to write (over a year), and as is probably obvious, it is pretty hostile towards humanity. I’ve grown up next to the largest reservoir near Fort Collins, which stores much of the drinking and irrigation water for the city and surrounding area. It also inspired me to write this song. My first reaction was to scoff at it for being artificial and an affront to nature, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt like it was really just about as natural as anything else. Man is just another animal after all, if an invasive species and we seem to have a deep, instinctual drive to alter our surroundings in extreme ways. So I guess the song ended being about this paradoxical relationship we have with nature and also the idea that humans will go extinct someday just like any other species.
This song was inspired by a J.D. Salinger short story called “Teddy.” In it there is a religious guru of sorts who explains his beliefs using the story of Adam and Eve saying that the Apple of Eden was the root of logic and intellectual thinking that made it impossible for man to have clarity of mind. So I guess the song, and the rest of the album as well, deals with that kind of disillusionment. In short, the song and album title are allusions to a reference to a metaphor in a parable.
3. She Could Drive Me Crazy
There is a lot less to explain with this song. It is really a fairly straightforward love song, if a little unsettling. It is probably written somewhere in the Pop Music Guidebook that every artist has to do at least one vaguely creepy song about obsession and pining from afar. I think Sting accidentally read that page more than once.
This is by far the oldest song on the album, written even before most of the songs on my first album Caffeine Heartache. However, I wasn’t actually able to record it in a satisfying way until this summer. I’ve always had a soft-spot for very early Appalachian hillbilly country and folk music and I guess this song is one of several that pay tribute to that style of song writing. With a little more drum machine and keyboard.
5. Teenage Sunburns
I went to a beach party at a lake house last year and my shins ended up covered in the most vicious, painful sunburns that I had ever gotten. You can’t help but feel like an idiot in that situation because it is obvious what will happen if someone as pale as me wears shorts and doesn’t re-apply sunscreen regularly. Yet, you are somehow surprised by how things ended up. I guess the sunburns seemed analogous for the whole teenage experience, so I wrote a song about them.
6. She’s Such a Riot
This song was written during the riots and protests in Egypt and the beginnings of the Arab Spring. I started out just kind of writing about the excitement of an oppressive and obsolete regime being toppled by the people, but it quickly became more about the way we romanticize revolution than the revolution itself. Playing it live I always ended it with a chorus of “Anarchy in the UK,” but I re-arranged it for the album and ended up owing much more to the Pixies than the Sex Pistols. I aimed to get that same noisy layered guitar chaos that they used so much on Surfer Rosa and Doolittle. With the toy keyboard bouncing in the background, it reminds me of how an ice-cream truck might sound if it caught fire.
7. Everything is Shit (Free Download)
I wrote and recorded this song within the span of about a week, so it was one of the quickest, but also one of my favourites. I started with the line “Would it cramp your style, if I were to hang around for a little while?” I thought that would be the chorus so I wrote most of the other lyrics thinking it would be a fairly straightforward, if self deprecating, love song. Then, I came up with the more profane hook and committed much more to that. I think it brought into the light a more cynical side of the song, which I thought was more interesting. It is ironic though because it is probably the most poppy, radio-friendly song on the album but it won’t be heard in many public places.
8. Wow and Flutter (Free Download)
I tried to write this song without trying to attach meanings to all the lines, and instead just stringing together irrational images and phrases. However, the more I worked on it, the more I started to realize what it did mean to me and why these things had surfaced from my subconscious. So in that way it was sort of a failure for what I had set out to do originally. Luckily, I think it actually struck a nice balance between the atmosphere that I had first aimed for and the literal meaning that I later ascribed to it.
9. Love, Destroyer
The words and melody for this song came really quickly, but the music took a while. The first version I did was really mellow with all 8-bit keyboards and acoustic guitar, and then I tried it again, a little bit faster with electric guitars and piano. It still sounded fairly awkward until I started playing with a drummer and we worked out the final arrangement of the song which finally had the right sense of urgency. I’m interested in the idea of love as a source of conflict and pain, instead of the life-affirming love that we typically think off. I don’t write many songs that draw more inspiration from others’ lives than my own, but this is certainly one and it stands out to me on the album because of that.
10. God is a Naked Woman
This is the last song I wrote for the album, and my personal favourite. I guess I’ve been becoming more and more atheist lately and writing this helped me figure out exactly what it is I believe in anymore. The basic idea being, I suppose, that there isn’t much of an answer for why things are the way they are; They just are. With all the unlikely occurrences that led to this moment in time maybe the beauty and meaning lies in the strangeness that we are here at all.
‘Apple-Eaters’ is available to download now on Bandcamp!