why? because sometimes the people c l o s e s t to you could be the ones holding you back the most.

“You made flowers grow in my lungs and although they are beautiful, I can’t fucking breathe.”
Friday, May 2nd, 2014 (via girl-violence)
manicpixiedreampunk:

At the suggestion of pseudopobia, I’ve decided to make a masterpost of Airborne Toxic Event songs and the descriptions Mikel wrote for each one in the countdown to their Fillmore residency. I’m also going to go ahead and include a link to each of the songs too, because why not?

The Airborne Toxic Event 
1. Wishing Well - “I used to play this song for my neighbor’s cat” -Mikel 
2. Papillon - “We recorded this song in one take, in friend’s living room, while Daren was on his lunch break from work” -Mikel 
3. Gasoline - “The static sound at the top of the song is a finger being placed on a guitar chord then removed. It’s a song about my high school sweetheart, she heard it and later told me to stop telling people it was about “high school sex.” “It was more than that.” True. But you know, artistic license…” -Mikel 
4. Does This Mean You’re Moving On? - “I played a very early demo of this song for the guy who founded The National’s first record label. “This sounds like Pavement,” he said. First and last time we’ve received this comparison (though Pavement is one my and Steven’s all time favorite bands).” -Mikel 
5. Happiness Is Overrated - “The acoustic video for this song was shot in my old apartment. We found some red fabric and pinned it to the walls, then played while the one-man camera crew rotated flashlights around to look like spotlights..” - Mikel 
6. This is Nowhere - “The eponymous first record was almost called This is Nowhere. In fact, that name remains on all of the final mixes before submitting them to iTunes. At the last minute, it was decided that our band name was long enough and we didn’t need any more verbiage crowding the cover. This song is about the characters in the short story The Crack.” - Mikel 
7. Sometime Around Midnight - “The song is a true story. The band playing the melancholy music was a Silver Lake scene band called Le Switch. The bar was the now-closed Safari Sam’s and the event marked the closure of Sea Level records, a former East Side staple vinyl store.” - Mikel 
8. Something New - “I wrote this song in a flurry with three songs about the same person and situation (Happiness is Overrated and Missy were the others). It was a busy week.” -Mikel 
9. Missy - “Missy is the middle name of the person this song is about. She was from Atlanta, Georgia and she actually was with me while I wrote it, scribbling down the lyrics by hand in a small leather-bound notebook as I sung them.” -Mikel 
10. Innocence - “The intro that was included in the Disney Hall version of the song was actually a completely different song called “Heaven is a Map.” Once I realized the two songs were in the same key, we combined them since one seemed to be like a prelude to the other.” -Mikel 

All at Once 
1. All at Once - “This was the first time I ever wrote a song with any idea that someone might hear it. This whole record felt like a love letter to all the deepest things I love about music. I knew I wanted the opening lines of this song to pair up with the closing lines of the last song. Birth and death — and all the love and loss and hope and anguish in between.” - Mikel 
2. Numb - “I still prefer the demo of this song to the recording. Dave (Sardy) and I had a series of spirited debates about this song which ended with a compromise and a switchblade being pulled (as a joke, I think). The song is about the mind-numbing process of touring: the endless parade of people, places, overwhelming experiences and the quiet observer at the center of your mind growing ever-distant from reality.” -Mikel 
3. Changing - “True story: this song was originally called “Something You Own.” It had no guitar. It sounded kind of like Grizzly Bear or Animal Collective or something with all these harmonies and a sort of “umpa” keyboard line. Then one day I pulled out a guitar and an amp, played the song with a Stones-y beat and thought “oh fucking hell yes.”” -Mikel 
4. All for a Woman - “So much of this record was written about the two and a half years we’d spent on the road after playing shows in Silver Lake, going from living in apartments to living on a bus — and the experience, all of it, was predicated mostly upon the popularity of a record written about a real person whom I’d loved. It was really strange: singing about her every night, as if the whole thing was some kind of bombastic eulogy for a muse that had long-since become a ghost.” -Mikel 
5. It Doesn’t Mean a Thing - “Another song in which I still prefer the demo version; in this case it was kind of Wilco-y with an acoustic guitar and piano harmonies. This is about my dad who met mom when he got out of prison, trying to stay clean, how idealistic they were, how hopeful for a future for all us children not yet born.” -Mikel 
6. The Kids are Ready to Die - “The first of the two anti-war songs on this record, I think this whole group of songs (you could include The Winning Side and Neda) stemmed from a desire to tell the stories of people at war that weren’t being told at home. We had a lot of vets at shows on this tour and I wish I could say we did something lofty like start a letter-writing campaign to increase VA funding or something but mostly we just tried to get them laid.” -Mikel 
7. Welcome to Your Wedding Day - “This song is about the two incidents during the war in Afghanistan in which US drones mistakenly bombed Afghani wedding parties. I guess I wanted to say something about the idiocy of trying to win “hearts and minds” with bombs. In retrospect, it seems obvious. The guy screaming during the bridge is Daren in a drum room with a megaphone. We each auditioned and he had by far the best all-out scream. Double points for him because the drums on this song kick so much ass.” -Mikel 
8. Half of Something Else - “This was the first song I ever wrote for Anna and I to really sing together. I love the sound of her voice on this recording. When we sing it live we have a kind of game in which we stare intensely as possible at each other — which is super funny to both of us because she’s like sister — every now and then one of us straight up loses it and laughs.” -Mikel 
9. All I Ever Wanted - “Steven and I wrote the basic structure of this song in a hotel room in Kansas City. The words were written in the bunk of a bus in Cologne, Germany. I was reading a collection of Milan Kundera’s stories and was struck by “The Hitchhiking Game” in which a married couple pretends one night to be strangers to one another, the charade leading to all manner of mixed emotions. I miss the line about the virgin bride too.” -Mikel 
10. Strange Girl - “The Cure was my favorite band growing up. This song is about the song “The Perfect Girl” — and all those great Cure songs to which I knew every single word — and how much music can mean to you when you’re a kid and how as you get older you hold tighter to ANYTHING that means as much to you as a song did when you were fifteen years old.” -Mikel 
11. The Graveyard Near the House - “This song almost didn’t make the record. The whole album was done and at the final hour I wanted to add this quiet little acoustic song as a sort of epilogue. People were against it. It was really long and wordy and kind of esoteric at times. I never thought it would be something many people would like or understand. Even so “if you die before I die I’ll carve your name out of the sky” might be my favorite line I’ve ever written. The song is about the idea of love as a choice, the absurdity of people becoming inanimate objects when they die, and a certain mermaid named Elizabeth.” -Mikel 

Such Hot Blood 
1. Timeless - “I wrote this song for Juliette, my grandmother. It was a kind of angry elegy for the five family members we’d lost in a very short amount of time. Nothing prepares you for it. I think I realized I had spent 10 years writing about death as a concept to be devoured or explored or exploded — without really experiencing it. Up close it wasn’t interesting at all. Just horrible and draining and very very sad. The song is about that grief — mostly for them, for the fact that they don’t get to be alive anymore, for how boring and predictable the world seems without them. And also how after they’re gone, you can still hear them in your head: talking to you, persuading you, sharing a laugh— and you want so badly to make them proud, to become the person they imagined you to be.” - Mikel 
2. The Secret - “This song was originally much longer. Cutting it down was the first and last time I ever took advice from a label. I wrote this song driving my car around Los Angeles one night when everything felt like some kind of post-apocalyptic wasteland. Something about imagining people somewhere else, carefree and dancing and the first of many ghosts just beyond the headlights.” -Mikel 
3. What’s in a Name - “This was the first song I wrote for this record and the one that made me want to record it with producer Jacquire King. Just felt like one of those great early 80s rock songs that the Heartbreakers would do or T-Rex or Thin Lizzy or something.. And he just seemed like the one to capture it. He heard the demo and wanted in on the record, with one stipulation: that we all go to Nashville to make it at Blackbird studios. Which we did, renting a house, inviting friends (the Drowning Men, Mona, etc…), wreaking havoc at Five Points and Santa’s Pub — even taking a three day motorcycle trip to Memphis to pay homage at Graceland. Good times. I love to sing this song. (Am I the only one who used to break into public pools in the winter to skate and tag the walls?)” - Mikel 
4. The Storm - “The whole approach of this record (unlike the first two, and very unlike the upcoming record) was to just play songs in a room — with all natural sounds, no keyboards, no added production — just the five of us and our instruments, our voices. This song, like all the songs on this record, was recorded completely live. Even the vocals were only slightly overdubbed. We played the song five times and chose the one we liked and that’s it. It’s about being seen for the first time, about how you survive things in your life and you bury the events inside you and at some future date somebody unearths them, almost like a witness to the pain you suffered as if to say: my god how long have you been alone with this?” - Mikel 
5. Safe - “Because of an arcane music industry practice, we were told we needed one more track for the record than we had. At the time we were already in Nashville, long since done with all of our pre-production rehearsals, already halfway through the recording process… So we got in a room and started playing something from an old “jam” session (we rarely “jam,” I kind of hate the idea actually). In about five hours we had something basic worked out. We pressed record. I spent two days locked in a room writing lyrics and that became Safe. I love Anna’s violin on the breakdown.” - Mikel 
6. Bride & Groom - “Yes this song is about Elizabeth. Yes the events are real. Yes I have a thing for mermaids. I love singing this song, the part about the whisper in my ear, and the echo of your name and the part where all the sad realizations of the bride are suddenly turned on the groom. I like to imagine this song as a celebration (rather like a wake) of something broken and lost and ending and hopeless and nonetheless stunning in the beautiful ruins it left behind.” - Mikel 
7. True Love - “True story: I wrote this song while drunk in an airplane bathroom flying over a summer storm in Kansas. I kept hitting my head on the door when the plane would dip. Something about airplanes makes you think about all the angels falling around your head. If you listen closely to the chorus, you can hear Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs from Fitz and the Tantrums contributing guest vocals.” - Mikel 
8. This is London - “We broke in the UK before the states which meant we were out playing for larger crowds in London when we were still playing small clubs in Silver Lake. It was an amazing experience. I’m an anglophile and grew listening to, and to some extent, emulating British bands. They were all so smart and sort of tongue-in-cheek coy, pissed off and romantic all at the same time. So to be there, playing shows (30 in a row in 30 days on one particular stint), meeting fans, dealing with the British press, running wildly through the night from pub to pub was like standing on the edge of something. It felt new and endless, overwhelming, exhausting, amazing.” -Mikel 
9. The Fifth Day - “I wrote this song in a 5 day sleepwalk. I stayed up all night on the first one, watching the sun rise over Los Angeles, grabbing a guitar and just twanging out some chords. It became a snowball with strings and weird piano sounds, growing by day 5 into this symphony of voices and trumpets, whistling, screaming.. I guess I thought of the last section as the underbelly, the dream state of the song which preceded it. As if the narrator tells his neatlly-wrapped story, turns off the light and proceeds to fall headlong into a cacophonous, almost childlike awe at the devastation he’s witnessed.” - Mikel 
10. Elizabeth - “This is yet another song that was not popular among some (like Graveyard, Kids, All for a Woman and Midnight) It had to be fought for. It’s just two people having a conversation. An artist and his muse. A sailor and his siren. She’s making fun of him, he’s granting her point. The white dress is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Midnight (to the white dresses at shows, the tortured reflection one perceives in such a long hall of mirrors). There’s a levity between them that comes to a singular realization that, at least for me, sums up what this whole record was about.” -Mikel 

Bonus Track 
A Letter to Georgia - “I wrote this song one rainy afternoon in my old one-room cracker jack apartment in Los Feliz. She, driving cross-country back to Georgia. Me, staring at the rain on the street. Funny how time spent with someone can feel like an entire life, an entire identity: the jokes you share, the food you eat together, the places you visit — as if the idea you have of yourself is inextricably tied to these mundane objects. And when, and if it ends, these things can haunt you — giving the objects meaning: the whole of your being wrapped up in something as silly as a spoon of peanut butter, a plastic figurine purchased one thoughtless happy day. It sits next to you on the night stand, silhouetted by the street and the sky — and she, thousands of miles away, driving down the highway alone. I wrote the song, recorded it and sent it to her. Many people have asked why we never put it on a proper album. The answer is because we didn’t think we could beat the live version we did at Disney Concert Hall. As usual, Daren came up with a perfect rhythmic compliment to the song and Anna Bulbrook's voice is downright chilling.” - Mikel 

manicpixiedreampunk:

At the suggestion of pseudopobia, I’ve decided to make a masterpost of Airborne Toxic Event songs and the descriptions Mikel wrote for each one in the countdown to their Fillmore residency. I’m also going to go ahead and include a link to each of the songs too, because why not?

The Airborne Toxic Event 

1. Wishing Well - “I used to play this song for my neighbor’s cat” -Mikel 

2. Papillon - “We recorded this song in one take, in friend’s living room, while Daren was on his lunch break from work” -Mikel 

3. Gasoline - “The static sound at the top of the song is a finger being placed on a guitar chord then removed. It’s a song about my high school sweetheart, she heard it and later told me to stop telling people it was about “high school sex.” “It was more than that.” True. But you know, artistic license…” -Mikel 

4. Does This Mean You’re Moving On? - “I played a very early demo of this song for the guy who founded The National’s first record label. “This sounds like Pavement,” he said. First and last time we’ve received this comparison (though Pavement is one my and Steven’s all time favorite bands).” -Mikel 

5. Happiness Is Overrated - “The acoustic video for this song was shot in my old apartment. We found some red fabric and pinned it to the walls, then played while the one-man camera crew rotated flashlights around to look like spotlights..” - Mikel 

6. This is Nowhere - “The eponymous first record was almost called This is Nowhere. In fact, that name remains on all of the final mixes before submitting them to iTunes. At the last minute, it was decided that our band name was long enough and we didn’t need any more verbiage crowding the cover. This song is about the characters in the short story The Crack.” - Mikel 

7. Sometime Around Midnight - “The song is a true story. The band playing the melancholy music was a Silver Lake scene band called Le Switch. The bar was the now-closed Safari Sam’s and the event marked the closure of Sea Level records, a former East Side staple vinyl store.” - Mikel 

8. Something New - “I wrote this song in a flurry with three songs about the same person and situation (Happiness is Overrated and Missy were the others). It was a busy week.” -Mikel 

9. Missy - “Missy is the middle name of the person this song is about. She was from Atlanta, Georgia and she actually was with me while I wrote it, scribbling down the lyrics by hand in a small leather-bound notebook as I sung them.” -Mikel 

10. Innocence - “The intro that was included in the Disney Hall version of the song was actually a completely different song called “Heaven is a Map.” Once I realized the two songs were in the same key, we combined them since one seemed to be like a prelude to the other.” -Mikel 

All at Once 

1. All at Once - “This was the first time I ever wrote a song with any idea that someone might hear it. This whole record felt like a love letter to all the deepest things I love about music. I knew I wanted the opening lines of this song to pair up with the closing lines of the last song. Birth and death — and all the love and loss and hope and anguish in between.” - Mikel 

2. Numb - “I still prefer the demo of this song to the recording. Dave (Sardy) and I had a series of spirited debates about this song which ended with a compromise and a switchblade being pulled (as a joke, I think). The song is about the mind-numbing process of touring: the endless parade of people, places, overwhelming experiences and the quiet observer at the center of your mind growing ever-distant from reality.” -Mikel 

3. Changing - “True story: this song was originally called “Something You Own.” It had no guitar. It sounded kind of like Grizzly Bear or Animal Collective or something with all these harmonies and a sort of “umpa” keyboard line. Then one day I pulled out a guitar and an amp, played the song with a Stones-y beat and thought “oh fucking hell yes.”” -Mikel 

4. All for a Woman - “So much of this record was written about the two and a half years we’d spent on the road after playing shows in Silver Lake, going from living in apartments to living on a bus — and the experience, all of it, was predicated mostly upon the popularity of a record written about a real person whom I’d loved. It was really strange: singing about her every night, as if the whole thing was some kind of bombastic eulogy for a muse that had long-since become a ghost.” -Mikel 

5. It Doesn’t Mean a Thing - “Another song in which I still prefer the demo version; in this case it was kind of Wilco-y with an acoustic guitar and piano harmonies. This is about my dad who met mom when he got out of prison, trying to stay clean, how idealistic they were, how hopeful for a future for all us children not yet born.” -Mikel 

6. The Kids are Ready to Die - “The first of the two anti-war songs on this record, I think this whole group of songs (you could include The Winning Side and Neda) stemmed from a desire to tell the stories of people at war that weren’t being told at home. We had a lot of vets at shows on this tour and I wish I could say we did something lofty like start a letter-writing campaign to increase VA funding or something but mostly we just tried to get them laid.” -Mikel 

7. Welcome to Your Wedding Day - “This song is about the two incidents during the war in Afghanistan in which US drones mistakenly bombed Afghani wedding parties. I guess I wanted to say something about the idiocy of trying to win “hearts and minds” with bombs. In retrospect, it seems obvious. The guy screaming during the bridge is Daren in a drum room with a megaphone. We each auditioned and he had by far the best all-out scream. Double points for him because the drums on this song kick so much ass.” -Mikel 

8. Half of Something Else - “This was the first song I ever wrote for Anna and I to really sing together. I love the sound of her voice on this recording. When we sing it live we have a kind of game in which we stare intensely as possible at each other — which is super funny to both of us because she’s like sister — every now and then one of us straight up loses it and laughs.” -Mikel 

9. All I Ever Wanted - “Steven and I wrote the basic structure of this song in a hotel room in Kansas City. The words were written in the bunk of a bus in Cologne, Germany. I was reading a collection of Milan Kundera’s stories and was struck by “The Hitchhiking Game” in which a married couple pretends one night to be strangers to one another, the charade leading to all manner of mixed emotions. I miss the line about the virgin bride too.” -Mikel 

10. Strange Girl - “The Cure was my favorite band growing up. This song is about the song “The Perfect Girl” — and all those great Cure songs to which I knew every single word — and how much music can mean to you when you’re a kid and how as you get older you hold tighter to ANYTHING that means as much to you as a song did when you were fifteen years old.” -Mikel 

11. The Graveyard Near the House - “This song almost didn’t make the record. The whole album was done and at the final hour I wanted to add this quiet little acoustic song as a sort of epilogue. People were against it. It was really long and wordy and kind of esoteric at times. I never thought it would be something many people would like or understand. Even so “if you die before I die I’ll carve your name out of the sky” might be my favorite line I’ve ever written. The song is about the idea of love as a choice, the absurdity of people becoming inanimate objects when they die, and a certain mermaid named Elizabeth.” -Mikel 

Such Hot Blood 

1. Timeless - “I wrote this song for Juliette, my grandmother. It was a kind of angry elegy for the five family members we’d lost in a very short amount of time. Nothing prepares you for it. I think I realized I had spent 10 years writing about death as a concept to be devoured or explored or exploded — without really experiencing it. Up close it wasn’t interesting at all. Just horrible and draining and very very sad. The song is about that grief — mostly for them, for the fact that they don’t get to be alive anymore, for how boring and predictable the world seems without them. And also how after they’re gone, you can still hear them in your head: talking to you, persuading you, sharing a laugh— and you want so badly to make them proud, to become the person they imagined you to be.” - Mikel 

2. The Secret - “This song was originally much longer. Cutting it down was the first and last time I ever took advice from a label. I wrote this song driving my car around Los Angeles one night when everything felt like some kind of post-apocalyptic wasteland. Something about imagining people somewhere else, carefree and dancing and the first of many ghosts just beyond the headlights.” -Mikel 

3. What’s in a Name - “This was the first song I wrote for this record and the one that made me want to record it with producer Jacquire King. Just felt like one of those great early 80s rock songs that the Heartbreakers would do or T-Rex or Thin Lizzy or something.. And he just seemed like the one to capture it. He heard the demo and wanted in on the record, with one stipulation: that we all go to Nashville to make it at Blackbird studios. Which we did, renting a house, inviting friends (the Drowning Men, Mona, etc…), wreaking havoc at Five Points and Santa’s Pub — even taking a three day motorcycle trip to Memphis to pay homage at Graceland. Good times. I love to sing this song. (Am I the only one who used to break into public pools in the winter to skate and tag the walls?)” - Mikel 

4. The Storm - “The whole approach of this record (unlike the first two, and very unlike the upcoming record) was to just play songs in a room — with all natural sounds, no keyboards, no added production — just the five of us and our instruments, our voices. This song, like all the songs on this record, was recorded completely live. Even the vocals were only slightly overdubbed. We played the song five times and chose the one we liked and that’s it. It’s about being seen for the first time, about how you survive things in your life and you bury the events inside you and at some future date somebody unearths them, almost like a witness to the pain you suffered as if to say: my god how long have you been alone with this?” - Mikel 

5. Safe - “Because of an arcane music industry practice, we were told we needed one more track for the record than we had. At the time we were already in Nashville, long since done with all of our pre-production rehearsals, already halfway through the recording process… So we got in a room and started playing something from an old “jam” session (we rarely “jam,” I kind of hate the idea actually). In about five hours we had something basic worked out. We pressed record. I spent two days locked in a room writing lyrics and that became Safe. I love Anna’s violin on the breakdown.” - Mikel 

6. Bride & Groom - “Yes this song is about Elizabeth. Yes the events are real. Yes I have a thing for mermaids. I love singing this song, the part about the whisper in my ear, and the echo of your name and the part where all the sad realizations of the bride are suddenly turned on the groom. I like to imagine this song as a celebration (rather like a wake) of something broken and lost and ending and hopeless and nonetheless stunning in the beautiful ruins it left behind.” - Mikel 

7. True Love - “True story: I wrote this song while drunk in an airplane bathroom flying over a summer storm in Kansas. I kept hitting my head on the door when the plane would dip. Something about airplanes makes you think about all the angels falling around your head. If you listen closely to the chorus, you can hear Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs from Fitz and the Tantrums contributing guest vocals.” - Mikel 

8. This is London - “We broke in the UK before the states which meant we were out playing for larger crowds in London when we were still playing small clubs in Silver Lake. It was an amazing experience. I’m an anglophile and grew listening to, and to some extent, emulating British bands. They were all so smart and sort of tongue-in-cheek coy, pissed off and romantic all at the same time. So to be there, playing shows (30 in a row in 30 days on one particular stint), meeting fans, dealing with the British press, running wildly through the night from pub to pub was like standing on the edge of something. It felt new and endless, overwhelming, exhausting, amazing.” -Mikel 

9. The Fifth Day - “I wrote this song in a 5 day sleepwalk. I stayed up all night on the first one, watching the sun rise over Los Angeles, grabbing a guitar and just twanging out some chords. It became a snowball with strings and weird piano sounds, growing by day 5 into this symphony of voices and trumpets, whistling, screaming.. I guess I thought of the last section as the underbelly, the dream state of the song which preceded it. As if the narrator tells his neatlly-wrapped story, turns off the light and proceeds to fall headlong into a cacophonous, almost childlike awe at the devastation he’s witnessed.” - Mikel 

10. Elizabeth - “This is yet another song that was not popular among some (like Graveyard, Kids, All for a Woman and Midnight) It had to be fought for. It’s just two people having a conversation. An artist and his muse. A sailor and his siren. She’s making fun of him, he’s granting her point. The white dress is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Midnight (to the white dresses at shows, the tortured reflection one perceives in such a long hall of mirrors). There’s a levity between them that comes to a singular realization that, at least for me, sums up what this whole record was about.” -Mikel 

Bonus Track 

A Letter to Georgia - “I wrote this song one rainy afternoon in my old one-room cracker jack apartment in Los Feliz. She, driving cross-country back to Georgia. Me, staring at the rain on the street. Funny how time spent with someone can feel like an entire life, an entire identity: the jokes you share, the food you eat together, the places you visit — as if the idea you have of yourself is inextricably tied to these mundane objects. And when, and if it ends, these things can haunt you — giving the objects meaning: the whole of your being wrapped up in something as silly as a spoon of peanut butter, a plastic figurine purchased one thoughtless happy day. It sits next to you on the night stand, silhouetted by the street and the sky — and she, thousands of miles away, driving down the highway alone. I wrote the song, recorded it and sent it to her. Many people have asked why we never put it on a proper album. The answer is because we didn’t think we could beat the live version we did at Disney Concert Hall. As usual, Daren came up with a perfect rhythmic compliment to the song and Anna Bulbrook's voice is downright chilling.” - Mikel 


so much mental traffic in the universe. solitude is the only peace.

so much mental traffic in the universe. solitude is the only peace.

HG