4. “Cover From the Sun”
This is a really upbeat one, and the tone feels different than a lot of other Destroyer material.
When I first wrote it, it was much more in a pub rock vein. I was thinking of a Pete Doherty, picaresque kind of song. It seems like a short little adventure to me, a quick rollick. It’s atypical, which I think is cool.
It’s also filled with references. You go from the Smiths to Shakespeare in one line.
Yeah, that’s typical Destroyer bullshit. It’s a fun song that rips on itself in a way. It’s definitely mocking the singer.
5. “Saw You at the Hospital”
Is there a reason you kept this one in a mostly acoustic arrangement?
I like it as a breath in the middle of the record—I also like it because I started writing it in a hospital.
I got really bad pneumonia during the Poison Season tour, and one thing you’re not supposed to do is drink and sing your way through that. It’s the sickest I’ve ever been in my adult life. I went to a hospital in Switzerland to get antibiotics, and they’re like, “Actually, you have to stay here for three days.” I was pretty out of it. I hadn’t slept in… I don’t know how long. Getting sick when you’re living on a bus is not good.
I remember being in the hospital, maybe a bit doped up, and thinking of classic “ending up in the hospital” songs. The Stones have a couple good ones. I was like, “OK, I’m gonna throw my hat in.” I came up with the first couple lines about being insane and the gown on wrong in the rain—I had my gown on all fucked up. There were also lots of ridiculous lyrics that did not make it into the song, stuff about Swiss nurses making eyes at me. Just the ramblings of a not-well mind.
This all sounds uncharacteristically autobiographical for you.
Yeah, that’s not generally how I write at all. In the end, the song took off in a different direction. I started thinking about places of sickness or madness, which were being equivocated with castles and the Palace Hotel and decadence. It ended up being more like this whirling ball of depravity, which mellows out in the end with someone watching guitar amplifiers in a snowstorm. Just image-based stuff, Swiss surrealism.
6. “A Light Travels Down the Catwalk”
This is a song you’ve been playing live for a while, in a much different rendition.
I really do like playing and singing this song, which is probably part of what drove me to write more songs on the guitar. I tried it with the band for Poison Season, but there was a folk-pop jauntiness to the chord progression that seemed at odds with the lyrics, which were trying to describe a glamorous world in which Satan presents him or herself. Once a lot of the melodic movement was taken out, it really came alive for me, because it exists in really stark contrast to the vocals. I think it’s good singin’. It shows that I’ve had some practice singing that song.
There’s an intensity to it I don’t think I’ve heard on a Destroyer record before.
It became apparent that the dark minimalism of the music brought out a brooding quality to the words that I didn’t even realize because, you know, I just write this shit.
This song opens the second half of the record. How would you describe the break between the two sides?
In some ways, the songs get weirder or more disparate on the second half. “Rome” seems really discombobulated to me. When I brought it in, it really had more of a singles bar vibe, like a sad disco song. Lyrically, there’s an aging-cruiser vibe to it. But it ended up getting cloaked in this Disintegration-style grandeur. Huge drums. It has a military quality now. I’ll be honest, I thought it was going to be a groovy ditty, to the extent that I wasn’t sure it should even be on the record. But as we worked on it, it became larger and larger sounding. It took on its own character.
8. “Sometimes in the World”
At under three minutes, this is one of the shorter songs on the record.
The brevity of the songs is something I’m still trying to digest, but this is just a Destroyer campfire song. Five years ago, I never would have recorded it. Just that first line: “I can’t pay for this, all I’ve got is money.” I really like it, but it made me feel uncomfortable right away, writing it and singing it.
Did the directness make you uncomfortable?
Yeah, someone addressing the ills of the world in a direct way. They’re statements that are maybe obvious, but if they’re so obvious, then how can the world possibly be how it currently is? And then there’s really sad lines: “Sometimes in the world the thing that you love dies, and you cry and cry and cry.” That’s not something you normally hear in a Destroyer song!
9. “Ivory Coast”
Your languid vocal performance on this song stood out to me. Were you intentionally going for something different?
I wanted it to sound desolate. My singing sounds kind of wasted and empty, which I really like. It’s got a strung-out vibe. There’s a quality to the vocal where I don’t really sound like myself.
Who is the narrator?
Miserable pirates—the down-and-out, sad mercenary.
10. “Stay Lost”
This song seems to be offering some kind of advice: “Being alone’s an illusion.”
It’s basically a user’s guide to being in the world. It addresses the audience in a way that’s anthemic, but it’s not an anthem. Or if it’s an anthem, it’s one where you’re supposed to sing along in your speaking voice. It’s a call to abandonment, or a call to roaming, or to embrace hopelessness. It’s an attempt, somehow, to sing about those things melodically in an uplifting way, even if you’re not trying to provide any hope whatsoever.
The song seems built from the parts of rock’n’roll. The first eight Destroyer records are in love with rock’n’roll but they are constantly attacking on the language of rock’n’roll—they are filled to the brim with concerns that you’re not supposed to find in a rock song. At some point, there was a shift. I mean, I still get excited about hearing cool words in songs, and I still get bummed out by how, 99 percent of the time, the words in songs just range from pointless to bad. There is a desire in me to have the words and the music become one whole.
11. “La Regle Du Jeu”
La Règle Du Jeu is the title of a classic French film that takes place at a lavish party just before the beginning of World War II. Was your song inspired by that movie?
I can’t say those words without conjuring up that film, but it wasn’t inspired by it. It’s more inspired by it feeling so good for me to sing those words over and over and over again and trying to figure out why. The song has kind of a Euro cabaret feel, which is good, because I find it to be one of the more negative songs on the album. The images conjured in the song lead to something terrible on the horizon. I do feel like I’m singing to America in some way.
The first verse just recites vague, classical dream imagery of the world collapsing, and the second verse is describing a scene at a terrible party where you sense something bad is going to happen. And after that, I’m just saying “la règle du jeu” over and over again, like a mantra or a prayer at America’s death bed.
Is there a political message in it?
I know there’s lots of political talk right now, but I don’t see this as a topical record. The state of America is terrible, but it doesn’t strike me as a wildfire. I see it as a slow, steady crawl towards a terrible conclusion. I thought if I did sing to America, I wanted to do it in a language that they didn’t understand—or that they possibly actively hated. I thought French would be good for that.