When we put out The Royal Thousand, I did a track-by-track for AP. Throughout the past year, I've had a lot of people at shows come up and ask me about that article. So, as reluctant as I was to do it (not everything you write is easy to talk about), I'm glad I did. Because if people care about what's behind the music, I'm happy to open up.
With Perfect War Forever, it will be much easier. This was a record written as one movement broken into five pieces. Each of the five songs plays a very important part of the overall concept and theme. Each of them have two meanings, and they speak on the nature of that duality. One meaning is always about the man and his personal struggle, and one meaning is always about the empire the man is born into that so powerfully brings that struggle about.
Written By: Travis Sykes
“TRAPPED LIKE RATS”
The EP's whole concept and statement can be summed up in the first line of the first song, "Trapped Like Rats:"
"Breeding a perfect war
into deep peace
From the beginning, that song encapsulates the whole idea. It comes to terms with the fact that from birth, we're all born into a system and filed into a drawer with a number and "trapped like rats," but it also rejects that idea by suggesting peace instead. And that's what I face inside myself through the entire record.
"What did you say?
push the love away?
what I feel is there forever.
you would know me better."
That's why this song dwells on these parts: It's integral to the build of the story. If a man is going to look deep inside like that, there has to be a plan, and this song is the plan–the plan to change things inside to help the horrible nature of what goes on outside. It's the mantra of the whole work.
“I DUG A GRAVE”
This is the internal battle from the very beginning.
"I dug a grave for you and me."
This is pulling out your best and your worst and seeing which you have more of, and which you will let control you.
"My inner self is bleeding out."
This is the point where you're really face to face with all your demons and the real battle begins.
"You're fucking dead to me."
At this point, you've killed one side of yourself. Depending on the kind of person you are, the next two songs paint a picture of what each scenario would look like.
“HOW TO SURVIVE SUICIDE”
To Josh [Travis, guitarist] and I, this is the real centerpiece of the record. This was the piece that we felt communicated a very powerful sound and carried a lot of the weight of the story. I used this piece of music to write the scenario about what would've happened if you had this internal battle and let your positivity, light and peaceful center find their way to the surface.
"Bright, heavy like-minds
pulling all sides
bright, heavy like-minds
cutting like knives"
The term that defies all real grammar because I don't give a shit. It makes sense to me and I wanted to use it for this. Here, the "bright and heavy like-minded" individuals are pushing to the surface and demanding to be heard.
"Take away the selfish pleasure
this is better
draw yourself a brighter picture
This is my personal way to find light and peace. I don't claim to know anything about anything nor do I think this sort of thing would work for anybody. But for me, I have to pull out every bit of darkness and face it straight on. I put it on my own shoulders to paint myself a brighter picture, and I don't blame anyone but myself for feeling any other way. It's all a look inside. For me the only way to really do that is to leave the darkness completely and come out into the open away from it.
"But there's a draft
and a hanging shadow
coming in underneath the door
I am lost in an aimless army
I am leaving a perfect war"
And as simple as that, I'm out.
"And I'll always prefer a life
that sails on calmer seas"
and as simple as that, there I'll stay.
“SOUL IS DEAD”
This song was hardest one to write. It paints a picture of what happens if you let your darkness get the best of you. It is the absolute death of the soul. It also brings the lyrical tie-ins full circle.
"I fucking hate
the person I've become
just like you
from the soulless scum
I fucking hate
the person I've become
just like you
and I've got nothing left"
"Trapped Like Rats" teases this part, as well as the themes of peace from "How To Survive Suicide" but here it comes full circle because it's the last mention of it and the last mention of the phrase “perfect war” before I kill the whole battle with:
"If the axe keeps falling down
don't let it catch your neck
take hold of it now
and swing it the fuck back"
This is a "fight fire with fire" song that ends with the inner darkness cutting the neck of anyone who tries to get in its way. This is the action of the man who has truly lost sight of his soul and has been backed into a corner with no options, left only to swing his axe as hard as he can until he has made a mess of everything around him and himself in the process. It’s truly stupid and un-evolved view of how to deal with struggle, but it's one we have all found ourselves in at one time. It's the primal urge–kill or be killed–the one that could tear the world back down to ruins like it has time and time again for millions of years. It's Perfect War Forever.
The flower. A perfect metaphor for a man looking into himself at his own demons. Something that brings happiness and becomes so beautiful if treated right and brings happiness, but wilts and drops its leaves in the end. This is the big ending. Regardless of which side comes out on top in the inner battle, just having it is the important part. Just realizing that there is more to being alive than just moving through space. There's beauty in if, even if it's hard to see and it's far away at times. This is complete inner light, making peace with the experience with no intentions or hope for the outcome. Just peace with the beauty and flow of everything. Buddhist monks will spend days working on beautifully sculpted sand gardens just so they can wipe them clean and start again. It's an exercise to make your mind understand the importance of letting go, even to something you hold dear or have worked hard on. The light is in the experience. Always.
And this song is dedicated to another flower I love that makes the light so much easier to find, Mary Jane.
Your heart operates on two vibratory frequencies: fear and love. Fear is a long, slow vibration that makes us feel uneasy. It's what makes musicians hate things that are out of tune. It's disharmony, whereas love is a short and quick vibration that sounds nice, like harmony: two or more perfect notes aligning to vibrate beautifully together. It goes back to our primal urge, you go towards love and away from fear instinctively. So, why should the system you're born into breed fear from birth? Why should we go to war against other people who are just trying to find their own light? It's fear forever that keeps us just scared enough to turn the other cheek while the people in charge pick and choose who lives and who dies, who eats and who starves, who works and who profits, who's free and who's enslaved. Controlled by fear, forever.
I'd also like to give a monumental thank-you to the brilliant artist who brought the vision of Perfect War Forever to life, Evan Leake. He did the artwork for the EP and worked hand in hand with me cooking up the Easter eggs in the art that a lot of people have already found. And also for dreaming up the beautiful helmet that we used on the front cover that so perfectly represents war as an antiquated idea and puts that helmet in a glass case inside a museum on the back cover for people to look at and learn from it, rather than chase it into battle.