Track By Track: Koji guides us through ‘Crooked In My Mind’

April 30, 2013 by Cassie Whitt

Track By Track: Koji guides us through ‘Crooked In My Mind’

Today, Koji released his debut full-length LP, Crooked In My Mind, via Run For Cover Records. He sat down and wrote out his reflection on the creation of and meaning behind the songs. Read it below.

“Chasing A Ghost”
This song is a mission statement of sorts and the logical starting point for my first full-length. It’s about looking back on the beginning of a journey or a season in your life. After having everything stolen before my 2012 spring tour, the Warped Tour bus crash I was in last summer, and then subsequently getting lost in the Canadian/Alaskan wilderness, I knew my commitment to my work was unshaken and that every hardship endured and sacrifice made in my pursuit of self expression was worth it. This record is a new beginning for me.

“The Near And Far”
Fugazi are one of the most influential bands in my life, and you can hear some of that thematically and rhythmically on this one. This song is second because I knew it would stand in such contrast with “Chasing A Ghost.” I wanted to say, sonically, this is a very different record than you’ve heard from me and should be measured in darkness and in light. The lyrics speak to this theme of how the media/digital environment play a part in shaping our worldview. Matt Warner (from Balance And Composure) and Brad Vander Lugt (from La Dispute) kind of steal the show on this one. It’s a simple groove, but it’s simple things done with grace that affect me the most.

“Spinning Silent”
Some days you feel like you’re waking up to a world you don’t belong in. It’s like you’re going against the grain, current, whatever. It’s paralyzing at times, but you have to keep going.

“Distance/Divide”
This is one of our strongest performances as a band. We were joined by Ron Gilmore who plays keys for Lauryn Hill, J. Cole and Drake’s live bands. Colin Gorman from Gypsy played the electric guitars on the record, and his solo on this song is mind blistering. In the final hour of mixing, Ned Russin (Title Fight) came in to re-track the bass. Songs like this, “The Near And Far” and “Pang And Flash” build on what was started with my track “Peacemaker” from my split with La Dispute, Never Come Undone.

“Fragile Times”
My favorite lyrical moment of the record is found in this song: “Knowing the cost, but not what I would pay.” I understand my songs more as time goes on. When I make work, I like there to be something that grabs you, that is immediate. But more importantly, I want the work to be something you can grow with and gain new perspective with each listen. I don’t think this is a record everyone will understand after the first listen. My favorite records are like life, in that they take time. That’s how I approached this and every song on the album.

“Creeping”
“Creeping” is about being bullied. I think most people can relate to that feeling. It’s tough being pushed around, and it’s even tougher to talk about it, to cope with it. This song is also about my relationship with my rage. For all we can study about conflict resolution, it doesn’t make it any easier to channel your anger into something productive and positive. What we do with the energy we receive and put out is ultimately our choice to make. We’re all living with our relative truths and doing the best we can, so I wrote this as a heartbroken toast to everyone living the gray.

“In The Line”
Here we revisit that theme of how the media/digital environment shapes our lives, but “In The Line” goes beyond that. The perspective pulls away and takes a look at how institutions and our society overall perpetuate social norms/constructs whether they’re right or wrong. We have to deal with that reality. For some people, it is much easier to avoid dealing. That avoidance can obscure or distort our sense of self. I learned this the hard way over and over again. Whenever I hear or play this song, I feel like I’m coming apart.

“Pang And Flash”
Brad and I started working on this song in Grand Rapids at the La Dispute warehouse, and it was clear to us that the vibe of this record would be very different from anything I had put out before. I came with about 15 songs and ideas to our first writing session. “Pang And Flash” and “Distance/Divide” stood out the most. The songs were shockingly dark. I’m seeing now that I went through a lot over the past couple years since my last release. Putting those experiences and feelings into song was the only way to get it out.

“What You Leave Behind”
Finding peace can be a long road. That’s been the case for me. Harmony is an ongoing process, and this track is about getting there. Musically and lyrically, this song brings the record full circle. The utter defeat I felt in “Spinning Silent” or “Distance/Divide” is resolved here. The instrumental part (especially the drums and string performances) wash right over me and I feel the lightness, the darkness and a strange feeling of forgiveness.

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