Track By Track: Plain White T’s

December 7, 2010 by Tim Karan

Track By Track: Plain White T’s

PLAIN WHITE T’S frontman TOM HIGGENSON and guitarist TIM LOPEZ tell the stories behind each song on the band’s new full-length, Wonders Of The Younger, released today on Hollywood Records.


Irrational Anthem
Higgenson: The writing process for the album was exciting because I knew exactly the theme and feeling I wanted it to have before writing a single note. I knew I wanted to take chances and step out of my comfort zone as often as possible. "Irrational Anthem" was written as a few different pieces that I knew fit together somehow. I just had to put the puzzle together. The lyrics perfectly embody and foreshadow what the entire album is all about. As soon as I finished writing it, I knew it would be the first track on the album.

Boomerang
Higgenson: The story of my life. I always end up falling for the wrong girl. No matter how crazy she is or how bad she treats me, I can't break my fascination with her. I just keep coming back for more. It’s kind of a sad reality, but set to some soaring melodies, it makes for the most infectious song on the album.

Welcome To Mystery
Higgenson: I originally had some boy-girl love song lyrics to this song, but it just didn't feel right. The melodies were so dark and dreamy that I felt it needed more imaginative lyrics. So instead, I turned it into a story about escaping into your own imagination or creating your own little getaway in your mind. I wrote all the lyrics in one night in a hotel bathroom, and I did a quick live recording onto my phone as a demo. The very next day, our label came to us asking if we had any songs that would work for the Alice In Wonderland soundtrack they were putting together. Even though I wrote this song for Wonders Of The Younger, it seemed to be a perfect fit, so I played it for the label. A week later, we were in the studio recording it. Luckily, we worked it out so that it could go on both Almost Alice and our album.

Rhythm Of Love
Lopez: It's great when a song comes easily, and this was one of them. I had wanted to come up with a simple love song for my ex-girlfriend for a while, but when I got back to my hometown of Santa Barbara, California, this song just rolled off the top of my head. I was sitting on the porch of the house I grew up in and just started humming the chords. Within a few hours, I had most of the lyrics written. When songs are truly inspired, it makes writing  so enjoyable. This particular girl was all I could think about at the time.

Map Of The World
Higgenson: To me, this song is about that first time in your life when you look out into the sky at night and you realize how big the universe really is. This in turn makes you realize how small you really are. To this day, this thought still scares the shit out of me. I could drive myself insane thinking about it. We really have no idea what's out there or the big answers to all the big questions. The crazy thing is that we’ll never know.

Killer
Higgenson: This is the darkest and possibly coolest track on the album. It’s “cool” in the sense that I could hear it in a Quentin Tarantino movie. It has a badass quality to it that Plain White T's usually can't ever pull off. The funny thing is that it's a love song—a very sick and demented love song that asks, “How evil and wrong can I be before you stop loving me? Will you be by my side no matter what I do, and no matter who I am?” It's a true test of love under the most grim circumstances.

Last Breath
Higgenson: “Last Breath” is a hopeless song about a relationship that sucks the life right out of you. The relationship started out great, but now it's a struggle to get back to those good times. This song was so dark and personal that I actually didn’t want it on the album. Tim [Lopez, guitar]  loved it, and he got everyone else in the band on board. Reluctantly, I gave in and agreed to record it, fighting and bitching the whole time about how it didn’t belong on the record. I don't usually admit this, but I was wrong.

Broken Record
Higgenson: I am a very nostalgic guy, and I tend to romanticize my memories a lot. Needless to say, past lovers are always popping in and out of my head. I can't help but think about them and wonder where they are, who they’re dating and what they’re doing in life. It's a bittersweet feeling because it's nice to remember these people, but it's sad to think you may never see them again. So for a while, I let them dance in my head and enjoy the memory.

Our Song
Higgenson: The first verse and chorus of this song were written in five minutes, exactly where they say they were written: sitting on a bed all alone in a hotel room, counting the days until I get to go home and see my girl. It’s very literal and sincere, which I think is my strong point at times. This song gives me the feeling I got when I wrote “Hey There Delilah” [from 2005’s All That We Needed] and “1 2 3 4” [from 2008’s Big Bad World]. It will probably become a favorite for a lot of our fans and that's just fine by me.

Airplane
Higgenson: So Mike [Retondo, bass] had this instrumental piece of guitar music floating around for years. I always loved it, but didn't really know what to do with it. Every time he would play it backstage, we would all say, “Damn, we have to turn that into a song.” I made him do a quick recording of it for me so I could try to write some lyrics and a [vocal] melody. I couldn't come up with anything, so it was kind of forgotten for a while. Luckily, it popped into my head while I was sitting on a plane, waiting for take off. I just started hearing this haunting melody in my head and jotted down some lyrics about being on the plane. This song has a very nightmarish quality because so many people are scared of flying. I think this is one of the most important songs for the feel and flow of this album.

Cirque Dans La Rue
Higgenson: This is the most unique and exciting song on the album, and definitely one of my favorites. The whole concept for the album was inspired by the Cirque Du Soleil show O. This song is kind of my tribute to the guts, the creativity and the emotion that show delivered. For me, this is the climax of the album.

Body Parts
Lopez: This track was written for a girl I had been with for more than a decade. I was trying to describe that feeling you get when you wake up in the morning expecting her to be laying beside you and your heart sinks when you remember she's gone. I thought it would be interesting to have the body parts mourning their loss together. Sometimes a breakup hurts all over, and that's what I was trying to put into words. I originally recorded the demo with my friend Adam at home in Austin, Texas, and it was probably the first song I sent to the band for this album.

Make It Up As You Go
Higgenson: In 13 years of being in a band with each other, Dave [Tirio, guitar] and I had never attempted to write a song together. This is our first try, and I think we might be onto something. We wanted the song to be a party, and for the music to actually reflect the laidback vibe of the lyrics. Dave plays the guitar solo, which is not technically great, but its rawness lifts the song to a higher place. It doesn't take itself too seriously, which is what the song is really all about.

Wonders Of The Younger
Higgenson: Once I played this song for the band, they understood my crazy concept for this album. The album is all about looking back on the good old days—when life was simple. The days before we had responsibility. The days when we lived in the moment. The days of our youth. My big idea is that maybe with some good music to inspire us and the use of our own imaginations, we can recapture a bit of that wonder. Maybe, just maybe, even if only for a moment, we can all be young again.alt

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