Track By Track: Greeley Estates

August 1, 2011 by Annie Zaleski

Track By Track: Greeley Estates

Lead vocalist RYAN ZIMMERMAN takes us track by track through GREELEY ESTATES’ new album, The Death Of Greeley Estates.

“Straitjacket”
We thought this song was a perfect intro to the record, since it has such a build-up in the beginning. It’s also the perfect song coming off our last record, No Rain, No Rainbow, because it has a similar vibe. I reference “the medic” in the lyrics several times throughout the album. I mean it to be an analogy for God. The idea behind that concept actually came from our merch guy Carlos several tours back. This song basically talks about being held down by your past and being afraid to confront your future. “Some of you believe there’s no way of escaping, the scars of your past hold you down like a straitjacket.” I’ve been there myself—“Yeah, you know me, I used to sleep with a straitjacket on”—plenty over the years, and I’ve found that ultimately a relationship with Jesus Christ has been the answer for me. I’m not a preachy person, and if you come to our shows you know that. I’m far from perfect, but I do like to incorporate my faith in my lyrics.

“The Last Dance”
This song means a lot to me. Even though the lyrics are simple, they tell the story of where our band’s heart is. “Last chance to set into motion, last chance to fill in the blank page…before it’s over.” We all want to make each moment count in this life. No looking back.

“Friendly Neighborhood Visit”
We used our original logo from the past on the cover of this record. The picture, which is a girl with sunglasses on who has tears of blood dripping from her eye, was the inspiration for this song. Over the years, we have had several songs that have touched on the subject of abuse. I’ve had so many fans tell me these songs meant so much to them, and they’ve helped them find hope in difficult situations. That motivates me to write about topics like this when I get the chance. I like to touch on serious issues and also add a touch of violence to the lyrics throughout our records. “You don’t know how beautiful you are, but if he hits you again, I’ll bleed him out from head to toe.”

This song pretty much talks about showing up at the doorstep of the guy down the street who is hitting his lady and making sure it doesn’t happen again—a “friendly” neighborhood visit. This song has a fast, thrashy feel to it, and I’m sure it will be one of our favorites to play live.

“Bodies”
This song had such a eerie, haunting feel to it; all I could think about was watching a horror movie. I started off writing in that direction, which has been a common theme in the past for me: “This is a crime scene and no one touches the victims, it’s evidence.” However, I decided to steer off and try to make the song be about something deeper and personal. We all have secrets in our lives; some of us choose to hide them forever and never deal with the issues. This song talks about “what’s buried in the heart will eventually come out in the end.” The reference to the serial killer hiding bodies in the floor is supposed to represent the ugly secrets that we hide.

“The Medic”
This song is one of my personal favorites. It talks about being at your breaking point and finally hitting rock bottom, [and] realizing you can’t do everything on your own. There has to be something more to this life: “I’m through watching my life go by.” It’s ultimately me crying out to God and asking him to show himself to me. “Now you look to the sky, as you’re gasping for air. You cry out to the heavens, is there anyone there?”

“A Thousand Burning Forest”
This song is one I would ultimately like the listener to interpret for themselves. To me, it’s a story of redemption, a second chance to make things right, which is something that can be both beautiful and terrifying. As a group, it’s one of our favorites on the record. It might throw our listeners off a bit at first, because it’s softer than anything we’ve done for a while. Overall, I think it will be one of the standouts from this record. I would say it’s Brandon [Hackenson, guitarist]’s musical masterpiece.

“Leave The Light On”
I haven’t written any kind of a love song for a long time. This song had a creepy vibe, so I thought of possibly writing a mix of horror and love like I have in the past. I was worried with all the awful vampire movies and books that have come out lately, but I went with it anyways. “I’ll be honest, I’d like to sink my teeth in you, and drink you slowly. You say you’re scared of the night, but are you scared of me?” It’s a fun song and a statement of love in its own creepy way, I guess.

“Circle The Wagons”
I heard a pastor speak once about how a lot of us are so terrified of the world around us, we cling to the light of our faith but never venture into the darkness and reach out to those who are in need. He referenced “circling the wagons.” I thought of this in a story setting, almost like settlers on the frontier long ago traveling through the night terrified of their surroundings. It’s kind of a spiritual fiction story. The message is supposed to be, what good is your faith if you do nothing with it? “What good is a lantern, if it only sees the light of day.” I think most of us can relate to this, because it can be terrifying at times to stand up for the things you believe in. Our good friend Micah Kinard from Oh, Sleeper helped us out with some guest vocals on this song, making it that much better!

“The Reaction”
This song is about substance abuse or addictions in general: “I can feel it move through my veins, I can feel the reaction, my heart’s beating faster.” I’m not going to pretend I have some crazy story about how I almost died and ended up in a ditch due to drugs or alcohol, but I can relate with this topic and have had my struggles. I wanted a song that touched on this and gave hope to those dealing with this. “I’ve tried to find way for me to fill this void inside, but what it was I didn’t see, was your hand reached out to me.” I want the listener to know there are people who care, and a God who listens and loves each of us. You’re not alone.

“Tonight”
This song is about how words can destroy: “This all feels like I dream, it’s spinning out of control. Your tongue’s the fire that burned this house down.” So many of us, including myself, struggle with this issue of keeping a hold on our tongues. Some of us just need to shut up. I’m always impressed when I meet someone who will have no part in this. It motivates me to watch what I say.

“The Postman”
I wrote the lyrics of the chorus of this song on a bus in Japan. I had vertigo for a week straight and was losing my mind as we drove up and down through the many mountains. Our drummer Chris [Julian] told me to hold on to this line in case I could use it in future writing: “I’m not the mailman, I’m not some freeloader, I’m not the fling that you had in the elevator.” He said it stuck with him, so I turned it into a song for whoever needs to vent. [It’s] a song for those who have been betrayed in relationships and want nothing more than to burn every item they ever had from their former love.

“Mouth To Mouth”
This song is a story of forgiveness even after you’ve been betrayed and had your heart broken, [which is] something I have been working on in my life over the past year. It pretty much talks about a significant other heading out for a night on the town without you and screwing you in every way. But in the end, you’re still there by their side when they end up in the ER in the middle of the night.

“December”
This song is completely different than anything we have done in a long time. All the instruments were recorded “live” in one take with a different producer named George White, using vintage analog equipment. Originally we weren’t planning on putting this one on the record or even making it a Greeley song. We put an interlude right before this song to almost give the listener a breath coming off the rest of the record. We thought of making it a secret song, too.

It’s probably the most personal song, lyrically, I have ever written. I wrote it to my mother, who passed away last year. It talks about how difficult it was the first Christmas without her. She was an amazing person. I’m so blessed she was in my life, and losing her has been the toughest thing I’ve ever dealt with. She will always be a part of the holiday season to myself and many others: “It still feels like you are here, you’re in the season. The memories won’t disappear, you’re in this season now.” I hope that others are able to find comfort in this song if they are struggling with a similar loss.

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track by track greeley estates ryan zimmerman

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