Written By: Vocalist Tyler Welsh
This is an album about temporality and locality: where you are at a certain time, the struggle to figure out who you will become and where you want to be. The unimagined bridge is the metaphor for the path you take, the choices you decide and also all the mistakes and regrets along the way. In a way, this record is a reminder to just know that all of those moments will get you exactly where you need to be, but that place and time aren’t fixed. And the difficulty is having faith or believing in that idea, that the bridge never ends, but that’s exactly the point. Keep growing, keep experiencing different things, keep taking chances, keep living, keep letting people down, keep apologizing, start over and know that the path you’re on is the right one, and the bridge will get you there. Darkness is okay. Let’s build unimagined bridges into the light.
“The Game (This Won’t Hurt)”
About halfway through the writing process of this album, we had quite a few songs, but we weren’t really sure where they all fit in the context of an album. As a band, we like to write albums that flow in an out with connecting themes, musically and lyrically. About six months into writing, we had hit a slump and were lost in the writing process. In order to get back on track, I brought in lyrics and said, “I want this to be the opening track.” After a day of several different versions, we had the song and melody, and it set the tone for the rest of the writing. Songs began to fall in place after the thesis statement of the record had been established. A little sidebar on the title and lyrics is that they were inspired by Hunter S. Thompson’s suicide note. While that may sound a little morbid, I wanted to take his words and challenge them. The game isn’t over; it never ends.
This song is perhaps the “heaviest” song we’ve ever written but also one of the slower tempos on the album. We had recently got a new amp in the practice space and were messing around with tones one day. Our guitarist/singer Andy [Lane] started making this really trashy, disgusting-in-a-beautiful-way sound and started playing the opening riff. We started building the song around that and came up with the call-and-response group vocals that go in the verses. It was one of those songs that as soon as it was done, we knew it would be huge in the studio, and the recording did not disappoint. When we were tracking the song, the amp was so loud that it picked up a local AM gospel radio station. The sounds you hear at the very beginning and end were just some impromptu studio magic. Lyrically, the song is a back-and-forth inner dialogue by someone struggling to believe in him or herself. On one hand, the verses are somewhat bombastic notions of self-assurance, whereas the chorus questions those sentiments.
“Stand So Tall”
When we walked into the studio with our producer, Matt Malpass, “Stand So Tall” wasn’t really a song. We had a couple riffs and some lyrics but also an extensive, meandering structure. In essence, it was a huge work in progress. Malpass helped us cut off a lot of the fat and we really focused on making it a true “pop” song. We are all huge fans of pop (Katy Perry, Third Eye Blind, Ariana Grande, Rihanna, etc.) so we wanted to make a pop song, but still retain that Driver Friendly feel. We had just finished our tour with Relient K (whose newest album, Collapsible Lung, is an excellent showcase of catchy, pop-rock), so we definitely were influenced a lot by that. Bit by bit, we started piecing it together. At first we were a little afraid of what we had done, but eventually realized it was a bonafide jam. Soupy’s cameo came about by meeting the Wonder Years on Warped Tour and with him saying to us if we ever needed anything to let him know. We called him up, sent him the track and the lyrics, and rumor has it he knocked the part out in one take. Sometimes you have to bring in the professionals.
If memory serves, this was one of the earlier songs we wrote for the album, and as we tweaked it more and more, we fell in love with the simplicity of the song. We all agree it’s probably our favorite on the whole album. Lyrically, I based the idea of the song around some relationships I had watched around me, and the words kind of intertwined with some experiences of mine. I believe it’s important to pay attention to the most insignificant details in the people around us and see them for what they’re worth, and we forget to do that too often.
This song started out from a creative writing exercise where we took a song and copied its structure and used it as a template—not the chords or melodies, just the timing and structure. We had never tried something like that before, and after awhile it came together rather quickly. The “Oh” chorus was an idea we had for awhile—a non-lyrical chorus, but an anthem at the same time. The verses set up those huge choruses, and then the bridge is kind of the relief of all the tension in the song. The opening line is inspired by an elegy written by Rainer Maria Rilke, whose writings inspired much of the album. This song continues the theme of self-doubt, not understanding what to do when the future isn’t stable. It is also our collective opinion that this song should now feature in every epic ESPN sports footage montage for the rest of time. Please and thank you.
This song is pretty unique because it was almost completely written in the studio, thanks in large part to the careful production of Malpass. We had an idea of what this track should be. We wanted it to be ambient, spacey and somehow transition between side A and side B. We had a rough melody idea, and we just started putting together layers and layers of drums, horns, guitars and keyboards. Malpass sat down and started chopping, mixing and programming it all together, and it turned out completely different than we could have ever imagined. A lot of the themes within this album come in pairs; a melody or a lyric from a song will find its way into another one at some point. The lyrics for this song are the finished thought from the opening track expanding the idea of the bridge and transitioning into the next half of the album. Highly recommended to listen with headphones on.
Extremely early on in the writing process, we had written this song—or at least a version of it. The problem was we hated the verses. It sounded like a really bad alt-rock song, but with a glorious chorus. When it came time for the studio, we had almost completely dismissed it altogether and hadn’t planned on recording it. The demo caught the ear of Malpass, and he suggested completely rewriting the verses and the bridge and trying to make it work. So we sat down at a piano and started messing around with different chords, and after an hour or two we had it. It was a cool moment in the studio, the kind that really makes you grateful that you get to create things. For us, Jimmy Eat World inspired the sound and feel of the song. When we finally recorded the “oohs” for the little break before the final chorus, it totally transformed that part into a moment, and for me, it’s perhaps the most important musical moment on the record.
This song stands out to me in several ways, most notably the verses being very rhythmically different from our normal approach, especially in the second verse where we drop to half-time. I don’t think that’s something we would have attempted on previous albums. We told ourselves going into the studio to not be afraid of anything when it came time to do rewrites or create, and a song like this really represents those risks. But the best part, for me, is the bridge of the song. Having two singers is something we’ve always seen as setting us apart from other bands, and we really get to highlight that feature in the bridge. Also, we got a wicked cool keyboard tone using a Realistic MG-1, which is always rad.
“What A Predicament!”
This song was definitely inspired by listening to a lot of bands like Say Anything, Sleeper/Agent and the Strokes. The upbeat tempo and rhythm, again, I think is a song we’ve never tried to write before, so we were really surprised how this turned out. A beat or feel like this can get old fast, or worse, it can sound really corny. But the chorus is what brings everything together. Lyrically, the idea came from a conversation with my father about patterns people can get stuck in. Years pass and they realize they are in the exact same play they started out. Oh, and the bass solo at the bridge is rad because Chris [Walker] is strumming chords on a bass, and that’s always a fun time.
“Twenty Centuries Of Sleep”
When we were almost done writing the album, we realized we wanted to write one more really aggressive song, but not just an all-out punk-rock song. We started messing around with drum beats and horn parts and came up with this really dark, spacey, ambient verse but an in your face chorus. The lyrics and title are inspired by W.B. Yeats’ poem, “The Second Coming,” and at the time I was thinking a lot about the apocalypse, legacies and death so this might be the darkest song on the record. We really love the chorus. We were inspired by At The Drive-In, not that it sounds anything like them, but we had that in mind when writing it. This is one of those songs that, as soon as you write it and record it, you know it’s going to be fun to play live. I’m looking forward to taking this one out on tour. In terms of flow, we think this song is the perfect appetizer to the next song.
We are big fans of last tracks on an album. We want our albums to tell stories, and for us the last track is the punctuation mark at the end of the album. That’s what we set out to do with this song. We worked a long time on “Bridges” to get it as epic as we could. We wrote the original riff one day and ran with that driving feel throughout the song. But, we also knew that we wanted to end the song in a way that made it feel like it never would—hence the repeated loop at the end. The song summarizes the entire theme of the album. (A little Easter egg: The lyrics reference a song each from all of our previous releases. See if you can catch them all!) I think Andy nails the chorus perfectly, the drums and guitars sound amazing, and this really is the ultimate message of the record.