THE SIDEKICKS guitarist/vocalist Steve Ciolek takes us track-by-track through the band’s new album, Awkward Breeds.
I suppose I’ll start by explaining the album title. Awkward Breeds refers to the condition I perceive myself, my friends, and a lot of people I have met to be in. This condition comes from growing up in an America where individuality is emphasized. Everything needs to be for a goal, an achievement, a purpose. Trying to achieve contentment within this mold, however, seems to be unattainable because the general condition for us is to continue to want more and more, constantly in search of that next individual payoff. And it leaves you feeling empty, or like things just aren’t right. A person can’t perfectly fit into this mold. My friends/ I can’t, hence Awkward.
I wanted to write songs that acknowledged this condition, and acknowledged that although things seem to be fucked up, it is still possible to overcome it especially through human relationships and love. I tried to write songs that portrayed how I see this condition playing out in my life and the lives of others, paying attention to the social constructions and ideals that may be at play and hoping to deconstruct some of them.
I had the line that the title comes from (see the sowing of awful seeds that grow into awkward breeds) before I wrote any of the lyrics to the record. This line served as sort of a mission statement for the record, where whenever I wasn’t sure what to do with a particular song I tried to think about how to tie it back into the ideas I associate with that line. This song is written from my perspective as a child looking out my front window on a rainy day. It’s first on the record to set the stage for the rest of the songs, putting them into the context laid out in this song. DMT is the endogenous chemical referred to in the song that is speculated to be released when someone is dying, inducing a person to see visions, or lies.
This song is about a person struggling with how they should become an “adult,” and how there was a dissonance between their desires for their life and the expectations placed on them for adulthood. It’s about being able to feel okay with what you’ve got and who you see yourself as.
I won’t give away direct influences for other songs, but this song was my attempt at writing a song in the vein of Get Happy-era Elvis Costello. It’s about a person who was the object of a lot of people’s attraction, who superficially was doing well (just as a peacock with extravagant plumage), but in the end feels just as empty as the ones she let down. I wrote this song after walking back from class at one of the biggest schools in the country. It’s also home to a strange annual phenomenon where, on the first warm day of spring, the students flock to the campus “Oval” in full swim attire to catch some rays, laying out on the grass and concrete of this weird, makeshift, waterless beach. This situation made me think about ideas like objectification and the male gaze, and just how we construct sexuality.
Probably the most cryptic one on the record. I think it’s meant to take a look at being proactive, metaphorically represented in this song as light. I was listening to a lot of the Paul and Linda McCartney album Ram at the time, which might account for the kinda break-beat in the middle.
“1940s Fighter Jet”
I was lying in bed with someone whose room had plastic stars on the ceiling and began to imagine our relationship as one between two people within a country at war. It was a sort of fantastical way to examine the relationship and the constraints that had been placed on it, whether that be in the form of ideas instilled in our minds or something as simple as having to pay rent. I imagined what it would be like without these perceived barriers.
This song is about the personal value people assign to physical places, such as a house or an entire city. In reality, though, it seems the value they are assigning to these locations belongs with the human relationships formed in these places, not the places themselves.
“The Whale And Jonah”
The song portrays the interactions of a married couple, comparing their situation to the Bible story in which a guy named Jonah finds safety at sea in the belly of a sea mammal. Dissonance between the two partners regarding their monogamous relationship is not really addressed, and the eventual demise of their “safe” and comfortable situation seems imminent.
“The 9th Piece”
It’s about a long-distance relationship within the obvious context of a money-driven world, and the struggle to find self-worth when working for someone or something you don’t care about.
A love song about love, from the perspective of a man in our patriarchal society, and examining the guilt that I feel comes along with that. It stems from a “loves me/loves me not” situation I experienced involving a girl and some daisies.
A song about a baby and the things being told to it.
This song takes place after the moment “Looker” refers to, later on that same day. It attempts to find light in the often bleak situations presented on the album. I wanted to end the record on a hopeful note–hopeful that although living in our modern world can be a total bummer, it is possible to transcend it all, if only momentarily, by sharing experiences with other humans. alt