Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Yum Yum Tree – "Slouch" (2007)

What am I waiting for?
Why am I still here?

The Yum Yum Tree's Paint by Numbers is strong from start to finish – there's not a bad song on the album:

But the Paint by Numbers track I'd pick if I had to pick just one is "Slouch."  It grew on me quickly, and for awhile, I'd repeat it over and over.  In fact, if you knew just how many times in a row I would play it on my iPod, you'd think I was weird.  (You may think that already.)

This third installment of my four-part series on Andy Gish and her music focuses on "Slouch."  (You can click here to read the previous part of the interview if you missed it.)

2or3lines:  "Slouch" is the Paint By Numbers song that first got my attention. There's a lot going on in "Slouch," both musically and lyrically -- I think it's a very skillfully constructed song.

Andy:  Wow.  Thank you.  I’ve never thought of it as that.  I mean, I like the song, but I think it was something I just kind of hammered out when I wrote it.  I write on guitar but in my heart I am a bass player. So the backbone of “Slouch” was actually a bass-like part I wrote on guitar.  I’ve never thought about it before but this is probably why the song starts off with that part and then breaks into bar-chords when it gets more angsty and loud.

Andy Gish performing live with
Alex Pilson and John McNicolas
2or3lines:  The lyrics to “Slouch” tell a story – perhaps a story based on real-life events?

Andy:  I took a frustrating situation and processed it through the song’s lyrics.  I will admit that most of my songs are about people in my life.  Probably only my best friend knows who “Slouch” is about.  Let’s just say it’s about someone who placed themselves very much in the center of my life -- both musically and personally – without an invitation to do so.  All of a sudden I had someone in my life -- although not actually in my band – who was supporting me and admiring me, but also trying to control me.  This was very strange to me and I really didn’t understand what was happening. He wasn’t a bad person by any means, but I just didn’t know what to do with the situation. My writing this song was me trying to work through it . . . as most of my songs are.  

2or3lines: So would you say “Slouch” is typical of your songs, or is it an atypical song?

Andy:  I guess something unique about this song is that it is much more intimate than the rest of the songs I was writing back then.  My songs tended to be bathed in lots of metaphors, but this song was a lot more vulnerable.  

2or3lines:  “Slouch” begins with these lines:

What’s going on here?
I thought you were coming over to hang on the couch
What’s going wrong here?
I can see the regression in your impotent slouch

Andy, I have to admit something -- I thought for a long time that you were saying “impudent,” not “impotent.”

Andy:  Scott Lewis and I once discussed the use of the word “impotent” in the song.  For me, at that time, it was a very ballsy word for me to sing . . . much more than any actual swear words.  Although in this context it is really just a metaphor to someone kind of shrugging their shoulders or not showing up to a situation or conversation.  Still, for a women to stand on a stage and sing the word “impotent” seemed daring to me.  It may not sound like much, but I remember being very uncomfortable with that line when we first started playing the song live, but I was resolved that it was the perfect word.

Andy Gish and Michelle Friedman
2or3lines: The next lines of the song seem to indicate that the male character has surprised the singer with some kind of request or proposal -- she wants to say "yes" to him, but she's afraid to:

I’m afraid to take that jump
I’ve seen you let 'em fall.
But I’m afraid to leave right now
What if this is worth waiting for?

What's going on between these two people?

Andy:  This line was literally from me sitting on a couch with someone and debating if I was going to leave or not.  They didn’t want me to leave but also this relationship was not moving forward.  I guess it’s about this person’s inaction.  And inaction is a frustrating as hell to me! I admit it’s something I struggle with myself.  Don’t they say that the things we don’t like in other people are also the things we don’t like in ourselves?  Well, there you go.

2or3lines: I get the feeling from the following lines that the singer has been burned before – she's suspicious of the guy's sincerity. Or perhaps she's more concerned that the guy doesn't really know what he wants – he may think he wants her today, but may change his mind tomorrow:

I can’t stand the way you play me
Or the way you make me doubt
And I don’t have the time right now
To help you figure you out

Tell us about those lines.

Andy:  Those lines were in reference to the power play situation I found myself in.  I am very independent and can be quite rebellious if someone tries to control me.  I think that is where I was coming from.  There is definitely a lot of angst in the line “I don’t have the time right now to help you figure you out.”  I hope this doesn’t make me sound arrogant, but I’ve always been a person who had no problem expressing my identity.  Good or bad, I’ve always owned who I am.  This may be going into too much detail but I think that owning your character appears to others as confidence.  I don’t think that actually equates to confidence, sometimes it’s actually just resolve in accepting who you with all the glory of your faults.  But what I experienced was that I was attracting people in my life who didn’t know their own character.  I think I was attracting them because they also wanted to know who they were.  Figuring out “who you are” can be grueling and uncomfortable. It’s like standing naked in front of a mirror going “OK, I guess this is what I got to work with.”  I know for certain the angst from this line came from someone who seemed to want me to do that work for them.  But it’s a task that no one can do for you.  I surely don’t want to sound heartless, but I remember just being frustrated with the entire situation.  It was intense but not very functional.  And I guess I would (one day) like to be a person who jumps in seeing failure as a successful outcome.  I’m still working on that.

Version one of The Yum Yum Tree: Matt Harr,
 Scott Lewis, Andy Gish, and Kent Honea
2or3lines:  The choruses repeat the following lines, which seem indicative of the singer's ambivalence and uncertainty about the relationship:

What am I waiting for?
Why am I still here?

Earlier the singer said she didn’t have the time “to help you figure you out,” but it seems that she is still waiting around for the guy to make up his mind about what he wants from her – and the fact that she is still waiting makes her a little frustrated with herself. 

Andy: Yeah, that’s true.  I’m a Scorpio, we hate waiting, yet we are very patient.  Ambivalence is also very frustrating to me.  I’d rather know how someone feels about me -- good or bad – then move on from there.  I also will completely admit that defaulting to ambivalence it one of my own personal flaws when I feel insecure.  I’ve recently been trying to practice what Brené Brown writes about vulnerability. It’s one of the hardest things I have ever done.  (By the way, confidence has never been sexy to me, but vulnerability is.)  One of her points that I love is that what we want people to share with us is their own vulnerability because they are sharing a true part of themselves.  We want to feel like they are sharing their heart . . . their true self.  Yet, this vulnerability is often the hardest thing for us to share with them.  Seems unfair -- right?  I suppose most of my music is me attempting to explore and share my own vulnerability. So perhaps what I found most frustrating about the situation that inspired “Slouch” was also something I suffered from. 

Brené Brown on vulnerability
2or3lines: I really like the way the choruses build as the song progresses.  You go from singing the chorus solo to having a number of other singers echo your lines.

Andy:  The chorus of people singing at the end was probably the very last thing we added to the album before we released it.  I decided I wanted a group of people singing the chorus sort of at the last minute -- as we were mixing the album.  So in the dead of winter, I invited a bunch of friends to come to the studio and we all sang together.  

2or3lines:  There's what I would call a coda at the end of "Slouch," and I have to admit I'm confused by the lyrics that conclude the song:

We all know you like it this way
Now you got him lying on the floor
But Alpha never dressed up this way
And I don’t think he likes it anymore
We all know you like it this way
Now you got her lying on the floor
Omega never dressed up this way
And I don’t think she likes it anymore

Help me out here, Andy -- who are Alpha and Omega, and what is going on here?

Andy:  The alpha/omega references relate to shifting powers and roles that were happening at that time and that I just didn’t understand.  This is a reference to the power play situation mentioned before. It’s also kind of references how different people play different roles in different situations or with different people. You may be confident around some people and then play the role of being subordinate around others.

2or3lines:  What did the critics and reviewers say about Paint by Numbers?  How did the public respond to the album?

Andy:  The album got good reviews. I remember Flagpole saying that our songs sounded too happy to come from a Georgia group . . . that they sounded more like sunny California pop.  [NOTE: Flagpole is an alternative newspaper that focuses on the cultural scene in Athens, Georgia, which is the home of the University of Georgia.]  I took no offense to that!  The album got a decent amount of play on college radio, especially on the University of Georgia and Georgia State stations, and every so often I get little royalty checks and I buy the band drinks with them.

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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