Alien Ant Farm singer-lyricist Dryden Mitchell recently discussed the tracks on ANThology, the band’s major-label debut. Released March 6, 2001, on New Noize/DreamWorks Records, the album was primarily recorded at NRG Studios in North Hollywood, Calif., and produced by Jay Baumgardner (Papa Roach, Coal Chamber, System Of A Down).
“Courage”: This is about misunderstandings and reaching a boiling point in a relationship. When I wrote the lyrics, I pictured an argument with your better half. It’s to the point that the girl’s going to hit you, but it never actually crosses over to such brutality. I sing in the chorus, “You should try not to be so courageous,” because you know that courage isn’t going to last. It’s like a “Jenga” game, right before the pieces collapse.
“Movies”: [First radio track] “Movies” is one of my favorites. It’s a very honest, real story felt by everyone in the band. I compare a bad relationship to the movies. Lyrically, everything in it relates to film, like the line “At slow speed we all seem focused.” My writing used to be much more cryptic, but this song is more direct and it has a happier feel. Terry wrote a cool Pacman riff for it.
“Flesh And Bone”: We’re not the most religious people, but Tye suggested I write about God. The first thing that came to mind was bashing those fanatical people who force religion on me. But it seemed classier to write something positive about religion, something that embraces it. This song’s about knowing there’s something greater out there without saying exactly what it is. The Bible doesn’t play into it, though I borrowed a few lines from it for the benefit of rhyme. It was challenging to write.
“Whisper”: Terry asked why we even named the song “Whisper” because it’s a very heavy, pissed-off song. The band was going through some tough times when I wrote it. We’d been showcasing for labels and midway through the set, the record executives would start whispering to each other. We’re trying to play our best, but we’re wondering what they’re saying about us, or if they’re even talking about us at all. I don’t think we were bitter, just fed up with the people whispering about us.
“Summer”: “Summer” is straight lovey-dovey and not supposed to be anything particularly deep but rather a cool play on words. Lyrically, I go through all the seasons. Throughout it, I say things like, “Tried to give you summer, but I’m winter/ Wish I could make you spring, but I fall so hard.”
“Sticks And Stones”: Everyone has heard that saying “Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.” This is another one where I play with words. It’s full of angst. I was reminiscing about past phone conversations that led to arguments. They happen for no reason, just because one person is moody. The beat is driving and has a reggae vibe to it because the bass drum is constant.
“Attitude”: This is my favorite song on the record. I’m not very good at relationships and have done bad things in the past. With “Attitude,” I’m telling a girl that her feelings of rage are acceptable – everything she does is okay because the guy she’s in a relationship with did such horrendous things. It has a cool Latin vibe.
“Stranded”: This song is all about the ocean and has as many puns as I could put in there. My ex-girlfriend was really into whales and marine biology. She hated me at the time, so I thought I would try and woo her. It didn’t work. Maybe flowers and dinner would’ve been better?
“Wish”: This is the very first song we wrote – it’s amazing it’s lasted so long and has made it to the record. It relays the message that people should make their own thing happen and not worry about the critics out there. For example, my thing is music, and I tell people who criticize that to create their own wish. This is my dream – they should find their own thing instead of tearing into mine.
“Calico”: This is basically a feel-good breakup song with a waltzy groove. I wasn’t trying to be deep here – the words just sound cool when they’re sung. When the guitar comes in, it creates a perfect intro for a yell.
“Death Day”: “Happy Death Day” is pretty morbid, but I wrote it strictly for fantasy purposes. We’ve all gotten frustrated with certain people, sometimes to the point where you wish they would die. But you also realize that if they actually did die, you’d be devastated. I’m singing, “Papa’s got a brand new body bag for you” – it’s like James Brown’s line “Papa’s got a brand new bag,” but cooler.
“Smooth Criminal”: We’re all big fans of Michael Jackson, and this cover is an ally for us. Terry and Tye were messing with it in the garage one day, and the riff screamed out to be heavy. We played with death metal bands while we were in Europe, and people would go ape shit when they heard our version. People that don’t even like us like this song.
“Universe”: Awesome, moody, Radiohead-influenced. [Arranger] David Campbell turned it into a monster with his string section, but without making it corny. The lyrics relate to some unforgivable things I’ve done, things I could never share with anyone.
“Orange Appeal” (hidden track): The title is another play on words, like “orange peel.” It’s made up of quick, little lines that reminded me of my childhood. I say “apples” and “oranges” in Spanish, and then refer to a family tree. Musically, it starts with nylon string acoustics, then slowly builds up. The vocals are out of key because I had a nice wine buzz on during the recording.
Alien Ant Farm frontman Dryden Mitchell recently discussed the tracks on truANT (El Tonal/DreamWorks Records). Due Aug. 19, 2003, the album was produced by Dean and Robert DeLeo.
“1000 Days”: “1000 Days” was written towards the end of touring for ANThology. We’d been on the road for 18 months and I was feeling a bit homesick – it was a road rage type of thing. Every few months I’d go home for two or three days, and that just didn’t feel right. I’ve heard people way more successful than we are complain, and I think, ‘How can you complain about your great life?’ That’s the feeling I had as I was writing this song: How can I complain? I’m in Japan right now. There are friends at home who will never leave the city I grew up in. But touring for extended periods does really weird things to your psyche.
“Drifting Apart”: Some of the songs I write are more fiction than they are real. I’ll take a thought and turn it into something a little more grand. This is one of those “what if” songs. It was this little scenario I thought of about taking a hot air balloon trip with somebody. You set off on this mission together, but as time goes by it kind of dwindles and peters out. It’s a totally pessimistic thing to say, but everybody drifts apart – it’s not my opinion; it’s the truth. I have friends whose parents have been married for 25 years, and even in their life stories there have been infidelities, or at least feelings of no longer being in love.
“Quiet”: I don’t know why this song starts off like it does: “I’ll be the bumblebee behind you.” It just sounded cool; it kinda rolled off my tongue. In fact, the first verse has nothing to do with the song as a whole, but I liked the way it sounded. It paints a cool picture. To me, The Beatles wrote the best nonsense lyrics. I love not reading stuff into what they sing. I think John Lennon did it more than Paul McCartney. You know he’s singing stuff no one’s gonna understand except him. Listening to them opened me up to the possibility that lyrics don’t always have to mean something; they can just sound cool, and that works for me.
“Glow”: This is a breakup song, but it’s actually optimistic. I’m comparing the situation of meeting someone new to a fuse box. The chorus is: “I’ll be the switch she turns on,” and I love the innuendo of “I’ll be the fuse that she blows.” Not that I think 10-year-old girls need to hear that sort of thing, but I’ll laugh in my head if I hear they’re singing along.
“These Days”: It’s about realizing that things aren’t bad even when they’re bad. When I think of this song in relation to the accident, I realize, hey, don’t sweat the small stuff. As bad as things can get, I’ve seen way worse. Line for line, it’s pretty schizophrenic, but if you hang out with me for a couple of days, you would see that’s how I am. It’s not unusual for me to do a complete 180 on things. I can’t explain it, really.
“Sarah Wynn”: This song is about a girl on heroin, and for the title, we just thought, you know, Sarah Wynn: heroin. It’s like me growing up, maybe meeting this girl I’ve known since I was 11 or 12, when we had a crush on each other, then watching her deteriorate, going down the wrong road and doing drugs. The thing is, I don’t even know a girl that’s done that; it’s completely fictional. I just thought it would be interesting to write something like that. I don’t think I’ve ever written a song before about something I’ve had no experience with. When I’m singing it, though, it feels real.
“Never Meant”: This is about an ex-girlfriend who lived on the second story of a house. I used to stay with her a lot, but I messed around on her quite a bit. One night I went back to her house and the door was locked, and I pretty much knew I was busted. She’d never locked it before. I was drunk and throwing pebbles at the window, trying to wake her up. Then I threw a rock and it broke the window. It was just one of those things. It was, like, “I didn’t mean to hurt you, do you wrong and be a jerk, but I guess I was.”
“Goodbye”: This is about a self-absorbed girl, a conceited person. It’s got a real melancholy feel to it. The part where I sing “goodbye” is such a strong hook. When you can deliver a massive hook in just one word, that’s the coolest thing to me. When I hear that “goodbye,” it gets to me immediately. The song is about a specific person, but I think everybody’s got it in them. It’s just human behavior.
“Tia Lupe”: We were at this house in Malibu watching these moths fly towards the light in the back yard, wondering why they did it. In the song, a girl catches a moth and wants to build a cage for it and put a light in there and watch it fly towards the light. The second verse turns it into a relationship thing. The light is eventually going to kill the moth, but it doesn’t know it. I thought that you can be in a relationship like that – it’s killing you, but you don’t realize it until it’s too late. Tia Lupe is my great aunt. I used to live with her, and she was extremely frugal. I’d be reading a book and she’d come in and say, “Paga la luz,” which is “Turn off the light.” I thought it would be funny to put that in the song and cool to name it after her.
“Rubber Mallet”: It’s about looking back on a relationship. It was a pretty good one, I guess, but then someone new came into my life. It reminds me of – sad to say – jumping from rock to rock like a frog does. Instead of rocks or lily pads, it’s women. The title is a reference to the old carnival game where you stick the rubber frog onto this plate, and you hit it with a mallet, trying to launch it onto a lily pad in the middle. That image stuck in my head when I was working on this song. It’s like I’m one of those frogs.
“S.S. Recognize”: “S.S.” is probably the heaviest thing on the record. When we play that song live, kids really, really like it. It’s about being on a sinking ship, a nautical story. I’ve never been on a sinking boat and hope I never am on one. There are a lot of puns in this one.
“Hope”: I’d started writing this song and was showing it to Mike when the bus accident happened. I just had the verse, just the very beginning of the song. Even though it’s called “Hope,” it has nothing to do with the accident, which I find kind of ironic. It’s about a marriage and infidelity. I wanted it to be on the record partly because I was playing it when the wreck happened.
“Spain In The Neck“: Spain in the neck was a b-side to truANT.
Those are quotes of what Dryden said on the AlienAntFans message board:
“All Your Crimes”: All your crimes is a b side for the new record. It did noy make the record, though it is one of my favorites.
“Sleepwalker”: Sleepwalker is on the new record. My friend Miguel Martinez who recorded and mixed some of Greatest Hits commited suicide and it killed me as well. This song was written about the comments his long time girlfriend made about how she still feels him in the room, as if he were there with her. This is more of a song for her. If anyone else likes it… Cool. Dryden
More to come in the future, probably.