Jon has been answering a lot of questions on his formspring page (feel free to go there and ask him anything!), and someone asked about the details of the Nightmare story. Here it is:
So this needs a really long explanation but I’ll give you the shortened version. Maybe if I do an interview where I can speak someday I’ll explain it in more detail.
Feel free to ask if you want me to elaborate on or clarify anything.
Tracks 0.5 and 0.5.2: Meet You In My Dreams / Broken Record
“Meet You In My Dreams” was originally meant to be the first track on Nightmare, followed by “Broken Record.” However, the circumstances at the time the album was recorded dictated that they weren’t to be included. Bits and pieces of “Meet You In My Dreams” are explained here, but not as in-depth as I could probably get. If anyone wants me to elaborate on the meaning of those two songs and their place in the story, I will. Both songs, as well as track 3.5, “The Panting Dog,” are available on “We’re All So Bored…” which is a continuation of the “Second Chance for Worst Impressions” EP. If we ever get to the point where we want to put out a deluxe edition or something, they’ll definitely be on it, in order, to complete the story.
Track 1: What Are We Fighting For?
The Character wakes up miserable, in the middle of a hellish war – literally and figuratively. “What Are We Fighting For?” is really about being manipulated and following orders without questioning them. I felt like certain people in my life were doing just that – following others without question and hurting themselves and others in the process. It’s also about my fascination with modern media and how the public is so influenced by it. It bothers me, the way that people come to conclusions without knowing all of the facts. In the story, The Character doesn’t want to fight, but he’s quickly finding it necessary. At the end of the song, he declares war.
Track 2: Nightmare
“Nightmare” is a continuation of the war, and it’s very angry and bitter at heart. The lyrics have meaning on a lot of different levels. In part, it’s about being hurt and blaming the other party for the degeneration of a relationship and their unwillingness to put the time and effort into it to keep it going (“you can’t say you gave it all you had – you can’t say you gave it your best shot – but I can.”) In the context of the story, it blames the other party for their part in starting the war and their refusal to help end it. It’s also about arrogant/snobby/cynical people and how much that behavior disheartens and angers me. “…with no respect for anyone that you deem less than you, it’s so pathetic…”/”..tearing out the insides of my heart..” This song actually went through a ton of changes in the demo stage, and I have 4 full band demos that are all different, both musically and lyrically. We might eventually release them for everyone to hear.
Track 3: Dr. Doctor
“Dr. Doctor” is about The Character dealing with the constant war (both in reality and inside himself) and using drugs to cope with the anger and frustration that is building. The bridge is the first mention of a lost love – the girl of/in his dreams (she’s first referenced in “Meet You In My Dreams,” which is really the first song of the Nightmare story.) The phrase “if you’d come home and just hold me close, never let me go, I’ll stop… Screw that!!” really begins to hint at some sort of addiction. At the end of the song, The Character screams, “I’ll be there, once I knock myself out…” meaning that he is using the drugs to meet the girl of/in his dreams. I imagine that while he’s screaming those words at the end of the song, he is being carted off by security after the doctor realizes that he’s insane.
Track 3.5: The Panting Dog
Technically, the next song on the album should have been “The Panting Dog,” where The Character is committed to a mental institution after he goes crazy at the doctor’s office. During this time, he’s being observed by “white coats,” or evil doctors, which I imagined to be a sort of hellish experience. “Sitting on my tail like a panting dog” is very much about the sexual frustration that I would imagine being in a mental institution would bring. The line “I know [that] you know you didn’t mean it when you said goodbye – there’s no goodbye…” also gives off a creepy vibe that sort of makes you think, “maybe he actually is a bit crazy…” (For the record, I am not that crazy!!! It’s just a story!!) You begin to realize that at some point the “girl of/in his dreams” left him in the real world and he’s begging for her to return.
Track 4: Sink Like An Anchor
“Sink Like An Anchor” is the song I decided to use as the idea for the album art. I imagine The Character to be in full-on Hell. An old beat up ship (symbolizing The Character in the story) is trying to make it’s way toward the light while demons and angels fight for control of the ship in the air above and in the sea below. I feel like the violins at the beginning are a symbol of transitioning from one reality to another, which is somewhere between The Character’s dream world and the real world. This song sort of takes The Character back to the war, which has progressed to a full-fledged epic battle of good and evil inside himself. In the song, The Character is forced to walk the plank for the wrong reasons (being sold out), and the lyrics discuss his thoughts and his taste for revenge while he’s floating out in the water. The line “when I give up, I’ll swim to the bottom and breathe” means that he would never give his foes the satisfaction of feeling that they were the reason for his death and when and if he was ready, he would do it himself, on his own terms. It really has multiple meanings for me, and can be interpreted in a lot of ways. It’s a symbol of The Character’s self-destruction. At the end of the song, The Character vows to haunt the dreams of the enemy who abandoned him. (FYI, although it conveys some self-destructive language, this song is NOT about suicide, which I don’t condone.)
Track 5: Take Cover (Burn)
“Take Cover (Burn)” is sort of a jab at people who manipulate to further themselves at the expense of others. It’s also a jab at anyone who didn’t believe in The Character (or me) in one way or another; i.e. “you pissed on my dreams.” It’s sort of my warning to stay away from this person, because you’re going to get fucked over. This was actually the last song I wrote for the album, a few weeks before we went into the studio.
Track 6: Haunting Me
“Haunting Me” gets into The Character’s feeling of being trapped, both in his own mind and in his living quarters (“this place is haunting me to death”) and how he’s using drugs to cope with his feeling of hopelessness and emptiness (see “Dr. Doctor”). “These thoughts of death invade my mind” is very much showing the effects of drugs and how they eventually make you lose perspective on life and living. It also hints at a relationship going sour and The Character not caring. “You swear the drugs have got my brain… I can’t complain.” My favorite line is “I smoked the sense out of my brains, because it takes away the pain, the thought that I might never be someone who you can believe in…” The apartment I was living in at the time inspired a lot of the lyrics. I hated that place.
Track 7: Last Time Again
“Last Time Again” is about remorse for hurting people close to you. At this point, The Character really is a full-fledged addict, and he’s begging his significant other (who also is a version of the girl of/in his dreams) to give him another chance and not to give up on him, even though he’s proven he can’t be taken at his word. “I’m falling down the stairs for you” is a feeble attempt at justifying his behavior, but it’s really just begging the girl to stay. “Hold on…” It’s actually a pretty sad and personal song, if you take time to read between the lines. Every line is based on a specific event that happened in my own struggles.
Track 8: Orange Case
“Orange Case” is continuing the theme of addiction and relating it to flying in a plane. Going up, coming down, and begging for forgiveness from the person you’ve disappointed, again. (See “Last Time Again.”) It’s a cycle every addict goes through. At this point, The Character has lost all hope and all sense of being in control (“God couldn’t save me now, I’m in too deep there’s no way out.”) By the way, the “black box” not only symbolizes the mysterious black box of an airplane – it’s also where I used to hide my cigarettes from my girlfriend.
Track 9: Streetlights
“Streetlights” signifies a change in The Character. The ongoing war, both inside him and with the outside world, as well as the influence of the drugs he takes to cope, have completely turned him to the dark side. It’s all about fulfilling primal instincts and letting go/attempting to hold on to what you believe in, whether it be religion or life in general. I imagine the character standing up on stage and eyeing a girl in the audience, who is staring at the character. The girl completely abandons her morals and gives into her taboo desires. It’s also about having sex in a car. This one was co-written with Ted Bruner, by the way!
Track 10: Tired Of Waking Up
“Tired Of Waking Up” is a turning point in the album. It’s where The Character turns to himself and realizes what he’s doing to both himself and those around him and why. He looks back at the life he had with the “girl of/in his dreams” and realizes all of his “dreams of fun and fame” have vanished. It references being “locked up for being sad” which goes back to “The Panting Dog.” It’s all about reflecting, letting go, and accepting what life has brought. All in all, it symbolizes The Character moving on.
Track 11: Bring Me Home
At the end of “Tired Of Waking Up,” you hear some of the violins and rain from previous tracks, as The Character travels back to his dream world one last time to say goodbye to his love. The girl of his dreams.
I imagine “Bring Me Home” to happen in the same place where “Meet You In My Dreams” occurred. A lonely one bedroom apartment, or hotel-like room, at night with heavy mist all around, making it impossible to see anything else or go anywhere else. A place between Heaven and Hell – sort of like the house in the movie “The Others” with Michelle Pfeiffer. It’s all about letting the demons go, and it’s a really sad song that sort of puts everything in perspective. My favorite line is the chorus: “I worry about everything every time I close my eyes, so before I fall asleep, let’s keep the TV on tonight, ’cause you’re afraid of the dark, and I could use the light.” He finally says goodbye to the girl of his dreams and lets go of it all. “Goodbye, my love, goodnight.” I imagine them “holding each other close” (Dr. Doctor) and falling asleep together. (See my other explanation of this song below to see how it relates to “Jacob’s Ladder.”)
Track 12: If This Is Where It Ends…
“If this is where it ends, where do we begin?” is a way of saying that everything repeats itself, almost as if The Character is living in an ever repeating purgatory/hell. It represents the pattern of addiction, war, and anger, and the hell that they put people through. I imagine that through the entire album, The Character was in a place between life and death, and his “love” either left him because of the drugs, or he eventually died, and he was basically haunting her, in his dreams, which was her “real world.” It’s hard for me to explain this part. She never looks at him, especially during the first song “Meet You In My Dreams,” which sort of implies that he wasn’t really there. Sort of like the movie “The Sixth Sense” in a way. It’s also very much like “Jacob’s Ladder” in the sense that he died in the war (which could symbolize addiction, among other things), and it’s all about the point between life and death.
All in all, Nightmare talks a lot about the use of drugs to cope with life’s difficult situations, but it’s truly a message about the destructive nature of addiction and how it ultimately leads to death.