The Lemurs “Yours, Mine, Ours” (Influenza)
Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: Influenza, Music.
Approach Influenza as a series which serves to help give insight as to where music is born; these are the thoughts, influences and the inspirations directly from the mind of the artists. Here, guitarist and vocalist Mitch Billeaud dissects “Yours, Mine, Ours” from The Lemurs’ latest album Million Little Bits.
On “Yours, Mine, Ours”:
Though I often write in the first person, I have made it a habit to avoid writing about my own life. I think it’s because it is too plain, or maybe I am just too used to it, but I usually rely on fiction (often) or nonsense (less often but with reliable effect) for lyrics and try to use music as the real emotive vehicle. With “Yours, Mine, Ours,” I felt a bolt of autobiographical inspiration, and despite my early reservations, brought it to the band to check out. The source, although admittedly depressing, is real, and where I normally find it difficult to legitimize my own feelings as being relevant or authentic, I thought that in this case they had cleared the bar.
Anyway, about six years ago, my dad began suffering from dementia, which doctors are now diagnosing as Alzheimer’s (which from a practical point of view, is kind of the same thing). After being left by his second wife, my wife and I picked up what feels like a handful of sand and flailed to care for him as the disease took on a deeper hold. He is now in the late stages of the disease, in a home, beyond our grasp to help, and only 69 years old (which is quite young for where he is cognitively). Pretty ironic that this kind of lesson on life lost has been delivered by the living. It’s weird to remember all of this stuff happening at about the time the band was trying to get things going after spending a lot of 2007 on the road and I don’t guess I was much fun to be around. One morning, during one of the final few months my dad would spend in our house, I woke up to the sound of his rummaging through our kitchen. I can’t even remember any other events of the morning except that when I went to see what he was up to, he turned and glared at me with this confused, somewhat angry, but totally empty look that I’d never seen from him before. The picture in my head is more than worth the words it’d take to describe, but hope I’m in the ballpark with the song. It definitely got me thinking about how we save images, whether we want to or not.
Lyrically, I wanted to empathize those things that my dad couldn’t express, to talk about what my own feelings were (notably despair with some embarrassment thrown in for good measure), and then most importantly, I wanted to somehow relate that his disease, while it resides mostly in him, has an aura and effects everything around it within some diameter. Writing from multiple perspectives seemed like an obvious choice. By using multiple angles, I could keep some depth while still trying to get at the confusion and ambiguity that goes along with what a life like this creates. I figured a lot of what was left over would have to be literal or left to delivery. All of that said, I needed the music to do a lot of heavy lifting and speak to a simplicity, urgency and directness that I felt the lyrics could only partly deliver on. As a result the song is simply an A/B repeated pattern, and completely diatonic in the key of D Maj. The guitars are obviously very big and rocking, with a Flaming Lips sort of drum pounding going on, so the tape strings (mellotron) from Josh give a pretty dramatic lift to the music. Real credit goes to Davy, our guitar player for finding the economical (and memorable, if I do say so) hook that starts the song and repeats throughout much of it (Da dum dum, Da dum dum….). This hook, which I think is one of our coolest, cannot be removed from the song without it losing its feel. [Mitch Billeaud]