The Beautiful Letdown Song Stories
Thoughts on the Album:
“The Beautiful Letdown is about real life: the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s an honest attempt to reflect on the great and terrible aspects of being human, the tension of existence. A lot of people run away from this tension because the problems in our world are too hard to face. But the tension of being human is where we live and think and breathe. In fact, the very lowest moments in our lives are when we stand toe to toe with the truth about ourselves and our world. The way I see it, hope means nothing at all if hope doesn’t reach to the core of our need. The Beautiful Letdown is where meaning and hope invade our greatest and worst moments. The Beautiful Letdown is where we live, who we are, and where the future begins.”
— Jon Foreman
“Although this was our fourth studio record at the time, there was something new and fresh – almost innocent – about the recording process of this. This was the most freedom we had ever felt while tracking an album – no record labels, no distractions, just four guys making the record we’d always wanted to make. This was also the most prepared we’d ever been for a record; these were songs that we’d played live countless times, songs that we’d lived with. In fact, the process felt so natural that we finished the entire record in just 17 days. But although this album had humble beginnings, I don’t think any of us was prepared for the wild journey that we were about to begin” —Tim Foreman
Meant To Live
That for me is probably the most straight forward song on the album. With the verses I think of them in the third person, talking to myself—talking about myself, maybe. I’m the kid fumbling his confidence, wondering why the world has passed him by. And I think we’re all born with this innate knowledge that we’re meant to live for more than the new car and the new guitar. It’s a song about meaning. It’s a quest for joy, a quest for truth, and searching for the reason why we’re here. It’s knowing that we’re meant for more than what the magazine pages sell us.
A while back I read a TS Elliott poem called, “The Hollow Men.” The imagery in the poem continues to haunt me: “we are hollow men we are stuffed men…” I look at our planet and I see a horrible, beautiful world…where love and hate breathe the same air. This is where we wake up everyday; this is where we live. Maybe the kid in the song is me, hoping I’m bent for more than arguments and failed attempts to fly. Something deep inside of me yearns for the beautiful, the true. I want more that what I’ve been sold; I want to live life.
This Is Your Life
Music holds her cards close to her chest; she always maintains the element of mystery. Sometimes everything feels so right and you can’t explain why. This album felt that way for us. We only spent around two weeks in the studio but I wouldn’t have spent another minute. This tune is a good example of the mystery of sound. We started messing around at my house with different low-end synths and lo-fi beats and this mellow acoustic song became transformed. I’m not quite sure how we got here but I’m glad that the song arrived.
More Than Fine
I spent much of my childhood watching surf videos, fixing dings, looking for waves. Taylor Steele’s videos were always supercharged with a punk rock soundtrack that would fuel your next surf, becoming the background music of my high school years. Several of the short-lived garage bands that I was in wanted to play only punk covers. But I never really wanted to be punk rock; I just liked the energy in the music. I think part of what attracted me to bands like Op Ivy and Minor Threat was their commitment to change. But so much of what I hear today is content with things the way they are. I feel like contentment can be a dangerous thing in the wrong hands. Now is the time to change. If punk is dead (and I’m not talking about whether it sells!), maybe this is a punk tune disguised as pop.
Einstein said, “Without belief in the inner harmony of the world there would be no science.” Maybe. I say without the dissonance of our modern age there would be no rock and roll. There lies the tension: between the harmony and the dissonance. We’re the problem, we’re the issue. I can pin the blame on whomever I want but the mirror still points my direction. This is a tune that really feels great to play live: step on a distortion pedal and scream about the dissonance.
Dare You To Move
I love to write songs; I’ve been at it since I could reach the piano. It’s one of my favorite ways to pass the time. Music helps me sort out who I am, so my songs usually end up being somewhat autobiographical. I’ve always felt the deepest connection with honest songs, so I try to write with sincerity. This song is an attempt to honestly face the gap between who I am and who I want to be; between the way the world spins and the way the world should be. I’ve heard that we only use a small part of our brain. Maybe out soul is the same way. And maybe we’re half asleep most of our lives, simply reacting to the stimulus our brain receives. Action, true action is rare indeed.
This is an anthem of action and responsibility. Who will live our lives for us? Who will seek the Lord in these dark days? What generation will arise and be the salt and light of hope to this starving world? Salvation is here! This is a very emotional song for me. This song is my challenge to myself. And when I sing it, I sing it to myself, daring myself to live like today never happened. The last chorus is really a cry from my soul to live.
4 AM is a great time of night. The day before is long dead but the morning is yet to come. All the commotion from the night before has died down and every sane upstanding citizen is asleep. It’s a great time to go for a walk. You’ve got the planet to yourself for an hour or so, so peaceful…even the stars look different: waiting dawn. I feel the same way that the stars do sometimes. Anticipating…the night is nearly over, the day is almost here.
The Beautiful Letdown
The beautiful letdown is the moment of surrender. After the rush of life, after the failure and success, there is a quiet moment where we are alone with the weight of infinity on our back. Now, these moments are increasingly rare in our time. Our days are filled with worries and diversions that almost drown out the roar of the infinite. Almost. The infinite is still there, following us home like the moon on a lonely stretch of highway. Perhaps when we fill our days here on earth we are really trying to escape the deafening roar of infinity, trying to build some sort of importance and significance without having to face our own death and the eventual collapse of our efforts. The beautiful letdown is the moment of surrender, when we are broken, acknowledging our infinite need. Who am I in the shadow of eternity? What are my greatest accomplishments against the backdrop of time and space? What is man in the vast reaches of the universe? A dot? A speck? The irony is that the poor and broken in this life are more likely to come to terms with their need and consequently more likely to grasp the abundant life that is at their disposal. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The beautiful letdown is the moment of surrender. Everything in this life will fail me (including myself). These failures become the beautiful letdowns. Yes, I am the beautiful letdown. Indeed, the church is a collection of beautiful letdowns, where the weak and the poor and the losers sing “I don’t belong here.” This is not an apathic dirge but a cry of the significance and meaning beyond this life. Today has infinite significance in the shadow of infinity. If you seek to save your life you will lose it, lose your life in surrender and you will find it. To be alone with the infinite is a frightening thing. Every dream come true reaches a stage of despair, when our goals are no longer in the room and we are left alone with infinity. Every failure leaves us in the same desperate place. The Beautiful Letdown is an acknowledgement that even the most fulfilling moments of this life are empty without the shadow of eternity. The self is only complete when we are living in both the temporal and infinite. We are spirit and body, where the shadow of eternity falls on our paths.
When we’re not on the road, we spend a lot of time working on the next batch. After the song is written, we try and figure it out: fooling around with different arrangements, different sounds…messing around with electricity so to speak. The voice at the beginning of the song is off of my answering machine, (which by the way, can be a great thing to record; I record my answering machine often) We chopped up the message and threw it in. Actually, come to think of it, I don’t think my friend has heard the tune yet! Anyways, to sum up what the song is about: it’s a fun, catchy tune about how we’re all going to die someday! Life is so short, live well.
Daniel Heavenwrad, a friend of mine from Canada, came out to California and stayed at my place for a day. We went out for pizza, wrote a couple of Remy Zero-ish songs, and called it a night. In the morning, about an hour before I was going to drop him off at the train station, this song flew out. We threw it down, I burned a CD for Dan and we raced to the station. This song is so personal- it feels great to play live. On a good night, I feel like I can just throw myself into this song and drift off over the crowd through the PA.
Adding To The Noise
Being on tour is totally different speed. Hurry up and wait…lots of time in planes, trains, automobiles. You find yourself leaving cities that you never really saw. The funniest thing is that we rarely get to play as a band on the road. You spend all your time getting there, setting up, and tearing down. So the show and the sound check, (if you get one) become your only chances to practice and work on new ideas as a band. The rest of the time you find yourself waiting around looking at cold pizza and an acoustic guitar that’s got four strings, which is a great time to write a song. I think I wrote this one somewhere near Dallas. Four strings is enough for rock and roll.
I remember “24” really well. It was the day before my 25th birthday, and I had just broken my wrist skateboarding. I was kind of sitting there, a little dejected and forlorn and trying to figure out what I was gonna do for the next couple shows, trying to play with a broken wrist and stuff. And then there were a couple other events that led to the writing of that song, relationships and things like that. “24,” for me, is about the 24 hours in the day, and the voices in my head, just trying to come to terms with all the decisions that go on in daily life. When I talk about the voices in my head, I just mean that with every decision, it’s almost like Congress is up in my head and they’re all bickering and arguing, trying to figure out what the next plan of attack will be. And the goal for me would be to be one, to be unified–to have one voice. I’ve heard it said that purity of heart is to will one thing.
Wherever we run, wherever the sun finds us when he rises, we remain stuck with ourselves. That can be overwhelming. Sometimes I feel like my soul is polluted with politicians, each with a different point of view. With all 24 of them in disagreement, each voice is yelling to be heard. And so I am divided against myself. I feel that I am a hypocrite until I am one, when all of the yelling inside of me dies down. I’ve heard that the truth will set you free. That’s what I’m living for: freedom of spirit. I find unity and peace in none of the diversions that this world offers. But I’ve seen glimpses of truth and that’s where I want to run.
Backstory to “24”
“This is a song that I wrote right after I broke my wrist trying to impress my then girlfriend, now wife. Yeah, it didn’t work actually. So I’m bombing this hill on this board that I borrowed from this girl… and I should have known, she had a cast on her arm. And the board, you know the longboard, gravity board, sector 9, those guys, they’ll cut it for the front wheels so the wheels don’t bite when you take a turn – it didn’t have that. It was homemade, her dad made it for her, and she had just broke her arm the day before on it, doing the exact same thing I was going to do, but I’m like ‘Oh, I’m smarter, I know what I’m doing’. So I come down bombing this hill and go to like impress these two people who could care less about skateboarding and just biff! Just like roll over and land on my arm and break my arm and it was the day before my 25th birthday. So I wrote this song that night and it’s a song called 24. And I didn’t have a cast on yet because I was convinced it wasn’t broken. I was trying to be all ‘Oh I’m cool, totally fine.’ I don’t think that impressed her either.”