We interviewed Augustine from The Little Indians about the new song “Searching for the Same Thing.”
RW: When was this song written?
LI: I wrote this one in late April-early May 2011. I wrote it right after I moved back to Maryland from Chicago.
RW: What is it about?
It’s kind of about that feeling of being in a rut and not knowing how to get out of it. I was in a weird place at the time and, feeling discouraged about a lot of things, I was questioning things… “What am I doing?” … “Did I make the right choice?” … “Why do certain things happen?” … “Why do we talk about and focus on meaningless things so much?” …
I suppose it’s mostly an introspection questioning life and decisions we make. And in that questioning, accepting that things just are what they are, and in that acceptance, finding something that “matters”.
RW: Was the writing process the same for this song as others? If so, how is that usually done?
It always varies for me. Sometimes it’s a melody first, an instrument first, a lyric first, and then build from there. This one was me sitting outside on a nice spring day with an acoustic guitar. I was just strumming around and the verse melody and lyrics popped into my head and it went from there. I demo’d it out and Kyle and I jammed it to get the real feel down. We actually played around with the structure quite a bit. It used to have a long soft/dreamy intro that we scrapped. And then way later we added the outro part instead.
RW: Do you have any favorite lyrics from the song?
Not really I don’t think. I guess “as the days pass, I talk less” kind of ring true for me.
RW: What is that one thing that we’re searching for?
Peace of mind. Peace in general. I suppose that’s what I’d like to think anyway.
RW: Is there any interesting backstory in how the song came to be?
Our old band [You, Me, and Everyone We Know] had just broken up, and I was back home just thinking about life. I was pretty bummed out at the time.
RW: Did these lyrics go through much revision? / is that normal?
I wrote pretty much all of the lyrics in the same sitting for this tune, with exception of the pre-chorus. I don’t always do that, but while writing this one I was kind of on cruise control. The verse and chorus are the same chord progression, because it was less about making something musically happen, and more about getting down the thoughts I was having. In the pre-chorus I think I just repeated the word “fine” over and over until something happened in my head for it.
RW: This is a song 1-about your life, as opposed to fiction or politics or whatever; and 2-about stuff that happened to you more or less recently, as opposed to like childhood or adolescence. Is that typical? Is songwriting primarily about processing recent life events or only sometimes?
The thoughts are definitely derived from my personal life, and the subject of the thoughts was very current. I wouldn’t say that’s always necessarily the case though. It was for a lot of this record, only because the band I spent so much time in had broken up, and I was forced to move back home. That was weighing heavily on my mind at the time. It sucked to go from your band touring 9 months out of the year, and every tour getting better and better, to living back at my parents, without a band, in a matter of like…a week.
RW: You talked a bit about this rutted period in your life, of being “back at home just thinking about life” and questioning things. And in the song you talk about lying around all night and daydreaming. Are you willing to say anything more specific about that time in your life? - like give us a day-in-the-life picture? Were you watching entire seasons of Breaking Bad in a day, or reading Kafka, or working a terrible job to pay bills, or just trying to write songs?
I was way bummed out, but at the same time, way motivated to not feel sorry for myself just because some shit happened. I spent everyday forcing myself to try and write songs and simultaneously was teaching myself how to work a digital recording setup and get recording to sound cool (I’d like to record/produce records too someday). If nothing was clicking for song I would learn the chords to a song that I liked and try and re-imagine it somehow. Whatever would keep me making music. It was also great to be back home with my long-time girlfriend, who I was like, on the fence with because I lived in Chicago and she was in Maryland…so having her back in my life was really encouraging and her presence kinda helped keep my head right. She also got me into painting. She was painting for school. So I started trying my hand at a visual art…which I had never really done.
But for lyric writing in general, it just depends on where my head is at. Inspiration from a tune is very easy to find for me, but finishing the thought that sparked the inspiration is more frequently the difficult part. Sometimes it’s necessary to recollect on my early childhood, and sometimes it’s necessary to daydream about the future and what life potentially has in store.
RW: In the chorus, the song seems to arrive at what’s basically a lesson, or even a moral, about maturity - living humbly and being at peace with your life. I’m thinking of the lines “I’m learning to grasp simple small facts of existence: love and patience, truth and persistence.” And they feel totally sincere. Do you find it difficult to write about these sorts of subjects without slipping into cliches or abstractions? Or does it come more naturally than other subjects?
It’s funny that you said the bit about worrying about cliches. When I read the words back after writing them, I did kind of have a fleeting thought of like, “this could be interpreted as kind of phony” … but it happened very naturally, and when I sing it back, I kind of am reminded how I felt when I wrote it…so it’s all good. I have other times tried to convey similar thoughts and it just doesn’t sound natural. It’s like when you know something but just can’t put the right words together. But in this case I think it was nice.
RW: Paying closer attention to the lyrics, I had this sort-of aha! moment where I realized, “Hey, he’s writing about heavy shit here.” What the song does—and this is cool—is it sets the sort of gloomy, existential lyrics against this upbeat major-key vibe (there’s even clapping). Did you shoot for that kind of juxtaposition or did it just happen that way?
As for the juxtaposition of lyrics and the sonic aspect of the song. It just kind of happened. I the chords are pretty standard progressions. The lyrics are obviously very introspective and kind of somber at times, but in the end I think the chorus is uplifting…to me at least. Though personally I love it when a song is sad lyrically, but a happy/upbeat tune. Something about that is cool to me. It’s like even though the person singing the words is obviously bummed, the music can serve as a kind of beacon of hope.
Album From The Little Indians releases October 9th. Check out their Bandcamp to stream three more songs. http://thelittleindians.bandcamp.com/