Southern California punks Moonraker released their sophomore record Lanterns back in September of this year via Tiny Dragon Music and after having a few months to listen to and digest the album, we wanted to know more about it. So we called up drummer/vocalist David Green and asked all of the questions that were eating away at us! All eleven tracks, dissected and explained by the man himself! If you haven’t heard the album yet, go download it and listen while you read through. If you’re already a fan, listen to it again while you read through, below!
Dying Scene: “One Trick Phony” is an incredible opener and sets the tone for the rest of the album perfectly. Did you start the writing process with a theme in mind?
David Green: The week our first album, ‘Fail Better’ came out, we found out Nick’s garage, which is where we practice, was infested with termites. We found this out because they ate through all the wood in the rafters and the ceiling kinda came in on it’s self. Luckily, our gear wasn’t destroyed. Later that week we played our release show at The Redwood in LA, a place we’ve played a bunch of times. I had talked to a bunch of people who told me they were gonna come and I was really excited, not just because our album was finally coming out, but because as lame as it sounds, it seemed like a bunch of people I know were proud of me and wanted to come celebrate with us. Then we got to the show and the label didn’t get the records in time, so we didn’t even have an album to sell at our album release show and like honestly 15 people who had told me they were gonna come either texted me saying they decided not to, or just didn’t show up. I remember sitting there feeling bummed talking to Luke about it and him telling me that the same thing happened with a bunch of his friends and him saying, “It’s hard not to take it personally” even though the show ended up being packed. Then a few days later I went to see the movie “Don’t Think Twice”. There’s this scene towards the end where Gillian Jacobs’ character is doing this improv show all by herself cause everyone else sort of left her and she’s doing a scene where she’s trapped in a well and her boyfriend, Keegan Michael Key shows up and is all, “I’m here! Let me help you out!” And she says, “you know what? I don’t think I need help, I think I like it down here.” And it made everything sort of click for me. I was like, “Let the roof fall down, let them all not care, I’ll be fine here in the well.” And that sort of became the running theme for ‘Lanterns’.
DS: It’s My Turn to be Somebody Now Nathan! is the best song title on the album. What’s the story behind it?
DG: The title is a reference to the first season of the show ‘Heroes’. It’s a line said by my favorite character, Peter Petrelli. The song is about hope, or, it’s about calling in sick to work cause you’re too sad to leave your room, but having hope that maybe you won’t feel that way tomorrow. The character of Peter is sort of all about hope and to me that title line has always been about knowing that you’re capable of greatness and having the hope that you’re not crazy for thinking that, even though some of the people around you aren’t really taking you seriously.
So, a lot of people don’t really know this, but Lanterns is sort of a concept album. I mean, not in a “rock opera, made up narrative, up it’s own ass telling a story” sort of way. But basically, there’s the first song and the last song and they’re sort of like an intro and outro for it, then the nine songs in the middle are each based off of one of the nine emotions that power each of the nine Lantern Corps in The Green Lantern comics: Will Power, Rage, Fear, Love, Hope, Compassion, Greed, Life and Death. The original idea was to make it a 7” series and there would be nine singles and each one would be on a colored 7’, corresponding to the color of that Lantern Corp, so the song about will power would be on a green one, rage would be red, etc. We quickly abandoned that idea. My friend Jed had a good quote about it, he said, “Yeah, that might work if you had a NOFX budget, but since you guys are a budget-bin NOFX, I’m not so sure.” He wasn’t wrong.
DS: My favorite line from the entire album was from “To the Gills”. “You’ll have to pry my cold, dead hands from this wagon. When the wheels fall off then we’ll just have to drag it.”. In the contesxt of the song, that line is fucking tits. Did you build the song from that line?
DG: Yeah, once I knew what the song was gonna be about and had the opening line, then everything sort of flowed out of that. Once we had the whole intro down, the line about the wheels falling off the wagon lent it’s self to the “Wagon Wheel” reference, then that sort of lead into the other weird references and etc. “To the Gills” is about seeing the validity in your dreams even when no one else can, and having the will power to follow them, whether or not that means having to cut corners or cut ties with people who’re gonna try and deter you. You gotta do what you gotta do. It’s partially based on this local legend where I live. Allegedly, the first recorded finding of gold in the California gold rush was in my town. As the story goes, a man took a nap under an oak tree and had a dream that there was gold buried under the dirt where he was standing. Then he woke up and started digging and found gold. So I sorta shoe-horned that into a metaphor about us getting drunk as shit and stumbling our way across different state lines and different country’s borders in the name of playing our dumb songs about following your dreams.
DS: “Ram the Blade Ship” feels like an old school NUFAN track, even in it’s delivery. It’s very conversational. Sly-esque, if you will. Was there a reason why this track was a little more divergent, as far as the writing style, from the other tracks?
DG: I mean, well first of all, thanks for that. NUFAN and Tony have always been huge for us. But no, I can’t say we made a conscious choice to make it sound any different. I showed Nick the lyrics I had been working on and then he kind of decided how it should sound based on the vibe he got as he read through them. I can’t remember who’s idea it was to make the verses back and forth like they are, but since it’s so wordy, it sort of worked out for the better that it was like that. As the song goes, a coworker of mine was killed in a hit and run and when they told me about it, I was more sad because I felt like I wasn’t actually sad enough. I mean, I didn’t really know him all that well, but we were comrades, you know? We were both in it together working this shitty job, and here I was selfishly thinking about my own death, not his. My own funeral, not his. The fact that we all want to die trying, but sometimes you don’t get that chance because some asshole ran a red light while you were in a crosswalk.
DS: “War Were Declared” is a fantastic protest song. Do you think songs like this are necessary in today’s political climate?
DG: That’s cool that that was your take on it! I don’t know man, I don’t know what’s necessary and what’s not in any climate. To me, the song is about greed and being selfish. Whatever that lends it’s self to in our current environment is sort of up to whoever hears it.
DS: The movie clips that you used for the song are really familiar but I couldn’t place them. What show/movie are they from?
DG: The clips at the beginning and end are from the movie ‘Office Space’ and the one in the bridge is from the movie ‘Mystery Team’. We like taking these sort of out of context clips from comedy movies we love and then repurposing them in the guise of the song or the album. Like the ‘Mystery Team’ line in the bridge in the context of the movie is really wacky and funny, but in terms of our song, I think it took on more of this sad tone that served the whole “I’m fine here in the well” theme of the record.
DS: “Gin and Jews” is catchy as fuck and probably the most relatable song on the LP for me. Tell me about the inspiration for it.
DG: Haha, sweet! The song it’s self is about being afraid that the people you care about don’t actually care about you if they can’t see you. And it’s about drinking gin and being Jewish, haha. It was the first song I wrote for the record and it’s one that gets asked about a lot. The title and the chorus: “Gin and jealousy…it’s not nineteen-ninety-fucking-three” are references to the songs “Hey, Jealousy” by The Gin Blossoms and “Gin and Juice” by Snoop Dogg, both released in 1993.
DS: ou guys do a good job of mixing up the moods of songs, you know? “War Were Declared” is vitriolic and very political, then just a few songs later, you get a song about missing loved ones in “They Called Me Mr. Glass”. Do you try to keep variety in mind when recording or writing?
DG: Yeah, I mean, with both of our full-lengths, we wanted to have a recurring theme throughout the whole thing so that the songs sounded like they were from that album, not just whatever songs we had lying around at the time. That being said, yeah you want to have eleven or twelve songs that sound like they go together, but you don’t want to have eleven or twelve songs that sound exactly the same. With this album, since we had this ‘lantern emotion’ theme set up, it sort of leant itself to having these different angles. Going into this song, I thought it might be one of the harder ones to write. We’re not really a band that writes love songs, but in keeping with the theme of the record, one of the Lantern Corps is powered by love, so our hands were tied. I was at my friend Matt’s apartment and he put on the documentary called ‘Indie Game’. One of the guys they talk to in it was the creator of a game called Super Meat Boy. The way he described what the game was about- an exposed, fragile, skinless meat boy going on these quests through worlds full of razor blades and stuff to get back to his girlfriend, who is made out of bandages, really helped inspire the song, particularly the choruses. I may not know much about writing love songs, but I know a thing or two about being a fragile exposed meat boy out on tour getting into adventures that can kill you while trying to get home to someone you love.
DS: And what are the five Beyonce references in the song? I’m so far removed from pop culture, that stuff goes over my head, so I didn’t catch any of them.
DG: Haha! So in keeping that it’s a love song, we thought it might be a good idea to throw some Beyonce in for good measure, since who doesn’t love Beyonce? Basically, in the intro (first verse?), the lyrics “I’ve woke up in a kitchen before, not knowing how I woke up on the tile floor” and the line, “Yeah, I’ve been drinking…” are sorta lifted right out of “Drunk in Love” where she says, “We woke up in a kitchen wondering how this shit happened” and of course, “I’ve been drinkin”. Then the lines in our song go: “I’ve been drunk and I’ve been crazy, I’ve been living life so dangerously…” are a shoutout to her songs “Drunk in Love” and “Crazy in Love” and her first album, ‘Dangerously in Love’.
DS: ‘A Memoir” is the slowest track on the album, with a more personal tone to it than the others. Is it hard to write songs that are about you personally? Or does that make it easier, more familiar subject matter?
DG: Yeah, to me, I think if it’s not personal, then it’s not worth it. I’m not super interested in listening to something that I can tell is made up, so why would anyone want to listen to some fake story from me?
We played a show in Omaha, Nebraska once and someone came up to me and told me that he was so excited to see us because he had missed us the last time we were in town cause he got arrested that day and he was more bummed about missing our show than he was about going to jail. He said our songs helped him through stuff cause it was like we were going through some hard stuff, but we were making fun of the hard stuff the whole time we were going through it to sort of make it less hard. And in keeping with that, this is about the shitty cycle that my life was in a few years ago. Wake up hungover, car doesn’t start cause I don’t have money to fix it or buy a new one, get to the temp job I hate late at some warehouse for several hours, interview for a job I really want but don’t get, deliver pizzas to people I went to high school with who somehow already own their own houses, get home and everyone I want to hang out with is already asleep cause they’re tired from their real jobs, stay up too late drinking and listening to records alone, repeat. So I wanted to try and make every line start with a hope, follow it by crushing that hope, and then cap it off with a reference to something dumb that I like to sort of take away the blow of the crushed hope: “Big dreams? Big deal. Stop being polite and start getting real…ly disenchanted”, etc.
DS: There’s a line in “Hurricanes” about “getting in the Bronco” Do you really know someone that still drives a Bronco?
DG: Haha! The short answer is no. That’s actually a reference to the movie ‘Orange County’. There’s this scene where they’re fleeing Stanford and Jack Black yells “Get in the Bronco!” to Collin Hanks. It’s like, not at all a big important scene or line or anything, but somewhere along the line we just started saying that to anyone we were giving a ride anywhere. We even started calling Nick’s truck The Bronco, even though it’s a Dodge or something (I should probably know for sure, haha!).
DS: The track also has extremely aggressive drums. Are there some songs that are written with the drums in mind?
DG: Yes and no. Like, with all these songs we had the lyrics first then wrote the music around them. Nick is always trying to throw harder parts in for me to play. Like if I’m doing a fill or something and I’m trying something a little too hard for me to do easily and want to just do something easier, he always makes the harder one into a more integral part of the song, haha! We have a song called “The Tontine” that starts with a drum intro that I was sort of just doing at practice that Nick liked and we built the rest of the song around that. But it just depends.
I go back and forth with it, but this might be my favorite song on the record. Again, since it’s based on one of the Lantern Corps who are based on compassion, I was sort of saving it to write last since the whole record and the last one are mostly introspective, I wasn’t sure how to go about writing a song about someone else and having it come off as genuine. But one of my best friends in the world was going through a really tough time and he’d just text or call me crying and venting about his situation and I wrote this for him in like one sitting. Cause he’s better than the shit he was going through and as much as we both like to kind of put out this persona that we’re just hot messes who drink our way into and out of situations and nothing really hurts us cause we’re too busy having fun, I can see through his mask, cause I wear one too.
DS: “Seven Different Kinds of Smoke” is an angry song! I love the ‘fuck it burn it to the ground’ of songs. Was it cathartic to write this one? Blow of some stream?
DG: Oh, for sure! Definitely helps deal with the shit, you know? I think this was the third one I wrote for the album and it was the one that made me realize that we were doing the lantern songs concept. I finished it and looked at the three I had so far and was like, “Hmmm, “Gin and Jews” is about fear, “To the Gills” is about will, and this one has a rage vibe, I guess we’re doing this now.”
DS: I love songs that build up to a crescendo like in “The Well”. You don’t hear it as much in punk and it’s really the perfect way to close an album. Do you think about that, track order, when coming up with songs?
DG: Definitely. Specifically with the first song and the last song, and usually the second song and second to last song too. I knew I wanted the second to last song to be pretty hard and big, and then have the record end with a little bit of a lower key. I knew I wanted it to have the three sections it has: start soft, then get real big in the middle, and then end soft the way it starts. The loud part in the middle is us all sort of throwing the sink into it. We layered a bunch of guitars into it so Luke, Tyler, Nick and even Chris, the guy who recorded it are doing something, the drum fills are pretty ridiculous, me and Nick are both yelling, they’re pretty low in the mix, but Luke and Tyler are playing trumpet and trombone under it too.
DS: What was the message behind it?
I can’t stand the way people’s faces light up when they get nostalgic. I fucking hate it. The way people can go for hours talking about a band that they used to love in a manner that would make you assume they still do, and then when you tell them that that band is still in fact great and that they still tour and that their last record might be their best, it’s either a complete shock to that person that that band is still active, or they have a glaze on their face and can’t be bothered to care now. When you run into someone and they ask how you’re doing, “Oh, I’m pretty good, we actually just got back from a tour in Canada and…” and they’re like “Oh, that’s cool” and then they get super excited, “REMEMBER THAT ONE SHOW YOUR OLD BAND PLAYED IN…” Yeah, I remember. You also didn’t care that much back then when it was happening, but all of a sudden it’s your favorite thing? Stupid. Nostalgia is lame. I’d rather talk about what’s going on now instead of put the past on a pedestal. Cause maybe it’s not that bright, but I like it here in the well. But if I didn’t, I think I’d just rather not talk to someone instead of just remembering something wrong to make it seem more important.
12/1 – Seattle, Washington – The Kraken
12/5 – Los Angeles, California – The Redwood
Add Moonraker to My Radar