One of Andrew Bird’s longstanding signatures has been his incorporation of a wide variety of subject matters into his lyrics. A simple scroll through song titles only scratches this surface—cataracts, nomenclature, palindromes and weather systems. Figuring out what these concepts are is usually half the battle. We asked Bird to help shed some light on the meanings behind Break It Yourself’s songs. Check out his track-by-track description below.
Sowing seeds of trouble. From Monsanto suing farmers who accidentally get pollinated by their GMO crops to collapsing bee populations. Things get ugly when you try to control and profit from nature.
This was a demo I wrote for a duet between myself and a 40-ft bicycle-driven, lonely whale.
According to my mom, I declared my autonomy at 15 months when I exiled all my stuffed animals from my crib.
I thought it was to be a duet, but pronouns get confused when it’s a conversation with yourself.
’Tis noble to be strong and self-reliant, but if you’re too proficient who’s going to break your heart? Doing it yourself is as easy as seeing your own eyeball.
Who is that editor in your head deciding what makes the reel and what’s on the cutting room floor? He/she seems like a lazy storyteller.
What if you could take a pill that simulates a near-death experience making you appreciate every waking moment? Of course it wouldn’t work if it were risk-free. You’d have as much luck as seeing your own eyeball.
Just a solo jam that came out cool.
In the first verse things aren’t going well. You’re drawn into an international conflict. Mutually assured destruction. Then Annie [Clark] comes in and gives a rosier view of codependence.
Assembled from two odd-metered solo jams that miraculously work together. A song about how being “awake” and receptive can start to drive you crazy.
Written with a friend who’s been through some dark times.
More reference to the Orpheus myth and the name of a heavy book by Robert Hughes. We recorded this late at night. I love how far back on the beat Martin [Dosh’s] feel is. One of those moments where we look at each other and say “we’re a band”
This wasn’t supposed to be on the record but it’s just a good example of how I play and sing solo. Time is elastic.
An accidentally cool effect from looping the glockenspiel while the string loop gets in the background. Anyway it’s peaceful and gets a baby to stop crying.