SONG OF THE WEEK #4: No Complaints

No Complaints by smallsins

I suppose the most common interview question I’m going to get, and have already started getting, is: ‘Where have you been for the last two years?’ And rightly so, especially since I had been so prolific up to that point. In the first two years of Small Sins, I recorded two albums, two EPs, did countless remixes, played in other people’s bands, and toured both Canada and the U.S. several times… Then nothing.

There are several reasons for this ‘Dark Period.’ We had just been dropped from our first-ever major label deal and that felt bad. Music I made had been rejected for various films and advertisements, and that felt bad too. Various individuals in the band became busy with other projects, and the money wasn’t coming in to grease the wheels anymore. I didn’t stop recording, but I certainly slowed down. Even in this slow state, I actually made a whole new record, but something about it didn’t feel right, so I never released it. That’s one of the reasons it’s easy to give you all these exclusive ‘songs of the week.’ There’s an overflow of old material that was never released, but that I still think people should hear.

But regardless of any contributing external influences to this slowdown, the central one was a lack of inspiration. I just didn’t feel like writing anymore. In hindsight I should have stopped altogether for a little while, but all of the structure in my life sort of depends on the work that I do in my studio, so I kept going. There are songs that I think are great from that period, but there was a lot of crap too.

I think the heart of the problem was in the lyrics. I just didn’t have much to write about at the time, which is pretty much the worst fear of any songwriter. So what do you do when you have nothing to write about but you want to record all the time? You start writing about nothing. Coldplay has a whole career based on writing about nothing. I think in their case, being unspecific lets teenagers relate their problems to the music, rather than imposing a specific theme that people may not to be able to apply to their ‘do your homework!’, and ‘why don’t girls like me?’, real-life type problems. Sorry, teenagers – I know there is a chance your problems might be more serious than that. I’ve seen Degrassi.

Anyway, this song was sort of my attempt at writing without anything to write about. “Having nothing to complain about, well that’s what’s got you [me] down and out.” That’s me saying: ‘I have nothing to say right now, and it’s really pissing me off because I want to record a new song every day if I can.’ I thought that maybe writing a song like this might help to break the slump. It didn’t. I would go on to spend another year writing uninspired songs. Unfortunately teenagers wouldn’t relate to the song either because they do have things to complain about, even if it is all about homework and curfews.

But still, I like this song. It’s a heavy riff. If it were going to be an ‘album’ track, I probably would have recorded real drums, and real strings, and that sort of thing, to make it really amazing, but that seemed like a waste of time for a song about nothing. And luckily the slump was broken eventually, and out of that came ‘Pot Calls Kettle Black,’ which is the best Small Sins album to date.

This time I plan to take a bit of time off. Making the newest record was an intense time in which I worked very hard. I promised myself that as soon as I got it all out of me, I would take a real break and wait to be inspired again. I don’t have to write a masterpiece every day, and quality has to come before quantity. So now I watch shows like Degrassi because I like them, not because I’m avoiding the studio and the reality that there is nothing for me to do there. And of course, little ideas pop up here and there which are sure to make it to the studio some day… when I feel like it.

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