For those interested in the guys' thoughts behind the song, we present a deeper dive into Je Ne Sais Pas from our latest album Try It Now!
Usually, when I present a new song to the band I have a fully formed song with music and lyrics that we collectively refine and record, with lots of creative input from the other guys. In a break from form, this one was submitted as an instrumental track (working title “Police Raid," and second working title after lyrics were added, "Happy Place") that I gave to Rich and Pete for suitable guitar accompaniment and lyrics. The music came out of a band discussion where we talked about purposely writing some tunes “in the style of” some of our favorite bands. I think the inspiration for this one is pretty apparent, but I’ll leave it to the listener to determine. So far this is the only purposeful style-lift that we’ve released, but we have at least one more in process.
A few little tidbits for your consideration:
The French title Je Ne Sais Pas wasn’t settled on until after we completed the recording. While the title is definitely apropos to the lyrics, we chose it more because we enjoyed the fact that our last album had a song entitled No Lo Se, which is the same title en Espanol. After we settled on the title, I went back in to the studio and recorded some new backing vocals, just so the title would appear in the song. Will we release another song with this title in yet another language? Bilmiyorum.
The descending chromatic breakdown mid-song came from a completely different inspiration, a little section of Weather Report’s fusion classic Birdland.
There’s little snippet of really quiet audio at the very start of the song where you can hear me say “Je Ne Sais Pas” while Rich joins in and says “minotaur.” You will have to ask him why he said that.
And speaking of Rich, at the very end of the song, we decided to gather ‘round the mic to all go “shhhhhhh.” Why? Beer. Anyway, if you crank the audio up, you’ll her a little pop, after which Rich says “my knee cracked.” Rich is always ruining our recordings.
This was a song Steve introduced that I immediately thought was catchy. It was fun to add guitar to this one as I did some different strumming patterns that are not typical for me. Pete’s vocal has a Colin Hay-ish vibe to it that really works. One of our catchier tunes. A good song to whistle along to. Ask me to whistle it for you sometime.
This tune carried on the fine tradition of our previous foreign-language work on No Lo Se and is indicative of our overall deference to our unawareness of what we are doing. I love the simplicity of the lyrics, much like No Lo Se, and developed these Je Ne Sais Pas lyrics from a previous poem I had written years ago about a girl and a trip to the Keys. The vibe is one of just being flummoxed and discombobulated by the emotions swirling around inside oneself while falling, or even being, in love. That seems apropos in either Spanish or French. Some mad dogs and Englishmen have also been known to experience that certain je ne sais quoi feeling. When Rich suggested a Colin Hay style delivery, I knew just what he meant, and was already headed in that direction. The song seems so airy and light. There’s a joke about making Hay while the sun shines that escapes me. The song just bounces along and I tried to place the lyrics in a sort of transcendental state above all that bop. I hope it works, but in the end, the fans and listeners will decide if we accomplished our goal. Until then, je ne sais pas – which I believe is French for “always with wine.”