9 Songs, 40 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Greg Gonzalez often thinks in cinematic terms. “It should have a rougher feel, like a documentary would,” the Cigarettes After Sex frontman tells Apple Music of the recording process for Cry, his ambient pop outfit’s sophomore LP. “In film, it's like, 'Do you shoot on location or do you shoot on set?' We weren't in some office recording studio where there were standards of how you do things and gear set up. Our overall philosophy is to avoid studios. We should just record where it feels nice.” For Cry, that meant returning to a cathedral they’d once played in Germany and setting up in the courtyard of a Mallorcan villa. “It definitely made everyone play in a very relaxed way, which was exactly what I was looking for,” Gonzalez says. “In the end, I liked the energy in the gentle landscape of Mallorca, the wind in the trees under the stars. And that's how the feeling of the record was, too.” Here are the stories behind every song on the album.

Don’t Let Me Go
“On our first tour of Europe, we played a show in this beautiful cathedral in Bochum, Germany, and we liked it so much we thought we should come back to record. The atmosphere inside led me to write ‘Don't Let Me Go’ in about five minutes—the melody and everything. It’s based on a relationship I had in my hometown before I moved to New York, a person that I lost contact with. Just to say, ‘Even though we don’t talk, this was special. This led me to where I am now. Don't let the memory of it go.’ It was strange to be in Germany, so far away from home and so far away from my past. You think of where you are and then you think of the person you were just years ago. There's something very emotional about that. There was no rehearsal—it just appeared out of thin air.”

Kiss It Off Me
“One of the strangest songs on the record. Growing up in El Paso, there was a lot of Tejano music in the atmosphere. I was listening to metal and John Zorn records in high school, but by the time I got to New York, I had really gotten into Tejana and this one song by Selena called ‘Como la Flor.’ And I just kind of thought, ‘What would happen if I took that and made it a Cigarettes song somehow? Not in some goofy way, but out of a genuine love for Selena and a real emotional connection to that song. Cigarettes stuff is very influenced by Françoise Hardy and Cocteau Twins and Julee Cruise and Leonard Cohen, so it’s like I was throwing neon green into a black-and-white painting.”

Heavenly
“We played this summer festival in Latvia in 2016 and we had his really great show, our first show where the crowd was just going crazy in a new way. It was bizarre to get that kind of reaction—where it feels like we’re Metallica or something—because the music is so relaxed. After we played, we were all on this nice, natural high, and we walked over to a beach that was part of the festival. At that time of year in Latvia, the sun goes down really late at night. We sat down and looked at this gorgeous sunset just going on for hours and hours. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. And I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is where I should be right now. This is the place I'm kind of meant to be.’ It was this moment of clarity, and I put it in the chorus of ‘Heavenly.’ I turned that feeling into something more romantic, but it came from the beauty of witnessing that sunset forever.”

You're the Only Good Thing in My Life
“The hardest thing to get across in writing erotic pop is deciding where you put that line: What is romance and what is pornography? With the things I'm doing, I'm trying to say that all the sexual elements in the music grow out of romance. The romance is part of the sex. The romance is there first, and all the sexual things kind of come out of that, but the romance has to be first. The references to Playboy and Penthouse are images that I relate to the lover in this song, almost like bedroom talk. If you're intimate with someone and you're in this very intimate space, the things you say are very intense. They can be very raw, but they can be very passionate and sweet too.”

Touch
“You can really hear the sound of the cathedral on ‘Touch,’ the vastness of it. It’s one of the darker songs, a romance that's going bad, one that's kind of breaking up and people aren't seeing eye to eye. There are songs I've written where the same character repeats, because it's from a relationship I had and I'm telling different stories from that. We did the song ‘K.,’ and we had the song ‘Sweet,’ and we had ‘Affection.’ ‘Touch’ is the finale to that story, the last song associated with that person.”

Hentai
“This is the story of my current relationship. Writing the lyrics, I thought, ‘This is actually pretty over the top. Is it worth saying?’ When we first met, my girlfriend and I had this weird, short conversation about a hentai scene: We were both intrigued by it. But it was very open. You need those people in your life. You need to be able to say things out loud and see what they say and see how you react. But we just understood each other, immediately. We could talk about absolutely anything when we first met, and obviously that's why we're still together. That’s the way I saw it.”

Cry
“I think we all, or many of us, want to be in relationships. I've always been looking for a relationship, one that would be spiritual, one that could be forever, with someone that you just fall in love with and you can't help it. We had just started to really tour, and all I was trying to do was to play music for a living—to be a writer, and for that to be my identity. I had met a few people that I probably could have had deep relationships with, but I found that since we were touring, I just wasn't ready for it, I wasn't in the right place for it. This song was a reaction to all of that. I just couldn't commit.”

Falling in Love
“So there’s ‘Hentai,’ and there’s ‘Falling in Love,’ which is about the more traditionally romantic side of my relationship with my girlfriend. Like the image of that moment with her and talking about how it would be sweet to have a house by the ocean someday. I love those plans you can make and have with the people you date. If I'm traveling, then most of the relationship becomes long-distance, so when we couldn't see each other, we would see the same movie at the same time in different cities and make a little date of it. She was in LA and I was in New York, and I'd be like, ‘All right, here's a time that we can both go to that kind of lines up.’ And so we would go and pretend that we were next to each other, watching the movie.”

Pure
“There are the songs that start to lean a bit more erotica on this record, just because the imagery of that was interesting to me. These are details taken from a relationship, but I put them together in the song to kind of tell that story. You could argue it's a little more like fantasy the way it’s arranged. There's explicit sexual elements to a lot of music. But how do you balance that? It's positive sensuality, positive sexuality.”

EDITORS’ NOTES

Greg Gonzalez often thinks in cinematic terms. “It should have a rougher feel, like a documentary would,” the Cigarettes After Sex frontman tells Apple Music of the recording process for Cry, his ambient pop outfit’s sophomore LP. “In film, it's like, 'Do you shoot on location or do you shoot on set?' We weren't in some office recording studio where there were standards of how you do things and gear set up. Our overall philosophy is to avoid studios. We should just record where it feels nice.” For Cry, that meant returning to a cathedral they’d once played in Germany and setting up in the courtyard of a Mallorcan villa. “It definitely made everyone play in a very relaxed way, which was exactly what I was looking for,” Gonzalez says. “In the end, I liked the energy in the gentle landscape of Mallorca, the wind in the trees under the stars. And that's how the feeling of the record was, too.” Here are the stories behind every song on the album.

Don’t Let Me Go
“On our first tour of Europe, we played a show in this beautiful cathedral in Bochum, Germany, and we liked it so much we thought we should come back to record. The atmosphere inside led me to write ‘Don't Let Me Go’ in about five minutes—the melody and everything. It’s based on a relationship I had in my hometown before I moved to New York, a person that I lost contact with. Just to say, ‘Even though we don’t talk, this was special. This led me to where I am now. Don't let the memory of it go.’ It was strange to be in Germany, so far away from home and so far away from my past. You think of where you are and then you think of the person you were just years ago. There's something very emotional about that. There was no rehearsal—it just appeared out of thin air.”

Kiss It Off Me
“One of the strangest songs on the record. Growing up in El Paso, there was a lot of Tejano music in the atmosphere. I was listening to metal and John Zorn records in high school, but by the time I got to New York, I had really gotten into Tejana and this one song by Selena called ‘Como la Flor.’ And I just kind of thought, ‘What would happen if I took that and made it a Cigarettes song somehow? Not in some goofy way, but out of a genuine love for Selena and a real emotional connection to that song. Cigarettes stuff is very influenced by Françoise Hardy and Cocteau Twins and Julee Cruise and Leonard Cohen, so it’s like I was throwing neon green into a black-and-white painting.”

Heavenly
“We played this summer festival in Latvia in 2016 and we had his really great show, our first show where the crowd was just going crazy in a new way. It was bizarre to get that kind of reaction—where it feels like we’re Metallica or something—because the music is so relaxed. After we played, we were all on this nice, natural high, and we walked over to a beach that was part of the festival. At that time of year in Latvia, the sun goes down really late at night. We sat down and looked at this gorgeous sunset just going on for hours and hours. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. And I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is where I should be right now. This is the place I'm kind of meant to be.’ It was this moment of clarity, and I put it in the chorus of ‘Heavenly.’ I turned that feeling into something more romantic, but it came from the beauty of witnessing that sunset forever.”

You're the Only Good Thing in My Life
“The hardest thing to get across in writing erotic pop is deciding where you put that line: What is romance and what is pornography? With the things I'm doing, I'm trying to say that all the sexual elements in the music grow out of romance. The romance is part of the sex. The romance is there first, and all the sexual things kind of come out of that, but the romance has to be first. The references to Playboy and Penthouse are images that I relate to the lover in this song, almost like bedroom talk. If you're intimate with someone and you're in this very intimate space, the things you say are very intense. They can be very raw, but they can be very passionate and sweet too.”

Touch
“You can really hear the sound of the cathedral on ‘Touch,’ the vastness of it. It’s one of the darker songs, a romance that's going bad, one that's kind of breaking up and people aren't seeing eye to eye. There are songs I've written where the same character repeats, because it's from a relationship I had and I'm telling different stories from that. We did the song ‘K.,’ and we had the song ‘Sweet,’ and we had ‘Affection.’ ‘Touch’ is the finale to that story, the last song associated with that person.”

Hentai
“This is the story of my current relationship. Writing the lyrics, I thought, ‘This is actually pretty over the top. Is it worth saying?’ When we first met, my girlfriend and I had this weird, short conversation about a hentai scene: We were both intrigued by it. But it was very open. You need those people in your life. You need to be able to say things out loud and see what they say and see how you react. But we just understood each other, immediately. We could talk about absolutely anything when we first met, and obviously that's why we're still together. That’s the way I saw it.”

Cry
“I think we all, or many of us, want to be in relationships. I've always been looking for a relationship, one that would be spiritual, one that could be forever, with someone that you just fall in love with and you can't help it. We had just started to really tour, and all I was trying to do was to play music for a living—to be a writer, and for that to be my identity. I had met a few people that I probably could have had deep relationships with, but I found that since we were touring, I just wasn't ready for it, I wasn't in the right place for it. This song was a reaction to all of that. I just couldn't commit.”

Falling in Love
“So there’s ‘Hentai,’ and there’s ‘Falling in Love,’ which is about the more traditionally romantic side of my relationship with my girlfriend. Like the image of that moment with her and talking about how it would be sweet to have a house by the ocean someday. I love those plans you can make and have with the people you date. If I'm traveling, then most of the relationship becomes long-distance, so when we couldn't see each other, we would see the same movie at the same time in different cities and make a little date of it. She was in LA and I was in New York, and I'd be like, ‘All right, here's a time that we can both go to that kind of lines up.’ And so we would go and pretend that we were next to each other, watching the movie.”

Pure
“There are the songs that start to lean a bit more erotica on this record, just because the imagery of that was interesting to me. These are details taken from a relationship, but I put them together in the song to kind of tell that story. You could argue it's a little more like fantasy the way it’s arranged. There's explicit sexual elements to a lot of music. But how do you balance that? It's positive sensuality, positive sexuality.”

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