Hell is in Your Head

Hell is in Your Head

Eight albums into his career with emo troupe Senses Fail, frontman Buddy Nielsen has propelled himself from mere singer/lyricist to singer/lyricist/guitarist/songwriter/recording engineer. “This record is pretty much a solo endeavor,” he tells Apple Music. “It feels like a huge step, seeing as how I didn’t really start playing guitar until five years ago. I really had to build myself into a complete songwriter and learn how to demo my ideas. It’s been a long process.” Thematically speaking, Hell Is in Your Head is meant to be a continuation of Senses Fail’s 2006 album, Still Searching, as filtered through the work of late American poets like T.S. Eliot, Walt Whitman, and Robert Frost. Below, Nielsen discusses each song. “The Burial of the Dead” “This is supposed to set the mood for the record. It’s the first part of the T.S. Eliot poem ‘The Waste Land.’ It’s in the relative minor key of the last song on Still Searching, so it’s meant to be a continuation of what happens to that character after he commits suicide. This is his soul’s descent into the wasteland, the underworld. Specifically, this song is about the unprocessed grief of dealing with the death of my grandmother—Still Searching was written after that period. So, these two records are paired together as the continuation of that story.” “End of the World/A Game of Chess” “This song is about generational trauma and how we’re the sum of all the lives of our ancestors—for better or worse. Unfortunately, a lot of us have family who’ve been in wars or in tough situations, and that gets passed down to us in various ways. If we have children of our own, we can unknowingly pass that down to them. This song discusses the process of how we can maybe step out of that. We have Connie from SeeYouSpaceCowboy screaming in the bridge, the peak of the song.” “The Fire Sermon” “This song is about dealing with the grief of multiple miscarriages as well as the grief of having a child. It’s so bittersweet because every time they reach a milestone, they’re in some way moving away from you. So, it’s just this constant acceptance and letting go as well as grieving these moments that are also happy because you’re proud to see them grow. It’s a really complicated aspect of parenting that isn’t discussed—or at least nobody talked to me about it. When people say, ‘It goes by so fast,’ this is what they’re saying.” “I Am Error” “This was originally supposed to be on the back half of the record, but I put it here because I just really liked the way it flowed. It doesn’t follow the story of ‘The Waste Land.’ It discusses mental health and dealing with never really feeling connected and feeling completely alone in a room of people that you know. I think that’s a pretty universal feeling. I think we can all relate to that.” “Death By Water” “Spencer from Ice Nine Kills is on this, and it has kind of a Deftones vibe, which is what we were going for. This takes back up the ‘Waste Land’ theme, and it was inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s death. Like me, he’s from New Jersey—he grew up very close to me and was very influential on my life. I’ve been into Brazilian jujitsu my whole life, and he got very into it. He was someone that struggled and succeeded, and I could see myself in him. When he died, I thought, ‘Are all my mentors and heroes destined to succumb to the existential dread that exists inside of me?’ That’s what the song is a reflection of.” “What the Thunder Said” “This song is pretty crazy because it goes from this very post-punk beginning into these blast beats and screaming and very black-metalesque type drums in the bridge with this massive chorus. Lyrically, this is a culmination of the ‘Waste Land’ story. It’s supposed to transition into the next side of the record, which is based upon the Walt Whitman poem ‘To Think of Time.’ So, this is really me coming through the grief and meeting the spirit of my grandmother and her telling me that it’s not time for me, that I need to go back. This is the end of minor-key songs as well as the transition into current-day lyrical content.” “Miles to Go” “This is from a line in the Robert Frost poem ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.’ The song is just about nostalgia and how we age. The romanticism of experience and adventure starts to fade and the reality of longevity and legacy start to round out your experience. This song discusses that within the backdrop of the Robert Frost poem, which is about death. I remember reading it in the third grade, and we didn’t talk about that part. It’s in the middle of the record because I’m saying I’m not ready to go yet. I have much more to do.” “Lush Rimbaugh” “When Rush Limbaugh was diagnosed with cancer, I had a fleeting sense of compassion for him because dealing with the gravity of an illness like that must be heavy for everyone. And then, like a week or so later, he just continued attacking people. You would think that the death sentence of lung cancer would change somebody’s view of the world, but it didn’t. And the truth is that most people who are set in their ways are not going to use any situation to look at the world differently. So, this is just a reflection on how I feel like, at times, it’s OK to wish ill on people who also wish ill on other people. It’s not a political song, though—it’s a karma thing.” “Hell Is in Your Head” “This song is about being a cyberchondriac. There are periods of my life where I've lived out my OCD-ness through just googling symptoms. And I think it's so relatable because as soon as you google a symptom, you’re dead: You have whatever rare, bad disease it is. You have it. Because that cough, that thing, is instant terror. This was written pre-pandemic, too, I should add. It’s a reflection on how much of my life I lost to frivolous anxiety.” “I’m Sorry I’m Leaving” “I’m reflecting upon my life as a musician and becoming a father and having to leave my daughter to go on tour and explain to her where I’m going and why I’m disappearing. It’s ultimately about how the world that we live in is very unsure—and this was written pre-pandemic, too. I’m always questioning whether or not I’m on stable ground as an artist—meaning, am I going to be able to provide for my family? What I do is by nature somewhat out of my control and subject to many different forces. There’s always fear that the other shoe is going to drop.” “Grow Away From Me” “This is super cool because my wife sings on it. It’s the first time she’s ever sung on anything. And it’s to our daughter. This is the culmination of what I was talking about earlier—seeing your child grow up and slowly move away from you, and the pressure to be a good parent. As a father, I feel a sense of having to keep it together even though, sometimes, I just don’t feel that I can. And as a parent, you’re signing up for this inevitable loss, this inevitable circumstance. The record ends here because this is the way I was feeling at the time it was written.”

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