by Michael Todd
Pull away the wallpaper at an old house, and you may find more to the story. In another life, a light green kitchen cajoled a '50s family. Perhaps you'll discover a poster hung long ago, hinting at the personality of previous owners.
Similarly, Melissa Amstutz of Honeybee and Hers used the structure of an old song and remodeled it to fit new lyrics. She developed a dream into a narrative and finished the song as "Mimosa," which was released on the band's debut album, Morning, last year.
Read on for details about the former tenant of the song, Amstutz's dream and her take on what Love Drunk means for Nebraska. Come out and support the video project and see Honeybee and Hers perform with Bazooka Shootout and Jasong from Talking Mountain at Love Drunk's fundraising concert at The Sydney on Thursday night.
Hear Nebraska: First, tell me about the guitar on the song. Just from listening, it sounds like it has some character.
Melissa Amstutz: I used a little Martin guitar. It’s my favorite guitar, especially acoustically. As far as the guitar part goes, I actually wrote a song for my great grammy when she died using the same chord progression, and I’ve wanted to use it again in some form. And it fit with a poem I’d written about some dreams I’d had.
HN: Now that you’ve written new lyrics over the older chord progression, does that original song still come through for you?
MA: A little, if I really think about it. Now I’ve played “Mimosa” so many more times than the song I’d written for my great grammy, so it’s sort of taken the place of it. But they do stand together in my mind even though they’re really different.
photo by Daniel Muller
HN: What do you think doubling vocals does for the recording of the song?
MA: It’s kind of like how you hear your own voice in your mind. I tried to make it very dreamlike and a little haunting, a little sad.
HN: Do the lyrics pretty well match the dreams you had?
MA: They pretty much fit the dream. It’s kind of funny because it sounds like I’m talking to a lover, but I was really talking about a mimosa, the drink. But I liked how it sounded like I was talking to a more intimate character.
I definitely tried to enhance the dreams by sounding more dreamlike, if that makes any sense. Even if you are talking about a dream, it never quite captures how it feels. I tried to better capture the feeling of the dream and not exactly what happened.
HN: Have you written other songs inspired by dreams, or is this one of the first?
MA: I write a lot. A lot of the first songs I started writing were inspired by dreams because they all seemed more interesting than real life (laughs). Not as much anymore, but from time to time, I come back to that.
HN: OK, I have a question that’s more pertinent if the lyrics were rooted in real life, but do you know where the dream took place specifically? There’s a part about a sea, so it must not have been near Nebraska.
MA: Yeah, now it’s so far in my own mind as its own entity, so I picture it in a completely different place. I think it originally was in Omaha in a restaurant.
Then there was some part of Sylvia Plath’s life where she was living on the sea and writing. I don’t know if that even took place in my dream or if I was just sort of living through her in the song (laughs). But that’s kind of where that part is from.
photo by Daniel Muller
HN: All right, could you tell me about the significance of windows within the song?
MA: Yeah, and this is the part where I was taking a dream and making it have more meaning in my own life. I was feeling trapped and a lot of longing at the time, and I thought maybe if I tried to forget about it, it would be OK.
I thought maybe if I didn’t look out the window and see what else is out there, I could stay content where I was. Windows represent a better life that way.
HN: When I first heard the song last year, I wrote that it gave off a feeling of slight longing, a touch of thankfulness and a little bluntness. What emotions were you trying to communicate?
MA: I think that captures it pretty well. It was very much a feeling of longing, a sort of deep-rooted sadness and confusion and an inherent right and wrong that people feel. It was wrestling with issues of morality and what you may feel is right for you and how other people might not see that.
HN: OK, that’s all I have for questions about the song. Is there anything else you want to add?
MA: I really love mimosas. That's sort of a way of lightening a very heavy song (laughs).
HN: All right (laughs). Now talking about Love Drunk, what does the Nebraska music community gain from a video project like it?
MA: I think that it’s a really great vehicle for promotion of local bands and local music. Videos are a great medium to do that, and Love Drunk, they’re just so eager and enthusiastic about music and Nebraska music. That really comes through with what they’re doing, and they have the ability to make other people excited.
Main guitar part
Main guitar part
Don’t look out the window
Don’t look at the sea
What’s right here is what’s right here
What’s right here is
The seam of my dress is cut out and dangling
Past my ankle and on the floor, you’re whispering
Only the windows keep their shape
Only the tablecloth feels the same
You always soothe my mind even when I don’t need soothing
Main guitar part
I am the window, I am the sea
I’m right here, I’m right here
All I hear is
Michael Todd is Hear Nebraska's managing editor. He turns 23 today and might make friends with a mimosa later tonight. Reach him at email@example.com.