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“Roman Empire” by The Big Deep | Music Exam

photo by Mark Swanson

So it begins: the last summer on Earth. Better enjoy the grilling and the swimming while they last.

OK, maybe the world will last past 2012, but is it halftime in America or double overtime? The Big Deep's Nate Gasaway knows this empire is bound to fall at some point, sooner or later. It's all cyclical, and just like the Romans, we have our flaws.

And so, the Omaha band plays a rock 'n' roll song called "Roman Empire" for the hoedown scheduled on the Apocalypse. They played the title track off their album live at 12:35 a.m. on Friday at the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards Summer Showcase. The Big Deep was just 1/55 of the lineup, and its venue, The Barley Street Tavern, was just 1/5 of the hosts.

Hear Nebraska: Is the song speaking to anyone in particular?

Nate Gasaway: Nobody in particular. Really, the whole song was written from a sarcastic point-of-view, sort of tongue-in-cheek. Lyrically, it was supposed to be a collective voice of everybody. It seemed to me that I wanted to write a rock 'n' roll song about a party at the end of the world.

I just always thought that the left wing thinks everything is going to hell because of this, and the right wing thinks everything is going to hell because of something else. Everybody believes the end is near, just the reasons are different.

Plus, it’s comparing modern society to the Roman society. That empire ended, as they all do, so it’s a change that happens cyclically. It's about f the world ends, it’s all why that happens or what that means. And can we even control it. The chorus of the song is the idea that it’s the party at the end of the world. The lyrics are we’re moving faster towards something, but we might as well have a good time.

photo by Mark Swanson

HN: What other parallels do you can draw to the Roman Empire with America today?

NG: You know, the lyrics started from that first line, "Consider this the fall of the great Roman Empire." The second line is, "With the lead in our blood we fall to the ground." The parallel is between the technological advances of the Roman Empire and those today.

The lead plumbing they saw as progress helped lead to the downfall of their civilization. These awesome things now that we think are making our lives easier, making them cheaper also might not be the best idea in the overall scope of things.

HN: OK, so the song is more, "Let's enjoy it while it lasts," rather than, "Here's what we can we do to help stem the fall of our empire"?

NG: Yeah, I’m not trying to make any real political statements about it. It’s just an observation. It's about the oblivious nature of it, everybody knows this is how the world works cyclically, but it seems they're all doe-eyed. "With our head in our clouds" talks about the dreamers and people who have idyllic ideas, and the "joyful noise" is a Christian meme, something that's deafening what’s actually happening.

photo by Mark Swanson

HN: Tell me about the music. How did it come together?

NG: Musically, I always have more ideas than lyrical. The music usually comes pretty well ahead of the lyrical side. I knew I wanted to write a straighforward rock 'n' roll song. I'd been kickin’ around a riff for about a week before any lyrics came.

I knew I wanted these stacatto scale pieces in unison with the rest of the bad. I had that mapped out before I knew what the song was about. That’s the process I take most of the time on, figuring out what kind of mood it is, how it makes you feel. For this particular song, it was a straight-up rock 'n' roll song that seemed like an epic, end-of-the-world one.

HN: Cool. Talk a little about the recording of the song, too.

NG: This was one of the first ones we recorded during the process of making the album. And it was awesome because it was our first time in the studio, and we were able to play around with it. After the basic tracks were laid, we started layering things, like these big bell sounds. You can hear those in the main scale of the song, and they kind of mimicked the tolling bells you might associate with the Apocalypse.

It was a lot of fun to record. We did some gang vocals, shout-along parts to it also. We had Marta (Fiedler) from Blue Bird, who sang the backup vocals on it. And so, it was really a fun experience because the song is so upbeat. To have everyone doing these shout-along parts, trying to recreate the feel of the song in the studio space adds to the energy of the tune.

photo by Mark Swanson

HN: All right, I have to ask about the guitar (bassist) Jared (Bakewell) won as part of our Give to Lincoln Day fundraising. Have you played it?

NG: (laughs) Yeah, I have. It’s got a prominent spot in our practice space. It’s really cool, and I’m thinking about breaking it out at a show.

HN: So Jared isn't too protective of it?

NG: No, not really. He was just so elated about it. Jared plays a little guitar, but he was pretty open to have us noodle around just 'cause it was a cool thing to win.

I saw that he won before he did actually. My roommate Andrew Roger, who does Ingrained videos for you guys, he was saying they’re going to draw the winner. So we watched the video, and when we saw his name, we had to call him. He was, like, "Is this a joke?"

Then he watched the video and still didn’t really believe us since we had called him and caught him out of left field. But yeah, it's so cool.

CHORDS

Intro

A riff  x4
A/D riff x4 (with harmonica)
Unison Scale — D  E  A  E
A riff x2

Verse

Rest                                         D
Consider this the fall of the great Roman Empire
A                                                                            
D

With the lead in our blood we fall to the ground
A                                        D
Derailed and dizzy, but at least we’re keeping ourselves busy
A                                         D
‘Cause idle hands are the Devil’s Friend

Chorus

B                                                           G
We’re moving faster now than we’ve ever been before
B                               A
We’re moving fast but we want more
A/D riff  x3  (with harmonica melody)

Verse

A                                             D
Consider this the end of your great Christian nation
A                                             D
We’ll always say we thought it would last
A                                             D                    
With our heads in the clouds and our feet in our mouths, we make a 
joyful noise and it’s pretty
A                           D
Loud, yeah, pretty fuckin’ loud          

Chorus

B                                                          D
We’re moving faster now than we’ve ever been before.
B                                                      D
We’re moving faster now and we don’t care what’s in store
B                                                      D                                

A
We’re moving faster now and we all want so much more   A/D riff  x2  (with harmonica melody)
A/D riff  x2  (with harmonica hodown)
A/D riff x2 (with Ryan solo)

Vocal build

With our heads in the clouds and our feet in our mouths we make a
joyful noise and its pretty loud x4  (harmony vocals on 3rd and 4th time through)

Ryan solo 2 (Over chorus progression)

G chord arpeggio build 

A/D riff x2 (with harmonica melody)
Unison scale
A riff x2

Outro

Michael Todd is Hear Nebraska's managing editor. Although it's always fun to transcribe these songs, he's elated that Jared sent the chords and lyrics for this one. Reach Michael at michaeltodd@hearnebraska.org.