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  • Writer's pictureIan Galipeau

Creation Stories: Smoke

Updated: Nov 24, 2022

I started this song in late 2018 with a specific musical goal in mind - I wanted to re-use a rhythm from a song I wrote with Honest Thieves called "Last Breath". The 9:8 feel (3 groups of 3) of that song was something I loved, but when we stopped playing as a band, it didn't carry the same way in my solo sets. I decided to write something new that would use that idea in a way I could do by myself, which meant being able to play the 'bass part' and the chords at the same time. I developed the verse guitar part and started working a melody from there.

In the chorus the melody and lyrics repeat exactly the same both times, but I used different chords underneath the second time through, and I like the tension that builds. The song is in the key of E, but the chorus chords are unusual, particularly on the repeat. Without getting too deep into the theory - normally, a song in the key of E major would have 3 major chords, 3 minor chords, and 1 diminished chord. This song uses 6 chords, and 5 of them are major - so the chords I'm using include notes that aren't "supposed" to be used in the scale, which is why the chorus section feels slightly off-kilter.

The lyrics (which are below) all relate to climate change, and how infuriating our conversations about that (and everything else) have become. I flip between perspectives in the verses - the first verse is the skeptic who has lost all faith in expertise. The second verse is someone who sees it as an existential threat (which is misleading and counterproductive). The final verse is me at my most cynical, wondering whether humanity deserves to be saved from itself. It's a dark thought... but I had to entertain it to decide what I think.***

That bridge section where I repeat "Burning the bridge to escape..." was something I initially built with a loop pedal for live solo sets. On the album version, the vocal melody builds into a 4-part harmony the same way I do with my looper, but I worked with Robby (my fantastic mixing engineer) to add progressively more intense distortion on each repeat, to create a feeling like the track itself is disintegrating. He helped tie it back together with some huge reverb and that thin, almost-megaphone sounding vocal in the final chorus.

The guitar solo on the album was my attempt to play slide guitar - I had originally intended to put a dummy take down and then ask one of the actual lead guitar players I know to put a real slide solo there... but I did a couple of takes and really liked the way this one came out, so it stayed.

***In my heart I believe we're living at the beginning of a multi-million year human history and the most incredible accomplishments of our species are still in the future. I had to entertain this level of cynicism to decide it didn't fit. This song was definitely a way to process that pessimism.

"Smoke" is track 5 on my album Like We Were Never Here At All. Listen to it on Bandcamp or stream it through your preferred provider.


Build your cold calculations like

Towers toward heaven above

There in the balance of everything

You pray that your numbers add up

You say heaven is falling down

Crushing the world with its weight,

But now, if push came to shove you’d keep

Holding the sky in its place.

So it goes

You say fire, but all I see is smoke

So it goes

You say fire, but all I see is smoke

Tell yourself it’s a story book

Built out of lies from the deep,

But if these dragons aren’t fairy tales you’re

Selling your sons to the beast.

If you’re holding out for perfect truth

Then there’s nothing left that I can say

Maybe there’s something that’s sacred in

Waiting to be swept away.

So it goes

You say fire, but all I see is smoke

So it goes

You say fire, but all I see is smoke

If I knew every consequence

I might watch the world fan the flames

‘Cause maybe the only redemption is

Burning the bridge to escape.

So it goes

You say fire, but all I see is smoke

So it goes

You say fire, but all I see is smoke

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