Felix Bechtolsheimer dissects a hypnotic song that was inspired by the sudden loss of his father, uncle and ex-girlfriend
Felix Bechtolsheimer is the founder, frontman and creative power behind cosmic alt-rock band Curse Of Lono. He is also a songwriter more than capable of channelling his own experiences and emotions into his music, no matter how painful. Last year’s People In Cars, the group’s third studio album, found inspiration in the loss of Bechtolsheimer’s father, uncle and ex-partner. Somehow, amongst all that darkness, there are still shards of hopeful light penetrating through the black. It’s these emotional contrasts that make it one of the most powerfully triumphant albums of 2021. One of the most personal moments comes on the hypnotic Think I’m Alright Now, as Bechtolsheimer explains here…
I write in a pretty unusual way compared to most of my songwriter friends. I have a notebook of lyrics and a folder of audio clips but I don’t let them get a sniff of each other until I start working on a new album. That’s when the sleepless nights start and I have to drag body parts from these two unrelated swamps and start building my Frankenstein. I usually start by sifting through dozens of audio clips, looking for something that excites me before I try to find a line or an idea in my notebook that looks like it might work. As a result, the songs and their meanings often go through many stages and are subjected to many different types of inspiration along the way before they’re finally locked in. It can take a long time to work out what a song is trying to be, what it’s trying to say, so inspiration tends to have time to filter through in many guises.
Think I’m Alright Now started as a guitar riff. It hung around for months but I couldn’t find a vocal melody that worked with it. I kept coming back to the guitar part every time I was noodling around and, eventually, when I wasn’t really paying attention, a melody popped out. I hit record on my voice recorder and started singing anything that came into my head. That’s where the first two lines came from. They started to give me an idea about what the song wanted to say.
I had just come out of a pretty deep depression. I was battling with a number of conflicting emotions. The relief of coming out the other side versus the feelings of shame and inadequacy for having gone there in the first place. I know how tough it is living with someone with depression. I’ve been on both sides of that shit storm and I know how hard it can be. The lyrics for this song started out trying to acknowledge that. It was almost an apology to my wife. Then life happened. My dad passed away in April last year, followed by my uncle a month later. My ex-girlfriend from my heroin days followed three months after that. It was a lot to grapple with, especially during a global pandemic. And so the song’s meaning evolved. As I chiselled away, the lines became more personal and more general at the same time. It was no longer a song about one specific thing. It was a feeling with some scenes from my life thrown in to tie the feeling down.
Musically, I think I was trying to get The Stone Roses and Wilco in a room with Yo La Tengo. It never turns out the way you plan these things but sometimes the result is interesting anyway. Neil [Findlay] came up with the perfect beat that glued the whole thing together and gave it a rhythmic purpose. Joe [Hazell]’s guitar part is one of my favourite things he’s ever recorded for the band. It’s a meandering musical commentary on the lyrics that, at times, says more than the words do. Charis [Anderson]’s bass line had to be simple and steady to keep the drums in check and Dani [Ruiz Hernandez]’s keyboard joined forces with Joe Harvey Whyte’s pedal steel to create a deep, atmospheric backwash. We put some four-part harmonies on top to give it that final glow.
IN THE STUDIO
Think I’m Alright Now was recorded in our studio in London. It’s the sort of song we would definitely have recorded live with everyone in the room together, but Covid made that impossible. So we decided to do the whole thing back to front. I recorded my guitar part and a guide vocal to some midi parts that our producer, Oli Bayston, had laid down. Then we got Neil in to track the drums, followed by Charis on bass, Dani on keys, Joe on guitar and Joe Harvey Whyte on pedal steel. Oli and I were the only people who were there all the way through. The others popped into the studio one at a time. The only time we got a few of us together was when we went to The Pool Studio to put down the backing vocals. For a band that’s used to playing everything live in the same room, this was pretty disorienting, but Oli managed to pull it all together. I’m really happy with how the track turned out but it definitely wasn’t the way we’d planned it.
Think I’m Alright Now is a strange beast. It came at a difficult time when there was no urgency, no desire to finish anything. The ideas, the body parts that ended up coming together to make the song, hung around for many months, giving them time to percolate and mature. I’m glad I took my time with it. I learned a lot from this song and the album as a whole. The main lesson was not to think too much about what I’m trying to do or say. For me, creativity doesn’t live in the thinking brain. My best lyrics tend to come from stream of consciousness ramblings. Same with the melodies. I spend a lot of time editing and on general quality control but the good stuff usually comes when I’ve stopped trying.