Whether you’re on team dystopia or team The Jetsons, the uncertainty of the future has long been an inspiration to us all. Hey Geronimo are no different, their latest album Content standing as an extensive “what if” for all the wacky directions the near future could see humanity headed.
The record was a co-write between bandmates Bill Bingley, Pluto Jonze and Pete Kilroy. Today, they’ve been kind enough to share their thoughts on every track.
What does the future hold? Take a trip to times uncertain with Hey Geronimo and their new album Content.
The Last Public Telephone
BILL: The premise I started with for this song is that, one day, there will only be one public telephone left. There’s something very lonely about the idea of a communication device that only goes one way, so I took that vibe and wrote some lyrics about desperate people trying to communicate to each other through the same phone, with nothing on the other end.
The first verse describes a kid who has run away from home and gotten himself in trouble, trying to get in touch with his parents for help. The second verse is the parents trying to get in touch with him, offering forgiveness. But of course, neither message ever gets through. Musically, this song went through multiple versions (acoustic ballad, Eskimo Joe style rock), but we eventually landed on a kind of electronic krautrock remix.
Taking out the chords from underneath the melody and keeping the bass on the same note made it feel darker and more claustrophobic, which was a better fit with the concept and the rest of the album. We felt like it was the perfect “opening scene” for the album.
Working For Google
PETE: This is what we think Google’s Ministry of Truth will be proliferating in 20 years time. The “Woolworths Choir” features heavily on this song. The chorus is what all the brainwashed Google minions chant just after their two minutes of hate. While sonically completely different, this is the sister song to Bad Citizen.
It’s very Orwellian, but that’s a theme that runs through the album. Sonically, the song started a bit more folky, but developed into something a bit heavier as the themes of the album began to solidify. If The Last Public Telephone was the sequence before the credits of the film, this feels like the first concrete act of the piece.
BILL: Disconnect is another hypothetical future scenario that I was trying to describe in a song: a world where VR has become so realistic and compelling that no one goes outside any more. I tried to imagine what it would be like to walk around at sunset through the empty streets, seeing people silhouetted in their houses. It would be almost post-apocalyptic, except society collapsed with a whimper instead of a bang.
We made a conscious effort to keep the instrumentation for this one as sparse as possible, given our past tendency to make every song a triple-layer wedding cake. There’s a nod to The Beatles in the guitar part — the stabs are an appropriation of the guitar line from Getting Better. Our diagnosis? It’s not getting better.
PLUTO: The idea for this one came from an interview with Yuval Harari about how humanity is racing blindly towards the brink of what we can’t know – our own destruction? Virtual paradise? The eye watering pace of technological development feeds itself, and while both good and bad, the changes we have already set in motion are self perpetuating, the train has left the station, and we are on this runaway ride to who-knows-where.
I imagined this Roger Waters-esque dystopia as one possible outcome and how I would think and feel against this backdrop. For the production I really wanted it to reference Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective and have this uplifting feeling to the chorus but with dark undertones to the verses. Whatever’s coming is definitely going to have both sides to it.
PETE: This is our favourite track on the album. The melody is great, and the whole song just works. It’s a pretty classic type of song, not in any way trendy. Second Skin imagines how in the future you’ll be able to augment your physical being to “become another person” and start your life anew.
As with many ideas and themes in Content, we think there’s no reason why this type of scenario won’t eventuate. Alex the AI wrote and performed all the lead guitar on this song.
PLUTO: The title came from a podcast discussion I’d heard about how much “humanness” do we want to build in to the AI of our future. Uncanny valley came up, where something is really close to being human, but it’s just a bit off somehow, which makes it mega creepy. That put the title in my head which I then built a Blade Runner-esque little story around.
We really wanted a hard edge to the production, a digi-punk-rock computer vibe to offset the kinda tragi-comedy lyrics. We took a long time getting the arrangement to strike the right balance, and finally it was Steven Shram to the rescue with some of his magic dust to tie this one together.
PLUTO: The idea for this stemmed from the horror I’m sure many many felt with the idea of a certain reality TV personality being in charge of the nuclear codes. There are some obvious digs at your usual targets of modernity in there, and I did want the lyrics to have a light tone, while maintaining some humour to contrast the dark, claustrophobic undercurrent of the production.
Though now that Trump and Kim are besties, what am I worried about?
PETE: This song was originally called Bad Medicine and was about a whack trip that Bingers went on, once upon a time. We liked the song, and thought with a bit of lyrical tweaking it would fit in with the dystopian soundscape.
As the film clip suggests, it’s basically 1984 in song form. We asked Magoo to “make this sound like Regurgitator“ and he obliged. It’s a bit Boredom-esque and is sort of a spiritual successor to Boredom.
BILL: Towards the end of recording the album, I took a look back at the songs we hadn’t used and realised we could make a kind of Abbey Road style suite out of the various bits. These bits came from all kinds of places: an acoustic song of Pete’s, a weird Smashing Pumpkins style song I’d written for another band, an attempted sarcastic remix of Why Don’t We Do Something, a voice recording from an afternoon where Pete and I jammed with Jay Bovino from Sheppard.
I pieced these together into a song about an old man desperately clinging to his lost youth in the twilight of his life. Given the futuristic theme of the album, it’s kept deliberately ambiguous whether the protagonist actually becomes young again or is just remembering what it felt like. We’ll leave that one up to you!
PETE: Once we round the bend at Young Again, the album becomes very personal. Seat 8A is about death. The character in this song is literally telling the story of his plane crash. I’ve always had a morbid fascination and fear of flying and crashing.
The form of the song is very grand, and it has the taste of musical theatre. Originally this was meant to be the end of the album, but we didn’t want to end on a downer, so Faster Than Light seemed like a good way to inject some hope into the finale.
Faster Than Light
BILL: This one was a co-write between PJ and I. He had the instrumental, and I wrote the melody and lyrics on top. Considering how bleak the rest of the album is conceptually, I really wanted to end on an optimistic note, so this song is pure sci-fi escapism. It’s loosely based on the part in 2001: A Space Odyssey where Floyd travels to the moon.
If you fly regularly, you start to take the insanity of it all in your stride, like you’re just on a bus or something instead of 10,000 feet in the air. I imagine that the same would be true when space travel becomes routine, so I was describing how it would feel to fly home to your home on the moon after a long work trip on Earth. The idea of a place that seems so exotic being home, and what we know of as our home being the “other”, is something that I find really interesting.
Musically we wanted it to sit somewhere between the Dandy Warhols and Queen… if that makes any sense at all! The song ends with a reprise of the krautrock bit from The Last Public Telephone, and ends with the sound of a phone being hung up to bring the album, full circle, back to its opening scene.
Hey Geronimo will be playing Content in full in Sydney and Brisbane this November:
Fri 2 Nov – Netherworld, Brisbane
Fri 16 Nov – 107 Projects, Sydney
Content is out now.