Behind the songs: Surrender When

If you’d told me a couple of months ago this would be the album‘s opening track, I would have thought you were crazy.

For as long as the album was in production – two years, on and off – I considered this song (whose original demo was titled ‘Coronationalisation’ for reasons I can’t remember) the weakest on the record.

(I know it’s heresy for a songwriter to admit a song is weak and then expect others to want to listen to it, but hear me out!)

In late January and early February, I worked on a bunch of new songs and demos, using the opportunity to test different mics, hardware settings, recording chains, etc, to see which would work best with my ill-suited voice. 

Once I’d figured out the best of a bad situation, ‘Surrender When’ was the first vocal I laid down for this new album. I figured I’d start with the weakest track and make my way up, so by the time I got to ‘Tokyo Regret’ I’d pretty much sound like Chris Cornell. 

But this song – simple tune, largely unchanging tone, no challenging melodies – ended up coming out pretty well. Then as work on the album progressed, I had a dilemma on my hands.

You see, as the album’s tracks all flow into each other as one piece, I recorded as many songs as I could in the same DAW session (that’s like, the musician’s equivalent of a single spreadsheet or a single Word document). I ended up with two sets of six songs that could not be separated. 

‘Surrender When’ was meant to open the second half of the album. But the songs attached to it also came out pretty well, while I was struggling with the songs meant to go on the first half… a problem I solved by just switching the two sides. This way, the better recordings could go on the first half, and the better songs on the second… I think? 

Anyway, as for ‘Surrender When’, I really don’t know what it’s about. I wrote it in 2014. It reads like a surreal boast of military superiority? Then there’s that odd Spanish bit which just sounded good at the time. 

And yes, that dissonant harmony is deliberate. Not a mistake. I tried so many note combinations, and that’s the one I kept coming back to. That’s how writing music works, sometimes. It’s out of my control.