Inspiration Through Music: Wye Oak

There are times when I am so thankful that I was introduced to a particular television show. Such is the case here. Last year in September, I made myself a lovely bowl of chorizo and squash soup (oh, how I wish I could eat that now) and some homemade garlic bread. I opened my my Netflix DVD and sat down to watch a movie and eat some dinner. This, folks, was the moment I was introduced to The Walking Dead. After falling madly in love with the first episode, I googled it and found that the second season was set to begin soon. I then found the trailer for it online. And this, this was truly the best moment of all. In the video, they had used a little song called, “Civilian” by a band that I’d never heard of: Wye Oak. Within the next few months, I was hooked on this band. Their music has so much flavor and a certain eccentricity that I really enjoy. I also love that it brings out my creativity on various writing projects.

Wye Oak is an American indie folk band comprised of two people, Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack. Since their start in 2006, the band has released four albums. I have songs from each album. This band tends to be one of my go to bands for inspiration when I’m really having trouble writing. I have four songs of theirs which usually get me un-stuck pretty quickly. One of these (which I didn’t include below) is the song Holy, Holy which is probably my second favorite of the songs they’ve done. I’ve listened to their music while working on westerns, my indie travel novella, and of course, The Monstrum Chronicles. Today, I’ve selected 7 of their songs to share with you.

Fish: I see a character who has undergone a series of saddening trials over the last year. He throws himself into an idea, to sail the ocean on a vessel that he’s restored. As he fixes it up and eventually sets sail in it, he realizes that in all the times he thought he was alone and no one was there, there were people around to help. And now he’s isolated himself because it’s the last step to being able to put the past behind him. He must make this journey on his own to prove that he can to himself. People will always be there to guide and help but he must be able to go it alone as well. The idea comes from seeing the preview of the movie “Hide Away” which is released on DVD next week. I thought this song was poignant, sad, and beautiful. The music video for it is also quite gorgeous.

I Hope You Die: A character sits by the hospital bed of her lover. He’s been diagnosed with a terminal disease and has been undergoing treatment for the last month. She spends most of her time at the hospital, visiting. Her days at work have become just slips of time that she doesn’t quite remember. She lives for the moments that she’s with him. She stays at the hospital with him most of the time, watching him sleep and hoping that his pain goes away. It becomes to agonizing to watch him writhe in pain that she silently wishes that he would die just to end his suffering. This is another very sad song from Wye Oak but the emotion in the song is so penetrating and heart-rending, it’s hard to see the song being about any type of vengeance or anger (like the title implies).

Please Concrete: Two characters are driving in a car. The afternoon sun beats down on the car as they make their way along the interstate, other vehicles cruising by them. The wind blows through the car, swishing the woman’s hair around. It’s warm and wonderful. The man has an easy smile on his face. This is the first time during the whole car ride he’s actually begun to feel relax, the feeling he gets when traffic has eased up a little. Both of them are now talking with a bit more ease as well. When they started this journey, they barely knew one another and now, they’ve finally broken the ice. I find that the characters who fit along with this scene in my head are the ones from my novella in progress, Night Time, Dotted Line.

Black is the Color of my True Love’s Hair: There’s a rawness to this version of this older song that I fall in love with. The person the song sings about is his own man, someone who doesn’t want to be messed with and someone who has a story that’s trailed behind him his entire life. Everyone knows his name and no one wants to get on his bad side. He’s after vengeance for his true love’s death and the men he’s exacted that vengeance on so far have been killed without mercy. I almost always imagine a post-Civil War western scenario for this particular song. I may end up using it as inspiration when I decide to write a continuance for my western-horror (worror) Landed.

Civilian: A wide field of snow vanishes off into the mist. The lone character walks, keeping a steady pace. He doesn’t know what’s at the end of this mist but he knows he must keep going. If he stops, he’ll begin to forget everything about himself, where he’s going, and  why he must go there. Soon enough, the flat expanse becomes a thick woodland, black inside without a trace of light. He continues in warily scanning his surroundings. Once he’s at least a mile into the trees, he begins to hear the strange noises, the growls and snarls of the creatures who live within. And soon enough, he picks up his feet into a run as they draw closer. The darkness yawns on and it seems hopeless to continue. The creatures draw in closer. Still, he pushes on. There must be a way out of the darkness, he reasons. It can’t possibly go on forever. Can’t it? (This song was widely popularized by it’s use for the season 2 trailer of The Walking Dead. It is a spectacular song that really homes in on memories and familiarity of home and family whilst also insinuating that a certain danger is near that can take all of that away. I’ve been listening to this song for inspiration while I work on Book 4 of The Monstrum Chronicles.)

Take It In: A woman leaves a house, the screen door slapping behind her as she runs down the front walk and out into the field across the road. Her husband sits at the kitchen table, his head in his hands. She’s just admitted to cheating on him. Her reason being that she’s been carrying him ever since he lost his job, ever since their daughter’s death. She feels as though she’s exhausted all the time and can’t do it any longer. It still hasn’t hit him entirely, the shock of his wife’s words. She still deeply loves him but she can’t stand to see him so miserable and so sad all the time. He knows he’s been sad… but he felt it was mutual. Why didn’t she ever say anything? Or was he supposed to notice? He silently takes it in as she settles beneath a tree outside on a hill beyond the field and cries. It hurt to have to tell him. She never thought he could look more crushed. But things couldn’t continue the way they were… the monotony and constant gloom are too much.

Hot As Day: When I was writing my western horror, Landed, this was the song that I listened to on repeat because I felt it was a good representation of the characters I was introducing in the story. It draws parallels to the bright blinding day and the eternal night. In the story, we have a character who has just been introduced to the creatures that lurk in the camp he’s staying in as well as what atrocities have happened in the night because of them. The bright blinding day is when everything is discovered, when the town and its people must face what happened in the night. It’s ‘blinding’ because it’s all consuming, it commands everyone’s attention. I also love the intensity of the later parts of the song coupled with the more calm beginning. All in all, this is my main theme for the short story and it’s further adventures that I intend to write.

Next week on Inspiration Through Music, I’ll be looking into the music of one of my other favorite musicians, Imogen Heap! Tune in next week and don’t forget to catch my Cooking Adventures blog tomorrow evening!

~KSilva

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