Better Half’s frontman, Christopher Vernon, runs through the lyrics, creation & meanings of their recent five-track EP, ‘Maybe I Was Wrong’.
Foreword from Christopher:
“I’d hoped that the level of cryptic vs. relatable was a good balance when it came to the lyrical content of ‘Maybe I Was Wrong.’ But maybe I was wrong. The previous sentence is basically the whole point of the record and how every song is supposed to be connected. Whether I did a good job portraying that is entirely up to your opinion. I hope that by the end of this you at least have an in-depth understanding of what my intention was for listeners. Before a classic conclusion”, I feel this is the time to mention I originally wanted to title the EP ‘Songs I Wish I Wrote a Long Time Ago.’ Because it’s all thoughts and concepts that had occupied my brain since I felt that late teen higher level of consciousness that you experience as a human. I just never had the correct medium or I guess grasp of how to articulate it until recent years. So I can clearly see why some people can just perceive it as “white boy problems”, but as my dear friend Joshua said to me “we’re all white boys at some point, we just don’t all write about it.”
I wrote every part of this track about a year before I wrote the bridge. The simple back story of the first track on the record is that when I was 17 I “fell in love” with a girl at my high school and she left me only a couple of months later. I realise as I’ve grown up that I would have left me too. I blamed myself for nearly four years afterwards and had this almost obsession (or illogical belief) that everything was different now and that we would be happy together. But “maybe I was wrong”.
“Smoke alight between your fingers,
“Did you know that’s bad for you?”
“I wasn’t aware thanks.”
Pretty vague, simple and to some people definitely cheesy and rightfully so. Just seemed appropriate to try to paint a picture of my 17-year-old self for the sake of the context of the track and my character. This was my first interaction with this girl.
“I wasn’t always this confident,
It just goes to show how much loneliness changes a man,
At least I know it changed me for sure.”
At one point in high school, I decided to stop dating girls because I felt like I didn’t even know myself enough to try to share myself with someone else. From that sense of voluntary loneliness, I found the confidence within myself to just be who I am.
“I still feel like you’re the only one that ever got me,”
It scared me then but distance has moved me,
I’m still what you need,
Come back to me.”
The first line is something she said to me two years after she left me when she was having a hard time and I reached out to her. It made me nervous at the time, but spending another 2 years away from her on top of that made me totally okay with that statement. I can recognise in hindsight she was just upset at the time of the statement and was just reaching out, I way over thought this comment for so many years. The Second half is self-explanatory.
“I remember he repeated it every day for a few months:
“Chris, she’s only 16, she’s not what you need, let her go.”
Now she’s 20 and I still can’t let her go.”
Just because I’ve had a few people ask me this, I was 18 at the time of this conversation with my longtime friend, Daniel. It’s funny cause when this record came out I was hanging with him a week or two later. I mentioned this track and he literally rolled his eyes at me and asked, “You wrote a song about her?” He obviously still feels the same so many years later. But I can clearly respect his stance now. Let’s be real – it is weird. I never acted on the thoughts, but being so attached to a girl that probably never thinks about you is thoroughly unhealthy!
“I’m glad you let him go,
He’s a loser.”
And maybe I was wrong.
And maybe your friends were all right about me.”
At the same time as I was obsessing over her and my friends were pissed: she was so opposite and had nearly entirely forgotten about me. It’s been so long since I wrote this track that I can’t recall the origin of this comment. The second last line of the track was one of the last things we changed on the record before recording the final version. Our guitarist Matt Van Duppen didn’t like the previous line I had and I felt this set the tone of the record much better. It’s also how the record title came to be. I believed I was a confident “cool dude” as what’s mentioned at the beginning of the track while all her friends just thought I was a loser. So maybe I was wrong about myself? I also believed that I had changed and could fix everything and that it would be better now, but maybe I was wrong about that too?
‘Stop‘, is a very simple song. Once you grasp the basic concept I hope it makes a lot more sense. For the sake of privacy, let’s call my friend ‘Hayley’ for this track, just because that name is an appropriate joke we would both understand.
“This phone never rings,
Damn there must be something wrong,
“Take me to the hospital,
I’m sick as shit and I need your help.”
‘Hayley’ and I had been close friends for years at this point and I know she had struggled with mental health issues for a long time. We would hang out 2-3 times a week and we would always text, we would never ever call each other. So when she called me one evening it freaked me out because I instantly knew something was wrong. As I had assumed, she’d told me her GP had asked her to take herself to the ER the following day cause she was not having a good time in her own head. She told me she was afraid and asked if I’d come and be there with her through it.
“Staring placid at my shoes,
I couldn’t think of what to do,
I couldn’t think of a single thing to say to you.”
Anyone that knows me personally or my other band Belle Haven, will know that for 12 or so years now my brother, David, has struggled with mental health issues. So I always felt as if I had a good grasp on depression and suicide. But being in the waiting room with ‘Hayley’ was different and I didn’t know how to respond to her saying she didn’t want to be around anymore, but so calmly. Her own mind terrified her and I had no idea how to comfort her.
“I never truly knew the things we hide in our closets,
I never truly knew you,
I never truly knew myself.”
A lot of lyrical content got removed from this song, so this chorus is nowhere near as detailed and cohesive as I had hoped, but it gets the general point across. There were so many things I saw that day once the doctor came to take ‘Hayley’ to a ward. There was so much stuff that her own mind had tried so hard to hide from everyone who loved her and that she loved dearly. She told him stories and thoughts that crossed her mind along with physical marks she had on herself that I genuinely had no idea existed and they were infinitely more graphic than I could have ever imagined seeing. I remember feeling so lost and helpless. I remember not knowing how to react or how to feel, I just hadn’t been hit with that type of confronting imagery and information before.
“I was your support for so long,
Even when you neglected me and you couldn’t care less,
I don’t need your charity I just want your respect.
Lose me to the void,
Cut me out girl,
Cut it out.”
Now the second part of the track, which is my experience with ‘Hayley’ 2-3 years after the hospital incident. I’ll try my best to condense this. ‘Hayley’ fell in love with a dude that didn’t like me because he didn’t like my family, then she felt that he gave her more happiness. So she chose him over our friendship. Sometimes you have to give up friendships for relationships. That’s life – I got over it. They broke up, we became friends again and didn’t even care she ignored me for years. Then when I ran into hard times, instead of trying to be there and be supportive for me like I was to her years ago, she just gave me money and presents and was acting in a “what else do you want from me?” manner. Meanwhile, she was totally oblivious to my need for genuine emotional support.
Quit playing games,
I can feel your pain,
You’re too busy screwing ’round to see mine.
After I thought we had sorted our dumb quarrels she started verging on ignoring me, I found out that it’s because she was sleeping with some of my friends. Well, I thought she was at the time I wrote this track. Turns out, I was wrong. She just needed a break from my negativity. Which is completely fair in hindsight! The big tie-in point of the theme of the record with this track is that I really felt like I understood human behaviour before that hospital visit with ‘Hayley’. I also genuinely thought I had such great knowledge in which to care for people I loved with depression, but I was probably wrong about that one too.
If I am really honest with myself and everyone else reading, I can’t remember some of the contexts of this song. But I will try my best to articulate what I recall of my original meaning. This track has a strong underlying theme of backing yourself and your loved ones before chasing a desire for physical love and romantic connection. Again, for privacy reasons, I’ll name this girl ‘Leah’ in this track.
“I was always told that if you love someone,
Then don’t worry cause they’ll stay,
Despite the distance and the time away.”
Trying to build your own personal business and build a touring band at the same time left me poor in money and poor in time a few years back. This ruined a lot of relationships I had because I couldn’t give enough of myself to someone else. My family used to always tell me that someone worth loving would bypass that distance and time.
“Sitting on the bathroom floor,
I never realised before,
That I can’t miss you,
If I forget you.”
A few years back my parents installed one of those heat lamps in the bathroom at my family’s house. I used to finish my showers, wrap myself up in a towel and sit on the bathroom floor under the heat lamp and just think about everything. Almost like meditating. I’d thought about something a lady I’d recently made friends with had said to me, and it occurred to me that I could easily get over ‘Leah’ if I just forgot she even existed at all. Sadly, my way of “forgetting” someone isn’t always healthy.
Jack burns my throat,
And along with it:
All the memories of growing up,
And I’m too afraid to think of being close to you.
Now there’s nothing left to do except lay in my bed and cry about it,
I always fucking cry about it.
I used to obsessively drink Jack Daniels every day when I was 18-19 and sometimes I don’t remember a lot from that part of my youth, which could be related to my stupid drinking habits. The concept of memory and time really upsets me because I love to remember good times and when I can’t it sucks. As lame as it sounds, one of the things that really upsets me is that I’ll never be young and have the mental freedom or total obliviousness that I did. It caused me to have next to no desire to belong to other people. I also recall that at the time of writing this track I had this desire to be really aggressive about this whole “boys don’t cry” stigma, so I thought being aggressive and vulnerable about something like this was beneficial.
“You used me,
You’re so shallow.
She was wrong though.”
‘Leah’ said this to me once when I broke up with her amongst all the 5-6 times we “broke up”. The accusations were because she would buy me things I never wanted or needed or ever asked for, cause she assumed that that kind of stuff would make me happy. But that’s not what I desired or needed to feel loved. So when I left her, she got upset and accused me of being fake to get what I wanted from her. This included using her for sex, which is quite a horrible accusation. I felt it was an important part to include in a song I’d basically written about our relationship as it genuinely hurt a hell of a lot at the time. It still does, but just not in the same way. ‘North‘ is basically a break-up song with the outlying theme of discovering things about your own headspace and the appreciation of what you have. I personally love the use of “she was wrong though” in the track as a weird juxtapose to “maybe I was wrong.” I thought ‘Leah’ and I had a love that would last forever, but maybe I was wrong.
4. REST YOUR HEAD:
I’ve spoken about this track numerous times before to people. This comes in the second part of the record of being more on the “okay, I was wrong” part of the spectrum in regards to the record title. A few years ago I came to accept that everything in my life is temporary, including my own existence, my family, my friends and any lovers I encounter. ‘Rest Your Head‘ is a late night moment laying next to the girl I loved, being completely happy with where I was in my life and with her, but knowing that eventually, it would have an end point. But at the same time being accepting of that fact. This song is the most recently written, which I think is probably obvious with how much clearer the lyrical content is. I feel I’m really starting to find my feet these days with being able to get across what I want to say without having to try to make it “sound cool.”
I’m not okay,
You’re not okay and that’s just fine.
This line was originally taken from my favourite book by Dr. Richard Carlson ‘Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff.’ Although in the book it reads “I’m not okay, you’re not okay and that’s okay.” The guys argued using this. But my friend, Megan Ariss, who originally shared this book with me, told me that she quickly recognised the line from the book.
I need to feel something,
Just make me feel something.
The only thing that really sucked about this song is I had maybe twice as many lyrics that I wanted to use that I didn’t end up using because it just didn’t fit in with the instrumentals. I believe this line originally read something like this:
“I’m still so afraid to lose her,
Because it’s the first time in a long time that anyone has come close to making me feel something,
I need to feel something,
Just please make me feel something.”
My therapist told me recently that he initially thought that my belief that everything is temporary negatively affects me. Maybe it did at the time of writing the track because I just remember this sense of helplessness when it came to relationships. But these days it really encourages me to make the most of what I have while I still have it. A lot of my friends will hear me make comments like “well, you’re going to die one day.”
5. REASONS TO LEAVE:
The last track on the record is actually the first song Matt and I ever wrote together that became the project that is now known as Better Half. The way it basically came about was Matt told me he had these slower rockier songs he had written that he loved. So he asked me if I had any lyrics lying around and if I wanted to sing over the track and release it together as a studio project. Better Half didn’t last as a studio project long. Maybe like a week? Because it was never intended to be a long time thing, I thought I’d just sum up a lot of personal stuff in one song. The track is a collection of mini-stories of a bunch of my relationships, all coming together to tie up the record in this somewhat “acceptance” of the way that everything has to be.
Four years slipped right through my fingers,
‘Cause in my memory you faded fast.
This section is very short and I’ve never really put much into ever writing a song about this lady, she doesn’t exist in any other point on the EP.
I don’t care,
You could be anywhere without me,
And nothing has been the same without you.
The chorus of the track is directed at ‘Leah’ that the track ‘North‘ is based around. It’s basically just saying “everything is different now, but I can’t change it and that’s just how it is. I’m over it.”
We were 3 years ago,
And I still see you around some days,
“You’re not quite how I remember.”
“It must be all the sleepless nights and alcohol.”
“You look tired, you look worn out.”
“I’ve been so unwell for so long now,
And I honestly don’t know when things will get better.”
Do things ever get better?
I didn’t write about this girl on ‘Maybe I Was Wrong‘ except for this track. I hadn’t seen her for a while since I’d broken up with her a couple of years prior. I ran into her at a train station and this was the conversation that occurred. Her explaining to me that I didn’t look so well because of my sleeping problems, my gut problems and also more likely my drug “problems”. (It wasn’t really a problem, I just liked smoking weed at that point in my life).
She looked at me and said:
“Baby please I feel like you’re leaving me.”
With sweaty palms I smiled and looked her straight in the eyes,
“Darling it’ll be okay,
Everyone leaves eventually.”
To start with, this section through to the end of the track is about Leah from North. And when I had this conversation with her, I never expected it to be some sort of “thing” that people related to. I was just trying to ease her into the fact that she was aware I didn’t want to be with her anymore. I mean, I was being honest. It’s actually a fact that everyone leaves eventually. No one lives forever and the divorce rate is ridiculously high. In a similar vein to ‘Rest Your Head‘, ‘Reasons to Leave‘ is somewhat an “I was wrong” kind of track. Up until the age of about 22 I always believed in some sort of “the one” when it came to love and life. But by the time we get to this part of the record, these ideas have definitely been destroyed in my head.
‘Maybe I Was Wrong’ is out now via Resist Records. Read our review of it here & catch Better Half at Unify 2019!