Colin Buchanan of Paper Lions tells Mixtape the story behind each track on My Friends
Bodies In The Winter
There is a shed called The Vault beside the graveyard of the church in Belfast where the MacPhees’ father, Roger, has been the reverend for over 25 years. The boys would play kick-the-can, tag, hide and seek and other games here. “We’d always run by extra quick because apparently that’s where they kept the dead bodies in the wintertime because the ground was too frozen to bury the dead people.” While writing the song, its truth was heavily disputed, but a phone call to Roger settled the debate. “We thought we were just kids exaggerating things, but as it turns out, they did actually for a small amount of time.”
Pull Me In
“We don’t really do a whole lot of love songs.” The lone romantic track is “about the starting of a relationship and the awkwardness that’s involved sometimes.” Sonically, the song is built around a pre-chorus. The band wanted a come-down chorus where everything drops, which they accomplish – the guitar, bass and drums settle to start the chorus before picking up again.
Growing up on P.E.I., it’s no surprise the boys spent a lot of time at beaches during the summer, playing and building sandcastles. “We’d spend all day building these things, then after four hours at the beach you just leave and don’t give a shit about them.” The experience from childhood is contrasted with present experiences. “We were intrigued by the idea that people get so hung up on their own creativity nowadays. Everything is like their baby and everything is so precious to them. When you’re a kid, it’s on to the next adventure, sort of thing.”
The song was originally written at a college in Sudbury, ON when they were opening for Lights. They met a random DJ with a crazy rider – all kinds of booze – and were invited to help themselves. There was also a piano in the room where John came up with the riff for the song. “It was Rob, John and I sitting on the bench playing chords while drinking with this unknown DJ at a Lights concert.” The song also contains the thesis statement of the album in the chorus. “I know you are my friend/and if I never met you/I’d be different.” “The people from our childhood, even if we’re not friends with them anymore…[they] shaped us in a way that we can’t personally explain.”
Every August, John and Rob would go on vacation to a farmhouse in Hartsville, P.E.I. “I’d be so bored the whole time they were gone.” The brothers progressively would spend more and more time there, living on their own for the first time when they were in high school. “It’s about the house falling down over the years, acting as a metaphor for their childhood ending. Basically it’s to the point where it’s unlivable right now.”
The title for the track is often mistaken to be Ghost Riders, or a reference to the 2010 film starring Pierce Brosnan, but it is neither. “It’s a song about the three women in your life who have shaped you. Your mother, the first person you have sex with and the person you ultimately end up being with, or marrying.”
The surf rock-fused track is a personal favourite of Buchanan. “It’s really fun to play it live. It’s fun to have one of those songs in the set that is out of left field and takes you off guard.” It’s no fluke the curveball of the album comes where it does. “The sequencing, I’m kind of obsessed with.” The song is “about getting together after school and making up games. Inevitably someone is going to get really upset and leave.”
San Simeon is another name for Hearst Castle, a property in California built for newspaper mogul William Rudolph Hearst. Hearst’s story inspired Citizen Kane, a movie Buchanan was obsessed with for a while. The song is about building forts with the idea of building their own paradise.
The song is about the only big vacation the MacPhee family went on when the brothers were kids. “The MacPhees have this funny thing where they’re not sentimental in a way. Even a year later they were like ‘yeah we didn’t do anything. It kind of sucked.” They said all they did was sit around while their parents caught up with old relatives.” Even though Buchanan wasn’t on the trip, he tells the story with authority. “It’s so quintessential MacPhee to me since I’ve known the guys my entire life.”
My Friends Are Leaving
The haunting album closer draws on an emotional event triggered around the age of 12 or 13. “There’s a certain point when you’re a certain age and you’re sad and don’t know why. You’re experiencing melancholy and nostalgia at the same time but you can’t really process it. That was an idea we talked about a bunch.”