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Liam Finn's "Second Chance"

On habits, breaking the past and the wonderful world of guitar loops

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A melancholy masterpiece that seems to breathe its own sorrow, Liam Finn's "Second Chance," from the Yep Roc release I'll Be Lightning, builds on guitar loops and analog fuzz. Finn, the savvy ex-rocker of Betchadupa and son of famous Aussie Neil Finn, shares the heartache of a lover that had a hard time letting go of him and her own past in this single. Some break-up songs seem live contrived goodbyes for imaginary relationships. This one seems more like an extraction.

INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: When did you write "Second Chance"?

LIAM FINN: I wrote it about a year and a half ago. I went back to New Zealand after a couple of years of living in London. I sort of went back for a bit of a holiday. My band had just broken up as well as my relationship, so I guess I was in a bit of a melancholic sort of state. I wrote quite a bit of songs about that period of time, and "Second Chance" was one of them.

Were you yourself looking for a second chance at the time with your band or your girlfriend or both? Or was someone looking for a second chance with you?

I suppose it was probably more so talking about my ex-girlfriend wanting a second chance at our relationship.

The song has a very conversational tone to it. Is this a conversation that actually occurred or was it something imagined?

I guess writing songs like that, even when you don't realize it at the time, actually hold a lot more truth than maybe you intend to. It definitely wasn't a conversation that actually happened, but it was a pretty good representation of how I was feeling and what I wanted to say to this person. I don't even think I was really thinking about it at the time but it sort of seems so obvious now. In a way, it's quite a therapeutic way to deal with things, I think, writing a song or creating some art out of something. Yeah, that definitely is one of the more honest and true to my heart kind of songs that I've written, so I'm glad that people like it.

There's a sense of duplicity in a lot of the lyrics because it feels as if the girl in the song is trying to move on and escape her past, but she also doesn't want to be forgotten.

It's more so of a song that's aimed at, you know, me being in a situation with someone who was the one that was stuck in the past with inner demons that we all sort of have to face at different points in our lives. We all have different things that are installed in us from our childhood and previous experiences, and you can only be responsible for moving on yourself. I guess those lyrics were about my frustrations as to why my ex-girlfriend couldn't get over a few of the things that sort of made her who she was, and I guess hence me wanting to leave the situation but also sort of remember it. I guess that's what that duplicity is about. Does that make sense?

Yes. Break-ups are definitely hard, and the memories that come with them even more so. The line "Don't forget me when you grow old" basically sums up the whole memory aspect of the song.

Yeah, totally, and that I don't want her to forget either. I don't want to put a negative or a bitter spin on the end of a relationship that lasted a really long time, but it was something that became very torturous in the end to try and make it work. I'm sort of expressing both feelings in the song.

What came first, the lyrics or the melody?

It sort of started out with the chord pattern and the melody. The first few lines of the song came pretty quickly, but then I worked over the rest of the song for the next month or so to really get it to the point I felt completely happy with. I think a lot of the time when you write a song you know the majority of the lyrics can really mean something and be really descriptive in exactly what you're trying to get across, but sometimes you end up putting in a few lines here and there that just sound good or seem to make sense but they don't necessarily hold as much meaning. I think that this song was one of the first that I've written that the whole thing felt like a complete statement and almost like a story, I suppose, or a conversation, as you put it.

There is a lot of layering throughout the song. Were all those odd, off-kilter sounds made with only a guitar?

I create a lot of guitar loops in my music, and that's how I perform live. I've colored a lot of the songs on I'll Be Lightning by just making a lot of weird, trippy guitar loops that I can make go double speed or move an octave higher or an octave lower at half-speed. I just made a lot of loops during making the parts of the song. At the end, where it goes into that weird outro and stuff, that was kind of a spontaneous freak accident with me mucking around with the loops ending and that beat still going. I started messing around with the loop pedal and put one of them backwards and made the other one double time. It made that whole outro, which, when hearing that part of the song right now, I realize that I really like it.

It seems like working with loops would be difficult because you're not sure exactly what you'll end up with. Do you feel that way, or do you see working with loops as an opportunity for increased creativity?

I think it definitely inspires more creativity. It creates more of a unique sound and something that no one else is going to be able to recreate. You can make a noise that people have heard before, something that keyboards create or anything can create, but I've definitely found a unique way to do it with my guitar loops.

What about that great drum solo that fills out the middle of the song? Where did that come from?

It kind of evolved after I performed it for quite awhile. In London, I was playing lots of solo shows and stuff, and I started playing that song when I only had the verse and the chorus and people really responded to it and seemed to like the melody. I worked with a friend of mine who is an engineer and wrote the bass line for it, which in a way has become the biggest hook of the song—when that bass line comes in and then the drums start. It just kind of evolved from there. Once I realized that part was really exciting, I kept it in.

Liam Finn plays The Pour House with Most Serene Republic and Miracle Fortress Tuesday, March 18, at 10 p.m. Tickets are $8.

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