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Sorry About Dresden's "Sick and Sore"

Eric Roehrig on bars, Pogues and songs in elementary school




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Sorry About Dresden in Durham 1998 - COURTESY OF SORRY ABOUT DRESDEN
  • Courtesy of Sorry About Dresden
  • Sorry About Dresden in Durham 1998

It's been four years since Chapel Hill indie rock band Sorry About Dresden released its last album, Let it Rest. Since then, band members have moved away, started new lives, formed new bands and, well, gotten older. But one song remains as a reminder of the band's youth, the superbly addictive "Sick and Sore." Filled with jangly guitars and the throbbing ache of a hangover, it's an escape from and eventual return to the watering hole. But its writer, Eric Roehrig, isn't ready to relive last decade's party—or even admit he was there.

INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: In the song "Sick and Sore," you sing about waking up and going through the motions. What are you "sick and sore" of or from?

ERIC ROEHRIG: Well, the songs from a few years ago. It should probably be in first grade by now. And I won't concede that I'm the one who's sick and sore. For some reason, the assumption with songs is that the person singing is the narrator. But when we played this on tour, we generally introduced it by saying, "This is a drinking song." It starts hung over and, by the end, winds up back in the bar.

Some of us can relate to that lifestyle. Were you immersed in the bar/party scene when you wrote it?

I'd guess most folks have had an evening they regret and especially not having called it a night sooner than they did. I was still in my 20s when I wrote the song and I probably went out more. To me, the song seems to be more about being tired of going out but not wanting to stay in. But I'd still like to think that the song's narrator and myself aren't one in the same person. I still like to go out and have a drink, now and then. And I'm lucky that I'm usually bound to run into a friend I haven't seen in awhile and most of the folks I know I'm happy to see, while the song is populated by assholes. Or maybe the narrator is the asshole. I don't know.

One idea that sticks with me in the song is the opening, where "Figure you better go through the motions, before they go through you." How did you come up with that?

Who knows. Generally, it's not really mapped out. Just write a line and then try to find another one that rhymes. I'm of the school that I don't have any more interpretative authority than anyone else, so whatever you hear in there is valid. I think I like the line, "better go through the motions, before they go through you," because it seemed to mean both that you had to get going before you think too much about your situation as well as meaning trying to avoid puking.

There's also the jangly guitar work and addictive melody. Which came first: lyrics or music?

The music almost always comes first for me. I think Matty [Oberst] and me were just playing guitars, and came up with this simple thing, just E and A. It sort of rips off this Alex Chilton song, "Hey, Little Child," a little bit, but the rhythm is different. All the cool guitar stuff at the end is Matty.

You mentioned earlier that it's been a long time since you wrote this song. Is it strange to return to it now?

If nothing else, it feels a little self-indulgent. But it's one we still play regularly and is probably one of our better known songs, since it was on Saddle Creek: 50 with all the label's other bands, which sold a ton more than any of our own records ever did.

Do you foresee any more songs about the party lifestyle as the main focus in your future?

Well, I generally don't know what I'm gonna write a song about til I'm doing it, so who knows. Maybe we could a concept album based on Mr. Boston.

Speaking of songs about drinking, what's your favorite?

Probably something by the Pogues. "Sunny Side of the Street"? It's got the line, "Well, I saw my train and I got on it/ with a heart full of hate and a lust for vomit." In comparison, we seem like rank amateurs.

Sorry About Dresden headlines Night Two of WKNC's Double Barrel Benefit on Saturday, Feb. 2. Tooth, Red Collar and Fin Fang Foom. Tickets are $7 in advance and $9 at the door.

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