Biting Elbows decode ‘The Stampede’, ‘Bad Motherfucker’ and more

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Biting Elbows first exploded on to the blogosphere in September 2011, when the formidable Russian punk band uploaded the video for their single The Stampede to YouTube. The promotional clip, directed by frontman Ilya Naishuller, takes the viewer on a gripping adventure through an apocalyptic, gamer style landscape, and all through the perspective of a GoPro camera attached to the main protagonist’s forehead.

The Stampede has since clocked up over 4 million views online. Then another 21 million views followed when the band released a highly-anticipated video sequel to accompany their one-off single Bad Motherfucker.

Check out Ilya's breakdowns of many Biting Elbows lyrics, from the aforementioned viral hits to songs such as Angleton and Hype Waltz.

Bad Motherfucker is a rare case for us in the sense that I wrote the lyrics after we came up with the music. And the first thing that came up while listening to the main riff on repeat was “I am a bad motherfucker…” and I thought, “hold on, sounds great…” but, I’m not a bad motherfucker. I’m a singer singing from somebody else’s perspective - which is always a great trick.

So, I thought who is that bad motherfucker I’m going to be singing about and I thought of a positive meaning of the term, it would be some great movie badass like Snake Plissken or something. But, in the negative connotation it would be some asshole.

So, I thought, who’s enough of an asshole that I wouldn’t mind singing about - and I thought, first thing, politicians. Sure, but they’re not really bad motherfuckers unless you count Teddy Roosevelt - but he’s not an asshole. So that doesn’t work.

Next up was I thought of rock stars - yeah, not as a whole subgroup but as certain individuals and there are just fucking terrible people. I’m not naming names - they know who they are and you do to, probably.
So I started writing a lot of versus. Like, maybe four of five past more than necessary - which I usually don’t really do that.

Then I settled on what’s in the song, but I really could go on forever about stuff that pisses me off - like a lot of people can I guess.

Yeah, so there’s Bad Motherfucker for you.

The meaning behind Stampede splits into two. It’s (a) about Biting Elbows as a band that, at the time, wasn’t getting any attention, even though we were writing what we felt were pretty interesting songs and working really hard - and that’s highlighted in the part where we sing “the hopeless efforts sure have stung” because they, kind of, did.

And (b) it’s about not being sure whether we wanted to have people start paying attention, because we spent a lot of time in the basement practising and recording stuff, and the main reason for not because we were chasing the possibility of fame and vast fortune - hence the part where we sing “I’m a little afraid of those who are coming to our aid” because I, kind of, was.

Dope Fiend Massacre is about a dope fiend - surprise. He’s in a drugged up state and he thinks it’s now his duty to go kill a bad politician. Which happens often, you get really good ideas in a less than sober state.

So he’s about to go off on his journey of mayhem and hurt but then he starts to second guess himself and have doubts. Then he goes into a conversation with himself and the song ends with him supposedly parading on the beat.

If you see the music video it’s probably the closest that correlates between the lyrics and the visuals because as soon as I was writing the lyrics, I just, kind of, pictured everything and pretty much everything I pictured we shot.

So, there’s some lazy music video making for you. Just shoot what the singer sings.

The Light Despondent quite closely follows the story told to me by a friend of a friend of a friend - maybe a friend.

He went to visit this girl that he was really into, in a different city and upon leaving the place where she was staying - which was a very funky, sort of, squat kind of place - he ran into some trouble. He is not sure, but he got into a fight - again, he’s not sure and, again, he’s a friend of a friend of a friend, so, don’t ask me questions if you’re the police - he supposedly killed a person in self-defence. He said it was a homeless person and he was very emotional as he was telling me this story. I thought this either going to be a short film or it’s going to be a song - and I didn’t want to do it as a short film because I don’t like short films.

So, I thought, well, we have a song and it’s pretty much about having a feeling of remorse for doing something even though it was self-defence, he was allowed to do it. But he was telling this story that - when he was telling me it was already like a decade old - but he was telling me and you could, sort of, tell that he was very, very, very upset about it. He wasn’t sober when he was saying it - otherwise he wouldn’t have told me.

But there are several lines in the song that is as probably as close to the description I can get to the guy as:

He took his final breath
I hear it to this day
There’s no redemption
the punishment is delayed

Exactly as how the guy looked, I’m sure that jail wouldn’t have been great for him - I mean, he wouldn’t have gotten it anyway - but he felt absolutely fucking terrible.

So, there’s that…The Light Despondent.

Toothpick, this one’s really simple. When I was a kid I fell in love with this girl and I took her out on a few dates and I thought things were going great and then she drops this bomb on me by saying “you know, so-and-so…” and she names my good friend. I say, “yeah, I know him.” And she says, “well, I’m going out with him and have been for the last year and a half.”

I was like, “what? Really?” I was so fucking pissed. I was shocked that nobody told me and I really did love that girl. I thought - you know as a kid you think that you probably love everything that, kind of, starts paying attention to you.

I was just pissed that they didn’t tell me and I knew the guy so he could have told me. I even told him that I’m taking this girl out for dates and he just kept his mouth shut - what an asshole. But, yeah, so toothpick is about my feeling of rage and discontent at that particular couple.

But, they did get married, they have a kid, they’re very happy and I’m still friends with them - so there is that. A somewhat happy ending for the toothpick couple.

City of No Palms is about a very close relative of mine who was certain to die from a cancer. I was spending a lot of time with her and some of it I was stoned and she was heavily medicated most times. I found it bleakly amusing - I’m not proud of it - but I found it bleakly amusing that I’m just a bored kid who likes being high and she’s high herself because that’s her only way of prolonging her life.

I remember sitting in her apartment and it was snowing like crazy outside - we were in Moscow - and I remember telling her that she would be better off in a warm climate, but she was stuck here in gloomy winter Moscow.

Then she died and we released the song a year or so after her death - which was a very strange feeling releasing the song. I was listening to it and I was thinking it took us a year long to release the god damn song compared to what cancer did to her.

It’s probably the most personal song I’ve ever written. But it’s really useful because I sing it and every time there’s a show I sing the song and I do think of her and it’s a great, great way for me to keep her constantly in my head.

Angleton is about James Jesus Angleton. He was a Director of the CIA and he was looking for a mole - a very important mole - that was leaking out very, very sensitive information to the Soviets.

Then it turned out that the mole was a friend of his; a close friend of his called Kim Philby - a British guy from MI6 - who later on ran away when he was discovered. He ran away to the Soviet Union and he died in the Soviet Union. But, Angleton stayed alive.

He was shocked, he was really hurt by this betrayal. He stayed on as Director but he became increasingly paranoid - for very good reasons - and he just couldn’t trust anybody for the rest of his life; which is an absolutely horrible situation to be in.

I was reading about this in books and it just left a big, big mark on me. Probably one of the most dramatic things I’ve ever read about. If you’re interested in it more you should go check out his entry in Wikipedia as a good starting point and go from there. It’s a great story and I highly recommend. I’m a huge fan of the spy stuff.

As soon as I read that story I was like “this is going to be a song” and then it became a song. I love writing from the POV of characters and this was just a great, great character to write from his perspective.

Hype Waltz is a song about everything. It’s about having a billion thoughts come crashing into your head at the same time in the most colourful and the sharpest images that form or, sort of, just put down into the lyrics.

I was not sober when most of these lyrics came to me - again a rarity. I never do that, but there was that. It was like an LSD trip of a song for me.

The music might be, sort of, punk or indie rock, but it’s not. It’s, sort of…I would love to have a blanket of reverb and make it all crazy but with much different effects. We kept it simple.

But that’s the feelings that…the feeling is it’s paranoid, it’s about not trusting anything or anybody - as I like to do my songs - very anti-political - and it’s about thinking about getting the truth. Which is the great thing that you’ve got to think about when you’re not sober, is that you're gonna right all the wrongs and then never really do.

You could write a song about it - which I did. There you go.




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