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Grant Lee Phillips' comments on Copperopolis

"I thought, you know, I should be able to stand behind the lyrics. I spent a great deal of time until I knew the songs were really together lyrically. And I wanted them to hold up on the printed page.
Our records have had that kind of sweeping gesture, so far. We all kind of look at this record as an end to that trilogy. I'd be anxious to strip a lot of the jewels and emeralds away and bring it down to the bare earth. Bring it back down to the guitar and the drums and the voice.
Copperopolis is our most ambitious work. But I like the energy of just going in front of an audience and playing a song that's dependent upon a minimal amount of parts." Source: Grant Lee Buffalo looks At The Big American Picture, Ottawa Sun, 09-12-1996

"With the completion of that album, we just turned to one another and decided that we had to go someplace different in the future." Source: Buffalo Roam In New Territory, Toronto Sun, 06-23-1998

"Copperopolis" has few songs on it that I regard as among my personal favorites as far as just sitting down to play a song. "Arousing Thunder" is one them as so is "All that I have". It's sort of a cloudy album in feeling but sun does break through here and there. It's a product of it's time for me personally and also a social diary. The Oklahoma city bombing had occurred and that partly inspired "Homespun". Source: Messages From Beyond

"Copperopolis was the most layered, veiled kind of record we had made to date. And I stand behind the record, it's just that I think a lot of folks had a hard time understanding it, because there really was no context for it, it was as though it came out of the blue." Source: Stomp And Stammer, June 1998


"Unlike some of the songs of Copperopolis that were conceived while touring, this one was written while we were off the road. I've noticed that while we are on tour, I tend to write very solitary things when I go back to the hotel. When I'm away from that ritual of volume and adrenaline, I'll write a song like "Homespun" at 3:00 in the morning. There is a sense of rage in the lyric that was brought on by news from home. For instance, the Oklahoma bombing was still a fresh story, as was the growing militia movement in the US. There was this climate of upheaval, and the writing of "Homespun" was prompted by that climate."

"There was a climate of violence at the time it was written, directly after the Oklahoma bombing. The most dramatic news that was to be aired was news of violence. At the same time, there were these rising militia movements. Whether they had been around for a while or not, whether they were an army marching through the Midwest or whether it was just three guys, it began to take precedence in the media. Some of the most dramatic art and pop that was being made was violent in nature, too. And so, I was just trying to cope with that, process all of that." Source: Grant Lee Buffalo looks At The Big American Picture, Ottawa Sun, 09-12-1996

"This song is based on a dream I had about crossing a very long bridge. The theme of the song, and perhaps the dream, is about transitions in our lives. We applied some interesting overdubs, like a vibraphone and sleigh bells, to make it twinkle. Those sounds added a real tension to the feel of the song, which has a dense and insistent throb probably influenced by the Velvet Underground's " I've Been Set Free," which we covered a few tours back."

"This song began as an intimate acoustic piece, but when I brought it to the band it took on a much harder veneer. It had a "Clash"-like energy about it at that point, but we realized that this edgy approach, however up-beat, could not deliver the more dreamy lyric, so we hit upon a new approach all together: a song whose skeleton is acoustic and hovers in a sea of ambient guitar, voice and mellotron. This direction was completely spontaneous and represents a moment where the possibilities of the studio were fully embraced. Lyrically the song is about people patching things up. It reflects a skeptical optimism that comes naturally to me."

"This song is largely about compassion and the cost of sustaining convictions in the face of opposition. It has a rolling folk rhythm that we always fall into easily, and violinist Bob Fergo, who has played with such notables as Leonard Cohen, delivered a stunning performance. I played Paul's bass through my Fender Reverb on the bridge of the song for a Glen Campbell/"Galveston"-like tone."

"At the time it was written, the term "Crackdown" was a buzz word as a response to anything and everything that was causing a disturbance, such as a "Crackdown on Drugs" or a "Crackdown on Illegal Aliens." These phrases do not provide details as to who's cracking down on whom; they merely convey that the crackdown is in effect and I just don't like the brutal implications. The song also touches upon the rewriting of our history, hate crimes, and the stifling of the American voice through censorship."

"The thick mood of this song evokes a feeling of despondence. There is a heaviness in the instrumentation, including the abrasive distorted bass which Paul played with a brass slide. We also used pump organ and vibes over the deep rolling toms. Ultimately the mood shifts to a more optimistic feel, complete with mid-sixties pedal steel. It's one of the strangest arrangements to date for us and one of my favorites."

"This song is a romantic pastoral vision of an industry and, more importantly, the people that brought life to it. It attempts to juxtapose divine aspirations with earthly triumphs and by sheer coincidence recalls soul music of the early seventies. I think of it as rollerskating music because that and Blue Oyster Cult is what they played at the skating rink in Stockton when I was a kid."

Q: I heard Bethlehem Steel was the new single, but I haven't seen a commercially available version with b-sides or anything yet.
A: No, you're right. We've only shipped it to radio so far. Actually, when Copperopolis came out, I was pushing Bethlehem Steel to be the first single, since we consider it the album's centerpiece. There's an edit of it that's about three minutes shorter that the album version. It's a whole 'nother mix, and that would have been our preferred choice (for an initial single). The record company, on the other hand, was pushing pretty heavily for Homespun and - even after that - they want with Two & Two. Which is another good single as well, but… You only have a narrow window with these kind of things. By the time you get around to your third single, radio programmers have already moved on to whatever's happening that week. The new Marilyn Manson, or whatever. (Laughter.) Not to say I'm bitter about it, but, in hindsight, I think it would have been smarter to go with Bethlehem Steel first. Source: Goldmine Magazine, 1997 (Interview: 11-03-1996)

"One of the album's finest moments, is arguably "Bethlehem Steel". Inspired by the legendary steel town of Bethlehem, PA, and in more general terms, the theme of human aspiration. The lyric is set against a dark and grinding soul groove. It's admittedly an odd amalgam yet probably one of the album's most unconscious efforts." Source: GrantLeeBuffalo.com, 2001

Question: Its funny listening to Copperopolis that Bethlehem Steel went out of business.
GLP: I think I heard that, it's no more. I ought to send them a copy of that record. I began writing that song when were on the road with Paul Westerberg in 1993 and I had seen signs for Bethlehem Steel. Later, a few years later we wound up in Bethlehem Steel and approached the thing like Dominic Dunne from a journalistic standpoint. There is a Goodman General Store and there is a Lazarus Moving/Storage.
Source: Grant Lee Phillips, Shaking Loose the Sadness,
Murmurs.com, May 2002

"This is one of the oldest songs on the albums, written on tour during a mandatory tachometer stop in the timberland of Sweden. Joey and I went traipsing into the woods through a faint drizzle and found a log to sit on. I brought along a guitar and a Walkman tape recorder. Joey had a tabla and most of the song is just me relating to those surroundings, all green moss and toadstools. We were able to flesh the song out with the aid of Tom Waits' longtime sideman Ralph Carney, who provided the reed arrangement."

9. TWO & TWO
"This song is about feeling misunderstood and inarticulate. It's about searching for simple answers to even simpler questions before realizing that neither of them exists. The title is just another way of saying "It isn't black or white." There's a more internalized approach to songwriting here that may feel cryptic, but it's the closest I can come to expressing these issues nonlinear, illogical and pure."

"The story centers on a boyhood experience. It isn't autobiographical but the central image of an overgrown oak stems from a real place. After writing the song, I've since gone back to take a Polaroid of that tree. The song also revolves around the idea that endings are as essential as beginnings. As childhood ends, adulthood begins. The transformation is painful but none of us are strangers to the task. On a musical level," Better For Us" is probably the most vocally ambitious track we have ever recorded. The multiple harmonies and the intricate arrangement may hold the key to future experiments for us."

"This song was written during a particularly hot spell last summer in LA. It's not uncommon in our circle of friends to say "It feels like earthquake weather," even though there isn't any proof of a connection between earthquakes and the weather. A few friends of ours packed their bags after the last big one and moved to the Northwest. Conversations have been relayed via e-mail to them in Seattle and Portland, and part of this lyric stems from those transmissions. The recording is, I think, one of our finest, but I have no idea what chords we're playing. There's some subtle stuff like Joey's Tibetan bells that make it a great headphone song."

"This song isn't so much a prediction of what's to come, but a reflection of the anxiety and anticipation of the present day. It occurs in three acts: The first begins in youth. The child is eager to learn and explore but finds himself brainwashed by what passes for education in America. In act two, the subject begins to settle into his role in society, having succumbed to the weight of mediocrity. But he's also old enough to realize that in the streets below his high-rise lies a ghetto. By act three, this injustice gnaws at him but he feels powerless and insubstantial, yet he can claim power over the situation in the form of a TV remote. I always saw this as black comedy. As bleak as it may seem, the music is as ludicrous as we'll ever get."

"It is an election year. And all these issues of control are coming to a head. Gun control, birth control. All these issues of control, I guess." Source: Grant Lee Buffalo looks At The Big American Picture, Ottawa Sun, 09-12-1996

"This is a mountain climbing song. I wrote it in Australia after a long and humid day, crawling and clawing through the rain forest. The physical exhaustion that goes along with such a journey inspired the lyric. The gist of the song is that sometimes the hard road is the only road: the only way off the mountain is up and over. Paul added pump organ and mellotron in the studio and when we heard that, we all knew it was the grand finale."

Source: Buffalo Moon, 1996

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