A Personal Reflection on The Lonely Forest’s “Turn Off This Song And Go Outside”

Inspired by Chris’s look into Pitchfork’s 15/15, and his recent post on how fantastic The Lonely Forest is (aka his best of 2011 list), I present to you my personal reflections on “Turn Off This Song And Go Outside”.

I hadn’t listened to The Lonely Forest when I heard that their album (which, upon now listening to it in more detail, is absolutely amazing) came out last year, like I promised myself I would. It was a tumultuous time for me; though I heard tracks in fellow blogger Taylor’s car, I just never got around to it.

Flash forward to a few months later. I’m in film school, and that preoccupies my time. I’m a pledge of the professional, co-ed film fraternity, Delta Kappa Alpha. Currently, no less than five films that I’ve written/co-written (“Freshwater Baptism”, “You Belong With Me”, “Stuck”, “Bippidy Boppidy Bludgeon” and “Plans (working title)”, if you give a fuck; I realize it’s a long shot, but y’know, it’s worth a mention) are in various stages of production, and I’m in the process of composing the score for a sixth. Five short films I’ve written have been finished (“titles are too mainstream”, “A Better Wingman Than Your Wingman (Doritos)”, “Get Some: The Musical”, “The Proposal”, “Prom Night”), whether or not I’m entirely proud of them. I’ve built great new friendships, made some astounding discoveries about myself as a writer and as a person, got a post featured by Wheatus on their facebook page, won “The Game” with three super-talented people, discovered the great wonders that are LETTERBOXD and Reddit, signed the rental contract for my first apartment, met Robert Zemeckis and realized that he is worthy of all praise given to him, did my first full feature rewrite and got 67 pages into writing my second feature.

On the other hand, I’ve lied, made mistakes, tried too hard to impress people, resigned to my insecure, neurotic tendencies on numerous occasions, used passive voice, hobbled, stumbling the whole way, through various encounters with different women, felt jealous, acted childishly at times, fought with good friends, made poor choices, aired my faults on the internet and fought unsuccessfully for the restoration of the Oxford Comma to the English language. (Get it? Well then, I killed comedy too).

Somewhere in the dead space that exists between those two hands, I fell in love.

I suppose that serves a moderately relevant introduction to “Turn Off This Song And Go Outside”. My relatively-famous meme (we do that a lot in USC film school) is “What was that? I was listening to my iPod”. (Which is in reality an iPhone, but who am I to nitpick?). I live in my music. I have to. Much like film, it’s rhythmic and lyrical, at times an escape from the soul-crushing force that is the reality I live in, and at other times a reflection of that same awe-inspiring force. Either way, when I listen to a song, visions appear; thoughts of dialogue and moments, either from my own life or in my highly cinematic imagination. This song relates to both so eminently.

Of the songs I’ve listened to on heavy rotation, this is easily the one I relate to most at this particular point in time.

The song opens with a shift from major to minor, a shift reflective of the roller-coaster nature of my emotions and my experiences and the odd tonal shifts from drama to comedy in my writing patterns. The intro guitar ends on a hopeful final chord. It’s hopeful and optimistic, though knowing more minor chords are to come in the song, as they will in life.

Welcome to my heart and soul
A miserable excuse
To tell the world of all the pain I’ve caused
I hope you don’t forget these songs

And though I’m young, life’s been short
I’m only twenty-one
I feel as though we can relate on some
Of these words I’ve written down

These lyrics epitomize how I feel about my writing at this point. I want to be remembered, thought about and related to. I’m young and I think it’s possible. But of course, with each of those positive feelings, a negative one arises. After the first chorus, the drums and bass enter, creating a dynamic shift, the pulse that seems to drive all my actions.

And guys in bands
With vintage shirts and hundred dollar pants
Often think we do what no one can
We see ourselves above the rest

When faced with truth
I realize there is nothing I can do,
Amount of talent or gift to bring
That is greater than the orphan song she sings

Oddly enough, this is also how I feel about my writing. We’re pretentious as writers, inherently. We assume that our thoughts deserve your attention more than others do. Maybe rightfully so, maybe not. Hipsters tend to appreciate my quirky sensibilities. But beyond that, I worry that I’ll never be able to compare to my heroes, truly great artists, writers, thinkers–Aaron Sorkin, Ben Gibbard, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, William Shakespeare, William Goldman, Paddy Chayefsky, Robert Zemeckis, David Fincher, Ingrid Michaelson, Brand New, Woody Allen, Jack White, Diablo Cody, Jean-Paul Sartre, the list goes on…–I worry that I’ll just be another schmuck-for-hire, an amateur philosopher with a blog and the rambling drivel of a pseudo-intellectual hipster (a la Michael Sheen in Midnight in Paris). I worry I’ll fall into the trap of compromising my ideals to make people like my films. I equally worry about falling into the reverse trap of not compromising my ideals to make a great film that no one would see or enjoy.

But of course, I have to take those headphones out at some point. I have to break free from the ecstasies of my inner mind and experience the real world, as much as I want/need to stay inside.

Turn off, turn off this song
Find someone to love
Turn off this song
You can listen to it later
And go outside

Yeah you turn off, turn off this song
Find someone to love
Turn off this song
You can listen to it later
And go outside
And go outside
And go outside
And go outside

Maybe as a result of not heeding this advice, I lost my chance to save my mind from heartbreak (yes, you read that right–I think that love is an intellectual thing just as much as it is an emotional one). I can’t tell you the exact story, but one cold Sunday night in December, I sat in my room writing an ‘inner monologue’ note for future reference, and I can’t remember for sure, but at two in the morning, I may have had an urge to take a therapeautic music walk before I left the campus for winter break. Later, I found out that had I gone on that walk, I would have made a discovery, firsthand. I don’t know how seeing this discovery firsthand would have impacted me any differently than hearing it secondhand, but the speculation is what kills me. It’s a moment you’ll recognize in a film I write sometime in the future. This post is my promise to you, and to myself, that I’ll write it later. At least when I write it, it’ll be set to this song.

The great instrumental build toward the end is reminiscent of all the conflicting, crazy, beautiful, scary emotions racing through my head at top speed, colliding with each other at unparalleled speeds with unflinching force.

The regression to quietism at the end of the piece, the repetition of the lyrics… they’re the voice in my head, the regression to reality at the end of the day. It’s me, obsessively thinking about the events of the preceding day and continuously self-psychoanalyzing my own reactions to them. Reflecting. Accepting. Choosing. Hoping. Thinking. Repeating.

Turn off, turn off this song
Find someone to love
Turn off this song
You can listen to it later
And go outside

Left-click to download: Turn Off This Song And Go Outside – The Lonely Forest

If you’ve made it through this post, thanks for validating me as a writer, at least for now. I appreciate it more than anything.

About Dylan Visvikis

Dylan Visvikis is a working screenwriter and director in Los Angeles. View all posts by Dylan Visvikis

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: