Pony League’s handmade rock delivers jangled piano triads and urgent gang vocals. The band is a house party where all your friends are sharing their favorite song off Greetings From Asbury Park. And “Bad Habit” is no exception. This is a song that revs to the limits; lead singer Gus Fernandez’s meticulously crafted narrative is delivered as rough couplets stuffed with vivid imagery about small town loss. All this backed is up by a band that sounds as big as the V8 thrumming inside the engine of a 1970s Cadillac Eldorado. And hang on while Charlie Miles leads you the song’s gutpunching bridge. We think you’ll agree it’s a homerun.
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SC: What I love about this song is how you construct your lines. There’s a wonderful juxtaposition between short lines and long lines that create a confessional effect in your songs. For example: “And you just wouldn’t have it / you could never leave your room without picking a fight. / You called it a bad habit. / You were out of control.” Where does this attention to line construction come from in your songs?
GF: That's an interesting point! I think the rhythm/beat of the song dictated the pacing of the short lines vs long lines in the verses. It's important to me for the vocals and lyrics to fit into the space created for them by the song, but I often find myself with more to say than I have room for in the measures. I do enjoy over-stuffing lines with syllables when it works rhythmically and still sounds like something you'd hear in regular conversation. I think this is something I took from listening to Bob Seger songs. He always squeezes in long lines even if it's too long for the measure. I like the implication that the point being made is more important than for the lyrics to be edited to fit the song. With "Bad Habit," I intended the narrator in the song to seem to be recalling a string of events and processing his emotional reaction to those events in real time.
SC: What was your writing process like for "Bad Habit?"
GF: I had the opening line first: "It's the kind of guy I wanna be..." I wanted to write a song that addressed the difference between the person you wish to be and the person you are perceived to be. We took the bridge, "I'd like to believe that my dreams have been real" from another song idea that never came to fruition. This is one of those songs that was pieced together around the opening line, but once we got working on it, it only took us a few hours to get it to the version you hear on the recording!
SC: How often do you write? Do you keep a songwriting schedule or do you wait to be inspired?
GF: I try to sit down at the piano and play every day, but that doesn't always mean writing. I learn whatever songs I'm interested in at the time, play old songs of mine, or just mess around in a key that I'm comfortable in. Sometimes from that, I'll get a new song. Most often, though, songs are built around very short ideas that come at random. All it takes is a compelling line or an interesting melody for us to start the painstaking song-building process. Sometimes they're finished within minutes and sometimes it can take us up to a year. It's unpredictable!
SC: How does your community of songwriters influence your writing?
GF: Oh so much. I'm constantly amazed by what bands and songwriters from Atlanta are doing and the sheer amount of songwriters out there that I've still never even heard of. It's overwhelming how much good quality content is coming out of Atlanta, it's enough to make you feel pretty insignificant sometimes, but I think the perspective is healthy and encourages us to work hard to keep up.
The Sound Connector is an online magazine for songwriters. We feature songwriting challenges, monthly interviews, and the opportunity to discover new songwriters. We are interested in all things related to the craft of songwriting.
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