Alyag_QuicksandVampires

Arguably one of the more personal tunes I’ve ever composed within the scope of the typically bordering-on-the-silly and curiously explorative Alyag project, “Quicksand Vampires” is also one of the very few tracks thus far produced that feature the vocals of yours truly. In essence, it pertains to the extremely arduous process of leaving a toxic relationship – be that a once-dear friend, lover, partner, family member, you name it. 

There’s no need to delve into the specifics of whom and what, but at the time of the lyrics’ writing, there were at least a couple of individuals in my life that I’d finally come to the difficult decision of distancing myself from, after many a moon of conflicted deliberation and reflection upon the matter. The subject of the song weighs even heavier because the morning of the day that I’d spent recording the vocals, I’d learned that one of them had passed away, as a direct result of their lifestyle and perpetuating choices. In an immensely sad and unfortunate way, the news weren’t particularly surprising; however, in absolutely no fashion did that lessen the tremendous weight of their loss. And so I’d vented in the only constructive way that I could: through song. 

The title is a metaphorical reference to someone who, while sinking in a quicksand pit of their own making, is reaching out their hand as a last-ditch attempt for help; you, being the empathetic and magnanimous soul, reach back, in an ultimately futile attempt to pull them out; and as both grip and pull tighter and harder, you begin to sense that you’re losing ground, and unless you let go, you’ll end up being sucked right into that very pit you put all your energy trying to get them out of. And so the blunt choice becomes: you either succumb to the pull of the person who has taken advantage of you time and again, used you as a crutch, and to whom you’ve dedicated more than your fair share of time, energy, and care – because you genuinely loved and gave a shit about them – and slip further into their mess until you irreversibly lose yourself, or… you let them go. Probably forever.

It’s hard. It’s impossibly, insurmountably hard. But at a certain point of no return, you have to make that call, if only for the sake of your own survival, how-ever that is defined at the time. There’s guilt, there’s the “what ifs”, the “I should’ve done more”, but – again – sometimes the path that serves you both the most in the grand scheme of things, is the one that forcibly severs the other from their unhealthy dependency on you (and your own kind of unhealthy dependency on them), and that is to just let go and walk away.

Vocals aside, this is probably the only track I’ve thus far written for the Alyag project that paints a specific story narrative, and every element within it was carefully chosen to help aid in painting that narrative; from the flow of the arrangement itself right down to the textural ear candy. In the intro, for example, the kick and snare are inter-layered with samples of knives being thrown, to represent a certain “knife in the back” / “words cut like blades” sorta feel. The first verse/pre-chorus/chorus of the song set up the contextual background of the relationship, and then build up and dive right into the deep dark tumultuous essence thereof, cycling through the twisted parts (picture a rolling clip reel of various ghastly memories and bouts of conflict), soaring into moments of fleeting hope (the ones that you falsely believe make it worthwhile to stick around), then crash right back down into the darkness… and once you finally come to the decision to claw your way out of there, suddenly everything in your life starts to look up and lighten – hence the ascending melodic lead part. Also, in various sections throughout the track (most obvious in the intro) are subtly mixed in footsteps, further adding to the whole “walking away” theme. And, once it’s all done and over with, there’s the feeling of a tremendous weight falling from the shoulders, and new horizons opening up – cue pretty airy guitar lead.

Once again, I can’t exactly put my mind on why it took so long to get this tune out. Despite the context, I was just as amped at the time of its initial production as I was on any other song of mine. But a short while after first sharing it within my circle, I stopped liking it. In fact, it became my least favorite Alyag track, ever. Maybe it was the fledgling quality of my production, maybe it was my choice of instruments and samples, maybe I hated hearing myself sing (which I’ve admittedly always lacked confidence in, at least in my cleans)… or maybe it was the fact that the tune had come from a dark place, and didn’t seem to fit with the overall playfulness of my other tunes – I don’t know, and I couldn’t tell you. 

But what I can say is this: it’s actually been a tremendous pleasure to revisit it four years later, and address those aforementioned aspects of release reticence by effectively rebuilding it from the ground up. If anything, the fact that I’d loaded up the old session on my current computer and a good sixty percent of the samples and plugins that I’d used were missing was a massive blessing in disguise. It gave me a chance to breathe new life into this track, using better tools, techniques, and overall spirit that I’ve accumulated over the last four years, and really make it come into its own. And though I may have liked so little of it before that I’d only used a short instrumental sample in my live mixes, I’ve a pretty strong feeling that – going forward – I may very well include its entirety. 

So all in all: it’s heavy, it’s incredibly personal, but it’s very much Alyag, and I think it’s a pretty damned cool song. Hope you dig it.

Lyrics:

You stand at a crossroads
The self-destructive path looks so alluring
Yet it is only a detour; 
You’ll end up back here in no time at all

Loitering in your periphery,
The gaping maw of the pit 
Shows its ugly teeth again
It’s the same old sob story, 
Only the names have changed, 
But you’re still the same, my friend

Possessed, consumed, you externalize
Point blame, accuse, but never recognize that
Your actions are your own
On this path you’ve set in motion

How long must we wait ‘till a memory is erased?
Stale, awash in mind by the sands of time
(and naively brushed aside)
Peel back the gray to reveal another shade
Watch the spark expire and fade
Once it burns all maps that lead to you

So dig up your closet skeletons,
Dress them up in different clothes and put them out to show
Residual past sins whose ichor trickles even into the now

Take away all illusory things and the truth becomes transparent
Escapism will never set you free
Self-medication bears no guarantees

The sun shines brightest after it rains,
But time after time, here we are again
It’s obvious to me you haven’t learned a thing, yeah

So this is me taking my leave
I’ve gotta pick my battles, and I don’t need
To keep spinning in circles
In your self-amplifying feedback loop

How long must we wait ‘till a memory is erased?
Stale, awash in mind by the sands of time
(and naively brushed aside)
Peel back the gray to reveal another shade
Watch the spark expire and fade
Once it burns all maps that lead to you

Oh, also one final note on the artwork (also dating back to 2017): I’d taken a picture of my hand and manually traced it via the paint tool in Photoshop using my mouse (which explains the less-than-perfect edges). All the background landscape stuff was also manually painted by mouse-hand, making this the most arduous digital painting project I’ve ever done. Now here’s the thing: I was having a pile of computer issues at the time, where my system would repeatedly crash whenever I was doing something even remotely taxing graphically. Once I’d reached a certain point with the image, I’d exported it as a safeguard… and thank eff I did, because I’d then spent another hour or two painstakingly adding these cool textural effects where the top / back of the hand was charred and burning (because, y’know, vampires and sunlight and whatnot), and bellowing smoke, and added some more shading, and it looked fucking AWESOME… and then, right as I’d hit “Save”, my thrice-damned computer blue-screen-of-deathed me, the PSD file got absolutely corrupted, and I’d lost all of my work. I was using an older version of Photoshop that didn’t even have the option to auto-save session back-ups, so absolutely everything was gone. My lone saving grace was the one previously exported JPEG, at least, so that’s what you’re seeing today.