By Dan Weiss
Single Again is where Dan Weiss investigates chart hits of the past and present, their stories, what they meant and how good they really are.
For this edition of Single Again, Radio.com spoke with Max Collins of Eve 6 about their hooky, wordy, 1998 hit “Inside Out.” Collins just released his first solo album, Honey from the Icebox. Eve 6 are currently on the Summerland Tour this summer along with Spacehog, Soul Asylum and Everclear.
Radio.com: Was “Inside Out” a blessing or a curse?
Max Collins: I wrote it when I was 17 years old, most of it in my bedroom at my parents’ house, then I wrote the second verse in my 11th grade English class. And looking back on that song and the time, with some objectivity I guess, there’s something really pure about it. There’s no…ambition, or any of the sort of things that come with—you know when I think of hit songs, I also think of people who really trying to write one, and I really wasn’t, I was just, you know, being 17. And the song has afforded me this career — it’s certainly made me a lot of money, which is nice — and given me the opportunity to have an audience many years later. So I guess the simplistic, one-word answer would be a blessing.
What inspired the tune, is it based on real events?
When I hear the song now, I hear a kid talking about…kid stuff in a way. It was the first girl that, you know, broke my heart or whatever. It was angst born of feelings I’d never felt before.
Has the person heard the song?
Oh yeah, yeah, for sure.
Did you get any kind of reaction about it?
No, I’ve only spoken to her a couple of times since and…I can’t remember what she said but…I know she heard it was me…I don’t really have an answer for you, sorry.
How did she know it was her you were singing about? From any specific lyric?
Probably because it was that time period, and I’m sure she was aware of the effect she had on me.
It has a ton of words in it, almost like you’re rapping at points. Did you have trouble fitting everything into three minutes that you wanted in the song?
I think that came from a lack of melodic chops, to be honest with you. A lot of the stuff I wrote at that time…I was a brand-new quote-unquote “singer.” I started singing just because I would like, correct the guy who was the singer, or have him sing it a different way just so it didn’t sound awful, so I became the singer [laughs]. But I didn’t really have intentions to be the singer, so it just happened that way. I didn’t have an expert comprehension of melody, so I think in lieu of that I supplanted that with just a whole lot of words and meter, and it became more about a rhythmic vocal than a melodic one. I got more melodic as I got more studious as a writer, but “Inside Out” is not a particularly melodic song, like you said, it just has like, a thousand words in it.
Was it difficult to memorize?
No…it’s weird. I don’t know why it’s not difficult to memorize. Most things for me are very difficult to memorize, like life stuff, when I’m supposed to do things, what day it is…but songs aren’t particularly difficult for me to memorize.
I have trouble remembering words pretty badly and I was surprised I remembered like every word of this song.
That song was just so ubiquitous, and it probably just got drilled into people’s heads, just from the sheer amount of times it got spun.
There’s so much wordplay in it, are there any references or jokes in “Inside Out” that seemed to go over people’s heads?
Probably! I always did like that about songs, when I had a feeling the writer was talking about an inside joke only he and someone else would know. It makes me think of that Lemonheads record, It’s a Shame About Ray, that song “Difficult Kitchen” —it’s probably called something else because it was always like, a sin to title the song like a lyric from the chorus, it was always some strange thing [it’s “Kitchen” –ed.]—but “how it all started in the kitchen” always made me think he and the girl were singing about something intimate in a way that includes you.
But in “Inside Out” people ask me about the “So. Cal” line. The aspects of the Los Angeles stereotype that are most common I really didn’t relate to at the time…just feeling like a weird awkward kid into music trying not to be weird and awkward to girls. And the “ugly, sad” thing, I remember that coming from some novel we were reading in English, because I wrote that verse in class and I should really know what book it was but I don’t. I remember it was a female protagonist, and a woman author who died of alcoholism…that probably doesn’t narrow it down that much.
Do any other lyrics in the song have a weird story behind them?
I sort of stole, “[I alone am the one you don’t know] you need/ take heed, feed your ego” from this guy named Will Harrison, this songwriter who the guitarist of Eve 6 met somehow. Really talented songwriter but also schizophrenic…he had some serious mental problems. But he had a song that went “Take heed as you speak your ego/ To your island of lies,” and I sort of jacked that from him. We recorded a demo for him back in high school. He called me once when I was still living at my parents’ house and he was like, “I just got out of a mental institution, can you come pick me up?” And he had spit on a Scientologist, got arrested for assault and they threw him in.
What lines from the song do people quote to you the most?
I’ve probably heard a hundred times from people the origami thing (“Or am I origami/ Folded up and just pretend”). “It’s so cool you put the word ‘origami’ in a song, I’ve never heard the word ‘origami’ in a song before.”
Wow, I don’t think I have either.
Yeah, I guess it’s not a common song word.
I just spoke to Sean Nelson from Harvey Danger, who told me a lot of people got their tongue pierced after hearing “Flagpole Sitta,” so I thought you were going to tell me a bunch of people got a tattoo of a heart in a blender.
Right. Well, Fred Durst put the “heart in a blender” line in one of his songs, do you remember that?
Oh yeah, I didn’t remember that.
Yeah, in that song “Nookie”: “You put my tender heart in a blender/ And still I surrender.” He told me about it while he was peeing next to me in the bathroom of some bar. “Yeah man, I used your line in a song! It’s a cool lyric so I put it in one of my songs.” [laughs]
I played your new solo single “Sports Bar” and I thought it sounded kind of like Bright Eyes.
Ha! My bass player said that too. They’re one of those guys — it’s a guy not a band, right? — that I should check out more, because I like what I’ve heard, the occasional song on the radio or whatever. I’m a huge Lemonheads fan and I like the way he sorta does country music, so that gets in a little bit. Huge Elliott Smith fan, huge Dandy Warhols fan. More recently I discovered Crowded House. Not really Eve 6-type stuff. But that’s where my heart has been for a long time.