Rhett Miller opens his second solo album with this pop-rock guitar number that compares his complicated love life to the affairs of Czech novelist Franz Kafka and German composer Richard Wagner.
On a break between albums with his band, the Old 97's, the singer went on a backpacking trip to Europe in 2001, where he caught a production of Wagner's opera Tristan And Isolde
at the Prague Opera House. Not realizing the show was seven hours long, Miller had a lot of time to kill between acts and was fortunate to have a copy of Kafka's letters to occupy himself. He also read up on Wagner and discovered a connection between the artists. He recalled in a 2022 Songfacts interview
"As I researched [Wagner], I just realized what a creep he was, politically, with his antisemitism and his friendship with Hitler. I also realized, just in terms of lifestyle choices, how much he had in common with Kafka. They were both these intense artists, who lived and died by their work, and threw themselves into their work. And both of them wound up having affairs with wives of their friends. That connection between the two of them - one of them, a historic antisemite, and one of them, Kafka, my favorite Jewish writer."
Miller also saw similarities in the men's romantic histories and his own struggles in a relationship with a woman who was already taken, which inspired the song.
"I, at the time, had just met the woman I was going to end up marrying," he continued. "She also had a boyfriend at the time. I was falling in love and it was forbidden and both of these wildly different men were involved in these forbidden romances. It all kind of stacked up and became this song, and it's such a weird song. It's got this historical structure where I'm talking about Wagner and then I'm talking about Kafka, but really, I'm thinking about my own stupid situation."