Set It Off get down to the bones on this rocker, where lead singer Cody Carson feels vulnerable, but authentic, unlike many people in his life. "We live in a world where deciphering between real and fake is already difficult enough," he explained. "I've dealt with my fair share of fake encounters, fake friends, and fake intentions. It's so important to me that you know me for who I am, at my core, at my best and at my worst. Being vulnerable shouldn't come with a rain cloud overhead and it certainly shouldn't be frowned upon. It should be encouraged. Through life's bumps and bruises I've learned it's easier spent stripping away the fear of letting go and saying how you feel, when you feel it. It's OK to be vulnerable. It's OK to be a skeleton."
The band got help with the songwriting on this one from Cameron Walker of the band Twin XL. LA-based singer-songwriter Bruce Wiegner (aka Bruiser) produced the track.
Drummer Maxx Danziger offered his thoughts on the track: "Being vulnerable is often looked at as a weakness. When in reality, it takes a lot of bravery to open up, discover who you truly are, and allow others to see that side of you. There's so much outside pressure swaying us to act the way others think we should whether it's your interests, hobbies, sexuality, career, gender identity, etc. The ability to block out that noise, find your true self, and be that person 100% is real vulnerability and real bravery. In my own personal experience, being bisexual always came with a stigma from other people that think bisexuals are just 'confused.' I would see people online being accused of 'faking it for attention.' All of these outside voices had me doubting not only if I should be open about who I am, but if this is who I really am at all. Once I stopped thinking about everyone else and started thinking about how I felt, everything became clear. It's still scary but I know who I am and I'm not going to pretend to be someone else to placate others. This is who I am, This is me."
"Skeleton" was meant to be a temporary title while the band was working on the skeleton of the track. When Walker mistakenly assumed it was the real title, the guys laughed at him until they realized it was a pretty cool name. Then it was a matter of coming up with an idea that made sense. Carson told the Songfacts Podcast
: "So I'm like okay, so what could that be about? We sat there for a second, and that's where we're like, you know, what? Skeletons are bare, they have nothing to them. What it's like in the form of an analogy is being so vulnerable that you have nothing left to peel back."
Carson told Songfacts this was initially inspired by his relationship with is fiancée, and the beauty of being able to be wholly accepted in spite of his flaws. He said, "You can be all of your highs, all of your lows, and you can be that bare with somebody, and you can relinquish all fear of being judged."
Carson said he's especially proud of the simple lyric, "Love me like I'm dead," which refers to the appreciation that seems to come only after death. He explained: "I feel like there's so much that happens where we see these celebrities die... and all of a sudden, now people really care. And it's like, well, why do we have to wait till someone's gone to really appreciate them or show them we appreciate them or care about them? It's this really daunting thing to hang over your head."
The frenetic music video is a brightly colored romp that finds the band entering a mysterious porthole and being taken hostage by crazed figures who subject them to medical experiments. Meanwhile, they rock out to the song with a group of skeletons wearing colorful wigs.
The video was directed by Danin Jacquay, aka Deathcats, whose artistic style juxtaposes bright neon colors and macabre imagery. According to Carson, the visual represents the multi-faceted style the band has cultivated over the years. "The fact that we can have variety and be all over the place is what makes Set It Off, Set It Off. This is us leaning into that - that we are bright, we are dark, we are all of these things happening at the same time."