Afraid of Everyone

Album: High Violet (2010)

Songfacts®:

  • Detroit singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens handles harmonies on this track. Guitarist Aaron Dessner explained to The Quietus the valuable role he played: "Sufjan came in one day when we were struggling with 'Afraid Of Everyone' – that song was very difficult to make happen – and he just started playing the harmonium and singing along with it. He made up this little melody and he layered it four times – that gave the song a whole different dimension. That was his contribution."
  • Singer Matt Berninger told The Quietus this track is about wanting to protect your family. He explained: "That song is trying to figure out where you're going to go when there's a calamity like a civil war or something."
  • Berninger expanded on the song's meaning to Spinner UK: "'Afraid of Everyone' is anxiety and paranoia and not knowing how to deal with it, that's what that song's about. And desperately wanting to defend yourself and your family from the chaotic forces of evil, and you don't even know what they are, or who's right or who's wrong and what to believe."
  • Berninger is married with a daughter. He told The Quietus why he wrote about his family on this track. "I didn't intend to or want to write anything being a father or about having a baby, but I also want whatever I'm writing about, to just let it be. I think that this record has a broader perspective. It has less about personal problems and more about the broader issues. It's not my world any more – it's my daughter's world. And my personal problems as a young bachelor in New York are totally insignificant now. They're still there, and I'll still sing about them to some extent – romance and sex and whatever – but I think there's a different kind of perspective on this record. So a song like 'Afraid Of Everyone', where I do mention my kid on my shoulders, is about realizing that you can't just turn off the world and pretend it's all fine to do whatever you want to do. You've got this responsibility that you have to try to change the world as it's the world that your kids are going to live in. I realise that it has a more panoramic perspective, it's not so insular. It's also more aggressive, it's less resigned to give up and turn away. It's more proactive and less passive."

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