Conversation 16

Album: High Violet (2010)

Songfacts®:

  • Arcade Fire multi instrumentalist Richie Reed Parry contributed to several tracks on High Violet including this one. Guitarist Aaron Dessner told The Quietus: "The big thing he did was that he heard me working on the music for 'Conversation 16', and he said, 'I have an idea!' So he went in and sang – his father is a choir director so he knows multi-part singing – he sang this seven-part vocal, it's all him layered. That's beautiful. He's this very lovely, unassuming person – when you see someone's musicality inserted into the room, you're like, 'woah!' And that was great – he was just staying at my house, it wasn't like we planned to work on it like that."
  • This deliberation of marital turmoil was briefly called 'Romantic Comedy' before being switched to its present title. Vocalist Matt Berninger explained to The Quietus why: "In the last minute I changed it – actually, it was my wife who said that the old title sounded like we were trying too hard – and there was something about it that bugged me. We wanted a title that wasn't in the song. It's weird, every little thing matters. What you name the record matters, what you name each song matters, the colour, the typeface you use – all that stuff changes the way you hear a record. The typeface you use on the cover changes the way the record sounds. It could be a million different things, so we're obsessing over every little detail like that from the last minute. Is 'Bloodbuzz' one word or two? I have to think about it for a couple of days, and then it's clear that it has to be one word. Why? I don't know. It makes the song sounds different."
  • Like a number of tracks on High Violet, Berninger's lyrics for this song are comi-horrific. Here he sings: "I was afraid I'd eat your brains/ Because I'm evil!" The National vocalist told The NME: "A lot of that stuff is intended to be funny. It's a grey area between brutal, uncomfortable honesty and ridiculousness." He added: "This record is definitely not happy, but I do find a level of fun when you talk about eating brains and torture parties."
  • Q magazine July 2010 asked Berninger where the lyrics for the songs on High Violet such as this one came from. He replied: "I'd say they're 65 percent autobiographical. The details aren't real but the emotions are. I write about the obsessive fears that keep me awake at night because they're the things I haven't figured out yet. Whether it's romance, anxiety, being an adult, paying your bills, being a good husband and father… Writing about it is a catharsis. Feeling angry or frustrated or sad and wanting to make something awesome out of it."
  • A music video was filmed for the song featuring a love triangle between the comedian Kristen Schaal (best known for her role as Mel the stalker-fan in Flight of the Conchords), actor John Slattery (who plays the womanizing ad exec in Mad Men), and an Eastern Bloc ruler. The band, meanwhile, play Secret Service agents.

    Schaal plays the president, and she told MTV News the role required not only research, but an interesting hairstyle too. "Well, what I did is I went through several pictures and videos of all the presidents, even George Washington — I found a flipbook — and I studied their demeanors. And you know, you've got to play your cards close to your vest as president, so I've just got this serious look that I have throughout the video ... it took me three weeks to master it," she said. "[And] I got my friend to do my hair, and she's good at hair, so she put it up. I said I wanted it to be up like Janelle Monáe, so it sort of looked like that. Actually, it didn't look anything like that, but it's up at least."

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