Truly is a Seattle band whose Post-Grunge sound fell out of favor in the industry, leaving them orphaned by their label, Capitol Records. Their 1995 album Fast Stories... From Kid Coma
won them many fans, but the band never hit it big. "Wheels On Fire" is their first release since 2000. Their lead singer Robert Roth
tells us that in terms of meaning, it's sort of a follow-up to a song from Fast Stories
called "Blue Flame Ford." Here is Robert's account:
During recording Fast Stories...
we took a month off and I drove down the coast highway to get away for a little vision quest, to write lyrics, listen to rehearsal tapes, and just have an experience while driving down the 101. I was trying to escape a little and "get lost... be free" the good old fashioned Kerouac-Kesey way.
An hour or two north of San Francisco, a huge deer steps out in front of me and I slam on the brakes and swerve, but no dice, I hit this monstrous thing. In a mild state of shock, I see silhouettes of a group of kids gathering around the deer. As I got out of the car and walked closer I could hear that they were speaking Spanish. One of them looks up and says, "You killed it... and it was pregnant." I found myself stuttering trying to think what to do... this was before cell phones. "Do you have a phone I can use?" and the same kid says, "It's OK Mr... we're going to eat it." As I am walking back to my car I see the kids dragging the deer back to their house. I was completely freaked out. My car upon inspection had no damage whatsoever, just a little blood and one single hair stuck to the grill.
So my idea of being "On the Road" and "freedom on wheels" completely inverted on me and suddenly I realized that I wasn't getting away from anything, I was the thing to get away from! I was an extension of society and the very thing I was trying to escape and rebel against. The lyrics describe the incident, but I also reference Henry Ford and his ideas about enslaving workers and chaining them to their stations.
Lyrically "Wheels on Fire" is another reflection on a similar theme with questions about cars and freedom in mind. That type of freedom paradoxical and is ultimately somewhat false. It's an illusion that we've all bought into, similar to the cell phone now. It's really great to have this thing with you that has all this computing power, but without the grid our cell phones are useless. So maybe it's not these things that make us free? It's ultimately a leash. Maybe we don't really want to be 100% free anyway... deep down maybe we really do want to be part of the collective? How do we maintain a healthy balance between our autonomy and being completely isolated or "every man for himself" versus being part of the machinery? So, it's a ball and chain that we're all willing to wear, myself included. "Wheels on Fire" is about the automobile, fuel, war and the unravelling of the way we look at all of these things and how it's playing out lately. Look at climate change, look at Detroit! That's a big part of where we are now in 2013.