Often I’ll gussy up something real until it isn’t. This is true of “Amity Gardens,” a forgotten track from our second album. The name comes from a housing project I lived in when I was a baby. I don’t remember living there; the images in the song come from photos my grandmother showed me many years later. There were two of them: one of a shiny Buick in a suburban driveway, and one of a man with a phone to his ear, my 2-year-old brother sitting in the background. That man was my biological father, whom I’ve never met.I had the chorus for a long time and I must have toyed with 20 different ideas for the verse. There was no story in either picture, really, unless the story was me staring at things I had already seen, hoping to jar something loose. I did the second verse first:It isn’t very much, but for now it’s homeA room in the shadow of a funny looking man
On the phone to the bank about a default loan
I thank you very much
Tata, we’ll be in touch
I imagined he was fighting off creditors and planning a getaway, which may or may not have been true. My grandparents had given me certain ideas about the man, which played in my head like a blurry crime re-enactment video. I guess the verse felt like its soundtrack. The chorus, “If you knew now what you knew then/You wouldn’t want to go home,” is a more general sentiment that I imagine someone somewhere might relate to. In the end, if it doesn’t make a lick of sense to anyone but my immediate family, I’m O.K. with that. I like the drum part.
(Nerd Score: I've been noting that FOW songs were Raymond Carver stories for years, and he name-checks Carver here, says Billy Bragg writes like him. So does Collingwood.)