Kevin Devine: I flinched in my hate because that a moment, and also I deserve to start telling you about that if friend want.

You are watching: What is the song december by collective soul about


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The A.V. Club: What made that happen, since you seemed rather confident about how lot you disliked it?

KD: I have a girlfriend who has actually a podcast called Low Times, a guy named Daniel Ralston , and also we were talking about hating songs. I was talking around this interview, and there to be a moment prior to I revealed come him the song I to be thinking about and he was like, “You know, ns think sometimes world pick on song that space really easy targets.” and also I thought, “Maybe this tune is too simple of a target.” yet then ns realized that this band sold favor 5 million documents or something favor that, and many world not just liked this song, but loved this song. This to be an immensely famous song. Therefore my an interpretation of “everyone” might stray native his, due to the fact that immense popularity sort of paris in the face of everyone hating something. Yet it’s together a fucking hateable song.


AVC: carry out you think the popularity result in your hatred of it? In 1995 it was reasonably ubiquitous.

KD: That’s definitely part of it. What was also interesting about that tune to me was also at the time, i was 15, and also I got in come indie-rock music through famous alternative-rock music. Ns was 12 once Nevermind came out, and Nirvana begat Pearl Jam begat wrecking Pumpkins and that, ~ a little while, begat Sonic Youth and also The Pixies and Superchunk. I was indoctrinated to that type of stuff by the point, so cumulative Soul was so unforgiveable. If I had actually maybe heard that in 1992, yes sir an exterior chance that ns would have actually been un-indoctrinated enough to still it is in like, “This is kind of cool.”


But it always felt come me choose that tape was a prime example of wolf in sheep’s clothing—or sheep in wolf’s garments is maybe much more appropriate. They were kind of capitalizing on the grunge, alternative-rock boom, but they to be an adult-contemporary band. Also the guitars ~ above the songs room not like anything anyone would ever before confuse together menacing or anything prefer that.

AVC: the far more welcoming than it is menacing.

KD: I was going come say the it was really welcoming, except for the truth that it is absolutely horrifying. ns think also at that suggest music sounded automatically dated. There’s something about that sound; i didn’t prefer the . I didn’t favor that song; that was off-limits immediately. Simply to out myself together someone whose tastes to be not entirely discerned: 15-year-old me was additionally like, “I really prefer those cool bands and I additionally kind of choose Sixteen stone by Bush.” i was transitioning, and even then this was unacceptable. There to be something around the chord progression, the vocal melody, the snare-drum sound, the backing vocals, and in particular the lyrical contents of “December”; I can tell girlfriend there’s to be much movement in mine life end the years around things I preferred to points I didn’t, points I didn’t favor to things I do, and also I went back and revisited <“December”> because that our conversation. Ns still dislike that song every bit as lot as a 33-year-old guy as ns did a 15-year-old kid.


AVC: go you have knowledge of production that made friend hate just how it sounded, or was it just a visceral reaction to how slick it was?

KD: I to be making four-track recordings, and I think possibly my very first band had actually done a demo in a studio top top Staten Island. But I had no principle of anything engineering-wise, and also I’m still not super well versed in that stuff, yet I was un-versed completely in it in 1995. I did know—this claims a lot about the player, and also not to dog this man from cumulative Soul—but ns really didn’t choose the snappy ping that the snare drum. There was something about it that simply sounded yes, really tight and cheesy to me. I likewise know i was comparing everything at that suggest in mine life, drum-wise, come In Utero. And that is a very hard metric to live up to, even two decades later. The like, “Oh yeah, nothing yes, really sounds as an excellent as the north on In Utero.”


In regards to the chord progression, again, that was not intellectual. But this felt much more to me favor they were trying to accomplish something sinister through several of the small half-step chord points they carry out in the song, prefer the method the chord progression resolves itself. And the video clip was a tiny mysterious and kind of swirly in ~ points. It was usually a lie. Ns felt choose I was being lied to. Even as a kid I was like, “This no disorienting. Yes nothing macabre around this. There’s nothing even really emotional about this.” it sounded choose something I can write, and also that’s no necessarily a compliment as soon as you’re 14 and also 15.

In high school I had actually a friend, and I’m still friends through him, the would use the phrase “the hoheem.” It described the awkward chill you will do feel when you would see particular things happen in the world. You’d clock an episode of The Wonder Years, and also Kevin Arnold would perform something super-embarrassing that either his dad or Winnie Cooper would end up being really upset v him about, and also you were cringing, and also that’s the emotion I get when I’m talk to you about this song. It’s uncomfortably shitty in its execution.


AVC: I got that emotion watching collective Soul videos and also hoping no one would certainly come and look end my shoulder.

KD: I apologize for forcing friend to carry out research for this. It’s bad news.

AVC: mine Internet history is a file of trying to uncover out if cumulative Soul is a Christian band—


KD: Are they? Did you uncover the answer come that?

AVC: lock vocal around not being a Christian band, but looking in ~ the text for “December,” yes sir a religious underpinning even if the wasn’t intended. Can that likewise have led to your reaction to it?


KD: I think that is a really exciting perspective, because I don’t know if ns was intellectually mindful of that at that time, and it would certainly be corrupt if ns tried to act as if i were now. I simply remember the on every aesthetic level, this track was simply offensive. What I carry out wonder about is: i was 15, ns was elevated Catholic, and I prospered up in a Brooklyn irish family, therefore it’s a sort of specific, provincial, irish Catholicism. Ns think 15 was about the time I saw a Catholic high school and also came house from school one day and also told mine dad, “I had this minute today and also I don’t think I think in any of that stuff.” mine dad to be like, “All right. Well, you’re walking to go to church as long as friend live in the house.” and that was the agreement: I would go to church every Sunday, yet I was no invested or connected anymore. And that pilot light never went ago on for me v that.

How that pertains to the cumulative Soul track is that i was certainly going to hardcore shows and punk rock reflects at that point. And also anti-religious and, in specific, anti-Christian to be super-heavy in the air in ~ those shows, as was veganism and a nascent sort of socialism. I never ever played punk rock or hardcore music strictly; ns was constantly in a tape that sort of sounded like the ingredient I defined earlier, however the hardcore children let united state play v them because we to be young and also they were like, “Oh, it is cute.” however I wonder if the was subconsciously component of it.


I do know the lyrics vague, but—in the guy’s semi-defense—a the majority of ’90s alternative-rock has actually this pass out martyr/Jesus thing that those males tended come use. I feel choose they acquired lazy, and they created from the perspective. It to be this conflicted, maybe Jesus-in-the-garden thing, whereby they’re like, “Don’t follow me,” or whatever he states in the song. It’s nearly aware of her Dionysian powers together a rock star. It was the kurt Cobain thing: It was salable and also marketable to act choose you didn’t choose being there, also though you really want to be there. I can absolutely remember my friends and I gift in a VFW parking lot making fun of that facet in all of that music. Yet I also think, now that you’re discussing it, also the chorus, “Turn your head / Now, baby just spit me out,” yes sir a biblical passage about the agnostic being heat spit, and also it’s “pick one next or the other.” the song, mindful or not, has actually an element of it.

I can tell you what deserves unique mention: there is a background, call-and-response vocal part that comes late in the song, and also I’m walk to song it to you, so i’m sorry: “December promise / You provided unto me / December whispers / the treachery.” also just singing that to girlfriend made me want to smack myself in the face. There are some things you hear and also just love lock without discovering why, and also some points where it is visceral just how much you can’t… I simply can’t. If you can see me, if this to be video: ns sitting right here talking to you and also as ns speaking that line and thinking around it, and I’m pinching my chin in disgust. Ns couldn’t think no one in the room, no matter what her tastes were or what her background was, over there wasn’t one male in the room that was like, “You know what, this sucks. Stop pick another thing.”


AVC: “Let’s do anything but that.”

KD: Again, it’s simply proof optimistic that I’m no the male who to know what the marketplace wants, since they did quite well for themselves.


AVC: execute you think it’s stuck with you since it’s one of the last things you had actually to endure prior to immersing yourself in much more underground music?

KD: “Enduring” is a good word because even by the time I got to college, which to be ’97, the just became easier to no engage. There were an ext like-minded people, or maybe there was much less time to be listening come the radio or every little thing it was. My informers changed and the input avenues changed, so that was easier to hang out through other civilization that favored Belle & Sebastian and also Elliott smith or every little thing else i was acquiring into at that point.


I perform remember thinking this then, due to the fact that I operated at void Kids and Old Navy. I wonder if <“December”> to be on one of those tapes that they would play in the store. I’m having actually some storage of urgently sweaters and also thinking about how with this track they tried to enhance it to a seasonal chill. Ns feel choose it’s something wherein someone satellite down and also was like, “You understand what would be a cool ide for a song? If us wrote around December, and what that would make you feeling like, girlfriend know?”

I’m normally not someone that viscerally no things. I understand that’s a solid word, and that we’re having fun v it for the objectives of this feature. And I have to say ns feel slightly bad dogging them therefore hardcore. I’m certain they’re good people and I wish them all the finest in their careers and also all that. Yet as much as taste goes, it was so basic for me to default to this song due to the fact that it’s one of the couple of things that ns found… Artistically, ns really uncovered it irredeemable on a music level for every the reasons I said, and also probably reasons that are so much an ext reflexive and also inexplicable, too. It’s something girlfriend hear it and you have actually a rash-like aversion to it, and this is song favor that because that me.


AVC: and also doing this function just brought that back.

KD: Prior come this ns haven’t even heard the tune in perhaps a decade, and also the recall was total. Oh my God, it was an alternative-rock Ouija board. Something just floated right back to the surface ar instantly.

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AVC: have actually you met who that’s ever before tried to defend the song to you?

KD: No, however I also haven’t spoken about it with the band. Probably if ns was like, “Hey cumulative Soul guys, what the fuck to be up with that song?” They can have great reasons why they created it. That’s part of why I had actually that short-term flinch, due to the fact that when my friend said “everybody” he expected in our small corner the the universe. Who do you know that’s like, “You recognize what’s fucking rad? any kind of of those cumulative Soul songs.” no one you know would speak that. Maybe that’s presumptuous since I don’t know you really well, but I bet it would be hard to uncover someone in your life. Maybe someone’s mommy would be like, “Oh ns really like that track ‘The people I Know’ by cumulative Soul,” yet I don’t also know if someone’s mom would choose “December.”


KD: Its huge failure is the it is pull up together something. The dressed up as weird, and also it’s not weird. There are dark overtones to it and the winding nature of few of the chord progressions, however it’s not dark. Yes sir the quasi-philosophical, but impenetrably murky nature the the lyrics. The entirety martyr thing is therefore dated and also embarrassing in the clichés. When all those things space combined, it’s bad, but too weird for a Midwestern mom. The trying to it is in weird, so the weirds-out the person in the middle. But anyone also remotely to the left that the center knows it’s not weird at all. In its attempt to be these things, it end up negating itself completely. It just ends up being wrong. Ns feel favor doing this has been one exorcism because that me. I deserve to just let it go now.