“Tiny Vessels” Cover Song Series

I don’t really have a good title for this type of series yet, so this will have to suffice for now.

Today I released 3 videos as part of my Wayback-Playback Wednesday acoustic cover song series.

Normally, when I do these Wednesday covers they’re all sort of created and released in the same format.

I talk a bit about this on this other blog post but I’m going to try and better explain it today using “Tiny Vessels” as an example; I explain in each video (for the most part) why I’m doing what I’m doing, so if you’re not interested in that I’d skip to the final cut at the bottom; this is mostly for newer musicians/engineers who might not be sure how to get started creating music in the way that I do it.

Before we get started, let’s listen to the original studio release by Death Cab For Cutie which is off the Transatlanticism record.

“Tiny Vessels” – Death Cab For Cutie circa 2003 off of Transatlanticism.

I’ll start by saying, I started listening to Death Cab For Cutie right around the time this album came out after being introduced to them by my online friend Sean Gallagher. I’m actually reasonably certain that this was the first DCFC record I ever heard.

Back then Sean was regularly introduced me to west-coast bands. He also introduced me to bands like Hum and (mae), but generally speaking we spoke about Green Day, Blink 182, Treble Charger, Sum41 and DCFC.

The first DCFC song I was really into was “Title And Registration”, I love that guitar line. Sean played bass and drums and I played guitar, so sharing songs on the basis on “listen to this cool riff,” was pretty common. And I had just started to play guitar around this time, and Sean told me this one was an easy one. It is, if you practice it.

But we’re talking about Tiny Vessels today; sorry, I’m a rambler.

Typically when I choose these covers, it comes down to two things; ease of playability on an acoustic guitar, and the lyrics.

Here are the lyrics to Tiny Vessels which was written by Benjamin Gibbard and Nick Harmer:

This is the moment
That you know
That you told her that you loved her, but you don’t
You touch her skin
And then, you think
That she is beautiful
But she don’t mean a thing to me
Yeah, she is beautiful
But she don’t mean a thing to me

I spent two weeks
In Silver Lake
The California sun cascading down my face
There was a girl
With light brown streaks
And she was beautiful
But she didn’t mean a thing to me
Yeah, she was beautiful
But she didn’t mean a thing to me

I wanted to believe in all the words that I was speaking
As we moved together in the dark
And all the friends that I was telling, all the playful misspellings
And every bite I gave that left a mark
When tiny vessels oozed into your neck and formed the bruises
That you said you didn’t want to fade
But they did, and so did I that day

And all I see
Are dark grey clouds
In the distance, moving closer with every hour
So when you ask, “Is something wrong?”
I think, “You’re damn right there is
But we can’t talk about it now”
No, we can’t talk about it now

So one last touch, and then you’ll go
And we’ll pretend that it meant something so much more
But it was vile, and it was cheap
And you are beautiful
But you don’t mean a thing to me
Yeah, you are beautiful
But you don’t mean a thing to me
Yeah, you are beautiful
But you don’t mean a thing to me

“Tiny Vessels” – Death Cab For Cutie

I’m gonna go ahead and insert Part 1 of today’s series on this acoustic cover here, but feel free to skip it and read on; might make more sense to listen through with the context that I’m trying to get out here.

Crooked Forest performing “Tiny Vessels” – Death Cab For Cutie. This was our first run-through after charting it out.

So, after listening through to a handful of DCFC songs this morning, I settled on this one. It doesn’t normally take me very long to decide on a song to cover because when I’m otherwise listening to these records on the regular I’m also making mental notes for myself, “yeah, this one might be cool to try something with later.” It really would be wise of me to make lists as I go, but anyway; sometimes I take screenshots but then I lose the screenshot in the mess that is my Google Drive, so usually I just start to re-listen to the records and figure out which one I was thinking about that random day.

Lyrically, this band as a whole is one of my favourites, and they’re one of those bands that even if you’ve been listening to them for 13-14 years like I have, you still find or learn something new on every listen, or they make you think about something you’re going through in a new way. That’s what Tiny Vessels did for me today.

I’ve mentioned it a few times already in other posts but I’ve been going through the final stages of divorce (paperwork and payment) after separating from my husband last year, and the one thing I’ve spent a significant amount of time doing since then is just reflecting on our life and relationship.

So here’s the story that this song makes me think about the most:

When my ex and I first started dating, within the first week of it, he, in his own silly way, asked me if we were now exclusive. This happened a couple days after our first or second date, I can’t pin point it much more than that since each date was only a week apart, but we were sitting on the balcony of the apartment he shared with his brother then in uptown Toronto.

I, in my own silly way, said yeah. Under the provision of course that he removed the dating apps from his phone. He did, right then and there.

In these early days, I lived in the west end of Toronto in the Junction area, and he uptown in the north end. We both worked full-time, so we’d see each other mainly on weekends. We were getting to know each other still when we made the decision to take a weekend trip to Niagara Falls.

This might coming to a surprise to some of you, but I’d actually never been; Niagara Falls is only a 2.5 hour drive from where I grew up, and I was even closer to it when I lived in Toronto, about 2 hours from there assuming traffic is good.

Niagara Falls.
Source: Wikipedia.

Suffice to say I was pretty excited, for a couple reasons.

  1. I was going to see the Falls! Cool!
  2. This was my first real trip away to an interesting destination with a partner.
  3. We were going in October, which meant we were going to go to one of the Halloween Haunt places I’d heard so much about; the guy I was dating actually seemed to listen to me and what I liked and was making an effort to show that. This was new to me, too. To be fair, this was only my 2nd real relationship, so I don’t want to discount the efforts my first ex made (he was pretty aware of all the stuff I dug, too, but we were even younger then and quite limited in what we could do and afford.) but it’s just to say, this felt like, a real thing to me. It was heading somewhere.

We stayed at a pretty nice hotel, which my ex made the arrangements for. That was nice, too. It was the Hilton that overlooks the Falls and has The Keg housed on one of the mid-levels; we were excited to have dinner there – very fancy.

We treated this trip like a celebration; he bought some Champagne.

But, still, this was a very new relationship. I remember thinking as we were boarding the greyhound bus we took to get there (he didn’t have a car then, and I’ve never owned my own, just borrowed my folks’) that I was worried about being on the bus for 2 hours with him. What could we possibly talk about for 2 hours?

Now you might be thinking, what do you mean? You’d be on some dates before this, so surely you’ve spoken for at lest 2 hours at a time?

True. But our dates were often at events which are a little easier to handle. Our first date, he took me to a Blue Jays game with some pretty great seats, the best seats I’d ever sat at just a few rows up from home plate.

Our second date, I took him to see Blue Rodeo at the Molson Amphitheatre (now Budweiser Stage).

And all the times after there, we’d often have other people around when we hung out, whether it was my roommate or friends, or his brother (roommate) and their friends.

So the trip was a little intimidating to me.

“Tiny Vessels” take 2 and 3. Action!

On the same night we had our fancy dinner at The Keg, my ex did something else that seemed to affirm for me in that moment that he was attentive to me and really was trying to make a good impression.

When it seemed a good time to put on some music for us while we got ready, he chose “Clarity” by Jimmy Eat World.

It’s funny but, despite how often I talk about, and despite the fact that it’s literally tattoo’d on my arm, a lot of people who know me probably wouldn’t tell you that it’s my favourite record.

To be fair, it’s hard to choose just one favourite anything for me, but that one’s up there for sure.

And in that moment, where I was feeling a little nervous and a little far from home, I felt comforted.

That same night was the first time my ex told me he loved me.

He sort of mumbled it. A little drunk. Too drunk, in retrospect.

I hesitated. “What?”


“I said I love you.”

I hesitated.

“Oh. I love you, too.”

I knew I didn’t mean it then and it was clear pretty quickly he suspected the same.

“You didn’t even hear me.”

“I did. I said it back.” Defensive.

To be young again…

I was 24 years old when I met my ex. We met on my birthday, in fact. For years I took that as some sort of weird de facto sign, too; a positive story, something quirky we could share on our wedding day.

The other thing my ex used to do for me all the time throughout our relationship was tell me something I had never really heard before.

“You’re so pretty. You’re beautiful.”

All my life I was sort of a tom-boy, didn’t quite have a feminine look, and mostly all my good friends were all guys; guys I didn’t date. It’s amazing how powerful those words can be to someone like me; someone with such remarkably low self-esteem.

“Tiny Vessels” – Final Cut!

I don’t mean to imply in any way that our relationship was terrible from start to finish or something. It had its moments.

But when we met we were both a little too quick to grab a bottle, if you know what I mean. We both came from what I’d describe as not the most loving home-lives. Again, not to say our families didn’t care about us, but that it’s hard to know what love feels like or what it’s supposed to feel like when you’ve never really had it before.

I think we were both trying to figure it out as we went. I think we both thought, maybe if we said it enough, we’d believe it.

But that’s really not how it works; not in my experience anyways.

Of course, I still haven’t found that yet, so I can’t say anything for sure.

I don’t think necessarily that I meant nothing to my ex as the lyrics in this song imply, or vice versa, but, I do know with certainty I was never going to be able to provide for him what he was looking for, and he was never going to be able to provide that for me. Not in the state we were both in, not with the way we met, the way we acted and pretended, trucking along every year hoping it would somehow just get better.

I don’t know what love feels like but I know when it’s absent.

And we did share that story, by the way, about how we met at a concert at The Horseshoe Tavern on my 24th birthday. What luck!

There’s a funny side story I’ve never really told anyone about that night.

I had to work the following afternoon, so my roommate and I left sometime around midnight to get back to our Junction basement apartment, after Matt and I had made out (birthday kisses, hell yea!).

I hadn’t given him my number. He hadn’t given me his.

He got mine off a mutual friend of ours, because that’s the band that was playing that night.

At some point after I got home, in my drunken stupor and after receiving a text message, I turned to my roommate, holding my phone out as I read the message I asked her…

“Who the hell is Matt?”

Perhaps we should’ve left it at that.

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