“The more we fight, the more we invigorate the thing we’re fighting against. And without knowing it, the more we as people eventually become the kind of thing we’re fighting against,” says Ryanhood vocalist and lyricist Cameron Hood rather elliptically and somewhat enigmatically. This struggle to sort out which is the right side is what Ryanhood are trying to determine in their new single “The Fight.”
“It’s not about telling another person or group how they should be processing their fears or hurts differently,” he continues. “It’s about noticing how you do it. It has to start with you… with me.”
Taken from their upcoming album Under the Leaves which comes out on April 16th, “The Fight” tackles the clash between morality and ideology with a brainy intellectualism not often seen in a pop song.
“I had music and vocal melodies for almost an entire song, but I didn’t have any words, only had phonetics to outline the melodies,” explains guitarist and songwriter Ryan David Green about the genesis of the track. “I asked Cameron if he would be willing to write lyrics for the whole thing and set them to the exact rhythms I had in mind, down to the syllable. This is not an easy task… which is why I asked him to do it. Ha!”
“I just did my favorite thing in the world, which is try to find the right words for an idea, and Ryan did what he does, which is to take those words and make the melodies and rhythms build and build and build until they erupt,” Cameron laughs, exposing the synergy that they share as bandmates.
Intricate and challenging, Ryan’s acoustic guitarwork creates a steady and solid foundation for Cameron’s lyrics to shine. “We’ve never made an album before this one where I truly loved every single song. But this one’s got some juice,” Cameron says excitedly.
While the music provides the propulsion, the song’s spotlight focuses intently on Hood’s sprawling and effusive lyrics. Smart and astute, he wasn’t scared of rhyming “Shock and Awe” with “Sharia Law”… “Inquisition” with “Prohibition”… “Crucifixion” with “ethnic cleansing.” It’s a brainy song that easily references French historian René Girard and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek without being pretentious. It does so in a breezy, not preachy, way.
Explaining his lyric writing process a bit more, Cameron replies, “I’d been working with filmmaker Evan Grae Davis (It’s a Girl), on developing a documentary film since 2017—which was super cool and a first for me! It was about polarity, political division, and cultural scapegoating (which is the tendency to project blame and fear onto other groups, avoiding seeing anything wrong in ourselves). While that film project is currently on pause, it got me thinking and reading and listening a lot.”
With different ideas that included Martin Luther King, Jr. and Psalm 46 (“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”) swirling in his head, Cameron pulled inspiration from multiple sources. “Slavoj Žižek talked about how we ‘trade the many fears for the one fear’,” he cites as an example. “We feel overwhelmed in our lives and so it becomes easier to focus on one big, bad thing or group than to feel angst about the hundreds of difficult, uncertain things in our lives.”
While rationally dense and philosophical, the ridiculously engaging song isn’t lofty. It’s firmly rooted in the here and now. “It’s the GOP, the Dems, the immigrants, the nationalists, the whoever,” he adds to clarify. “I’m not trying to say that all groups are equal. Just that I’ve never met a person who didn’t have the tendency to put themselves in the ‘good’ group, and project the stuff they’re afraid of onto the ‘bad’ group. And that forms a deep kind of group loyalty or belonging which someone like Jonathan Haidt really explored in [the 2012 socio-political book] The Righteous Mind.”
“The Fight” and its intellectualism is a strange though perfectly complementary companion to its mainstream indiepop sensibility. While the rhythm clutches the primal hunger for melodicism, the subject matter challenges you to reach in deep and ponder what it takes to achieve peace, eventually encircling the truth that change can only come from within. “Absolutely. I think change has to come from within,” agrees Cameron. “Otherwise, we flail about, angrily, fearfully, guiltily (is that even a word?!), trying to change other people, doing more damage than good. How much good do we have to offer if we haven’t found a quiet center ourselves?”
With this struggle in “The Fight,” the question arises: Who is the victor?
“We’re the losers. All of us,” Cameron replies abruptly. “It’s sort of the old story of history: we feel oppressed, we strike back in self-defense, gain power, and become oppressors ourselves. It’s just a cycle, and the only way I can see to break it is to shine light on the only people we have any hope of changing: ourselves. That’s why the key line comes at the end of the bridge section: “The only revolution is the one within / ’Til we throw ourselves into the light / We will never win the fight.”
So then, if the fight is futile and the end result is defeat, is it even a battle worth fighting?
“It’s like the hydra from Greek mythology,” he answers. “You cut off one of its heads and two more grow back in its place. It’s like, the more we fight, the more we invigorate the thing we’re fighting against. And even worse, the more we become like the thing we’re fighting against. And we never see it in ourselves. We can only ever see it in them.”
But all is not lost… It’s not a worthless battle. Cameron concludes, “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught that I cannot truly overthrow angry, violent, intolerant people by becoming angry, violent, and intolerant myself. He wrote, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’ And if, as you read this you think, ‘Yeah, exactly, that’s what I’ve been saying. They can’t drive out darkness with darkness, they need to stop… just pause.’ It’s not about telling another group or person how they should be processing their fears or hurts differently. It’s about noticing how you do it. It has to start with you… with me…. or else we’ll spend our lives creating way more problems than we solve, all the while thinking we’re heroes battling hydras.”