Buddy Nielsen doesn't expect his library to look like yours. That is, of course, unless you're familiar with beat poet Charles Bukowski or the writings of ancient Hindi and Buddhist philosophers.
Consequently, Nielsen doesn't expect most fans of his band, Senses Fail, to pick up on many of the guiding lights behind his lyrics.
"A lot of people criticize my lyrics — the accusation is we're too stupid to try doing something intellectual — so I used to be very afraid to discuss these things," he says. "Now I figure people are gonna like me or not like me no matter what I do, so I might as well grow up and put myself out there."
It's not as if Nielsen's deeper leanings and meanings distill the band's pop-punk nature. "Let it Enfold You" (Vagrant Records), Senses Fail's third record, follows all the calling cards of modern whatever-core — fast rhythms at shifting tempos, textured aggression and vocals that move from heavy to harmony in a heartbeat.
For Nielsen, his music is more than a creative outlet — it's a way to flesh out what he calls the "self-hatred" over his privileged life and, over time, find some inner peace.
Based in Ridgewood, N.J., Senses Fail formed in 2002 and became an instant Internet hit — Nielsen credits mp3.com for catapulting the band's buzz — while at the same time "hoping to play local shows and not suck." Most of the band members were still in their teens when they signed their first record deal — Senses Fail is already on its fourth record label.
Long before Nielsen began writing lyrics for Senses Fails, he was consumed with questions over his own place in a world he saw fraught with misery, and his readings gave him a rough map for his personal journey. Writing lyrics, he says, is a way of articulating his questions, doubts and discoveries.
"Let it Enfold You," the title of the new disc, is drawn from a Bukowski poem.
"He has a really negative outlook on life and humanity, but the poem is very uncharacteristic of his writings — very positive and uplifting," Nielsen says. "It's about letting the good things touch you and change you. You're not going to get anywhere being so pessimistic, and that's how I am. I've never not been able to be unpessimistic, but it's a goal of mine and something I'm working on."
Many of Nielsen's lyrics are lost to the naked ear, and it takes a scan of the CDs liner notes to pick up on the nuances. On the title track, he sings: "A birth to life is what I'm after / My first name won't be my last one / Let the light just drip into your eye."
"Kids ask me what does this or that song mean, and I say ‘What does it mean to you?' and whatever you think it means, it's right," Nielsen says. "Especially when you're taught literature and poetry in school and told it's definitely about this one thing, and I'm like, ‘How do you know? How do you know it doesn't mean something else?' Any kind of art, it's there so people can take what they want or need from it, and you should never really press hard that it has to be and mean a certain thing."
At just 20 years old, Nielsen says he has a long way to go before feeling any semblance of psychological or spiritual contentment, but knows he's at least facing the right direction.
"People say, ‘Why can't you just be happy?', but I think your life is always a work in progress, and I'm always learning things," he says. "I'm just trying to be myself in all aspects and not be a fake band that has an image. I just want to be who we are _ young kids who make mistakes and are just trying to say something about who we are and what we're thinking about. My whole goal is to just get to a point where I've figured out all things that are bad about myself, all my insecurities, and get rid of them."