By Jessica Numsuwankijkul of Heliotropes
I wrote Over There That Way during the winter of ‘14, holed up in my apartment cooking a million soups, reading and watching WWI and WWII documentaries. At the time, I rarely went outside except to see a friend that lives nearby. I don’t think I really ‘went out’ for the whole season. It was that kind of time. I like to joke about it now, but I was really depressed.
There was no conscious effort to deploy war-themed devices all over this album: it’s just something that kind of happened after watching all of that WWII footage. Sometimes it seems absurd to have an opener called “Normandy” and a closer called “Goodnight Soldier” — both sort of about drowning on a beach. But I did it anyway.
Among others, I watched a series called World War II: The Last Heroes, a series that stipulates that the surviving veterans of WWII must be interviewed for posterity before they cease to exist. There was this aging Canadian sniper who said this thing about his enemy that really haunted me for a couple of weeks, something like “It’s really sad when you kill your enemy, because you sometimes spend weeks following him. After a while, you can’t live without him.” And I thought about the the most famous sniper of all time, Simo Häyhä — otherwise known as Finland’s “White Death” — a man who killed an estimated 700 Soviet targets in 100 days while sneaking around in white camouflage. I knew I wanted to write a duet for myself and my bandmate Ricci for this album, a sort of Lee and Nancy type throwback, and The White Death ended up being the lyrical seed from which the song was written, a sort of made-up account of two soldiers assigned to stalk and eventually kill each other. I wanted it to sound like a love song.
Eventually, Simo Häyhä was shot in the jaw and spent 11 days in a coma. The man who found him reported that half of his face was missing, but he managed to survive, waking up on the day that peace was declared. He lived to be 97, eventually passing away at an old folks’ home. He said he was just doing his job, when questioned about his excellence. I don’t know why I found that comforting, while in other contexts I might find that answer completely abhorrent.