Nothing Happens by Wallows: The Blue and White Lines That Defined My Teenage Years

By: JoAnn Snavely

Wallows is a three-piece California-based band that made their start over 10 years ago when they played the Ernie Ball Stage on the classic Vans Warped Tour in 2011 after winning  Battle of the Bands. Eleven years later, they are now on their worldwide Tell Me That It’s Over tour that will be continuing for the foreseeable future. Band-mates Dylan Minnette, Cole Preston, and Braeden Lemasters have been close friends for many years, all of them having backgrounds in music. They went by many names such as The Feaver and The Narwhals  (which released the song Surf Surf Don’t Drown for the 2014 film Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day). They officially moved to the band name “Wallows” in 2017 with their release of Pleaser, and since then, they have begun an uphill climb that I hope never stops. They are currently touring internationally for the release of their Sophomore album Tell Me That It’s Over that will be continuing over the next few months!

In 2019, Wallows released their debut album Nothing Happens which without a doubt has changed my life. Growing up as a teen swamped with anxiety and fears revolving around growing up, I found so much comfort in this album. The genius lyricism and chilling instrumentalism make this album my favorite album OF ALL TIME as it’s my number 1 streamed album in the 7 years I’ve had Spotify, having listened to that album over 2,000 times. Due to these many facts, I can without a doubt guarantee that those blue and white lines changed my life. This will be a deep-dive album breakdown, where I will be making my personal analysis into each song on this album and the significance of each song in regards to my teenage years.

TRACK ONE (OPENING TRACK): ONLY FRIEND

“Only Friend” being the opening track to this album should be a criminal offense. The opening lyrics are enough to make me sob, and we haven’t even gotten 10 seconds into the song. The lines;

Weathered and fading

Who feels alone in the world?

You do

Too complicated

It’s not the same anymore

You’re through

Will send me into an existential crisis in a heartbeat. This entire song is such an astounding piece that everyone can relate to, and that’s having a best friend, and by default, losing one. It is such an incredibly painful piece, yet is one that is portrayed so beautifully when paired with one of my favorite guitar riffs ever done by Wallows. I remember really connecting with this song when I lost a friend who I had formed such a deep connection with on so many levels, and, in losing them, I felt so alone. That’s when I truly paid attention to these lyrics I had been listening to for so long. I have genuinely sobbed listening to this song, and it is even more relatable now with many of my past experiences; and even as I look to my future. On top of that, one of the unique things about this album is that it’s all wildly interconnected. Not only does it make references to other Wallows songs, but it references itself. “Only Friend” introduces this recurring theme from the get-go with the ending of the song hinting to the piano in the closing song of the album; “Do Not Wait “which makes a similar reference towards “Only Friend”.

TRACK TWO: TREACHEROUS DOCTOR

“Treacherous Doctor” is my absolute favorite track on the album, and it is inarguably one of my favorite songs of all time. Not only do I absolutely love the song and everything about it, but I love what it means to me. I could break down every single lyric and guitar chord of this song if I was given the opportunity, and I’ve done it many times. This song was such an influential song for me from the moment I heard it. It caught my attention during a guitar solo that is so unlike anything I’ve ever heard; I don’t even know how to describe it other than to say that it is something EVERYONE needs to hear. “Treacherous Doctor” is about being afraid of growing up and how hard it can be to find peace in that. I interpreted the entire song as a therapy session given the fact they brought every single rational and irrational fear into this beautiful 2:43 song, all in question form. The music video just proves this point, it’s actually a felt stop-motion which is super cool, but it switches between the 3 members as it flips through many different scenes that can only be described as therapy sessions. If I could choose every single lyric to talk about I would, but I think the most meaningful ones would personally have to be;

Are the things I think are important

Simply just distractions from death?

All of my ideas turn to content

They can be conceived ’til they’re read

Lost my words again

It doesn’t matter

‘Cause you wouldn’t understand

Although these lyrics seem absolutely gut wrenching, I promise you will be doing nothing but dancing and screaming to this song, which makes it so therapeutic. The art of turning sad lyrics into upbeat bops is literally Wallows’ bread and butter that they execute perfectly and without fail.

TRACK THREE: SIDELINES

I don’t necessarily have a super personal connection to this song, but I must say it is so much fun to listen to. The lyrics are once again super sad, but it’s ok because the fun guitar riff makes up for it! The song is essentially about leaving a relationship and trying not to relapse into it. They just want to be back in this relationship, but that doesn’t mean they should.

I know I drew the line

Can we erase it?

We’re living in denial

But we can change this

And I drove all night until I started to cry

All because I saw a world without you and I

Don’t let this conversation die

This is something so transferable to many situations whether it’s a hopeless crush, a ruined friendship (like the one we see in Only Friend), or simply a romantic flame that burned out. This song, nay, this entire album is interchangeable with those feelings. The “Sidelines” music video is another really unique way to digest the song. It’s a self-directed video, with the band having DIY’d it themselves. Although the video seems to be the three members having fun at mini-golf, it seems to be “reflecting on the heartbreak and uncertainty that accompany the ending of a relationship”.

TRACK FOUR: ARE YOUR BORED YET? (FEAT. CLAIRO)

“Are You Bored Yet?” is by far the most popular song on the album, and it is potentially one of their most recognizable songs in their discography. To me, this song feels like a sequel to the song These Days from their 2018 Spring EP. It’s about being in a relationship while growing up and the imminent question that you must ask–are you bored yet? The insecurities that come with being in a relationship and whether or not they’re continuously invested in a relationship is a fear that I’m sure every teen has endured, and, if not, it is one you will most certainly endure. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it also doesn’t necessarily go away with time. This can best be stated by Wallows in their song “I Don’t Want To Talk” where Dylan tells (more like gloriously sings to) us;

Realized the older I get

I get more insecure

If I don’t have you by my side

Then I can’t be sure

These songs are so deeply interwoven within each other which is something I absolutely adore. I think this song tells this story in relation to Nothing Happens, especially when you put the fact that this album is about being in a relationship with an ever-fleeting youth. This is the only Wallows song that contains a feature, and that feature being by the Queen of indie bedroom-pop herself Clairo. It is such a beautiful pairing between her and Dylan’s vocals and instrumentation. This song is probably one of the more popular indie songs of the late 2010s, and you can find it on most indie essential playlists. Having blown up in mid-2020 due to Tik Tok, Wallows gained millions of new fans that helped pave the way for their future releases as a band.  Its music video takes place in a nostalgic 90s roller-skating rink set which matched their release party’s theme (having taken place at California staple–Moonlight Rollerway). Although, “Are You Bored Yet?” isn’t necessarily my favorite song, I think it is a really objectively good song with the perfect mash-up of elements from the Indie and Bedroom pop genres’.

TRACK FIVE: SCRAWNY

Scrawny is by far the most upbeat song on the album and is different from the rest of the album because it doesn’t really talk about relationships, at least not in the traditional sense. The song tells the story about this scrawny m*****f***** who is almost insecure and reflecting these concerns into how they will be in the relationship. They’re messy, and I like it that way. It’s a very self-aware piece that seemingly resonates amongst the entire band and truly just exemplifies how they feel about themselves. I think that’s what makes this song so different from the album, which is  perfect, considering it’s the middle track. Itt provides relief from the terrifying epiphanies this album brings when you listen to it from beginning-to-end. With all of that in mind, it is still extremely relatable. As someone who is absolutely terrified of being ill-perceived, lines like:

I say the wrong sh*t at the right times

If I’m offending them, I don’t mind

Maybe they all should listen to me

It isn’t all about what you see

Question though, how do I look to you?

Am I so thin that you can see through?

Really hit me hard. There’s not much to say about this song other than this: how anyone can find peace in this song unless they’re just perfect and have never had a bit of insecurity? It’s also just generally such a fun song to listen to, and importantly, is one that’s so life-changing live, just 2 minutes and 43 seconds of pure adrenaline.

TRACK SIX: ICE COLD POOL

I” is one of the most meaningful songs to me off of Nothing Happens, and not for the reasons you’d expect. This song is about a relationship, most notably a first relationship. That person you experience all your firsts with until you lose them. However, I never interpreted it that way because I was 14. When I was 14, I wasn’t going through love and loss; no, instead, I was going through braces and social anxiety. I was absolutely terrified of any social situation ever and it reflected into everyday life. I never took what I wanted, until I heard this song. 

It’s not a crime if you take what’s given

It’s just a crime if you’re paying for it

What’s the fun if you know what’s coming?

I don’t want to escape it

These lyrics really clicked inside my brain for some reason. Don’t get me wrong, I was still terrified to shoot for the stars and what have you, but I guess part of me was a little less scared. I don’t think much has changed until recently though. I wasn’t pining for what I wanted the moment I heard the song, but at a certain point, I found my courage to get what I want unashamedly, and I think part of it is due to this song. Aside from the emotional girl-bossery this song provided, this song is literally Pandora’s Box for any Wallows fan because the references made in this song are absolutely mind-blowing. The most notable one being the verbatim reference to their 2018 single Underneath the Streetlights in the Winter outside Your House where they referenced the entire 2nd verse of the song as a bridge in Ice Cold Pool. 

I’m standing outside of your house

It’s pretty dark out

Good thing there’s lights

It’s pretty cold though

I just need you right here

To warm me up this time

Luckily, it works really well with the theme of the song, but it is such a unique callback that I remember the first time I made the connection between the 2 songs.  It was as I was riding shotgun and my mother was merging onto the interstate, and my silly,little wired earbuds blasted this song. I can so vividly remember the imagery in it, and I have not stopped losing my mind over this callback since that fateful day in late 2019. What’s so cool about this song is that you can pick apart every individual lyric and either connect it to a pop-culture reference or Wallows lyric, which is a trait I absolutely geek out over.

TRACK SEVEN: WORLDS APART

I’m gonna preface going into this song by saying it’s my mom’s favorite Wallows song (with Do Not Wait being a close second). I don’t know what that says about this song, but just know– mom’s love it! And it is a fair statement because I love it just as much. This track is so blissful, definitely a different approach to the more guitar,drum heavy songs on this album. This is noto say “Worlds Apart” doesn’t use instruments, because I would argue that its instrumentalism is my favorite part about the song. It’s really important to note that this song was originally supposed to be an acoustic track, but if it didn’t have its beautiful inclusion of trumpet and subtle drums, it would not be the same. Speaking of drums– the way the drums transition into “What You Like” is such a unique touch that they included throughout the album. Now, onto the lyrics. I don’t have a specific emotional attachment to this song; I primarily enjoy its instrumentals, but I do think it is a song that has so much meaning. It’s about being in a relationship and feeling so disconnected and out of touch that you feel like you’re worlds apart (pun intended). It’s just the bittersweetness of the end of a relationship; it’s not always on bad terms, sometimes you just fall out of love and this song fondly remembers that. This song is primarily instrumentalism, and it focuses on that instead of the lyrics, which I appreciate because sometimes there isn’t much left to say; people drift apart and it’s as simple as that– a simpleness this song never fails to exude. This song masterfully sets up track nine which takes a similar approach as “Remember When”, and it’s a sort of the aftermath of the end of the relationship where those moments you once cherished turn into memories you begin to forget. The lyrics that I think embodied this song the most is the intro verse that tells the story within the first minute of this four minute song. 

Am I afraid of you?

Or do I pretend I don’t care?

Just like the stars can tell all the worlds apart

I’ll be here in the dark

I stayed inside to watch the rain again

I watched all of my movies from the end to the start

And I can’t help but think about you now when the trailers start

‘Cause I know we’re worlds apart

TRACK EIGHT: WHAT YOU LIKE

Picking the pace up a bit, “What You Like” is such a beautiful song with a beat that gives you no choice but to dance like there’s no tomorrow. Similarly to “Worlds Apart”, I absolutely adore this song due to its instrumentalism. I literally geek out over instrumentation and lyrics if you couldn’t tell by the amount of times I have used either word in this article. Moving on, this songs’ instrumentalism is so unique, the guitar is pretty standard until it builds to a guitar solo where the silence following it is almost too loud. It sends chills down my spine every time I listen to it. The build-up that solo gives me before the guitar chimes in is literally so mind blowing to me which is strangely reflective to their genius from really early on. As previously mentioned, Wallows had gone by a few other aliases in the past, the most notable being “The Narwhals.” Two of the songs that the Narwhals released made it onto Nothing Happens, one being this song (previously titled “Go Ahead”) and the other being “I’m Full”. On every side of music analysis, these songs are absolutely genius, a genius that it seems 16- year old Wallows possessed. This song is about the end of a relationship; however, the speaker doesn’t want this song to end; the narrator wants to know what they can do to keep the relationship away from its now imminent end. The speaker may have neglected their partner’s needs in the past, but they just have grown to feel like they are worlds apart (pun intended) and they desperately need communication to know what the next steps in their relationship are. These are feelings that can easily be replicated throughout everyday life. We all have those relationships–whether romantic, platonic, or symbiotic–that were so beautiful in the beginning and could have been saved if only communication was used.

Go ahead, tell me now, what you like

Maybe this time I’ll listen

Go ahead, tell me now, what you like

 [imagine a super sick guitar intermission]

Please kill me before you

Tell me what you like

Don’t waste a performance

Don’t give it away

I just need an answer

What did you say

TRACK NINE: REMEMBER WHEN

Remember When” is another extremely popular track off of Nothing Happens and is extremely deserving of its popularity. Something about this song is so oddly nostalgic for me. It has a remarkable intro that you can never forget, and I would never want to. It has a similar instrumental feel to “Ice Cold Pool” which may be why I give it as much praise as I do. It once again is about the end of a relationship and is reminiscing upon the relationship. It’s reminiscing on these memories as they begin to fade. This connection can be made thanks to its music video. We see the band playing the song dressed in attire straight from the 70s, and after each chorus, we see their faces and the images become more and more distorted until you can no longer remember what they looked like at the start. It is such a beautiful piece from beginning to end that gives the energy of every coming-of-age film that has ever been released. The song is using these reminiscing tactics to ask if you remember their most cherished memories.

 

[Verse 1]

Thought I saw your shadow under the door

Just a trick of the light I’ve seen before

I can never tell what’s real anymore

Anymore, anymore

[Verse 2]

I remember when we ran from the pool

All the decorations up in your room

And I couldn’t find the right words to use

But I knew that you knew

TRACK TEN: I’M FULL

Now onto one of my favorite tracks on the album. I must preface this by noting that I am an original “I’m Full” demo supremacist– it’s literally my alarm. The original demo isn’t accessible unless you use Youtube as your main source of music streaming. Nonetheless, the studio version of this song is absolutely phenomenal. The song itself is about trying to find fulfillment in life and struggling to do so. It briefly mentions multiple outlets in the pursuit of fulfillment–some of which are alluded to be illegal substances. I think that’s what makes this song so personal because it can feel so hard to find fulfillment. Dylan Minnette touched on the song by also describing the song as being  “sort of about instead of overcoming or stepping up to your insecurities or social anxieties, resorting to things like substances and whatnot. It’s not that dark of a song, it’s not very personal to me, it’s more of the concept really. I draw some things from my life, but more innocent things”. We see these “innocent” references in the line where Minnette lets us know that Every time I put my hands somewhere, There’s always Reese’s there” Another really unique part of the song is the simple references to “What You Like” and “Only Friend”. The entirety of this track is so fun yet powerful at the same time. I think it is also really reflective of depression and the hopelessness that can come with it. This song also utilizes a seamless transition into the final track on the album– Do Not Wait

Then I’m screaming in my head

When I’ve got nowhere to go

And I’m falling into bed

On a high chemical low

And I know I’m bound to lose

When I feel the need to use

Why I’m full

TRACK ELEVEN (CLOSING TRACK): DO NOT WAIT

Do Not Wait” is without a doubt the most gut-wrenching track on this masterpiece of an album. It is such a beautiful song that you feel like you’re levitating while listening to it. From the opening piano chord, I can feel tears puddling. Once the first lyric is uttered, a tear is shed and goosebumps have arisen. It is a song that creates such a guttural reaction from me I can barely listen to it. Being 6:31 long, it is definitely the longest song on the album, which by no means takes away from the genius of it. This song really embodies the teenage experience and is part of why this album defined my teenage years. Lyrics like;

You will say you’re dreaming up a way

You’re dreaming up a way to explode

There’s a time you’ll seek out a disguise

When you think people hate you the most

And it gets worse before it gets better

That’s one thing that I have come to know

Just so you know

It is so personal to me because I spent a lot of my teenage years dreaming about when they’d be over and all of the ways I’d leave That need to just go out and have those  moments that I can only experience away from my hometown. These lyrics also reflect on all the insecurities that are sprinkled throughout the album, the insecurities that this album brought me to terms with. In an interview with Coup De Main, Dylan Minnette tells the story of this song by explaining “There’s going to be so many moments in your life and your teen years that feel like things are the end of the world and they feel like such a big deal and they can never get better, but everything does get better. Everything happens for a reason and everything is going to be ok.” These sentiments are shared throughout the song as it continues. The chorus is something that is so simple, yet it’s simpleness echoes long after hearing it.

Do not wait, do not wait, do not wait

I’ll be there, I’ll be there, I’ll be there, I’ll be there

Do not wait, do not wait, do not wait

I’ll be there, I’ll be there, I’ll be there, I’ll be there

This very slow-paced build-up continues with the traditional outline of a song until you get to its outro, which almost feels like a different song. After a beautiful minute-long guitar intermission, we get to the most gut wrenching part of the song–the bridge.  It goes back and forth by talking about experiences you have as a teenager that seem so world-changing and echoing the line Nothing Happens throughout. This is so painfully symbolic, these experiences-as difficult as they may be now– are nothing. Nothing really matters in the long run, and every road bump leads to something new. This is almost ironic in the sense that the rest of the album is about those world-changing experiences as you go through your teenage years, and this song is the reminder that although your teenage years are 7 grueling years of your life… Nothing Happens. 

Break a promise to your ex

(Nothing happens)

You are terrified of s**

(Nothing happens)

The first time is humiliating

(Nothing happens)

Something you’ll want to forget

(Nothing happens)

Your parents will eventually separate

(Nothing happens)

Dad’s stuff in trash bags and in the pool

(Nothing happens)

Oh guess what? You have a sister now

(Nothing happens)

And as you go on and s**t gets hard, don’t worry about me

 The outro takes all of those sentiments reflected throughout the album and now that we, we have these experiences that were spoken throughout the bridge combined with the chorus ,reminding us that although these trivial times can feel so isolating, there are always people there for you, and there’s always a light at the end of the narrow tunnel of adolescence.

Do not wait, do not wait, do not wait

I’ll be there, I’ll be there, I’ll be there, I’ll be there

(You’re ready and you know it)

Do not wait, do not wait, do not wait

I’ll be there, I’ll be there, I’ll be there, I’ll be there

(Something you’ll always remember)

Do not wait, do not wait, do not wait

I’ll be there, I’ll be there, I’ll be there, I’ll be there

Finally, the song closes with the way it opens- the intro to “Only Friend” is played during the final 30 seconds of the song and having the album close the exact way it opens is such a beautiful concept and is without a doubt goosebumps worthy.

NOTHING HAPPENS: LET’S GET PERSONAL

From the opening line and title of this article, I claimed that this album changed my life. So, let’s get personal from my experiences and how they translate through this album. Why do I love Nothing Happens? Short answer: because it changed my life. From the moment I heard the first guitar chords of Pleaser, my life was changed forever. I write that as nothing short of truth. Over the past 4 years this band has single-handedly helped me through every heartbreak, bad moment, and some of the darker points of my life. The lyricism about the melodramatics of adulthood and entering it mixed with the intricate guitar riffs created an escape from the world that I so struggled to associate with. However, one thing I associated with was the lyrics and how they made me feel in regards to life. Even in my darkest moments, I always had a Wallows song to turn on that would separate me from the current issues at hand. With this, I don’t say Wallows changed my life in any dramatic form because, through Wallows, I have discovered my passion for music and writing about it. Through Wallows, I have formed some of my fondest memories, and most importantly, through Wallows, I have found the answers I always searched for.

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