As we watched the episode the concept of “nothingness” continually cropped up, so we decided on that as the starting theme for the lyrics.
The crew talks about how the nothingness of space is what drives Reavers over the edge of madness, that the men somehow internalize the nothingness and it empties out their own minds and souls. (Of course, many of us now know the truth of the Reavers’ origins.)
I love how Jayne, the physically strongest of the crew, is the most terrified of the prospect of Reavers. Is he really just afraid of fighting them? Or is there another underlying fear? I like to think it might be the possibility that anyone - even he - could go mad, given enough time and nothingness.
On the other hand, Simon is the first to volunteer to explore the abandoned ship. He’s not much of a fighter, but he doesn't seem worried about the possibility of coming face to face with a Reaver. This may partially be motivated by a desire to show up Jayne, especially after Jayne discovered Simon’s nervousness about going out into space earlier in the episode. (Which he later uses to humiliate Simon.)
So Simon fears the physical, external nothingness of space while Jayne fears the internal nothingness of the Reavers. Two sides of the same coin really. And this is where the song started to come together, building around that central theme in the chorus: “What’s out there / Is what’s in here. / It’s nothing.”
From there it was a matter of choosing the right quotes and phrases from the show and weaving them together to illustrate that inside/ outside duality. So in the first verse we talk about the “ghosts” and “voices,” that interior emptiness that can’t be escaped. In the second verse it’s more about the physical vastness of space and life so far out on the edge, outside the reach of so-called “civilization.”
In the bridge there's a sudden movement and twisting that brings those two kinds of nothingness together into a single horrifying perspective - the Reaver victim. The phrases and images are dark and tangled, reflecting what’s left of his mind: “Open it up and see what’s inside/ No mercy, no weakness and no place to hide/ Charity's a bullet straight to the brainpan/ Impressive what nothing can do to a man.”
In the video, I used the final ending refrain to turn the spotlight away from this lost soul and refocus it on the people left behind, especially Mal. Though the threat is gone, Mal is left a little darker and a little more empty than he was before, one step closer to the "nothingness" that's always waiting out there.
Musically, we wanted to convey the cold, hardness of space. There's no guitar solos or fancy bits here. We left it empty, save for the weird spacey sound of a...well, we don't know what it is - it's like where the Reavers come from. It's a reminder of the unknown.
This was a fun song to work on. I got one of my favorite guitar sounds ever with just a Gretsch Tennessee Rose into a 1961 Gibson Maestro amp with all 14 watts sounding out. For spacey sounds, we used the Casio SK-1 going into a Echo Park delay and we futzed with the knobs while we were playing it to give it dimension and space.
Brian Matteson did a great job on the drums, sticking with the simple to not cloud the nothingness of the song and when it changes time signatures to 6/8 for the bridge, it's so smooth you don't even notice it. That's the place where the uneasiness and unknown come into play, this is where the song sways like a ship at sea, culminating in the "impressive what nothing can do to a man" line before bringing it back to hard reality of space.
We really wanted to maintain a simplicity to the arrangement; there's no fancy bass runs, no big guitar solos, nothing but nothing.
Hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at how we approached writing the song. Stay tuned for more new Firefly-inspired music to come!