Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Eilish Gilligan – Ceres, Drag It Down On You (2016)
I live very far away from everything, in a semi-rural town surrounded by bush. This means I spend a lot of time alone, in my car, commuting to rehearsals, sessions, coffees, parties (at least, I did spend a lot of time in the car, pre-pandemic). All this travelling gives me plenty of time to listen to new music, revisit favourites, and analyse my own demos and mixes. It’s a pain to live so far away sometimes, but the listening time is precious.
Drag It Down On You by Ceres is an album I first heard upon recommendation from my friend Gab. Gab is spectacularly good at recommending music and never gets it wrong, but he’s never had it righter than when he recommended Ceres to me.
The first song I heard was the single ‘Choke’. I remember starting and stopping the music video on YouTube a million times over so I could learn the chords and lyrics – but it was never as fun to sing with my vaguely operatic vocal and clean, stark piano accompaniment, no matter how hard I tried. It was always much more satisfying to scream along to it alone in my car in one of my many long trips home, dancing on the grave of my disgraceful love life. Some songs need to be screamed –’Choke’ is one of them.
And then Drag It Down On You arrived, and changed my outlook on music, changed my entire relationship to writing, to artistic expression, forever. Dramatic, I know! The thing about Drag It Down On You is that it puts the most beautiful, emotive, passionate frame around small moments in everyday, decidedly Australian, life. Ceres taught me that there is so much power in colloquialism, in phrases you hear all the time, in casual, muttered words between friends that don’t even really need to speak to communicate, spluttering, exasperated words that make no sense until you realise the emotion they’re encased in give you all the information you need. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve driven home from a party, early, depressed, alone, isolated – straining my voice singing along to “I’M SUCH A PIECE OF SHIT” in ‘’91, Your House’.
Kinda like how Taylor Swift created a world around her characters Betty, Inez, James et al with folklore, Drag It Down On You is a world in and of itself – made less of explicit beginnings, middles and ends, but crystal-clear, electric moments. It’s an album of the most moving moments; a dark, raining night, a car parked haphazardly on the side of the road and a figure hunched over the wheel, an arm loosely holding a phone to their ear. Two figures sitting on the end of a bed at a house party, with one wrapping a singular strand of hair around the others’ finger until it turns red. A shocked, loving figure breathing: “Oh my God, Tom, what have you done?”
Of course, there’s a lot of heavy-hitting lines in this album, and I think about them all the time.
I think you might’ve saved my life. Oh, that’s sweet. It’s late. I’m pretty tired.
Miss your boyfriend, you’re in love. I’ll die for all the putrid things I’ve done. I am your twenty years’ bad luck.
See that tree outside? That’s my mother’s flaming neck. And I don’t give a shit, you can hang me from it.
I have learnt so much about framing everyday moments from this album. It’s something I have actively embraced in my writing since first listening in 2016 and still do to this day. I teach it in songwriting classes.
My song ‘S.M.F.Y.’ is almost purely an exercise in this – it’s a literal list of moments I thought were worth remembering and that I endeavoured to frame, to celebrate, the way Ceres does all throughout Drag It Down On You. I have never mastered it the way they have, but pursuing the challenge is rewarding.
I haven’t even spoken about the emotional comfort I’ve found within Drag It Down On You. It’s something I struggle to explain, so I’ve chosen to focus more on how special the writing is on this record. But as someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, this album has been there for me in moments when I have felt very, very, very alone.
If, by any chance, anyone from Ceres is reading this, I would love to thank you for this album. In writing, for posterity. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to properly express how special and how important this album is to me.
I’ve listened to it so many times now – surely hundreds of times by this point – I know every note, every strum, every word, and I love it today as dearly as I did in 2016.
Last night I drove back from rehearsal, alone, in my car, almost like normal. The sunset over my dash, over the flashing engine light. I put on Drag It Down On You and thought about writing this letter, screaming all the way home.
Eilish Gilligan’s new EP, ‘First One To Leave The Party’, is out right now. Do something nice for yourself and listen to it.