With a one minute and fifteen second instrumental intro, as well as a couple other instrumental breaks, “Keep Me Occupied” by Little Lungs is a guitar driven song. Starting with a simple guitar riff and building accompanying guitars, then drums, and then more guitar on top of it throughout the intro draws us into the song and leaves us anticipating more. The instrumentation is steady, interesting, and enticing, filling your headspace with rich musicality.
“Well I don’t know exactly where I go
when I leave my body for a week”
But as the lyrics start, the instrumentals unexpectedly drop away and become stripped back for a short stretch. This moment stood out to me because it gave me chills, piquing my interest to ensure I kept paying attention for similar moments later in the song. (Fun fact: when we get chills listening to music, it is typically at a part where our brain is surprised, like a key change, for example. When a song surprises us, dopamine is released in the brain–if you want to learn more about this, here is an interesting podcast).
Comprised of Leena Rhodes on vocals and guitar, Ethan Salem on guitar, Jordan Mercer on bass, and Erik Schwarzenberg covering drums and production, Little Lungs, a band based in Baltimore, does a great job of creating space for both the instrumentation and vocals to stand alone and then merge into the same space seamlessly.
“But I can’t wait to feel the fire escape on my feet
when I’m just fleeing
But I’m not”
Leena Rhodes, the vocalist for Little Lungs, sings of wanting to escape, paralleling our escape as listeners into the instrumental breaks. It seems that her escape is unrealized, though, which explains the lost feeling in the rest of the song, as well as the desperation to be kept occupied.
Coming back to the opening lyrics, “well I don’t know exactly where I go/when I leave my body for a week,” it is hard to say exactly what is being referenced. Perhaps substance use, mental illness, or the feeling of being adrift and going through the motions. Though nuanced, Rhodes conveys a sense of disorientation that she feels can only be remedied by staying busy.
“Just keep me occupied”
We are likely all familiar with the restless need to stay occupied, a tendency especially prevalent when we are trying to avoid being alone with our thoughts. Don’t slow down, and you don’t have to think. Don’t take breaks, and you won’t realize you’re tired. Rhodes wants to flee, “can’t wait” to feel the route of her escape underneath her. But it’s not her reality. Instead of dwelling on that, she begs herself, her partner, her friend, or even the world itself: “just keep me occupied.”