Phillinois’ “House Red” off the album Blue Haze has a way of surprising you. The beginning of the song seems like a polite, inquisitive folk tune infused with electronics, a mix between Breakout and Ben Folds. As Phil Gerigscott’s lyrics go on, or possibly, as another glass of house red is served, a slight chanting births something new in the tune.
every floorboard creak has been one of our four feet this week
sweet like honeydew melancholy
honey do what money don’t
The wooden floorboards are easy to imagine as two people walk gently along them, unable to avoid the inevitable creak. This could be Gerigscott symbolizing movement in life creating problems, or that he always feels like he is being heard or watched. The following lines tell us the creaking is both sweet and melancholy, an intriguing contradiction. We’re pulled next into the line that “honey do what money don’t,” possibly using “honey” to signify a friend, romantic interest, or the sweetness in life. The connection between the lyrics “money don’t” and “follow folly” creates another sentence within the lyrics, stating that money doesn’t come without good sense. We’re not sure of Gerigscott’s connection between floorboards and foolishness, though as the song continues and some chanting begins, things become a bit more clear.
mmm, and you never wanna leave
cause when you do, and you bump into another fool
you realize you lost what made you sympathize
Though the floorboards creak, the writer expresses that they doesn’t want to leave the space. If they meet another fool outside, they’ll lose their reason for sympathy (though we’re not sure if that’s towards others, or towards the self). Somewhat of another voice comes in almost as an encouraging response, saying:
you’re not a human unless you’re tested
get up, get out, stir up the silt
This response promotes getting out and being tested by life, considering it a part of the human experience. Though the floorboards may creak, this new energy and voice in the song believes that’s what life is supposed to be about. The voice goes on:
question the purity of your favorite quilt
I’ll make a guess while house arrested
house red, it’s on!
yeah, sink into pixel dust
and dream of lust half gone
The house red pours at the end, indicating that while there is imagery of a person at home with their favorite quilt, they must really be out at a restaurant or bar, having the house red, exploring and being a part of the movement of life.
Due to the quick turn of Phillinois’ electronics turning to the sound of video game chaos, the repeating “half gone” presents a new idea of winning or losing, possibly at life. Does the game represent the fear of going out onto the floorboards, or out to the bar for the house red? Is it the fear of loss, of foolishness, or of not having success? As the song fades along with its dual voices into the pixel dust, gaming with a favorite quilt into a dream, we’re left thinking the song will start again tomorrow, with the creak on the floorboards as the writer exits their room for a cup or morning coffee.