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Notes on Three Sins

I first started thinking about the lyrics that would become Three Sins way back in 2006 when we were working on songs for Reservations. We ended up with too many songs and decided to divide them into two albums. Three Sins was going to be on the second album, but that album never materialised. We played Three Sins at live shows on our last tour, and when Pete and I regrouped in 2013 it was one of the first songs we wanted to look at again.  

Back then I was thinking a lot about what goes on in people’s minds that isn’t talked about; their primal urges, hidden desires and beliefs. I wanted to explore what makes some people act on these things, while others don’t. It seems incredible to me that what we are willing to do and how far we are willing to go is so dependent on what we tell ourselves. And that often, once a line has been crossed, there’s nowhere to go but forward – repeating and escalating the horror of that first act. 

I got thinking about how it would be to write a song from the point of view of one of these people – someone who we as a society have no sympathy for. I wasn’t interested in writing just another murder ballad, but something that might help me understand how people can slowly become ‘monsters’ who are capable of the most barbaric acts, without even realising it. 

At the time, there was a lot of talk about terrorism in the news, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were rolling on. The sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church was slowly coming out into the open, and the summer bushfires were tearing across our landscapes.  As I thought about it, I realised that the firebugs, the paedophile priests and the suicide bombers had a lot in common. They all inflicted untold suffering on completely random, innocent people for no other reason than to satisfy their own desires and beliefs. So what was originally going to be a song about an individual suddenly became a study of three. 

I started picking out a few chords on the guitar one night with these thoughts in my mind and soon the rolling melody fell into place. And as I got under the skin of the characters, the stories flowed out. I just wrote down what I saw through the eyes of the characters and by the end of the night the song was done. It’s not usually as easy as that… and I was surprised where it went, but sometimes a song carries you away and you have to just hold on for the ride.

Karl Smith