When Mikel Jollett set out to form a band in mid-2006, he was looking for one thing and one thing only: talent, and boy did he find it. The band's gorgeous sound can be attributed to the fact that each member has absolutely perfected their craft. There's Anna Bulbrook, who was classically trained as a violinist, taught herself the viola and piano, put away the violin for awhile, and then rediscovered it with the band. The violin alone gives The Airborne Toxic Event a sonic layer unlike much anything that's out there in indie rock right now. Then there's Steven Chen, who "did the whole Asian thing where you're forced to play piano, so I played from six to twelve. Then I asked my parents if I could get a guitar and they said no." However his parents relented and they eventually got him a guitar. He was originally recruited by band leader Mikel Jollett to play keyboards, but he was so good at guitar that playing lead became a perfect fit. Daren Taylor taught himself how to play the drums, modeling his style after The Cure, Ramones, and Smiths. Bassist Noah Harmon explains his background in an even funnier way: Noah:
"I haven't had much formal learning but I haven't done much else aside from play bass. When Mikel asked me to join the band, I said no." Mikel:
"That's not true. Noah has a degree in jazz." (Source
As far as "Sometime Around Midnight" is concerned, the bass, violin, guitar, and drums are all woven together by Jollett's voice: full of pathos and a power that does not seem to require a microphone to amplify it. While the guys over at Ultimate Guitar.com cannot seem to decide whether the song is written in C Major, G Major or D Major, the chord modulations are all the same, I-vi-IV with that minor sixth chord adding some depth to the piece. It is not, like so many other overly depressing and melancholy songs, in the key of d minor. The major I key gives it lift and vigor and the minor sixth chord (a rarer move than a ii or iii chord) reminds us that this is not a happy song without knocking us over the head with despair.
The volume rises and the song increases in power and scope as we get to the climax, where the woman leaves the bar in the lyrics. When he sings the line "And your friends say, 'What is it? You look like you've seen a ghost,'" Jollett jumps up a full octave and stays there for the remainder of the song, belting out the words with all his might and all his remaining energy. The repletion of "you just have to see her" at the end reinforces the anger-turned-obsession that has consumed the singer as the violin slowly modulates through the three main chords and the song winds to a close.