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And it starts...
Sometime around midnight
Or at least that's when
You lose yourself
For a minute or two
This intentionally ambiguous opening lyric sounds more like poetry than simple songwriting.
Before he was ever the frontman for the Airborne Toxic Event, singer Mike Jollett was a freelance writer (one of the noblest and most arduous professions, or so we've heard) and published pieces in the Los Angeles Times, Men's Health, and Filter. In fact, he was in the middle of writing a novel just before he formed the band, realizing later that he was writing songs instead of stories.
In the context of the song, which tells the story of the horror and heartbreak of running into your ex at a bar with someone new, the lines seem to begin the story. However, the video traces Jollett through a night of heartache and pain, locked in his apartment and flooded with memories of his ex.
Perhaps the "it" that starts around midnight isn't the actual experience of running into your ex, but rather the depressing daydream that enters your thoughts without warning when you're alone at night.
And the band plays some song
About forgetting yourself for a while
Another intriguing lyrical device, this time Jollett plays with the idea of a concept within a concept, in this case something we're going to call "meta-songwriting."
Even though this lyric seems simple enough, it actually invokes a complex idea. The prefix "meta" is a Greek word meaning "self" or "beyond," and refers to an abstraction drawn from another abstraction.
In other words, something that is "meta" describes itself. For instance, metacognition is learning about learning, or thinking about thought processes…and Jollett applies this concept to songwriting, which creates some deeper levels indeed.
The first verse is about "losing yourself for awhile" and this next is about a band within the scene playing a song about "forgetting yourself for awhile." So, basically a song about losing yourself appears in the actual context of another song about losing yourself, and that other "band" and "song" appear within a dream/memory sequence within the original song. Head hurting yet? Basically, this is a meta-song, a song about a song.
Cool stuff, eh?
Like feral waves to your mind
Yet another startling simile, this one even contains hints of an oxymoron.
Synonyms of "feral" are "wild," "untamed," and "savage," often used to describe stray pets that have gone back to their animal instincts.
So, what, exactly, are "feral waves"? We picture stormy seas and wild ocean waves knocking sailors off a boat. But real waves are actually quite uniform, with a steady wavelength and frequency, unless they are acted upon by an outside force. This is a great image for what is going on in our speaker's mind: an oxymoron of waves crashing on his brain in erratic patterns.
You just have to see her
And you know that she'll break you in two
This pretty much sums up getting dumped in just one sentence.
Our poor speaker is so heartbroken and desperate that he will do anything to see his ex, even though on some logical level he is well aware of just how bad she is for him and how even seeing her will probably destroy him.
A bit like the sad protagonist of T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock," his insecurity and heartbreak doom him from the start.