Many people have asked me over the years for the story behind our song “White Flag” – a song that in many ways has become the anthem for Destroy Nate Allen.
A few days into my first US tour in 2007 (I was still touring solo at the time) I wrote White Flag. The previous week I had contracted a severe case of pneumonia – so success for me was being redefined as playing five songs without puking. On the day I wrote White Flag, I was on my way to play a house show in the living room of the band Larry and His Flask in Redmond, Oregon. I arrived in bad shape. That night I played with a back brace on, singing through a sound system to five people. Despite good friends in the room, the show stands out as one the lowest points ever on tour. After the show I showed my new song White Flag to my friend Samuel Thomas.
White Flag has taken on many forms since it was written. Some nights it’s a celebration of diversity and equality, other days it’s an anthem for resistance… when circumstances are beyond control, often it becomes a celebration of surrender (the White Flag) and maximum effort (the Black Flag) against the odds. Its vague nature has led Tessa to ask me its meaning dozens of times…I like this because it allows the song to take on a more universal appeal.
The behind the music on White Flag would include the story of my friend Krispen’s song White Flag. His tune was about not wanting to travel to China with his parents as a teenager. I have said many times I took the idea for White Flag from him – which I truly did in concept. For me the surrender was that I couldn’t change my health, my humanity, sometimes my shows – anyone who has toured knows that some nights just do not work out as expected.
The Black Flag portion of the song is pretty straight forward. Much has been written of black flags and the band Black Flag over the years. I read Henry Rollins’ Get In The Van – shortly before writing the song – so I’m sure the fact that I was touring in a 1970’s Ford Econoline – with green shag carpet – would not have been lost on me. I was truly trying to Jam Econo for gas money from town to town.
White Flag is my anthem of saying “Ok. If this is what tonight will be, then let me be present and give my maximum effort.”
The bridge of the song boldly declares “May all fear be forgotten – as the memories fade away!” – this more than any other line is a charge to truly grieve our losses and to move past the places in life that hold us up.
White Flag (2007) Chords: A D E
If it’s true that this would happen before even time began
Then I guess I’ll just surrender because I’m doing all I can
Yes in vain I’ve risen early just to stumble home too late
Ignoring all the factors that determine my fate
And I’m gonna raise the white flag
I’m gonna raise the black flag too
I’m gonna raise the white flag
And sing this song for you
You see these words they are not weapons
But these streets brew honesty
We’re all soldiers a journey
We’re all pilgrims you and me
So may all fear be forgotten as the memories fade away
May the whole world join us in this song as we dance on yesterday