In Rotation: Nothing Happens by Wallows

In Rotation: Nothing Happens by Wallows

Just over 2 weeks ago, indie/alternative rock trio Wallows released a brand new single called “Your Apartment,” just under 2 years after the release of their sophomore album, Tell Me That It’s Over. This track led fans to believe that they are soon to be announcing the release of their third album, which could be coming any day. While I listen to them quite often, this new song has caused me to play all of their music 24/7 since its release. The band is constantly experimenting with new sounds, but somehow always makes it sound so cohesive. Their lyrics are sometimes plain and straightforward but most of the time are extremely creative and interesting, allowing for tons of fun when analyzing. So, let’s get into the breakdown–


Only Friend

Treacherous Doctor


Are You Bored Yet? (feat. Clairo)


Ice Cold Pool

Worlds Apart

What You Like

Remember When

I’m Full

Do Not Wait


1. Only Friend 

Synopsis– The opening track of Wallows’ debut album focuses on a loss of innocence and period of uncertainty in one’s life as they move from being a teenager to their adult years. Fittingly, it lines up with the growth of the band as they were leaving the era of their very first EP and beginning a new, more mature one with this album. Throughout this song, the speaker is faced with a feeling of isolation and is unsure how to go about all of the changes in his life. In addition to this, he feels that his relationships are withering and are unable to be held up because of all that is going on. 

Lyric Pullouts– 

Weathered and faded

Who feels alone in the world? 

You do

Too complicated

It’s not the same anymore (Verse 1)

The speaker is reflecting on their childhood and how growing up and leaving their teenage years behind for their new adult life is something that is scary and depicts how the unknown brings forth a lot of worry and anxiety. The speaker sings of the complications that are going to come from this maturity and how he does not want to be responsible for all of these new roles and duties. Once crossed over to adulthood, the speaker feels alone and isolated, unsure of how to go about the burden of no longer being a child. He does not want to leave behind his past and memories and turns to his “only friend” for help and comfort in this trying time.

Pick up the pieces

Finding a place in the world to be

Too many reasons

To keep an ear at the door for me (Chorus)

Towards the end of the song, the speaker comes to a realization that this is life and he will have to deal with it no matter if he likes it or not. He is trying to search for his identity and find a stable role in his life as an adult, but is now newly optimistic about the future and is actually trying to move forward in bravery instead of wallowing in his upsetting emotions. Furthermore, in this time of emotional hardship, he feels as though the relationship that he has with the subject, his “only friend” is fading and the two of them are growing apart due to the changes in each of their lives, which makes for even more sadness and uncertainty to come about.

The Band’s Commentary– When talking about how quick it was to write the song, Braeden commented, “That song is just literally two songs that Dylan and I came up with at different times. I came up with the music […] and Dylan took a melody from another one of his songs and added that and it was done.” (via Melodic Magazine)

2. Treacherous Doctor 

Synopsis– This song follows the previous in continuing the theme of feeling alone and distanced in scenarios where you wish to be anything other than. It covers the insecurities and struggles of someone who is growing up, both with themselves and with other people. This sense of loneliness and worry carries into the speaker’s relationships and makes him question whether he should be giving his trust to others. The speaker is dealing with his overwhelming emotions and seems to be anxious over almost everything surrounding him. 

Lyric Pullouts– 

“Could I trust you with my thoughts

Or would you use them all against me

Can you replace my eyes for yours

And see what I really look like” (Verse 1)

Here the speaker expresses his unsureness of if he can confide in anyone else because of all that is going on in his life at this point in time. He doesn’t know whether or not it is worth it to open up and share his secrets with someone new because they could ultimately turn around and backstab him with those same things that he said, which weakens his ability to trust practically anyone. He also is unaware of if they would tell him the truth about himself. Being aware that he wants and needs to change is something evident through the lyrics, but he doesn’t know if he can trust another person to be honest about what he needs to do in order to change, or if they are going to be too concerned with his feelings and just say what they think he wants to hear.

You grow up, gone

So what’s the point of connecting to anyone?

Is a relationship bought or is it won? (Verse 2)

Are the things I think are important

Simply just distractions from death? (Chorus 2)

This is a beginning stage of life crisis that occurs in almost everyone’s life. The thought of what the point of life really is if everything just seems so hard is something that keeps the speaker up at night. He ponders about death and his belief of how all the things that he does each and every day are just there to hold the time until his inevitable death. In addition to this, he thinks about aging and how if people are constantly changing, why are relationships even important to create and keep in tact? He seems to feel that they are just a rite of passage and there’s no real reason for fulfilling these roles in life.

The Band’s Commentary– When talking about the making of the song, the band said, “The original idea to ‘Treacherous Doctor’ was written in Cole’s bedroom at USC after we heard a track called ‘Kim,’ by our good friends Joy Again. The riff came out immediately, and the rest of the arrangement happened after Braeden just started drumming for three minutes on GarageBand and formed the song off that.” (via Clash Music) 

3. Sidelines 

Synopsis– The second single from this album tackles the idea of watching a person who you were previously in a relationship with, yet still are deeply in love with, move on from you and start a new relationship with someone new. There is an obvious distance felt between the two partners prior to their breakup, yet only one of them actually wants to try and fix their struggles so that they can remain together. Despite their time coming to an end, even the mere thought of being an outside observer of the subject’s new relationship leaves the speaker with many upsetting emotions. 

Lyric Pullouts– 

“I see you loving on the sidelines

I think about it at the wrong times…

…(I don’t wanna know)

Who you’ll be taking with you tonight” (Chorus) 

The speaker is watching his ex-partner fall in love with someone new from an outsider view. It hurts him to see because he still holds so much love for her and it seems that their breakup was one that wasn’t easy to get through. The thought of seeing her with someone new lingers in his mind, and it comes up at the worst times possible, likely when he is already upset. In addition to this, he also is troubled with seeing who her new lover is, this forces him to feel a newfound sense of insecurity about why this new person was the “better choice” over him.

“We’re living in denial

But we can change this

And I drove all night until I started to cry

All because I saw a world without you and I

Don’t let this conversation die” (Verse 2)

He feels like the two of them are not actually addressing their thoughts or feelings. He believes that by having a better sense of communication, they can rekindle their relationship and strengthen it back to something healthy for the both of them. Thinking of his life without her makes him increasingly upset, so he will do anything to get it back on his feet. He doesn’t want their time to run out but is unsure of how to go about it if she won’t put in the same effort.

The Band’s Commentary– On the inspiration behind this track, Braeden mentioned, “This track was written from the perspective of breaking up with someone and watching them fall for someone else. Musically, I remember coming up with the guitar riff while drawing inspiration from Tyler, The Creator’s Flower Boy album and pulling ideas from another unused song idea of ours to finish it off.” (via Clash Music)

4. Are You Bored Yet? (feat. Clairo) 

Synopsis– This track is the lead single for the album as well as the band’s first feature on a song. It comes from the scenario of a relationship where one partner is faced with an immense amount of anxiety about what is going to come of the future of their relationship together while the other partner is sure that everything will work out between them. The main speaker fears that his partner is getting bored with their relationship and they are ready to move on, but that is actually the opposite of the thoughts of his partner. 

Lyric Pullouts– 

‘Cause we could stay at home or watch the sunset

But I can’t help from asking, “Are you bored yet?”

And if you’re feeling lonely, you should tell me

Before this ends up as another memory (Chorus)

The speaker is trying to keep his relationship fresh and exciting by offering new activities to do, whether it be mundane or cliché, however he is stuck feeling like his partner is getting tired of him and their relationship. He wants them to know that he won’t be upset or frustrated if they do, but he’d rather know so that they can figure it out together to keep things going strong. It seems that his worst fear is that their relationship is going to end because of this and he doesn’t want it to become something that he just remembers rather than something that he is living.

“Feels like I’ve known you my whole life

I can see right through your lies

I don’t know where we’re going

But I’d like to be by your side (Verse 2)

These lines come from the point of view of the subject, the speaker’s partner. She is reassuring him that things will work out and they will be able to get through these hardships and come out even stronger than before. To her, the speaker is someone that feels extremely familiar, despite how little the amount of the time they’ve been together has been, and even though he tries to act as though he is not worried, she can tell that he is. However, she is apt in reassuring him that even though they aren’t completely sure of their future, she knows that she wants it to be together.

The Band’s Commentary– In an interview about the song, Cole stated, “When I wrote these lyrics, I imagined a couple laying in bed getting ready to fall asleep, and one of them is like, ‘What’s wrong?’ Other person is thinking and they don’t really know what to say. And, to me, they do know what they want to say but they’re just going to lie until… Just kind of shove those emotions, the general emotions of the feeling of the song, way deep down because they don’t want to cause problems, and they’re just confused.” (via Genius Lyrics)

5. Scrawny 

Synopsis– While recording other songs for the album, the band came up with the idea for “Scrawny,” a track that they said came about because they wanted a light-hearted and funny feel amongst the sadder songs that they’d recorded, thus making it one of the newer tracks of Nothing Happens. This adds to the common theme across the album of a fear of change and finding one’s place in the world. Throughout the song, the speaker is constantly unsure of if what he’s doing and who he is is worthy of life and contemplates how he feels that he should initiate some kind of change in his life. 

Lyric Pullouts– 

Used to be level with all my friends

Still wear the same shoes I did back then

I don’t think they’ve ever been untied

I can’t regret the things I don’t try

I’d switch it up, but I don’t like change (Verse 1)

The speaker feels like he used to be on par with his peers but now sees that they have somewhat matured while he’s stayed in the same position for the same time. The idea of him “wearing the same shoes” conveys the message that he has been unable to see things from other people’s perspectives (stepping in someone else’s shoes). In addition to this, he mentions that that’s something he’s never been able to do (hence why his shoes have never “been untied”). Thinking about this, though, makes him feel like he should attempt to because his life seems to be boring and unexciting, yet he states that he is not a fan of change, and therefore won’t ever go forward with doing such things.

I’ve been sleeping with the light on

I tend to freak myself out

Will you come a little closer now” (Pre-Chorus)

“Sleeping with the light on” is something that tends to be done mainly by children, mostly because they are afraid of the dark and things that are hiding in it. By saying this, the speaker is trying to express the message that he’d rather sleep with the light on, eliminating any chance for there to be things that scare him, then by freaking himself out over things that have yet to happen. This also could be his way of conveying that he doesn’t want to fall asleep because the act of doing so forces him to think about things that are scary to him. He asks for the subject to “come closer” to him because he feels safer with them and knows that they can take his worries away.

The Band’s Commentary– When talking about the process of making this track, Dylan said, “There was a lot of introspective moments on the album, and that’s cool to us and everything, but we were like, ‘We need something light – something that is borderline funny, just a moment on the album to make people smile.’ This sort of naturally came out. We started writing it while we were in the studio and wrote it really quickly in a couple of days, and then went back in and put it together with John Congleton [the producer on the song].” (via Zane Lowe)

6. Ice Cold Pool 

Synopsis– Keeping in sync with the previous themes of aging and loss of innocence, as well as troubles in failing relationships, this track depicts how growing up and out of one’s youth can bring forth a lot of unwanted feelings and memories. However, throughout the song, the speaker tries to constantly reiterate that optimism should be kept up and despite how bad things can and will get, they will always improve. Although it may seem warranted for one to hold on to a love that they believed was strong, the pain is never worth what improvements could possibly come. 

Lyric Pullouts– 

“The plant inside that never seemed to die

You cut it down before the leaves were brown

The gate was closed, we know that we’re too old

The pool is cold, the pool is cold” (Bridge) 

This plant serves as a symbol for the speaker’s love for the subject. It can never die, just as the speaker’s love is undying. Unfortunately, though, the subject did not take this into consideration and despite knowing that his love was still thriving, she ended things between them, much before his love could have ever faded out. He is aware that there is really no room for their love to be rekindled (the gates being closed), but he can’t help but to want the feeling of the pain (the ice cold pool) if that means that their spark will be reignited.

“It’s not a crime if you take what’s given

It’s just a crime if you’re payin’ for it

What’s the fun if you know what’s comin’?

I don’t want to escape this feeling” (Chorus)

The speaker wants to get the point across that it’s not such a bad thing for the subject (or listeners?) to go for what you want, especially if it’s offered to you. The only real downside if you are the one who is begging and pleading and losing things all in return for what it is that you want. In addition to this, he advises to expect and appreciate surprises and not worry over change because that will just make things worse. He wants to continue to enjoy living in the moment because the feeling he has is one that cannot be replaced.

The Band’s Commentary– Braeden stated, “That one has been around for a second, like the guitar lick in the beginning, that was just an idea I came up with awhile ago. It was one of those songs that was insanely hard to write. There’d be years that would go by without that song progressing. I didn’t know what pieces it should have, I didn’t know where it should go, what the lyrics should be about, what the melody should be. But I always liked the guitar part at the beginning. That was all that was around for like two years. I think I was overthinking the writing process of it. I thought it would be nice to put in a bunch of different parts that I’d written, just through them in together like a collage. That’s basically what that song is. Three or four random song ideas that we put in the one.” (via Genius Lyrics) 

7. Worlds Apart 

Synopsis– After reflecting on a past relationship, the speaker comes to terms with the reason that things were unable to last. He is constantly thinking about memories that he has of them together and has realized that they were just way too different to be good together. Despite this, he still wishes that they could have been together because of how much he loves her. But he has come to the understanding that while their time with one another was well spent, they were not made for each other, and it was better that things ended when they did to cause as little pain as possible. 

Lyric Pullouts– 

Will anything change?

It’s stuck on replay

Our room is now vacant

The beds are well made (Chorus 1)

The speaker is stuck reflecting on this past relationship and wishing for something to change so that they can go back to the way things once were. The thought of their time together plagues his mind and he is unable to stop thinking of her and their memories together. Their room together, that is likely now his, is completely abandoned and feels extremely empty without her there. It is probable that even the idea of her no longer being there makes him not even want to remain in the presence of the place that they once shared.

“Do I exist in your heart?

Or did the ship sail away while I was in the gift shop?

You swim with the sharks

And I know we’re worlds apart” (Verse 2)

It is obvious through these lines that there is a vast difference between the two of them, which is likely why their relationship didn’t work out. While on a trip together, the speaker was busy searching for souvenirs to commemorate their visit, something that is mundane and not very exciting, while his partner was off in the ocean swimming with sharks, which is quite dangerous and extremely adventurous. Putting this situation into words just expresses the perspective of how completely different they truly are, and the speaker has now realized this. He can’t figure out, though, if she still loves him despite their differences, but either way knows that they cannot last.

The Band’s Commentary– The band told an interviewer, “This was just an acoustic idea that Braeden had lying around. When we played it for our producer John Congleton, we decided to totally transform it. John had the idea to make the drums feel really big and in their own world and building the track one step at a time. When we got to the ended of the song we all felt like it was missing another section, so that last coda is literally just the first thing Braeden played. John had the idea of having the chaotic drums come in and it was Dylan’s idea to make those drums be the same ones that open ‘What You Like.'” (via Clash Music)

8. What You Like 

Synopsis– While this track falls into the common theme of a relationship that isn’t quite steady, the speaker realizes that this issue is mostly his fault. He knows that he loves his partner but with all of the changes and struggles he is facing it is hard for him to put all of his time and effort into the relationship. He realizes that this is something that he needs to get a grasp on so that things do not go awry between them because he does want to be with her. 

Lyric Pullouts– 

“We’re one in the same

Thinking the world’s too easy

How has it changed?

Did it end up above me?” (Verse 1)

At the start of the relationship, both partners were very similar, basking in the same naïvety as each other. They are both trying to find their place in the world and adapt to it being ever-changing. Just when they feel like they have overcome it and they are finally fitting into their place, the world just changes and takes control of their lives again. Referring to them as “one in the same” may be a precursor to their relationship beginning to fail as it is extremely difficult to hold a healthy relationship with someone that you are the “same” as.

And all the pieces fall

When you smile back at me

Am I the cause

Or am I a poster child for pity?” (Verse 2)

The subject is constantly on the mind of the speaker and it seems like he does everything to make her happy. The simplest of things, even a mere smile, makes him head over heels for her, moreso than he already is. Unfortunately, though, he is unsure of whether or not she feels the same way about him. As much as he wants her to hold the same feelings for him, he’s scared that he is only serving the purpose of a source of validation, not genuine affection.

The Band’s Commentary– When speaking about how this is the oldest track on Nothing Happens, the band said, “‘What You Like’ is a song that Dylan actually wrote a few years ago at this point, and the song surprisingly hasn’t even changed that much over time. The arrangement has always been almost identical, a lot of the same lyrics stuck, etc. We always knew that the song had potential to be something cool, and we figured Nothing Happens would be the best place to have it exist. So now finally, here it is.” (via Clash Music)

9. Remember When 

Synopsis– The speaker reminisces on a past love through the duration of this song. He conveys the pain that he holds by not having the subject in his life and knows that if given the chance, he’d take anything to have her back. He is devastated that all he has left of her are these memories that they share, and not her actual presence. He longs for her and is constantly met with a feeling of emptiness without her. It is evident that he does not want to feel or think this way, but he can’t help it when it comes to someone that he loves so much. 

Lyric Pullouts– 

Thought I saw your shadow under the door

Just a trick of the light I’ve seen before

I can never tell what’s real anymore

Anymore, anymore (Verse 1)

The speaker wants his ex back in his life and continues to see her any and everywhere he goes. He knows it’s not real but can’t help to hold the optimism that she will reenter his life, especially when he least expects it. He wants to force himself to solely think about what is real, that she isn’t going to come back, but he truly wants to believe that she will. The fact that he still thinks that she will come back shows that his love for her is still undying and likely isn’t going anywhere until he can get over his pain.

All the places I return to

All the faces that remind you (Bridge)

I can still see you at the place I know when I close my eyes

Do you remember when we felt like the only two alive?” (Chorus 2) 

He continues to go back to places where he has memories with her, they make him think of her and allows for him to still feel her presence. He hopes that she often sees him in the faces of strangers just as he does when he sees other people. All that seems to be on his mind is her and whenever he is not living in the present, he is stuck thinking about her and all of the memories that they have together. He doesn’t want those good times to fade and especially doesn’t want the thought of them to become sour so he wishes that she also thinks about him this way.

The Band’s Commentary– Cole stated, “‘Remember When’ had been written for a super long time, if you look at old setlists of ours when we were kids, under different band names, this song actually, we used to play it all the time. It was called ‘Tree Hugger’ – terrible title. When we were recording, it came back around because we needed a few more songs to deliver to the label, we just took a long shot, shot in the dark and showed the riff, to John. We thought it was super lame but John kept telling us, ‘Well I’m a producer, it’s my job to try and attempt to make this cool with you guys.'” (via Genius Lyrics)

10. I’m Full 

Synopsis– On the penultimate track, the speaker expresses his tendency to turn towards negative things in order to help get over his pain. He touches on substance use and understands that it’s something he shouldn’t be doing, but feels like there’s nothing that will cure, in a sense, him or his emotions. This song fits in line with the ever-present themes of going through troubling times in a relationship, unsure of how it will play out, and feeling like losing oneself. 

Lyric Pullouts– 

Tell me something, tell me what you like

Don’t remind me that there’s no one in sight

That you’re my only friend

You’re at it again” (Verse 1)

The speaker comes back to lyrics said in previous tracks on the album such as “What You Like” and “Only Friend,” suggesting that all of the songs are connected by the same situation. In these lines he feels like he is talking to someone about his emotions and the weight of what is happening but is really only talking to himself, which he does not want to be reminded of. In addition to that, he does not want to be reminded of all that this person means to him because it is more likely than not that he knows things aren’t going too well and will ultimately end.

So, who’s it gonna be, you or me, when we’re done?

If you get to know me at all, will you run?

I can’t even think anymore

And I’m tired of the disadvantage” (Bridge)

He wants to know who is going to be the person coming out of this relationship stronger and who is going to be the one in pain, a thought that he already has an idea of the answer to, as he’s expressed throughout the song. He is nervous that once this person uncovers his secrets and begins to know more about him, he will not live up to their expectations and they will wind up leaving. His “disadvantage” of feeling different and unloveable forces him to constantly be nervous to open up to new people with the fear that they will no longer like him.

The Band’s Commentary– The band stated, “‘I’m Full’ is a song that’s been around since we were much younger. We actually released a version under one of our old band name. Last year, we toured with only a few songs out and this track was one that we would play live in order to fill out the set with some big energy. We kept it around for the album sessions and worked on this new version of it with our producer John. The song is about being stuck with bad habits and the difficulties of convincing yourself to change and move forward.” (via Clash Music)

11. Do Not Wait 

Synopsis– One thing I’ve always loved about Wallows is how their albums never have title tracks yet on the final song of each album, there is a lyric sung at least once that calls back to the name of the album (which you’ll see in the lines of the bridge) and I find that so interesting. This track acts as a closer to the entire story that is the album of Nothing Happens. It revisits all of the themes that have been brought up throughout the album, such as loss (in more ways than one), problems in relationships, and just overall struggles that come from life. However, the song ends at a resolution, coming to terms with the fact that there is going to be pain in our lives that we cannot outrun, and we should do the best we can to move through it instead of wallowing

Lyric Pullouts– 

All the things you don’t wanna let go

You wanna look back on and recall

All the times that feel like everything

When nothing really happens at all (Verse 2)

Throughout the record, the speaker of every song has always had trouble with letting go of things that have brought him joy. He reflects on all of his memories and wishes that they were available to relive when they never will be. He comes to terms with the fact that memories, both good and bad, are there to serve as things that people can look back on and either be glad that it happened or glad that it’s over. In these lines, he is also coming back to the themes of aging and leaving childhood, but this time it is optimistic. He thinks over his painful memories and conveys how in the moment it might’ve felt like his world was ending, but now that time has passed, he realizes that it truly wasn’t that big of a deal and his life still has gone on.

Your parents will eventually separate

(Nothing happens)

Dad’s stuff in trash bags and in the pool

(Nothing happens)

Oh guess what? You have a sister now (Bridge)

Coming back to what I said in the synopsis of this song, we can see the band utilizing the title of the album as a way to say that some of the things that have happened in his life have seemed extremely huge at the time, but in the grand scheme of things, “nothing happens,” it’s over and he’s gotten through it. He recalls memories that caused a number of unwanted emotions to fly, such as his parents getting divorced and both remarrying and beginning new families. While it was really hard for him to go through as it was happening, now that he’s past it, he understands that these actions were for the best and not as upsetting as it once seemed.

The Band’s Commentary– Dylan detailed the process of writing this song by saying, “I wanted it to be the end of the book, if ‘Nothing Happens’ were a book, like the final chapter in the right way. But also, I wanted it to get to a deeply personal place in a way that we haven’t gotten to in such an outright way on our songs before. For the talking bits, I wrote out thirty different lines that I could say and I put ideas together that made sense to me. It starts off with negatives, and then in the back half of it when I’m talking again there are positive responses. It was the only time I’ve gone into a vocal booth and not told them [Braeden and Cole] what I was going to say. I was really nervous about it. I’m so, so proud of that song. I really am.” (via Coupe De Main)


This record is one that is a rollercoaster of emotions. From being hopeful and intriguing, to down-right upsetting and pessimistic, this album is sure to keep listeners on their toes, unsure of what to expect next. A lot of the songs are ones that have been written over the course of many years, from when the band were all just teenage boys to being in their 20s when it was finally released. The experimental sounds and lyrics heard throughout the record are extremely fun and interesting, and definitely work for the audiences that the album is geared towards. And finally–


1. Remember When

2. What You Like

3. Are You Bored Yet? (feat. Clairo)

4. Scrawny

5. Sidelines

6. Do Not Wait

7. Treacherous Doctor

8. Only Friend

9. I’m Full

10. Worlds Apart

11. Ice Cold Pool





Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Ewing's Voice Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *