"Back From Kathmandu" as written by and Damian Kulash....
In the dream you were someone different
You and everyone else all at once
You were beautiful, you were beautiful
In the dream you were just like you are

You loved everyone like a sovereign
Half magnanimous, half unimpressed
And I was talkin' too much, and I was tryin' too hard
In the dream it was just like it is

Everything was so simple
Things are and they always will be
Oh you are the answer to the question that is me
Yeah in the dream it was just like it is

We were captive there in a prison
Where everyone was guilty by mistake
It was infinite, It was infinite
In the dream it was just like it is

And I, I asked, is that good for you
You said "no probably not
But everybody needs to get through the night
And love is all we've got

Yeah in the dream it was just like it is
In the dream it was just like it is

In the dream you were someone different
You and everyone else all at once
You were beautiful, you were beautiful
In the dream you were just like you are


Lyrics submitted by BlakeDeCarvalho, edited by magnoliamaggiemag

"Back from Kathmandu" as written by Damian Kulash

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Back From Kathmandu song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentFirst I gotta say this is one of my favorites by far.

    My take on the song isn't totally clear buuuut here it goes

    Alright soooo, in the first verse he had a dream about a girl who he doesn't recognize, and everyone else in the dream is a stranger as well. He says the girl is beautiful, then he seems to wake up and realize that it's a girl he likes/loves (?) and says that she's the same in the dream as she is in real life (beautiful).

    In the second verse he goes on about the dream, and how she loved everyone "like a sovereign," meaning she must have appeared very friendly, etc., but then he says "half magnanimous, half unimpressed," which means she really wasn't all that impressed with the people she "loved like a sovereign." (?) When he says "I was talking too much, I was trying too hard," he is explaining how he was trying too hard to impress her, when really he wouldn't have to do much at all to impress this girl. And then once again, he realizes the dream is just like it is in real life.

    I don't have much else about the rest of the song... Although, one of my favorite lines is "you are the answer to the question that is me," quite obviously meaning she and him are meant to be.

    So that's my input on some of the song. The question marks are things that others might not understand, but since it's coming out of my head, I know what I mean. I just can't exactly say it right, haha.

    masonwilliamhatchmanon January 12, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentStill my favorite from the album! And it's even more incredible performed live. God I love this band.
    Christa426on April 22, 2010   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationStephanie: I *think* that the relationship suggestions are due to misleading vocabulary -- 'you', 'beautiful', 'love' -- suggesting that he is talking to a lover. It's possible that 'Back from Kathmandu' means that he is returning from a distant city back to his lover, but this is rather indirect for OK Go. I mean, if you look at how they use song titles, it's often a bit of the first line of the lyrics or part of the chorus which gets reflected in the title.

    I would suggest that there was a literal trip to Kathmandu which was 'like a dream' (hence the title comes directly from the repeated chorus 'in the dream it was just like it is'). This trip seems to have opened up the singer's perspective on a whole lot of topics. Kathmandu is of course the big-city capital of Nepal, and if you've never been there, visiting Nepal is sort of a bizarre time-machine experience: you return to this simpler, medieval life where people have next to nothing. When someone wants to construct a modern bridge with steel cables, human beings carry them by foot, three or four people coiling this massive heavy thing around all of them, then hiking to wherever it needs to go. Life is slow and taken as needed; the kids build their own balls out of reeds and grass because they haven't got anything else to ply with. It looks like many of the verses talk quite a bit about Buddhism.

    If that is the organizing metaphor, then here's what these verses mean:

    1. "In the dream you were someone different, you and everyone else all at once. You were beautiful, you were beautiful: in the dream you were just like you are."

    I think this refers to the raw beauty of *authenticity* -- everyone acted 'as they truly are' in Nepal, and this was beautiful.

    2. "You loved everyone like a sovereign -- half magnanimous, half unimpressed. And I was talking too much; I was trying too hard: in the dream it was just like it is."

    I think this refers to the Buddhist faith in particular, which focuses on having a compassion for other living beings, eliminating striving, meditating in silence. Buddhist love isn't this romantic ideal, but it's about caring deeply for people with this base compassion. So he's commenting on how he feels utterly struck by inferior, because he talks too much, he tries to be something he's not, and here he sees how we actually are, how to be compassionate to other living beings.

    3. "Everything was so simple: things are how they always will be. You are the answer to the question that is me: in the dream it was just like it is."

    I think this is the 'time-travelling' experience of Nepal, and identifying a yearning to go back there, that he has found out something profound about his own potential while there. But it might also be emphasizing some less-Buddhist transcendental belief: fatalism and the some feeling of finding yourself in others.

    4. "We were captive in, in a prison, where everyone was guilty by mistake. And it was infinite, it was infinite: In the dream it was just like it is."

    I think this builds on the Buddhism theme -- the prison is one of trying too hard, of being too attached, and everyone is born to this by mistake in Buddhism. The temptation to get attached to things becomes infinitely consuming, or so. I'm not entirely sure, but I think it's a very apt description of what's called 'samsara', the cycle of tedium, attachment, and suffering, which Buddhism says you must reject in order to gain enlightenment.

    5. "And I asked if love could free us, you said, 'no, probably not -- but everybody needs to get through the night, and love is all we got.' In the dream it was just like it is."

    I think this is a question that he actually asked a Buddhist monk, and a summary of the response, because it certainly sounds like it. If it's so important to be compassionate, does that mean that love frees us from attachment and samsara and struggle? No, probably not: love is another attachment, as risky as the other ones, and if you get stuck in love you can end up similarly needy and suffering because of it, just as with any other addiction. But, it's still important, because compassion is crucial to living a good life: it's the only resource we have for getting through the day.
    Drostieon June 10, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is my favorite song from the new album so far! So beautiful. I've been listening to it on repeat for quite some time :)
    Christa426on December 16, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentCorrection:

    And I, I asked is love could free us, and you said "No, probably not, but everybody needs to get through the night, and love is all we got."
    Christa426on January 12, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSorta straight foward interpatation for me, but I just think it's about him having a dream about his relationship being perfect. But in all reality, his dream is true. Hence the line,"You were beautiful, you were beautiful. In the dream you were just like you are." Not sure what the ending is about though. "In the dream you were someone different." Maybe since it's at the end of the song, it means in the end nothing worked out? Not sure, that's my inturpratation though(:
    TheBananaFaceon April 05, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAnyone have any idea as to the meaning of the verse talking about being in prison, and everyone being guilty by mistake???
    Stephanie0413on November 10, 2010   Link
  • 0
    My OpinionI see this song in a very simple manner.

    It's about a man who fell in love and/or was in a relationship.He sees his girlfriend as someone different, from the dream which I thought is the relationship. When you're in love, you see your love as this beautiful magnificent being, the songwriter (Damian) saw this but was awaken from the "dream" hence the term, "You were beautiful."

    The second part was mainly describing the girl, saying she seemed to loved everyone, yet also be uncaring or unimpressed to some, a trait the songwriter greatly value. Then it moves to how the songwriter acted during the relationship, trying to hand and talking too much, this may be the reason the relationship ended.

    The third part is about how she meant to the songwriter. How great the relationship was and how she is the answer to him. Half of this part isn't on past tense, which may mean that he still holds some feeling about her.

    The fourth and fifth part, in my opinion, may be about the later part of the relationship. He may feel that he doesn't deserve being with her and that the relationship was a mistake, as how an inmate who is in a prison by mistake. Then he asks the girl about considering the relationship and she answers saying love is all we got and that we should still believe in it.

    This is my opinion of this song, there are some parts that may be wrong, and I can't really decipher what the title really means. But there are no misinterpretations really. Music is interpreted by the listeners. It will always be different depending on how each and every one of us sees it. Whether it is a simple song about love, or a deeply arranged metaphor about life. Music is all about how wee see it. It's half of the fun really, dechipering the lyrics and finding out what it means to us. That's mainly the reason musicians don't directly tell us what the song is about in my opinion, and how the can arrange it in such a way that it can be interpreted in many ways.
    GregAddisonon June 03, 2012   Link

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