"Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" as written by and Aaron B. Dessner Matthew D. Berninger....
Leave your home
Change your name
Live alone
Eat your cake

Vanderlyle, crybaby, cry
Though the waters are risin'
Still no surprisin' you
Vanderlyle, crybaby, cry
Man its all been forgiven
Swans are a swimmin'
I'll explain everything to the geeks

All the very best of us
String ourselves up for love
All the very best of us
String ourselves up for love
All the very best of us
String ourselves up for love
All the very best of us
String ourselves up for love

Vanderlyle, crybaby, cry
Though the waters are risin'
Still no surprisin' you
Vanderlyle, crybaby, cry
Man its all been forgiven
Swans are a swimmin'
I'll explain everything to the geeks

Hangin' from chandeliers
Same small world
At your heels

All the very best of us
String ourselves up for love
All the very best of us
String ourselves up for love
All the very best of us
String ourselves up for love
All the very best of us
String ourselves up for love

Vanderlyle, crybaby, cry
Though the waters are risin'
Still no surprisin' you
Vanderlyle, crybaby, cry
Man its all been forgiven
Swans are a swimmin'
I'll explain everything to the geeks

I'll explain everything to the geeks
I'll explain everything to the geeks


Lyrics submitted by Nitro1515

"Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" as written by Matthew D. Berninger Aaron Dessner

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management

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Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks song meanings
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  • +13
    General CommentSo I found a nice little blurb about what Vanderlyle actually means:

    The song title is typical of the made-up names the National give to many of their songs. Frontman Matt Berninger told The Quietus: "Inventing, yeah. Like 'Squalor Victoria' — there's something in that word that sounds like something because every time you actually try to use real words to describe it, it doesn't sound like the thing you're talking about anyway. This character, Vanderlyle Crybaby — I can't tell you how long it took me to come up with the word 'Vanderlyle.' There's the Nirvana song, 'Pennyroyal Tea' — just the word 'pennyroyal' I loved, it sounded so great and it's just the name of a tea. I couldn't use that — maybe I should have, that would have saved some time — and so I started looking at the rhythm of the word, and the cadence. I probably have a book of a hundred different three syllable things."

    Also a little blurb about the addition of geek to the song title:

    Berninger explained to The Quietus why he added the word "geeks" to the title: "Well it was always in the song, but the truth is, the reason I added it to the title was because a lot of people thought that I was saying 'geese' — people thought it was a reference to 'The Geese Of Beverly Road,' that the geese were back! In some ways that could have been cool, but that's not what it is. There was a time when we were mixing it where I kind of slur those lyrics a bit, and it sounds like I'm saying 'geese'. I asked Peter if I could re-record that one word, and he said no, it sounded fine, and it'd sound weird if there was suddenly this really pronounced 'GEEKS!' So I asked him to turn up the 'K' sound, just ride it up."
    perfectlyadaptableon October 07, 2010   Link
  • +6
    General CommentLet's say it's about a boy. He lives a simple life with a group of close friends that you would categorize as "geeks". But as a lot of us secretly think to ourselves, he thought he was better than that, he was better than them. He was too good for that place. He left to lead a grander life, and like a lot of us, he eventually stopped coming back because he thought he's better than that place. And then he realizes that life isn't much different in the outside world. It's really all the same.
    It seems like his life ended up pretty good though and he got what he wanted. But I think he regrets not staying in touch with his friends, because he realizes that he's not all that different from them and he probably feels shameful for thinking that he was.
    Hangin' from chandeliers
    Same small world
    At your heels
    I think this is him saying that even though he chose this path he realizes he's still the same person he was. Things might seem different, but they really aren't.
    All the very best of us
    String ourselves up for love
    Perhaps he realizes that what really makes you a great person isn't the path you choose but choosing love. If Vanderlyle means; from an island, I think it's a way of saying that he is where he comes from and in the end that's what really made him and that's what he'll always carry with him.
    Most likely someone he really cared about in the past died but it could also be him just realizing this, and now he feels guilty for leaving or not being there more. But in the end he chose this path a long time ago and people are not holding it against him anymore.
    It's time for the boy to forgive himself and that's why I think he's telling him "I'll explain everything to the geeks"

    So that's probably not the meaning at all, but that's what it says to me probably because that's something I can really relate to.
    HiddenNorthwormson February 26, 2011   Link
  • +5
    My InterpretationI'm not sure if I'm anywhere near correct but I chose to view the concept of 'the geek' in a historical context. By this I mean the carnival freak show type that bit the head off of animals such as, wait for it, swans.

    I believe that the swan itself is used as a symbolic gesture of mateship and purity and of course a type of perfectionist view of love. The idea of an individual gnashing teeth and ruthlessly tearing off its head may be a consideration that someone viciously cut ties with little aforethought and now there are deep regrets. Its a reference back to the first verse "Leave your home, change your name". A person can undergo these transformations but the superficiality of them doesn't necessarily erase the actions undertaken in the heat of the moment.

    The geek did such things continually and for profit and notoriety. Let's consider it as habitual. The lyricist in this case may have very well learned from his mistakes and is now undertaking a role to educate the geeks who have managed to mask their chewing up and spitting out of an ideal love, in defence of their pride.
    houdinisgoaton June 27, 2010   Link
  • +5
    MemoryHah, I saw The National live last December in San Francisco and they sang this song last. It was totally unplugged - no microphones or anything, just two acoustic guitars and the audience was told to sing along. Someone somewhere behind me kept singing, "swans are for swimming" and it just killed me. WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN
    nothingeveron September 21, 2012   Link
  • +3
    My InterpretationThis ended up being very long but I think it's worth a read.
    I get some of the interpretations I read here, but I think most of them are ignoring a major theme in this song.
    I think this is about someone who is living in a very posh environment, as in a rich family or neighbourhood and doesn't fit in. Matt said vanderlyle is a word he invented which was to have a similar meaning to pennyroyal. Now pennyroyal means nothing, it's tea, but the sound of these word to me conveys something posh and high class.
    I think the first three lines are about wanting to escape, but the way your cake line is him finding himself once again doing as he's told.
    The second verse, with the chandeliers again is about that need to leave, hanging from chandeliers sounds to me like a a member of the high class "climbing the walls". Wanting out, not fitting in. But in the end the same walls will be there always.
    He refers to himself as a vanderlyle crybaby, and states that no matter how high the waters rise, or what surprises come up, the swans will be swimming, swans being in my mind this royal animal.
    I think the geeks are the people who are outside this world that he lives in, and he's explaining how most people like him do everything they can to stay in an environment like that, stringing themselves up and sacrificing everything to stay there. That's actually a recurring theme in matt's lyrics, line theory of the crows or racing like a pro and many more.
    tabahon May 03, 2014   Link
  • +2
    General CommentNot sure why nobody mentioned this but the song is clearly begins with someone who just got divorced.

    Leave your home
    Change your name
    Live alone
    Eat your cake

    I think "geeks" is a condescending term (or jab that stems from bitter irritation) for the people in his life that need to know everything about the breakup and treat it as entertainment. He's trying to move on. He has freedom that he didn't have before but can't quite get "unstrung" to enjoy it like he should.

    Definitely about divorce though.
    jmmj34on September 28, 2013   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationI love Matt's ability to make up words. I do the same. I interpret this song as the sadness felt in the necessary steps taken to following your dream/fame, as well as love. It will all make sense to everyone eventually, but sometimes taking steps toward your own goal is taking steps away from you family, friends, lover..
    The fact that he made up a word for it, a pretty one at that- reinforces my thought that he's trying to explain, and sympathize by recognizing the sadness behind the situation, something that you can't really explain. There's this delicate balance between doing what you want logically and following your emotional self, and when they separate.. well, there are tears in the pulling away. There is also a sense of self-centeredness, maybe brought about by his sense of defense, and the fact that he recognizes he's 'eating his cake.' But you gotta do what you gotta do
    HalaGalaon May 17, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti feel like a cant breathe when i hear this song... truly breathtaking
    before checking out the lyrics i thought vanderlyle was vandalize. hoping it was bc it works.

    its hard not to hear this baritone voice and not think of sorrow and sadness so this is my thoughts...

    someone is lost (depression) could be a relationship ending, death anything to cause the person to feel ashamed, lost, alone (enough to change name and live alone)
    cry as much as you want... but you go deeper into depression (waters are risin' - the depth goes larger)
    the surface of this matter is calm (swans are a swimmin')
    everyone gives love/passion a chance (whatever it may be) but sets us up for failure/dissapoint bc of the vulnerable state your in.
    ..... i think the person hanged themself. at your heels...same small world.
    oceanpearlon June 18, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI get a collegiate feel from this, due to the geek mentions and how Vanderlyle sounds like a fancy college.
    mister care-too-muchon March 27, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentActually, the second verse reminds me very much of Quentin from The Sound and the Fury, who...

    SPOILER ALERT
    commits suicide by drowning while at college.
    mister care-too-muchon March 27, 2012   Link

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