Reptilia is a song released in 2004 by the US-based rock band The Strokes. It was the second single from the band’s second album titled Room on Fire.
Before exploring the Reptilia lyrics meaning, you should understand the meaning behind the song title.
What Does the Title Mean?
The title Reptilia refers to the reptile brain. Every human being has a reptile brain which controls basic emotions like sex, hunger and fear. This part of the brain is not capable of thinking. It only cares about your safety and physical needs. By using the term “Reptilia”, Casablancas describes his thoughtless state during interviews, where he can only think about fight or flight.
Now you will discover the Reptilia lyrics meaning.
Verse 1 – What Does it Mean?
He seemed impressed by the way you came in
“Tell us a story, I know you’re not boring”
These first lines are a direct dig at the media and how journalists portrayed The Strokes as the new “saviors of Rock and Roll”. The band garnered a lot of notoriety when they entered the music scene. Along with other bands like the White Stripes, The Strokes were bombarded by journalists for interviews and comments.
Unfortunately, writer and singer Julian Casablancas is very shy and awkward in interviews. He and the band members wanted their music to do most of the talking. The idea of sitting in front of cameras and answering personal questions is just not for them.
So when their 2001 album Is This it became successful, the media was intrigued and “impressed by the way you came in”. This album was supposed to revive the dying genre of rock. All music journalists wanted a piece of this band. They wanted the scoop, to know “a story”. All this attention was showered on the band because they were new and fresh and “not boring”. But Casablancas and the band members did not like the media intrusion into their lives and creative process.
I was afraid that you would not insist
“You sound so sleepy, just take this, now leave me”
The same media which hailed The Strokes as the “saviors of Rock and Roll” were also quick to criticize them. Instead of empathizing with Casablancas’ shyness, they lambasted him for being inaccessible, tart and inexpressive in interviews.
The truth of the matter is that the media and the journalists were never interested in preserving the rock genre. All they really cared about was making money. They made money by selling stories and gossip about the rich and famous. At that time, The Strokes were very popular. So the media gathered around them like moth to a flame, only to be disappointed by the band’s reluctance to give them what they wanted.
But promotions are a major part of any performer’s or artist’s profession. So, The Strokes had to appear for interviews. “sound so sleepy” could refer to the band getting tired of giving interview after interview. Most interviews ask the same thing and the band got bored and hence “sleepy”.
It is as though in frustration, the band members said “just take this, now leave me”. They would humor the nature of the industry and try to answer the questions being thrown at them. Eventually, they probably even got used to it. It became a reflex action, something done instinctively. This goes with the title of the song “Reptilia”, which refers to the brains of reptiles. A reptilian brain is not sophisticated enough for thoughts. It works on autopilot. The only purpose of the reptilian brain is avoiding danger and looking for food. A reptile does not even think consciously while fulfilling these two purposes.
Pre-Chorus – What Does it Mean?
I said please don’t slow me down if I’m going too fast
You’re in a strange part of our town
Julian Casablancas is humbly requesting the interviewers not to cut him off when he is talking. In the past he has admitted that he is not good at holding conversations. Some people can organize their thoughts swiftly and convey them efficiently, which the listening party can understand in one go. But Casablancas does not have that ability. His thoughts are jumbled up in his brain and sorting them out takes time.
This problem became more acute when he quit drugs and alcohol in 2006. Up until that point, he coped with media interviews by being under the influence of substances. But he is sober now and less confident during interviews.
So when an interviewer cuts him off while he is speaking, it breaks his concentration and he forgets what he was talking about. Casablancas therefore requests the media not to “slow me down if I am going too fast”.
“strange part of town” refers to Casablancas’ discomfort with the press and media. He is an artist and a musician. His comfort zone is on the stage and in the studio. Casablancas did not sign up to be a celebrity for gossip columnist. His intention was to express himself artistically through his music, not literally through conversations.
Chorus – What Does it Mean?
Yeah, the night’s not over, you’re not trying hard enough
Our lives are changing lanes, you ran me off the road
These lines further elaborate how uncomfortable The Strokes band members are during interviews. They hope that the questions wrap up quickly but the “night is not over”. Even the journalists are being impatient with the band’s lack of convincing response. They think the band is arrogant or not “trying hard enough” to give a good interview.
The wait is over, I’m now taking over
You’re no longer laughing, I’m not drowning fast enough
Now the reptilian part of Casablancas’ mind is “taking over”. Since he is stuck in an interview against his will, he does not need control over his mind as it is useless in this situation. So now Casablancas is giving into his reptilian side, which does not think or feel anything. He will answer whatever question is asked of him.
Verse 2 – What Does it Mean?
Now every time that I look at myself
“I thought I told you, this world is not for you”
The room is on fire as she’s fixing her hair
“You sound so angry, just calm down, you found me”
The last verse summarizes the Reptilia lyrics meaning. Although the reptilian aspect of his mind helps him cope with interviews, Casablancas finds it hard to turn the switch off and regain control. This has started affecting his life. When he returns home to his lover, he finds himself staring in the mirror, trying to get back the ability to feel and think. As an artist, Casablancas cannot lead a stoic, passionless, reptilian life. He needs emotions to make art. This frustrates him. Meanwhile, his lover is “fixing her hair”. She is unable to understand why Casablancas is so perturbed.
Hope you have now understood the Reptilia lyrics meaning.
This song deals with Casablancas’ personal struggle with giving media interviews and opening up about his personal life. It also talks about how a personality trait can be beneficial in one department of your life but absolutely disastrous in the other departments.