20 years before the emergence of STS9, NASA sent Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 on a mission to the farthest reaches of the solar system and beyond. Each of these probes was equipped with identical Golden Records, special messages attached to what Carl Sagan called “a bottle launched into the cosmic ocean.” They contained numerous images and sounds from throughout the world, pieces of music from various cultures, a map identifying the location of our planet, and other information for whomever, or whatever, might find them...
While the Golden Records included greetings in 59 languages, they made no mention of nations and borders, wars and rivalries, or anything else that divides us. What they did mention was life, love, peace, birth--the things that bind us to one another and to the planet we call home...
The Universe Inside is a reflection of this message. It means we are one, made of stardust and the forces of nature that evolved over billions of years. Connected by the sun, moon and stars, we are the living breathing conscience of the Universe. It is an album about human identity and the magical truth of who we are, where we’re going, and our place in the Universe. It’s about the joy and pain of being human, and the hope that one day, with the help of a common origin story, we can become a global civilization and cosmic society--a society that embraces each other and the vast cultures of Earth as one human race, transcending man-made concepts that keep us apart.
“Supercluster,” samples the original NASA STS-9 radio transmission and represents the band’s return from a journey that began with 1998’s Interplanetary Escape Vehicle. The first words that are heard are a shout out to STS9’s home and muse, California.
“Out of This World,” begins with the sound of the space shuttle’s door opening. This song--about a person, a muse, or a love--is what’s playing after the shuttle lands.
“Get Loud” is a collaboration with singer/songwriter Betty Idol and the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League. The song is an ode to the musicians and producers that inspired and influenced STS9 as they grew up. It features a rallying cry, a call for the music to “let it lift you up,” “say it proud,” and stand up for justice and civil rights.
“Light Years,” is an instrumental interlude of field recordings the band made over the years. It is a reflection on how quickly time flies and how fleeting every moment is.
“Totem,” is an answer to philosopher Alan Watts’ (whose voice resonates through the track) suggestion that you “find something that expresses you”. A totem is something that represents an idea, a natural object or animal believed to have spiritual significance. Watts’ declaration IS STS9’s totem.
“World Go Round” speaks to the fact that people have the power to change the world. It’s meant to be an uplifting message, but it can also be heard as a warning about what happens when that power is not used for good.
“Give & Take” is about the things that bind us to one another: friends, family, life and death. The song is dedicated to a person close to the band who said, before she passed, that her life “all seems like a dream.” It’s a sentiment that is reflected in the lyrics and overall feeling of “Give & Take."
“Elsewhere” is a live recording of a studio improvisation that was combined with percussionist Jeffree Lerner’s recording of a nearby beach as the ocean’s waves were pulled ashore by a full moon. The sample "just beyond the bay, near the entrance to the Golden Gate" is another reminder of where the story of the album is taking place in that moment. The track’s title is a reference to that place the band goes together musically; a place where feel overrides form.
“Sun Moon & Stars” is a song about the feeling--after staying up all night--that anything is possible. It’s about love and feeling connected, in a crowd, to something larger than the crowd itself.
“New Dawn, New Day,” includes a sample from Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good,” and is the first tune the band wrote with bassist Alana Rocklin. It was a message to the fans, and a reassurance to themselves, that expressed their hope in that moment of starting something new.
“Worry No More,” is a piece that can be interpreted in many ways depending on how the listener feels. The song pulls in different directions like the shifting of the winds during a storm. Vocalists Lisa Taylor and Maureen Murphy call out that “love is all around,” acting as a lighthouse in the middle of the tempest.
Charles Darwin had much to say about “common descent,” the idea that inspired the title for the album’s penultimate track. In On the Origin of Species he wrote, “from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved." This brief interlude contains a sustained vocal chant that represents an otherworldly feeling of inspiration, as if something is speaking to you from the center of the universe. It’s a feeling that is in contrast to the earthly chants that open the record’s final number...
“The Universe Inside.” Like the album that shares its name, the title track is about story, identity and feeling the past, present and future collide in a moment of reckoning. It recalls the spirituals of old before taking the listener back to nature, off on the next mission; a mission that is rooted in the rawness of the Earth. With lyrics that are both personal and metaphorical for a larger group of people, the song sums up the album: “We are one, made from dust of the stars / down here we bear the weight of the pain and the scars / just want to live with nothing to hide / every one of us a universe inside.”