We’re an evolving project of discovery.

Our ideas, our music, our web pages, all in motion.

We’re history lovers, mostly storytellers.

CHAPTER II

Neander Valley

Song Stories

Album Liner Notes

In this series of Song Stories we’re taking you behind the scenes of each song.

Chapter II – A Brand New Universe is the second EP from our album Old Bones Odyssey

Coming soon: we’re creating a podcast that dives deeper into the stories and history behind our songs.

Listen

0:00 / 0:00
Neander Valley

Lyrics

Neander Valley

“We’re All Neanderthals under the skin, longing for a place to call our own.
-Lyrics/Ellen Kaye

Ellen Kaye – Lead Vocal
Ethan Fein – Guitar/Backing Vocals
Andrew Drelles – Flute
Diane Monroe – Violin
Koa HoUpright Bass/Backing Vocals
Zach Mullings – Drums/Backing Vocals
Jackie Presti – Backing Vocals
Soara-Joye Ross – Backing Vocals
© 2022 Ellen C Kaye and Ethan Fein. All rights reserved.

 

Neander Valley’s fragrance  
Lingers in the air
Glaciers glide by
Hearths on fire
Roasting cave bears late at night
Rolling naked in the grass
Counting stars 
On our backs

We’re all Neanderthals
Under the skin
Songs on our lips
Dreams in our hearts
Leaving our bones behind
We’re all Neanderthals
Under the skin
Longing for a place to call our own

Neander Valley’s fragrance 
Hovers in the air
Clouds roll by
Smoke rings fly

Fishing trout by winding streams
Woolly mammoths all night long
Counting stars 
On our backs 

We’re all Neanderthals
Under the skin
Songs on our lips
Dreams in our hearts
Leaving our bones behind

We’re all Neanderthals
Under the skin 
Longing for a place to call our own
We’re all Neanderthals
Under the skin
Songs on our lips
Dreams in our hearts
Leaving our bones behind
We’re all Neanderthals
Under the skin 
Longing for a place to call our own

 

Ellen C Kaye – Lyrics
Ethan Fein – Music 
Recorded/Mixed/Mastered by Bill Moss
Ellen C Kaye, Ethan Fein, Alan Joseph, Bill Moss –Producers
Outlier Inn Recording Studio – Woodridge, New York
A Repair With Gold Production LLC SM
Copyright (c) 2023

The Story

Neander Valley

“I don’t think Shakespeare could have come up with a better plot twist than that.”

Two ideas banged together. One idea – I wanted a kind of Kumbaya-Pete Seeger kind of song that would convey the 1960s and ‘70s that I grew up in. Let’s all find a way to live together in peace. A song that we would have sung in the ‘60s. About finding a better world. Or making a better world out of the one we live in.
The second idea was decades long in the making. “Neander Valley” is a culmination of years of watching people write about Neanderthals and finding, early on, that it seemed like the writers, the scientists, the scholars, were projecting their own prejudices on these ancient beings. Exactly the way we do to each other right now. And how absurd that is. And how most people never seemed to notice it. It drove me nuts. 

So I’ve been tracking Neanderthals, and the way that we learn about them. The way our small minds, right now in real time on planet Earth, project our idiotic notions onto the bones of these long ago creatures. Creatures not only just like us, but actually us.
They are the perfect prism, the honest vessel to convey our thoughts for living a  more humane way in this very moment. That they’re lost in an idyllic past. A past that never was. And knowing that we can make a kinder, more loving world right now, right here.

I definitely was thinking that we’re going to go back to the very beginning. I wanted to go back to the Neanderthals, to talk about what it is to be human. “The Big Bang” and “The Amoeba” and “Neander Valley” all go together. The three of them are companion pieces.
Starting maybe 30 years ago I became conscious of new discoveries about Neanderthals. It was every few months at first, then it started to be faster and faster. They began to discover Neanderthals were more intelligent than they previously thought. Oh, now they realize that the Neanderthals played the flute. Now they found that Neanderthals dive for clams and make jewelry. 
Then came the big argument about whether or not Neanderthals had ever had sex with a version of Homo sapiens or Homo erectus, whatever version of early human was going on. That it was a big battle and from the moment that this argument started I said this is too fabulous. There’s no freaking way that two different kinds of beings, that are anatomically suited toward each other, roaming around in the wild simultaneously, aren’t f******g. I mean people, human beings alive this minute, are having sex with animals. Why wouldn’t creatures that have no biblical teachings or other restrictions have sex with each other?  

But interestingly, scholars managed to put their own narrow ideas on these ancient beings. That they were not as intelligent as Homo sapiens. They were not as artistic as Homo sapiens. That they were brutish and on and on and on. 
I watched them fight it out. Then one day they found the bones of a hybrid Human- Neanderthal child, at which point I didn’t just feel vindicated, I actually was saddened that the people who spend their whole lives in learning institutions couldn’t see something so clearly and it all became even more profoundly urgent for me. I wanted to convey, and use the Neanderthals story, as a way to show people how insidious prejudice is and also how ludicrous.

Because you can’t say there’s an ancient religious war going on with any groups of people alive right now and the Neanderthals, you can’t say that a Neanderthal married your daughter and is having mixed children, you can’t say that a Neanderthal moved in next to you and doesn’t trim their hedges, you can’t say that a Neanderthal is taking your job away from you, you can’t say that the Neanderthals are coming over the Mexican border to steal your lifestyle and quality of life.
I don’t know if I’ll ever find anything as good as a Neanderthal to do that. I don’t hear people use them very much that way. We’re still all kind of freaking out about all of the amazing things they can do as opposed to asking ourselves what’s the surprise?
Why are we eternally thinking that we are the supreme being of the galaxy? The endless superiority, snobbery and actual denseness on our parts that makes us so cruel and so mistaken about so much.

That’s why I wrote the song about them.  And about them in all of us. That was another piece of it, that we’ve been saying they’re the doofuses for so long and then it turns out that Northern Europeans carry the largest percentage of Neanderthal DNA. I don’t think Shakespeare could have come up with a better plot twist than that. They have been the butt of jokes for I don’t know how many years, a century at least or something like that? 

Then they turn out to be our own ancestors, particularly of the Northern Europeans, I should say. And at this point in our learning, it looks like many other people have it in them as well. But I think in the Northern Europeans superior schmucks time we have the greatest percentage.
That’s the funniest s*** I’ll ever know.  
And who knows if it’s not hand-in-glove, that the scholars are realizing that these are their ancestors and they better find signs of intelligence for their own sakes in the genetic material of the Neanderthals? What kind of inverse Anglo-Saxon Germanic Barbaric supremacist philosophy have we imposed on the bones of the Neanderthals? Shoot me. Just shoot me.

An Interview with Ellen

Neander Valley


Full transcript of interview with Ellen below

“…we just have to do the work to make this world a safer place for everyone in it.”-Ellen Kaye

The thing about Neander Valley is that I have a long history of reading about the Neanderthals. I have a whole bunch of ideas about that. My mom actually did too. It was one of the things that we shared. We had a complicated relationship and we seemed to find a peaceful place in the history of the Neanderthals. 
Along the way, maybe about 20 years ago, it just started to strike me more and more how odd it was that people thought that Neanderthals were so stupid and then constantly they were finding out that maybe they weren’t as stupid and it kind of just goes on and on like that. 
I began to think that it was a good prism or a good way to see into our prejudices, the way that we view the Neanderthals without really a lot of reason for our thinking and how it was. I just thought it was a really good window on human behavior, the way that we view the Neanderthals. 
So I went to write this song.

When I first thought of the song, I wanted to write a Pete Seeger slash Kumbaya type of, we all love each other, let’s get it together kind of song. And I started working with it with Ethan and he turned it into something I think so much more intricate than my original idea. 
Now it feels like the Neanderthals are like artisans in a colony somewhere, you know, painting magnificent cave walls. And it’s like they sound much more erudite and sophisticated than we are. I love where the song is going and I hope that people see the humor that it’s written with. 
I hope they feel, I think, kind of a little happy. I think the song has a definitely whimsical feeling about it. And there’s woolly mammoths.

I think that the chorus is the best, I mean not the best part, I shouldn’t say best probably, but the strongest. What we’re really trying to say is:
“We’re all Neanderthals, under the skin, songs on our lips, dreams in our hearts, leaving our bones behind. We’re all Neanderthals , under the skin, longing for a place to call our own.”
I think that sometimes when you can look at somebody or a group of people or in the case of the Neanderthals, an ancient people, and you can see them more dispassionately possibly than you can see yourself or some other group of people that you just don’t have any empathy for.
That pretty much sums up everything that we care about. We are just talking about our common humanity. Our humanity or our Neanderthal-ality. That we’re all connected. And we just have to do the work to make this world a safer place for everyone in it.

Streaming now on Amazon, Apple, Spotify, and YouTube Music

Follow Ellen Kaye on Social Media

Follow Old Bones Odyssey on Social Media

Ellen C Kaye

Ellen C Kaye

Singer/songwriter, producer, podcast maker, mom, born and bred in NYC. Night Club singer at heart.