The Meaning of Len’s “Steal My Sunshine”

Canadian alt-rock/hip-hop band Len had just one hit in 1999’s “Steal My Sunshine” before fading off into obscurity. Initially released as part of the soundtrack to the crime comedy film Go, the track received heavy airplay right from the jump, and was later released as a single to their third album You Can’t Stop The Bum Rush.

The popular tune samples the 1976 disco hit “More, More, More” by Andrea True Connection. It peaked at number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 1999, and today it can be found as a staple on 90s party playlists, and late night karaoke bars. Portugal. The Man released an excellent cover of the song in 2021, featuring Cherry Glazerr.

Many have interpreted “Steal My Sunshine” to be a song about depression, and how the actions (or non-actions) of others can get you feeling down. There are also hints of being hungover sprinkled throughout, and you get the idea that substance abuse may have something to do with the way the two vocalists are feeling.

Vocalists and guitarist Marc Costanzo recalled the backstory to “Steal My Sunshine” during an interview with The Guardian in 2014:

We were at this huge three-day rave and I ended up partying, partying, partying. We went back to my house and Brendan Canning from Broken Social Scene was DJing and played More, More, More by Andrea True Connection. I ended up sampling it that morning and looped it, it sounded great. Somewhere in the next couple of days I recorded it, I know Deryck Whibley from Sum 41 was there in the room when I put down the lyrics. It’s just a song about what happened that night of the party.

Marc Costanzo of the background of “Steal My Sunshine”.

With Marc’s explanation in mind, the spoken word intro makes a whole lot more sense. The track opens with band members Tim and Matt having a conversation about Marc’s recent behavior:

Hey, Matt
Yeah, Tim?
Hey, you talked to Marc lately?
Uh, haven’t really talked to him but he looks pretty, uh, down
“He looks pretty, uh, down?”
Yeah, well, maybe we should cheer him up then
What do you, uh, suppose we should do?
Well, does he like butter tarts?

Intro to “Steal My Sunsine” by Len. (Album version only)

Matt and Tim think that Marc is looking pretty down, and they decide to offer him butter tarts. This may seem like a strange and random thing to offer him, however Len are from Canada, and butter tarts are a popular treat up there.

As for why Marc is feeling down, it’s either depression or a hangover from that three-day rave, or perhaps some combination of the two. He offers a somewhat incoherent explanation of his condition in the first verse:

I was lying on the grass of Sunday morning of last week
Indulging in my self-defeat
My mind was thugged, all laced and bugged, all twisted, wrong and beat
A comfortable three feet deep
Now the fuzzy stare from not being there on a confusing morning week
Impaired my tribal lunar speak
And of course you can’t become if you only say what you would have done
So I missed a million miles of fun

First verse to “Steal My Sunshine” by Len, sung by Marc Costanzo.

Marc recalls waking up in the grass on Sunday morning, feeling defeating and allowing himself to wallow in it. He was in a haze, trying to recall what had happened the night before. Clearly he had been indulging a bit heavily in the substances, as these are clear symptoms of being hungover.

Then, in the second part of the verse, Marc expresses some regret. He was physically there, but the fuzzy stare he finds himself ailed with as he faces the week ahead reminds him that he was not exactly mentally there.

Closing the verse, Marc acknowledges that he will never reach his potential if he doesn’t start using actions to back up some of his thoughts and ideas. Perhaps some of these ideas have to do with sobering up a bit, and the final line about how he “missed a million miles of fun” means that this has been an ongoing circumstance for him.

Next up, we have the bright and catchy chorus, where Marc and Sharon both contribute vocals:

I know it’s up for me
(If you steal my sunshine)
Making sure I’m not in too deep
(If you steal my sunshine)
Keeping versed and on my feet
(If you steal my sunshine)

Chorus to “Steal My Sunshine” by Len.

In the chorus, Marc says that it’s only up to him to ensure that he makes the right decisions, and doesn’t get too deep in the combination of depression and substance abuse.

Their use of “sunshine” can be interpreted to mean happiness. Thus if someone or something steals their good vibe, they may tend to overindulge in order to compensate, and then they end up back in the downtrodden haze that inspired this song in the first place.

After the first chorus, we have another spoken word section. This time it’s band members Tim and Chad, talking about Sharon:

Chad, come here, come here, come here
Wow, look at her
I know
Man, I’ve never seen Sharon look so bad before
I did once before, but this is pretty bad
Yeah, what do you think she got up to last night?
Well, I… Sharon, I love you!

Second spoken word section in “Steal My Sunshine”. (Album version only)

Similarly to how the band commented on Marc in the intro, here Tim and Chad take note that Sharon appears to be looking pretty rough as well. They make it a bit more obvious that there is a hangover involved here, specifically questioning what she had been doing the night before.

Sharon does not offer much in the way of a concrete explanation of why she might be looking so rough, but reading between the lines in the second verse we can see that she may still be coming down from whatever she took at the party:

I was frying on the bench slide in the park across the street
L-A-T-E-R that week
My sticky paws were into making straws out of big fat slurpy treats
An incredible eight-foot heap
Now the funny glare to pay a gleaming tare in a staring under heat
Involved an under usual feat
And I’m not only among but I invite who I want to come
So I missed a million miles of fun

Second verse to “Steal My Sunshine” by Len, sung by Sharon Costanzo.

Sharon is pictured here in a park, either on the bench or in the slide, across the street from wherever she was before that. It’s later in the week, but she’s still bumming around the park drinking frozen slurp-shakes and leaving the straws piled on the ground, in a pile that’s 8 feet high.

This is representative of hitting a sort of rock bottom, and feeling glares of judgement from those around you while you sit there in the park cooking in the sun. Perhaps the people in her life are giving her “heat” as well, but she remains involved in her usual antics.

She’s all alone, and tries to convince herself that it’s simply because she didn’t invite anybody else, but it’s clear that this is the kind of party that not many others would want to be involved with.

Finally, she uses the same lyric to close her verse as her brother did earlier, admitting that her behavior is causing her to miss out on a whole lot of fun.

Following Sharon’s verse we have two back-to-back choruses. The first is the same as the chorus we hear earlier in the song, but the next one changes up the lyrics:

I know it’s done for me
(If you steal my sunshine)
Not some and hard to see
(If you steal my sunshine)
Keeping dumb and built to beat
(If you steal my sunshine)

Third chorus to “Steal My Sunshine” by Len.

This chorus takes a hopeless tone, suggesting that Marc and Sharon are on the verge of spiraling downward once again.

Marc sings that he knows he’s done for if he loses his sunshine again, and it’s not hard for others to see. He chalks it up to staying true to form, “keeping dumb and built to beat,” and it’s implied that the negative cycle will continue.

“Steal My Sunshine” closes with a repetition of the title phrase and a solid minute’s worth of vibes as the party fades away yet again. Watch the music video, filmed in Daytona, FL, below.

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