April, 2005

A Taste of Sweet and Sour

Over the course of the last month, Devin and I have gotten together with Nathan about 3 or 4 times to do a studio recording of Beware of the Sirens.  It has been interesting to say the least- I find we have more questions about this song than before we started.  Is it too long?  Does it feel too sparse in parts?  Were we wrong about the groove, direction, and feel of the song? Does it need to be more straight ahead?  As I said, lots more questions.

I think recording-wise, the tracks on their own sounds pretty good.  We basically recorded a simple electronic drum beat (which we initially always had in mind for the song, which of course is one of the things we are now questioning), guitar parts, bass line, vocals (with harmonies), and some other add-ins using a MIDI controller.

BUT…Id be lying horribly if I said we at all know what we are doing- especially when it comes to the mixing stage.  Just last week, we were able to get a mix down – Beware of the Sirens Ver. 1.1 lets call it- and it exposes our lack of knowledge and expertise in this area.  As I said, the tracks on their own sound decent (save the vocals in parts where I definitely could have done a better job), but the mix sounds scattered, uneven, and overall uncomfortable to listen to.  That is why I am afraid to put it up on the website.  Dont get me wrong- there are bright moments – and that leads me to believe that with a little trial and error, and a lot more patience, we can get it to sound a whole lot better with the tracks that we do have down.  But this will remain to be seen.  Either way, a version will be up very sooner, good or bad.  But that was the point of the exercise- to learn, evaluate, and restrategize.  Again, many thanks to our man Nate Dogg for “Re-gulatin'” this.

On a separate note, the latest song, The Sweetest Things in Life, is completed.  I feel really good about this song.  You dont want to plan too much whether you should be in a writing period or not, and frankly, for the last while, I have been quite comfortable NOT writing, simply because our attention has been focused on working with the already existing abundance of material we have.

The process for the writing of this song, however, came particularly smoothly.  It definitely required its share of attention, but I felt little strain or impatience while spending time with it.  Early August of last year or so, Devin had given me a burnt CD of sketches/ideas he had written and recorded on his four-track.  Out of 15 or 16 sketches, there was this one that kept coming back to me, over and over- track 4 to be precise.  It didn’t jump at me right away, the introduction was to be fair, nothing extraordinary.  However, something in the middle of the song, made me smile every time I heard it.  So I would continue to replay it, and continue to smile.  I started to progressively get more and more excited about this sketch and knew that this had to go somewhere.

Shortly after a few more listens, a title popped in my head – maybe because of the way it made me smile.  Geez, Im reading this, and I realize Im starting to sound like Alan Cross.  Well, that’s not such a bad thing (I like Alan Cross)…unless, you are of course talking about yourself.  Anyway as I was saying – “And so, the end result?  The Sweetest Things in Life.  In fact, if you listen really closely, you can hear Arunachal’s mother screaming in the background over the first chorus, because he hadn’t done the dishes yet that day.  Interesting isn’t it? Imp Alan Cross, and this is the History of blah, blah, blah”

The point is, the title came first, and then I actually put it away for a while- a few months actually.  I then revisited the song, musically speaking, and structured it start to finish- combining what I liked about Devin’s sketch and what I had in mind.  The same part that made me smile back in those early listens though, I didn’t touch; I wanted to keep that as the essence of the song, and it still makes me smile.  The words came after, written in parts, on two successive days and the voicing/phrasing arrived with them.  It was a really, really, smooth process and as a result, these are some of my favorite lyrics that I’ve ever written.  It just felt like I wasn’t trying to bite off more than I could chew, which has happened here and there in the past (The Thinker and the months of frustration that came with it).

There is a feeling of simplicity that is apparent in the song, in large part due to the way it was written, and I think it lends it a softer, sweeter quality than some of the other songs.  I definitely plan on recording it soon, however raw, and throwing an early version up on the website.