You hear about it all the time. Even the swing of a golf club or tennis racquet: no matter how good your stroke is, your shot will be worthless, unless you follow through. It is like that in many other things too.
This weekend was good. I’d even say really good. I’d say that the songs are about 60 – 80 % done (with Bonded & Climbing Trees sitting closer to 80, and Sweetest Things and The Haunt on the lower end). The drum tracks, bass, acoustic guitars, and lead vocals are all done for all of the tracks. Hell, listening to Bonded makes me feel like it’s just good as done the way it is. But I know this is the part where we have to be that much more careful. It is far too easy to sit back and listen to the rough mixes over and over till you’re used to them and feel like you’ve accomplished something. And by “accomplish”, I mean “finish”. These songs are NOT finished. I have to remind myself. I also have to pinch myself when I listen the rough mixes- I’m really happy with the way they sound. But that’s just why I have to remind myself that we are not done.
Overdubs. They fill songs out. They expand their personalities and give them more colour and flavour. They are layers of sound embedded with little hooks to catch unsuspecting ears. “Bed” tracks (bass, drums, etc.) serve as the foundation, the very base for a song. You can’t put a roof on a house without first having its structure in place. In many ways, overdubs are what contribute to continually bringing people back to the song. They are paint on the outside walls, bay windows to invite more light, the charming weathervane on the roof, and the big, awkward tree out front, that for some strange reason, you wouldn’t dream of chopping down. They help provide atmosphere and convey mood and emotion. They can be a simple harmony on a verse, or a powerful electric guitar buzz over the bridge, or a surprise piano melody trilling over the chorus. They come at the later stages of the development of a song, when many of its base character traits are established. The purpose of their existence is to complement those character traits. They don’t give character to a song, – I think, if your song lacks character, I’m not sure how much scattered overdubs will help**- they help bring out its character. They enhance its character. They help make a song better.
So, with the work that still remains, I recognize that there are many routes to go. The stage that we are at now, opens up more doors for these songs, and accordingly increases the number of decisions that have to be made. That can be a bit scary, because there are so many possibilities. But we know the songs well enough to know what will work and what won’t. It’s just a matter of trying a few different things. Steve’s set of ears, and numerous sound-creating skills will no doubt be a boon in tackling this matter. His gifts will come in very handy when experimenting with the atmosphere, mood, and emotion we want when recording some of these overdubs. With all our ears and minds working, and various instruments at our disposal, I look forward to dressing these songs up a bit more.
But we must also know when to let go. The songs already sound great, and we dont want what we do now to overshadow all of the great work that has been done. Plus, in our situation, the momentum that we have right now is more valuable than six extra months spent getting the songs EXACTLY as we want them. If there is a charm to first recordings (and there are many), it is that they are wrought with imperfection. These imperfections give songs an authenticity that is difficult to replicate when you have all the time and money in the world to record an album. At least that’s what I keep telling myself!
In any event, I know that we have to act quick and effectively to be able to follow through on the achievements of the weekend. Sitting on this too long will hurt the momentum I never thought we’d get back.
** (from above) There are some who will disagree with this, and that is perfectly legitimate. Songwriting is not a science, and the argument can be easily made that building a song with random sounds gives it a different structure and character all its own. Sort of like building a house backwards. In any event, the house analogy does not hold up. In this case, it is easy to see why writing songs is not like builing houses, and the same rules do not always apply. So for simplicity’s sake, let me limit that my comments on structure to apply to our songs, and for this album.