Welcome to the SONG BLOG. Most weeks, Dan Webb writes a song. He tracks them on Sundays and posts them here along with a few notes.
This is the last song of the year! On this one I was really happy with my guitar tones. I went with reverb on the neck pickup for the left guitar and played clean on the bridge pickup for the right, which ended up sounding like an organ to me. I wanted the bridge to be big and epic, so I layered up a lot of guitar harmonies and played with automation to try and build up the part as it went along. I suspect in subsequent years this part with sound a bit clunky to me but I am happy with it for now. For the vocals I have a main track that is run through an amp simulator for distortion and 2x clean vocals backing it up. While in Cincinnati for the holiday break I got to have a good recording session with Matt Hemingway for a song that will likely be in the SONG BLOG next year. He gave me some good mixing tips, some of which were applied here.
For this song I was inspired by the Walkmen. The frenzied pace and high cleaner guitars are a nod to this. I think some of the guitar sounds I got are close to their sound. I stripped back the guitar setup, paring it down to just the Invader. I did one track on the neck pickup dry and doubled the part on the bridge pickup plus reverb instead of double recording through multiple amps. I can’t sing as high as Leithauser but I love the snarl that his voice has. To approximate this, I did a couple passes of the bridge in falsetto but with some grit and mixed them over a vocal that was an octave lower. To compensate for not being able to hit the high stuff I threw in some harmonies which runs counter to the Walkmen theme but works anyway. The chorus isn’t as elegant as the part I heard in my head. I heard it as a kind of big, swelling, staggering part but the only beat I could pull together had a very different energy to it. Also the second bridge and the chorus are very similar chord progression-wise. They are only subtly different but I think they both work. At work we had a round of layoffs a couple weeks back and the lyrics of this tune explore the impression that event left with me.
This one was just a fun little song about a story that a friend told me. He went to a party with a girl he was dating and she said she was going home. So he went to a show and when he arrived, he saw her there. It broke my heart a little bit as the fellow in question is such a good guy, I feel he deserves someone who appreciates that. He is no longer in that relationship and things seem to have improved for him.
This one is a more somber dirge-y kind of song with a Pixies arrangement, meaning acoustic guitars with drums, electric bass and limited electric guitars. I tracked two different sized acoustic guitars and hard-panned them. Lyrically, I’m sorting through some feelings about an old friend who is in a dire circumstance right now.
I really like the verse riff for this song. The chords slide into each other and the lead guitar melody that sits on top of that slides around even more. This was a song that I brought to the Spiders immediately for inclusion on our next LP. This song came together quickly. The opening line was one I have had for a long time so I was happy to find a home for it. There was no direct influence on the structure. Lyrically, the song is about how our brains kick into high gear when we are sleeping to process all the stuff we can’t figure out while we’re awake. I had heard about an experiment in which they wired up a rat’s brain and monitored thoughts while it ran a maze. The rat’s brain would make different sounds as it made different choices in the maze. They monitored the rat while it was sleeping and found that it was running the same sequences of moves at 10x the rate of when the rat was awake. I named it ‘Ratpit’ as a nod to Hilary’s grandma’s description of a basement of a house where she used to live.
This one was inspired by a clip I saw of a fb post that the Dazies had made of their rehearsal for a Daniel Johnston tribute. I just wanted to a super straight-ahead head-nodder. Some of the recent arrangements of mine were getting pretty baroque so I was happy to strip this one down to just two parts. I had fun producing this one, layering in feedback and multiple vocal parts for the big finish. I was happy enough with this one that I brought it straight to the Spiders 2 days after it was recorded.
This song is another strutter like the Mike-Krol-ish one from a few months previous. This one had another part in it, but I ended it up trimming it out of the final mix. You can hear the cuts. The BG vocals in the verses occurred to me in the car on the drive back to the parking garage. I recorded them directly into the laptop in my car.
This song is the first one where I tried a technique out that I learned about from the guy that recorded the Rancid records I grew up with. The trick is to record the same guitar part through two amps at the same time. I used the invader with a boost and a big muff paired with the squier. I really like how the song has a slower part. Since I work to a click I don’t get many opportunities to have tempo changes. The way it’s mixed the second time through with the vocal harmonies and big guitar reminds me of Weezer.
This song was inspired by some political maneuvering at work. I should have adjusted the key of the song because when I went to add the vocal in, I could not hit the notes of the melody that I had come up with. As a result there is this weird harmony part to open the song. The pre-choruses are sung low and would also benefit from a key change. This song was also an experiment in lyrical repetition. I sometimes think that I have too many words in my songs and there’s no refrain to hang your hat on so I was trying to find something that would sound good repeated. I think this is the first song where I switched out the snare drum to the one I got from Nick from Smoke or Fire.
This song was inspired by a couple bands I saw at Great Scott. Amaral and I went to an Allston-double header to see Mickey’s band, Ugly at great Scott and Stevey B’s band, Luau at Obrien’s. The bands I saw that played at Great Scott were very interesting and hard to categorize. They broadly fell under the Punk Rock umbrella, but they were very different than the music I grew up with. It was aggressive rock and roll but with some clever guitar under it. The guitar player wore a cowboy hat, a T-shirt and sweat pants. I thought I’d try my hand at a tune like that and this is the result.
This song is a farewell to summer. I wrote the initial line years ago while waiting for the commuter rail at Lawrence station. It has some nice intricate guitar stuff happening under the chorus that give int a nice haunting feel along with the harmonized vocals. The toms were an area of focus as well. I stayed on theme pretty well lyrically here. The middle section proved difficult to realize and I feel it still needs some attention. I think things need to layer up better, right now, either too much or too little is happening. This one would benefit from another round of demo-ing more than most of these.
The chorus of this one paraphrases Joe Don Baker from Charlie Varrick. I am happy with the single-note guitar tones. A lot of the songs from this period use it and I think one does it best. I also really like the guitar breakdown sections in this piece. The choruses along with the breakdown part remind me of the Greenhornes.
This song came together really quickly. The boy threw up one night and Hilary knew just what to do. I always find it a bit stunning when vomit suddenly happens, but Hilary wasn’t thrown at all. The parts jumped into mind from that incident.
This is another that was recorded in one session and had the vocals added later. I think this is the first song I did with an in-drum bass mic that Marc V turned me onto during a visit to Dead Moon Audio.
The arrangement and dynamics on this one was inspired by Mike Krol. To that end I added the dueling guitar leads over the choruses and a chorus-breakdown where the mix cuts to just that with the vocals. I also layered the introduction of the instruments, starting the song with just one guitar on one side. The straight ahead drum beat was really simple and direct. The words are about someone I knew who recently came back into my life to sell me life insurance. I really like how the song stops through the solo. I wanted this one to snarl.
This one was recorded back at Bridge street. The one has a bit of busier arrangement. I was trying to get a good tone for the low single note lead stuff. I wrote the lyrics at the time of the recording but didn’t;t get a chance to record them until a couple months later.
The song was written while we were on the road in Germany last June. The 3/4 feel has a bit of a Walkmen vibe to it. Specifically the main chord progression recalls their song 138th street. It’s a bit of a somber tune that reflects on some of the troubles DWatS has encountered keeping a lineup together over our 10 year tenure. Some time has passed since I recorded it so I don’t remember any of the specifics of the session other than it was the first song I wrote / recorded after taking a month or so off. I felt pretty rusty and it took longer than I would have liked to wrangle this one into shape. Atrophy sets in quick!
This song was. recorded by Matt Hemingway in Cincinnati, OH. I was in town for a few days and he agreed to meetup for a couple hours and record this demo. He played the drums and the bass as well. We learned the song and tracked it all in about 3 hours. It was a really fun session. Because it was recorded in a different studio, the recording setup was completely different than the other entries to this blog.
Frequently I run into folks out in the world who kindly say they have been checking out the songs on the SONG BLOG each week. They are always quick to follow that up with the disclaimer they they don’t love them all though. I think the second entry this week will fit squarely into that category. It’s a bit of departure from the garage stuff on which I typically work, but we’re here to explore so misfires come with the territory. I was interested in exploring a composition with a refrain which I’m defining as one lyrical line that is repeated to end each verse. This is in contrast to a chorus which is an entire section that repeats after the verse. Desolation Row is a good example of the technique that I was trying out here. I did a stripped down arrangement for this one. Just one acoustic guitar with some electric flourishes to fill some space between verses. The drums enter about a quarter the way through and are panned to the right which is a technique you find on a lot of late 60’s early 70’s stuff when stereo was a new novelty. I also had secondary percussion hard-panned going through out. I threw in a little organ part to fill it in a little. I also kept the vocals clear and on top and had the rest of the mix support that.
We had a two song session this week. The first one has a sing-song melody for the verses that reminded dStephen of early Goo Goo Dolls. I was happy with the mix on this one. It was the first time I used reference tracks while mixing and it was really helpful. I also replaced the bass drum batter head that I broke during the previous week’s session. I found a great video online that had a drum key-less way to swap out a bass drum head and it worked really well. I was happy with how much this fresh head added some punch to the kick drum sound. SG through Invader for both of the guitar tones, one dry and one with MXR + reverb. I used the organizer again for the arpeggiated riff in the intro. This one was written on the way to rehearsal on Tuesday. I had one line and I expanded on it during the drive. There’s something great about working on songs in the car because your brain is half engaged on driving so it just kind of runs in the background and some good stuff comes up that might not if you just sat down with a guitar to write.
The melody for this one was lifted from some song I heard playing out of one of the restaurants in Salem as I was walking past. I find it’s helpful to grab a melody from somewhere and kick it around in my head until it becomes something distinct. Some might consider this to be a dishonest songwriting trick. It’s a fine line between inspiration and theft. I once heard a podcast that featured Weezer and their songwriting process. They often grab chord progressions whole-cloth from songs they like and write in new words. Although in music there is a rich tradition of taking melodies and reinterpreting them, the method Weezer was employing seems a bit cheap. In this case I grabbed a vocal melody and put my own chords under it so that seems fair to me. Everyone will draw this line somewhere else, or course. From a songwriting stand point, I was happy with the call and response verses and I thought the key-change for the last verses worked well. I did some EQ-ing on the board this time and I think the guitars jump out a little more as a result. I’m still enjoying the organizer pedal. The only other thing of note with this session was that I put my beater through the bass drum head about 2 minutes into writing the drum part. I discreetly borrowed one of the other bass drums in the room to finish the session.
I was in an odd meeting at work last week and a friend suggested that I should write a song about it. On my drive to rehearsal in Charlestown last Tuesday, I started finding lyrics and melodies that could work. I had the opening riff kicking around for a few months and was able to come up with the next batch of parts on that drive. The intro/verse and the bridge are riffs with an open note drone along with the a-tonal chorus gives the song a 90’s indie vibe which reminds me of Eliot Smith or Modest Mouse. I spent some time EQ-ing the guitars this week and I am happy with the crunchy results. I have 3 primary tones here, a clean, an MXR-overdriven + reverb, and a MXR / Big Muff fuzz. I threw an acoustic layer on as well, mostly for the character it added to the intro. The lyrics are all pulled from the meeting, but don’t sound too specific as to not be interesting.
After all the experimentation with odd keys and complicated arrangements of the last few weeks, I was excited to do a really straight-ahead song. This one feels like something that could have been on ‘Oh Sure.’ I have a really thick guitar presentation here, I double-mic’d the cab and did a clean and a distorted version of the rhythm guitar parts with the tele and SG. Even though this song is simpler and more direct than some of the previous week’s entries, I still employed some lessons I learned from those earlier exercises. For example, I used the Organizer pedal on the guitar leads and I threw a G sharp in the bridge to make that part more interesting. I also used maracas for the first time ever in the chorus. The lyrical theme is mistakes and the discrepancy between the urgency that the the offender feels vs. the actual reception of the offense.
This week, I was playing around in new keys because I liked the idea of surprising the listener and not getting caught in the same familiar intervals and time signatures. I started off by going between a few chords I had never used together before, D sharp minor D and B. Once I got comfortable with those, I started finding some riffs in that key. also, I also saw a video this week (courtesy of Kötti) of a studio tour of GOD CITY where Kurt talked a lot about experimenting with pedals to help create your riffs instead of just throwing the effects on riffs you had already written. I used an organizer pedal to add some flavor to the arpeggiated riffs throughout the song. For the solo I followed his advice more closely and wrote the part through the effects. I came up with some stuff that would not have resulted if I hadn’t used the pedals.
The verse melody for the song came to me this week while I was out for a stroll around Salem on Wednesday. The song is pretty straightforward, I think the harmony guitar part that is introduced at the second verse adds quite a lot. I attended a lecture this week that dissected The Beatles’ Abbey Road. The lecturer mentioned a lot about how some of their key / chord changes were surprising and that the listener often had no idea where the song was going to go next. I used this thinking a little bit for the structure of this one. I tried to keep the arrangment in constant flux. I also spent more time on the final vocal harmonies to try and find something that really compelling in response to some of the great harmonizing I heard at the lecture. The one last take away I had was to try and make the Bass part more interesting. I used a percussive clap technique right out of the Gipsy Kings playbook for the first chorus. Sonically I double mic’d the guitars with a fathead and an audiotecnica dynamic mic. I did this as a test because I wanted to see if the dynamic mic picked up the guitar more cleanly vs the condenser FH. I liked how different each tone was and ended up panning them left and right. then I put the second guitar part right down the middle when it comes in. Lyrically I’m talking about myself and had originally written from my point of view. I redid it in the third person because I heard a lot of third person stuff at the lecture and thought it would be fun to try it that way.
The first song from this week’s session made use of an old riff from the Jefferson Street studio. I liked the crunch of the original sketch so I used the same setup of the EPI Les Paul through a small Fender practice amp with the high and bass dimed and the mids almost completely cut. I did the other side with a big muff through the invader. The chorus riff is a weird one I have had for a while that is some strange key. I like how it resolves on an E that slides into a Eminor. The lyrics are taken from a dream.
This week’s session resulted in 2 songs. This is the second of the two. I played around with the tremolo on this one, and I used the EPI LES PAUL for the guitars because the SG had a broken string from the show last week. I am happy with the propulsive rhythm that the verses, driven by the kick drum and bass. I think the instrumental sections have some fun rhythmic guitar stuff working with the drum part that recalls the Kinks. The solo in the middle reminds me of a Creedance solo like what Fogerty played on Lodi. I made a visit to the Record Exchange this week and I think that’s what got me thinking along classic rock lines.
The song this week owes a debt to both the Clash and Jay R. I borrowed the rhythmic structure from “Police and Thieves” for the intro / outro and I used the feel / snare clicks from “Seesaw” for the verses. I used the tele this week because I saw Joe Strummer use one in video of them in Munich from ’77. I ran it through the Invader with a MXR overdrive pedal. The guitar on the left was clean and the right guitar had reverb. I ran the bass clean. For the leads, I used some advice I got from Mike Vera last week and double mic’ed the speaker to try to get a thicker single note sound. He also gave me some tips on toms which I tried out as well during the outro. The lyrics are about opening day and the hope that even the cellar dwellers can feel this time of year.
For this week’s song I fast-forwarded a decade from the last entry to the early-aughts. I found the Strokes very first EP on Youtube and thought I had a shot at making something like it. To that end I took all the reverb off of everything except for the lead guitar part. I also didn’t do any micro delays on the drum tracks. I boosted the underside snare mic so that more of the snare sound would come through to match the desired aesthetic . I used an MXR boost pedal with the guitars to get an overdriven sound without too much distortion. I did one guitar track on the bridge pickup and the other part on the neck. For the bass I EQ-ed it to have more high end so that it would cut through. I did more pre-production for this song than on any previous tracks. Once I had the core parts I made some demos with an acoustic right into the laptop to figure out how the different parts would intersect with each other. Once I had a few of those together I would cut and paste to play around with the layering and arrangement until I had something I liked. To match the style I was emulating, I single-tracked the vocals and didn’t add any harmonies. I also ran the vocal through an amp simulator to give it a little fuzz.
The second song this week has a Pixes / 90’s feel. On youtube this week, I saw the rehearsal footage that Smashing Pumpkins did for SNL in 1993. It had me thinking about distorted guitars and slower tempos. This one is maybe the slowest song I’ve done at 100 BPM. There’s some borrowed vocal melodies from the Beatles and Modest Mouse as well. It was a fun exercise to let the bass drive the song and have the guitars get out of the way. The recording setup is similar to the other song this week, with the exception of running the guitars through the big muff. Lyrically, it’s about the disconnect between preparation and outcome.
This first of two songs from this week’s session was done in the style of the Marked Men. The structure is loosely based on Fix My Brain. To that end, the guitars aren’t overly distorted. I did one track using the SG with reverb and the other with the Epi Les Paul clean, both through the invader. Same setup on the bass as last week. On the drums, I moved the room mics further back and played with delaying them a bit more. When I went to track vocals, I saw that I neglected to turn on the Kick mic so I had to redo the drums late in the game. This one rips at 185 BPM. Lyrically I was inspired by True Detective season 3 that has recently concluded. This song is from Wayne Hays’ perspective.
The ‘B-SIDE’ from this week’s session is more laid back at 145 bpm and has a lot more space in it. Hilary said it has a ‘summer-jam’ feel. It has the same setup as the other song this week, but with no vocal distortion. This song started with the opening riff and was built out from there. Lyrically, this one is about my tendency to use music to vent my frustrations instead of dealing with the sources of my problems directly.
Two songs resulted from this week’s session. This is the ‘A-SIDE’ song of this week’s session, an upbeat, 160bpm song with the capo way up on the 6th fret. I went with single tracked cleaner guitars this week, the SG through the Invader recorded with one Fat Head. Reverb on one channel and one dry. The leads were distorted with a Big Muff. For the Bass I used the same setup as last week, Mexican Fender Jazz bass through an old Fender tube practice bass amp. I used the Big Muff with a low sustain. I did one vocal channel distorted up the middle and two with reverb panned. Lyrically, this one is about missed opportunities.
The song this week uses a capo. I never saw much value in capos for many years but now I find that it frees you up to make use of chord progressions that feel too well-worn in standard. It also put the song in a comfortable enough range for me that I was able to work out some 3-part harmonies in some places. The fingerpicking that starts the song is the first bit I came up with and the rest flowed from there. I single-tracked the main guitar parts again this week (SG on the left, tele w/ reverb on the right) and tried a simpler mic setup on the guitars. I had been using a matched pair of Fat Heads recorded to a single channel on guitars but pared it down to just one FH to fix a balance issue that I was having. I also moved the room mics further back on the drum kit than in previous weeks and experimented with delaying then about 12 ms to try and get a bigger sound.
The second song this week is a quick ripper. The chorus phrase is taken from our esteemed founder, Gunnar. I wanted to do a straight forward song as a palette cleanser after the last few songs have been more elaborate. Again I single tracked the guitars, one clean-is and one through the big muff. I was really happy with the bass tone, it had the same settings as the previous song but the tone really fits the mood. The song is really fast at 208 BPM. I originally thought I could do hi-hat 16th notes at that speed but I had to settle for eighth notes. Hilary offered some good notes on the vocal mix so I brought them up a bit on her suggestion.
The first song this week was born out of a piano riff that I came up with screwing around on James’ tiny KORG. It has a bit of a WALKMEN feel to it, especially in the chorus. This is the first recording I did on my new board. It’s the same model MIDAS VENICE 320 that I was borrowing but it’s in much better condition. I also got a new BEYER D70 mic that I used on the kick drum and bass. For the bass tone I used the big muff and turned the sustain way down. This gave me the distortion I was after, but cut way down on the amp noise. I used the SG on one guitar track and the tele on the other, both through the invader. I single-tracked the guitars instead of the doubling approach I usually take. The arrangement had keys on it to fill it out and the bass was doing a lot too so I didn’t think I needed it and also I’m trying to pare down my recordings. Lyrically I’m talking about balancing work and other pursuits.
This song was started in November and I had a chance to finish it up last Sunday. It’s a slower song that has a sparser arrangement which is driven more by the bass than the guitar. I applied some keys to it as well. I did a small guitar part on the telecaster through the invader to explore the reverb and tremolo effects that were recently restored to the amplifier. Lyrically it’s about TV.
This is the last song for 2018. I had the melody and lyrics kicking around for a few years. I borrowed a lot from Justin Townes Earle for this tune, specifically Harlem River Blues. This song makes use of two chords, A and B minor. I initially had another part for this song because I didn’t think I could get away with just two chords but in the end it didn’t need it. I used the tele for this one and added some organ to fill in the gaps.
The song this week was a bit of a reach for me and I’m not entirely convinced it came together completely but I wanted to try something new. The riff was inspired by some of the riffs on the Ty Segall self-titled. It had me playing around in keys that were new territory to me and experimenting with slower tempos. I also fuzzed out the bass and only used distorted guitars. I distorted the vocals to match. In the chorus, I tried to do a trick I learned about this week that Nirvana did a lot where you only play the first three strings of a chord and then complete the chord with the vocal melody. The resulting song was heavier and slower than I usually do and has kind of a Melvins-y feel to it.
Sunday’s session produced two new songs this week. The first one has a really weird back-and-forth progression for the verses that didn’t really come together until I put in the vocal harmonies. I single tracked the guitar this time around to see if I need all the layering that I normally do and to see if it would be any clearer. I wanted to see how sparse of an arrangement I could get away with. Lyrically it’s a bit of a mishmash, the first verse is taken from something I heard at work one day and the rest are recounting some details from my wild middle school years. The choruses felt like they needed new words each time around instead of repeating the same phrase so I used them to build on the ideas laid out in the verses.
On Thursday last week, a colleague at work said he had been tuning in to the song blog and wanted me to throw a line in one of the songs that he’d recognize. At lunch he told us about his glory days during the summer of his senior year so I built a song out of that. The arrangement ended up being a little folk-song-y and it kind of reminds me of the Blaze Foley song, ‘Highschool Hero.” I used the same board as last week and again went with the SG through the Invader for guitars. NOTE: This song was remixed on 2019FEB19
The genesis of this week’s song is the first half of the first verse. It was a phrase that came to me when we were last on tour a few Marches ago. My voice was shot and I was sick so I was going through quite a few ‘Fisherman’s Friends’ throat lozenges. The phrasing of the line is really weird and that’s what drew me to it and made me want to flesh it out. I had sketched out the main phrase back on Jefferson street and I had always wanted to make a full song out of it. I again used the new board and am learning to navigate it better in preparation for our next Spiders’ record, which we will be starting in the weeks ahead. The lyrics are about responsibility and perseverance.
This song was written over the thanksgiving holiday. My folks have an old classical guitar that I used to sketch up the parts of the arrangement. I found myself playing on a different key that had a some major chords where I usually expect minors and a couple of half step intervals which are pretty rare for me. I used the SG again through the Invader for the guitars. I was happy with how the fast picking solo came together. Sonically, this session was my first experiment with a new board that I managed to get my hands on that used to be the sound board at a prominent Cambridge rock club. It has much better pre-amps than what I was working with before. I have a lot to learn with it, but the early returns are promising, I feel like I’ve lifted the blanket that was covering my earlier recordings. The Spiders and I are hoping to make our next record ourselves and with this thing I think we’ll be able to. Lyrically, I’m thinking about the phenomenon of family.
We threw a party to celebrate the boy’s first birthday on Sunday this week and there was lots to do to prepare. I had to work quickly in order to get everything recorded in a small window of time early Sunday morning. I was able to get everything tracked in a few minutes under two hours. Working quickly has it’s advantages though, you aren’t able to over-analyze things and you have to commit quickly. As a result, I only tracked each rhythm guitar once and put one on the left and one on the right. Normally I double or triple each track. For the guitar this week, I was able to use my newly resurrected Invader GA-30 RVT that is fresh back from the shop. For inspiration I was listening to a No Age album this week and it starts with a song that sits on a single chord for a large portion of the verse. I also heard some Waylon Jennings songs where he does the same. So with this one I was trying to get a lot out of the first chord and have the chord changes have more impact. Lyrically I’m looking at exhaustion.
For the second song this week I did a cover of Matt Copley’s ‘Winter Wait.’ It’s a great song that he wrote a few years ago when his first son was born. Now that I have one as well I found some parts of this song particularly resonant, especially now that the weather has started to turn. His original version was a simple acoustic arrangement so I thought it’d be fun to do a more fleshed-out presentation. NOTE: This song was remixed on 2019FEB19
The first song from this week’s session ended up in a different key than it was written. I hit the wrong setting on tuner and so the guitar was tuned a half step lower than I intended. When I went to add the bass I was noticed it was off, so I recorded the bass tuned to E and played a half step down. Coincidentally, it put the vocals in a good spot for me so it ended up working out. I might not have been able to grab that high harmony in the chorus if it was in the original tuning. I stole the opening drum part from a Blinders song that I always liked a lot. I dug how the opening chords and riff are part of the same part instead of having the lead on top of the chords as I usually do. Lyrically, I’m talking about how we tell our story with a structure that wasn’t there as we were living it.
The verses here have the chords sliding into one another like last week’s song. I also again went with the single-tracked, distorted vocal we did on all the early spiders stuff. I used the epi-les paul for all the guitar this week. The chorus has a little repeating figure on top of the chords that that had a little Jay-vibe to it. I also threw some claps and tambo on that part as well. Lyrically it’s about the unsolicited advice that all new parents have to endure and the really weird tone that usually accompanies it.
This week’s composition was inspired by the “lost” Marked Men song that I heard about on NPR. The chorus melody was lifted from some song that was playing in Front Street Coffee on Wednesday morning. I got some tea there and took it down to the wharf with the boy where we enjoyed some of the last warm weather we’ll see this year. The words are about my reaction to certain styles of comedy and how hard it is to stay atop the standings.
I was listening to a lot George Jones this week and wanted to try my hand a country tune. The lyrics are meant to be funny but it comes across more earnest than I intended. The bridge lyrics were contributed by Hilary and ended up being a nod to Lithium off of Nevermind.
During this week, Hilary and I were looking at a house for sale in Swampscott. It had a lot of what we were looking for but in the end we decided against making an offer. We spent a lot of time thinking about it. Lyrically, the song is about how big decisions can usurp your thoughts and how persistent they can be. Under the solo is a tom-based drum part. I heard that done in a Strokes song once and really liked how it amplifies the part by pulling back.
The Epi-Les Paul and Tele-Squire were in need of a string change this week so I brought the SG for this one. It came in handy for the last chorus because the longer neck allowed me to do some really high barre chords that add a lot to the part and wouldn’t have happened otherwise. My tendency is always to go straight ahead so I was happy with the rhythm that emerged for the verses. Lyrically I’m wrestling with career, time and attitude. NOTE: This song was remixed on 2019FEB19
The chords and rhythm for the verse on the song this week are a kind of riff on the classic grunge progression, (eg. Smells Like Teen Spirt) The lyrics are written but not yet recorded. They are about Hilary’s experience this week jumping into the fray on the internet.
This week’s song is an instrumental. I had a handful of riffs that came together for this one but no vocal melodies jumped out to me. I was exploring time signatures this time around. A lot of the riffs vary between 3/3 and 4/4. One gets the 4/4 treatment early in the song but then shows up at the end in 3/3. There’s also a part in the bridge where the guitars are in 3/3 and the drums are in 4/4. None of this was intentional, but it did happen.
The song this week has a 90’s vibe to it. The vocal performance is in a lower register than I usually sing and gives it a laid back feel. The solo was created with layered, octave hammer-ons so it sounds like some sort of keyboard. The lower vocals gave me an opportunity to do some higher harmonies on the last chorus that came together well. Lyrically I’m sorting through my feelings for a friend of mine who has been going through a very challenging time. The Spiders have started working on this one.
The second song this week is a lullaby for the boy. He’s 10 months and getting really big. He seems so fearless and does everything with such force that it made me think of him as the King of the Jungle. In the verses I list out all the animals and how he’s crushed their spirits. In the choruses I varied the backdrop to reflect the animals from the verses. I threw in a quick, falsetto pre-chorus to break up the monotony of the verse and chorus being basically the same part. NOTE: This song was remixed on 2019FEB21
This week two songs emerged from the Sunday session. With the first song, I was trying to find a little more space in the parts. In the verses I found a little something more for the bass to do instead of just root-notes. Also, I liked the idea of having more of the Queen-style guitar harmonies running through more of the song instead of just saving them for the solos. The lyrics are written but not yet recorded. They were written on the train commute from Salem to Brighton. I was on my way to meet with an athlete and was listening to a podcast on the Heisenberg principle.
For this week’s instrumental I started with the Bass and built it up form there as opposed to my typical approach of starting with the guitar. I was interested in layering up harmonies and seeing how I could keep adding parts as the song goes along. This arrangement was also an excuse to further develop the full, multi-mic approach I started last week. This time around I spent more time adding compression and EQ to the drums.
The set of riffs for this song have been kicking around in my head since 2005. When I lived in Davis Square I made a quick, single-track recording of these riffs and labeled it ‘hipster music’ because the reminded me of the Strokes or British Sea Power. The bridge wouldn’t be out of place in an Inblackandwhite song. I came back to this recording and beefed it up with some harmonies and built up the structure more but it’s pretty close to the initial idea from a decade ago. The drums here are recorded using a full set of mics instead of just a matched pair of Cascade Fatheads so the sound is starting to get better.
For this week’s second entry, I did a slowed-down song that would have worked as an acoustic arrangement. I instead opted for a quiet, reverby, electric guitar which, together with the layered vocals, makes for a dreamy, haunting sound. The Invader did some interesting things during the solo which furthered the spooky mood. When I recorded the vocals, I didn’t have the windscreen properly placed and so I had to do some mixing gymnastics to reduce the plosives. The result has some nasty buzz around the vocals but it fixed the larger problem. Lyrically, this song is about having to find a new studio after we lost our lease on the Jefferson Ave. space and wondering why that was such a hard thing to wrap my mind around. It’s a reflection on why that space was important to us and the purpose it served while we were waiting for the boy.
This week was an instrumental exercise. I was playing with layers and guitar lead harmonies as well looking for a different-feeling rhythm that had some space in it. Also, I was happy to find a nice riff for the bass in the verses. There are words are written for this song but not yet recorded. They explore the idea that objective truth is an option for some people.
This week I was interested in a propulsive beat that pulls the song along. I found some weird chords to play with when the song opens up that reminded me of my cousin’s work in Prize the Doubt. I threw in some abrupt rhythmic pauses as a nod to them. I was happy with how the harmony guitar lines came out at the end. I shared with Amaral and he thought the ending had a Jay Reatard feel to it. There are lyrics written but not recorded that are a riff on “the wisdom of the staircase” and also work in one of Gunnar’s classic quotes.
This week’s song features a finger-picking riff that I had been playing around with since the early Jefferson Avenue days. I was thinking about the Walkmen when I was putting this together. I was using a sparse arrangement with a cleaner, reverby tone instead of all the distorted layers I tend towards. The finger-picking arrangement helps bring it further from my usual output, but also made for a dirty, difficult tracking session. There are lyrics written but not yet recorded. They explore my reaction to some recent unpleasantness.
This week’s second song is an instrumental. I was working with some parts that were outside of my normal comfort zone and quite a bit different from each other. Stitching them together was a good exercise. I was also looking at varying the tones to help differentiate the parts. There’s definitely an opportunity for vocals here but I haven;t cracked it yet.
I didn’t quite get to the drums on the first song this week. It’s a very straightforward, very classic DWatS kind of song. I’ll add drums on the next studio catch up day. I have some lyrics and a melody written for the bridge at the end but need to hustle out some lyrics for the rest of it. The main riff was one that Hilary made up for me.
The second song this week is an exercise in trying to find more space in the structure of the parts. I was working on syncing up the bass and drums more closely as well as doing some single note progressions so that the chords have more impact when they come in. I was also looking for interesting harmonies to go with all those single note parts to see if that could fill the space the same way chords can. There are lyrics for this one mostly written and the main theme is about a friend’s deadpan response to a crazy situation.
The first song this week is still without a drum part. The idea is to do some galloping snare part for most of the song. It proved to be trickier than I thought and I ran out of time. The main riff was contributed by Hilary and I built the rest of it out from there. No words written for this one yet, but it will need them eventually.
This one is a summertime jam. The the rhythmic, clean, left-channel guitar part in the verses was inspired by the single from Culture Abuse’s new record. This one came together quickly and has some fun thin lizzy style guitar stuff going on as well as some fun tambo stuff.
I started with a cleaner tone this week to give myself somewhere to go as I built the song up. This one is currently just instrumental but could use some words for sure. I found some fun harmonies to close out the song. I was happy with the way this song builds as it goes.
This one makes good on a riff I’ve had kicking around for a really long time. The lead is a little close to what I did on Night Games and I think that’s what kept me from doing anything with it. I always liked how this riff used all of the strings. The way it builds in the bridge is how I always heard that part in my head and I was happy to finally find a place for it. The lyrics in the chorus acknowledge the voice in my head throughout the creative process. The rest are about recognizing my role in my own failures and finding value without external validation.
This week’s song is an instrumental with the aggression puled back a little bit. The tones are cleaner and the arrangement is a little sparser. In the bridge I went for a reverb-soaked clean tone to pull that part out. No words are written for this one yet.
For this one I was trying my hand at a murder ballad in the style of ‘Long Black Veil’ or ‘Tom Dooley.’ I did the base tracks for this one with the 7/8th scale Taylor at home, directly into the laptop through the built-in-audio. I put the rest of it down with the Fatheads in the studio. The lyrics for this were inspired by a story one of Hilary’s aunts told while they were visiting. She said that her grandfather moved to the Midwest because he was running from the law. As she tells it, he had clubbed a man over the head with a shovel in New York City. I thought two things were interesting about this story. The first is the notion of the country back then being so big that you could erase yourself by moving 1000 miles away. The second is that this poor fellow was trying so desperately to distance himself from this terrible deed and now this story is the only thing we know about him.
This song is the first track recorded at my new studio on Bridge Street. The drum kit is a different kit than the previous recordings, but the amps are the same. It is a continued experiment in adding new tools into the mix. The bridge features a finger-picking interlude and the verse phrase has a heavily articulated rhythm. With the lyrics I am describing that funny feeling when you are awake in your dreams and how nothing and everything makes sense at the same time. The bridge starts on the same chord that the chorus ends, so I abruptly cut into the bridge and it fits nicely with the theme of the lyrics and how dreams take weird shifts all the time. You can hear faintly how I messed around with some volume-knob hammer-on stuff in the early part of the bridge to add to the dreamy-quality of the song. I need to spend some more getting the right guitar tone for this idea to properly work.
The song this week is just a little acoustic sketch of some parts that were kicking around. I would like to develop it further and add a vocal part. This song was recorded at home, straight into the laptop. The very next day after this song was recorded we learned that we lost our lease at the Jefferson Ave. space, so to me it’s fitting that it was recorded at home, in between studios.
This song took a while to come together, I did all the bass and guitars at Jefferson and finished up the rest at Bridge Street. The opening has a real Ratatat feel to it. The drums were the first thing I recorded at the new space. The vocals are way over-compressed and there’s a nasty hiss in there as a result. Lyrically it’s about staying complete in a situation where there are a lot of factors working towards the opposite goal.
The song this week was a song I heard in a dream. In the dream, I was at a concert and I saw a band play this song and I really liked it. The tempo and beat are very different from where I normally am. The verse and the chorus are the same progression with different arrangements. I threw in a chorus part to break up the monotony of the other similar parts. There’s a blank verse in the middle that could probably use a solo, although it’s not too bad as is. The first line of the lyrics is taken right from the dream as well. I made up the rest after I was awake. The second chorus was written while driving down Storrow Drive along the Esplanade, I think while driving to studio 52.
This song has a Replacements feeling to it. It uses a capo which was something I was against for years but mostly out of ignorance. I started playing around with one when I was playing acoustic for the boy around the house. Moving the capo up the fretboard made it sound a lighter and more appropriate for newborn ears. The main riff feels like something Amaral might come up with, and has a little ‘Copper Green’ to it. There’s a blank verse in need of a solo but I’m saving that for Amaral. I There might be a bridge too many in this song but I do like all the parts. I especially liked how the bridge vocal phrase returns for the outro with new chords under it. The lyrics concern the passing of my uncle and some thoughts on the interesting relationship that he had with his family.
I wrote this song while I was in AZ for MLB spring training. It was the first time I’d been there and I was struck by how cold it was. The weather was unseasonably chilly but also the place had a cold, empty feel to it as well. I really did see a rabbit on the sidewalk with his throat ripped out. The lyrics and vocal melodies really drove this one. I just put chords underneath and went from there. It was fun to do the descending bridge, it reminds me of something that would be in an REO Speedwagon or Journey song.
This song is an obvious ode to the boy. He’s been getting so expressive lately so it’s fun to read into those expressions. He didn’t give a lot of feedback for a the first few months so it’s fun to watch his personality emerge. I was happy with the drum part for the verse, it’s a little different. There’s a blank verse on here that needs a solo, maybe xylophone or something like that could work well.
This song is currently an instrumental. the whole song was born out of the the hammer on melody of the second verse. Once I had that riff I started fleshing in the song around it. I really like the mechanical feeling of the intro / outro. The chorus part feels like ‘Fever to Tell’-era Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I’m excited to add the lyrics for this one and finish it up.
This one has acoustic guitar with a full electric band behind it. That kind of arrangement always calls the Pixies to mind for me. me. I like throwing hand claps and tambo in with the texture of the acoustic. The first line of the vocal part was the genesis of this song. Once I got rolling with the lyrics, the focus shifted to anxiety about the current political landscape so the themes aren’t consistent, but I still really like that first line.