While DD69 is on hiatus (while slowly, slowly working on our next album “The Pint of No Return“), I had the opportunity to do a fun project with Jay Goodman of Skinny Moo. We put together a theme song for a really fun podcast called “Does This Hold Up“, in which your hosts Jamie and TJ dig deep into the old movie archive to see if those cinematic gems still hold up today.
Archive for the ‘Songwriting’ Category
Since we’re on a little bit of a hiatus here, what with personal obligations of a few of the guys, I’ve taken to exploring ways to work on things that we :
(a) have in the pipeline in some sort of state of completion
(b) want to resurrect from the vast, echoing archive that is our recording history, or
(c) can remix and/or license
I ran across an opportunity to work on a (c) style bit of music based on an existing track we recorded for the Get Up album: “Lose U Baby”.
In this case, the folks looking for some music were interested in a song that had a vibe similar to The Heavy. I wasn’t familiar with them, but I have to say I’m grateful that I discovered them – very cool stuff. Upon listening to their referenced song “How You Like Me Now”, I immediately thought of “Lose U Baby”.
We had really gone for the James-Brown-era funk feel on that tune, combined with our usual heavier guitars. Since I needed to do an instrumental remix, I decided to make a few edits to keep it tight, add some excitement, and fill in for spots that seemed empty without vocals.
I have to say that I almost like the new cut better than the original mix. The Hammond is very cool, and the way that some of the edits worked really seemed to tighten up the song structure a bit. I also like the “less is more” approach to the instrumental: I eliminated a number of parts that seemed to clutter up the mix. With the vocals the clutter didn’t really seem to be a big deal (apparently), but once they were out of the mix things seemed to need cleaning up.
Here are the versions. Let me know what you think!
Original version from our 2012 Album “Get Up”:
I’ve been spending time working on the other side of town recently, and decided to head home one day using the route I took when I was working a temporary job across town a number of years ago. The route goes through several old east side neighborhoods, past universities and churches, and it has countless traffic lights, stop signs, and bizarre intersections.
As I was attempting to navigate rush hour in that spaghetti of suburban streets, the memories came back in big flashes: here’s where I spun out during a shitty winter storm; there’s where I used to have lunch all the time; where the hell did this intersection come from, I don’t remember this?
And then it hit me. That road, full of big old houses with their landscape service trucks parked at annoying intervals in the right lane during peak traffic times, was where I had been inspired to write the song “Psycho Minivan Driver”. If you haven’t listened to it, go ahead, I’ll wait.
Yes, that was pretty much what was going through my head as I was repeatedly cut off by a minivan driver who was clearly out of his or her mind. I spent a good thirty minutes by myself during the drive just repeating the phrase “psycho minivan driver” in mantra-like fashion. Somehow by the time I arrived at my temporary job, most of the song had crystallized in my mind. It’s one of a very few times that a song has spring from nowhere almost fully-formed, and then amazingly managed to come to life almost exactly the way I heard it in my head.
So to that zany driver, wherever you are, thanks. And f#ck you.
When we last left our developing song (in part 2: a rough edit) we had a rudimentary song structure, but we were missing some good stuff: transitions, a chorus, a bridge.
Usually after listening to the initial idea for a while, one or more of us will come up with some ideas to give the song a little more structure or tension. Sometimes that involves adding a pre-chorus section, or adding a new hook. We usually develop some kind of bridge as well. If lyrics are happing at the same time, which they sometimes do, the words might move the music in a particular direction, too.
In the case of “Keep Raining”, words were not showing up to the party, so we were really working with just the music at that point. After exchanging some ideas we worked in an intro section, and added a little modulation to the verse, dropping down a step before the freshly added prechorus. We also came up with a very melodic bridge and dropped the dynamics down to just bass and drums right after it.
We also added some kooky turnarounds at the end of the song… by accident.
In the process of editing together the ending, which was just supposed to be a few repeating chorus sections, I pasted some measures in the wrong place. When we listened back we discovered that it actually sounded pretty cool, so we kept the mistake (now I can’t imagine the song without it).
During this process I started to have a few lyrical ideas, mostly in the “epic story” vein. Kind of like a drunkdude version of “Lord of the Rings”, about some character on a big quest who goes up to the mountain to discover knowledge. Fortunately we scrapped all of that drivel, but the one thing that did stick (at least for a little while) was a “kingly” name change: we started calling the song “Keep Reigning”, and eventually just “Reigning”.
One of the last big things we changed before getting the demo together was the tempo: we upped the tempo a few beats per minute because we all agreed that the original tempo of the jam was dragging. In fact, we posted an entry about it, which you can find here.
So we put all of the concepts together and did what is essentially the demo of the song. It’s the recording that we use to refine our parts, and to give any other musicians a guideline of what we’re looking for. With that blueprint, we were able to move on to the next step.
Coming up: tracking.
Continuing from part 1 (a jam), we pick up with the evolution of the song “The Next Minute” which will be included on our upcoming record As Big As You Can Get It.
Typically after a studio night is over, the guys head home and I stay up until the wee hours trying to slice and dice the 12 – 20 minutes of amorphous jamming into some kind of rough song structure. I might add some different loops or drum parts, and I’ll usually find the best parts of the jam (a.k.a. the parts where we aren’t just sucking completely) and move them around.
Usually the first edit winds up being pretty simple: verse + chorus. No bridge, no intros or other bits. Sometimes we don’t even get a chorus. I also try to give the rough edit some kind of placeholder name. The rough edit had a kind of driving feel that reminded me of Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks”, so I tagged the song idea as “Keep Raining”.
In this case we got what we felt was a solid verse along with a bass break. We didn’t really have a defined chorus, but this first edit gave us a seed that we could water (with idea juice, of course) and cultivate into something bigger and better.
Coming up: the demo edit