I (Twang!) had to wake up at 8:20 in the morning for a rehearsal last week. Due to our unusual schedules, and the fact that we live in two different states, we often have to rehearse at times not really suited to music (imagine if we added a third member from Connecticut how impossible rehearsing would become). I always forget how dreary it is at 8:20 AM, or is it just me that’s dreary at that time? In fact, I tend to forget that there even is an 8:20 AM. I’ve even heard rumors of a 6:30 AM, but I assume that’s along the lines of an urban legend. We’ve all heard stories of 6:30 in the morning, but has anyone ever really seen it?
But anyway, I drag my ass out of bed at 8:20, drive to the parking lot (the one that they never ticket in, I assume ‘cos it’s next to the library, and they probably figure that no one uses a library anymore, so they don’t want to discourage it by ticketing folk parked there past the legal time frame), 5-10 minute walk to the train w/ two instruments and a gym bag of electronics strapped to my back, take the train to Manhattan, fight thru the biomass at Penn Station, walk a few blocks to the studio and set up my gear and tune the guitars and basses. And after all this, I have to somehow play and sing.
I used to video-record our rehearsals, figuring that some of the clips could be used on YouTube or wherever, but in general it’s difficult to perform to an acceptable standard in these conditions. I guess the good part is that if I can do just alright at these rehearsals then the performances should really be good. If nothing else they’ll feel easier.
For those of you around here, we’re performing in Valley stream on the 15th of February. Check our website for details.
So we now have a show scheduled: February 15th in Valley Stream. For me performance always leads to mixed emotions, and a lot of them. There’s the anticipation of the opportunity to play some great music, and the dread of schlepping my gear (four amps and three or four instruments, as well as a mic stand and a gym bag full of effects), and the joy of sharing this music with an audience, as well as the fear that the venue will be close to empty, and add in worries about the sound (we haven’t played here yet) and if I’ll be able to play at the standard I try to hold myself to, as well as the hope that some new people may get exposed to our music at this show and maybe become fans. All together it’s enough to drive someone bipolar.
So I just try to put it out of my mind (which doesn’t work) and when these thoughts and emotions do come up, not make them important (that does work). If I’m scared, I let myself be scared and go on w/ whatever I’m doing. If I’m happy I let myself be happy and don’t dilute it w/ the worries and contradictins that will invariably come up if I make a big deal out of being happy. (how’s that for irony?) This seems to work for me (somewhat). I’d love to find out if someone has a better idea.
I just spent a few hours redoing vocals for our next single, as when listening back to the original I don’t think it was as good a performance as what I’m capable of. Which makes sense, as I’m a better musician now than I was then (I don’t remember how long ago I cut those other tracks). This is an infuriating conundrum for a musician (at least one who is practicing and attempting to better one’s skills): no matter how good a performance you put down, in retrospect it will be worse than you could do now. This can create a spiral of constantly re-recording tracks as musicianship improves, and if you record in your own studio (as we do) can cause songs to never be released. It’s especially funny (in an infuriating sort of way) when others hear my old “crappy” tracks and my new “improved” tracks and don’t hear a difference. To them I guess I just sound like me.
There’s another curious thing that happens with time,though: when a track (or song, or whatever) is old enough, the performance doesn’t seem to be such an issue, like it’s just become this old song that I remember, and not “my dreadful performance” anymore. At least this is how I experience it. So there’s the time I’m performing the track and anything from as long as a day to as little as ten minutes afterward when I’m quite pleased w/ my performance (at times I even start to believe I’m a genius) and directly after that I listen to the same performance and hear it as complete rubbish and then after that window (which can last months) I start to like it again. At this last stage I feel like I stop hearing it as “me”. (Does that make sense or does it just sound nutty?)
Of course, this all makes the recording process tricky (and for anyone that has to deal w/ me, infuriating), since my opinion of the recording is so mercurial. I guess this is why producers were invented.
So me and Matt had our weekly phone meeting last Friday. The struggle isn’t in the writing of new stuff, we’ve currently got too much of that. The issue is garnering the resources (time and/or money) to have these compositions fully realized. We’re presently finishing up “Far Away from Home” (I think there’s still a demo of this on the web somewhere). The track is finished, there’s just some issues with getting the sound right (I won’t bore you attempting to explain the complicated processes of mixing and equalizing and all, partly ‘cos I’m not sure how well I understand it myself). I expect it will be fully finished before the new year.
There is a new song in the works: “I Am” If you click on the title you can listen to the demo. I’m hoping to post rehearsal takes and such, all leading to the final recording so that those of you who find such things interesting can follow the whole process (those of you who don’t find such things interesting can spend your time doing something else). I wrote it a couple of weeks ago and quickly did a demo. At first it sounded to me like I was completely aping Adrian Belew, but now it just sounds like a subtle rip-off. These things can surprise me, though. There are songs I wrote one way and after working it out w/ whatever group I’m in, have turned out very different (like “the Price”, which started out as a 60’s sounding jam tune, but became a Jazz/R&B groove after Matt got done w/ it). Fortunately, I like surprises.
Me (Twang!) and Matt were speaking, and both of us were remarking on how for us, music was a very spiritual thing. And by this I don’t mean some kind of candles in a dark room while chanting incantations type of thing. Just that we tend not to listen to music passively, but actively. Surrendering to the music and letting it take us to another state of being ( now it’s beginning to sound like candles and incantations again). I remember Kerry Merkle (of JWB) remarking on how back in the day of records (for those of you who remember) an LP was a ritualistic experience. After bringing the record home, you had to put a slit in the shrinkwrap, remove the record, put it on the turntable and then move the stylus into position to listen to the music. And at the end of one side, you had to get up and go over to the record player and physically turn the platter over to hear the rest of the music.
Though our culture (for the most part)doesn’t treat music w/ this kind of reverence, me and Matt were in agreement that we’d still like to make music at that level, and hopefully have it affect people in the same way. Or maybe it’s more a matter of finding the people who appreciate music in this way and getting our music to them. We’re still figuring a lot of this stuff out.
But in spite of the internal questioning, I still managed to spend yesterday and today tracking guitar and voice for two new songs: “In View” which was written years ago, but I think would be a great acoustic guitar/percussion track (like early T-Rex). “I Am” I just wrote last week. I thought it sounded way to Adrian Belew (who I overlistened to during the hurricane aftermath) but after recording it I said to myself : “That doesn’t sound like Belew at all.”
No matter how hard I try, I still sound like me.