Sunday, January 31, 2010

Replace the Bass

We worked Tess through several different takes of Bicycle on the Ice, including two different octaves of the parts. After tweaking some monitoring levels for her to really hear the flow of the song, she completed her parts very confidently. There will be some cuts and pastes for her parts as well as combining the two octaves at an appropriate mix with each other but when that is all said and done, I'm confident the haunting bass parts will be just what we are looking for.

Official Name is Fat Dave

Tess was all around fascinated and curious with the recording process and Dave's studio space. I think I heard her say she's never done anything quite like this! She even went as far as to ask what the name of Dave's studio is "besides the Dave Eastman Studio"... Dave proceeded to take out his new business cards, saying "Official Name is Fat Dave".

And here is an opportunity to plug my producer, Mr. Dave Eastman! Check out his website.

Dave Doing His Thing.

Dave has always been laid back and cool in the studio. Here he is guiding Tess through the process of recording before we began.

Warming Up

Dave took it upon himself to put Bicycle on the Ice into sheet music for Tess to play to. I was delighted to see how fast she caught on to the song and after the standard mic set up and sound tests, Tess was ready to go. Here is Dave miking Tess while she practices her part.

Tess Gallagher

On January 26th, we welcomed Tess Gallagher to the What To Keep & Let Go group of musicians as our upright bass player for Bicycle on the Ice. Back in early 2009, Marcin and I commenced the recording project with this song, playing at the same time and getting the best take out of many. About a year later, Marcin's bass parts are being replaced with Tess' instrument, providing a more haunting flavor to the song. The deep, bellowing sounds are powerful and appropriate for the space we wish to create with Bicycle on the Ice; it is my hopes to make this song actually make you feel that you're out alone on an ever-expansive iced over lake. Tess' bass parts only help to further create this feeling. Marcin will join me back in the studio to re-create his piano parts for the song on a real piano.

Before Record Tour

On occasion I'll make it over to the studio before Dave does and sometimes I'll either sit in the car listening to some music or I'll go on a mini photo hunt for The Weston Monster. Other times I'll simply head on up, put on a pot of tea and mosey around the studio, playing guitar or trying my hand (or hands) at the piano. However, on January 26th, I decided to take the opportunity while I waited to give you a more appropriate video tour of the studio space we've been working on for this last year.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Studio Through The Eyes of Aaron

Aaron found an Olympus Stylus Epic 35mm camera in the trash this past week, loaded it with some film and came to practice with high hopes that this throw away still worked! Between our run-throughs of Passing Into August and If Not Now Then When, Aaron snapped photos of me and Dave, the console and his drum kit. It was exciting to wonder if the pictures he was taking would come out great- a feeling that is obviously lost these days with the instant gratification we receive with our use of digital cameras.

Today, he posted the pictures that came out and it brought back a somewhat nostalgic feeling of the mystery of photo development, that waiting period between the shutter click and opening up that envelope to see the shots you had taken days before. There seems to be a quality in these pictures that most others we have taken in the studio with a digital camera do not have. It's not that they necessarily look any different (which I guess they kinda do!) but perhaps it's the process and the mystery that makes them that more interesting. Great photos! Thanks Aaron for bringing that feeling back to an otherwise "instant" existence.

Photos by Aaron Pring

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fumbling In Circles..

On the 25th of January, I went into the studio to kick off the first of two sessions this week with Dave to catch up a bit on some time we have lost. The goal was to possibly record my electric part for Circles before Aaron came in for our practice session but due to my tardiness, we were only able to get through a quick practice run using Dave's Gibson plugged into a small amp near the console. Dave has heard what I have in mind for the electric guitar part for this tune through the demo I sent him but this was the first time I ran through the song in person for him. It's probably a good thing we didn't get to recording the part as you can see I'm a little rusty on what I wrote for the song. Dave is happy with what I wrote, however, and once I polish it up a bit we'll be ready to record!

Even though I mess up very frequently and the guitar is out of tune, I consider this a spoiler for the direction of the song. Watch only if you don't care about ruining any surprises!

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Musical Reunion: A Year With Chad Macomber!

A year ago today marks the joining of Chad Macomber onto my solo project What To Keep & Let Go. I say solo because Chad and I have a great deal of history working together in the musical world and this is really my first ever project outside what we've always done together; writing music, lyrics and performing at college coffee houses, small town festivals and dingy bars in Boston and Providence is something to be revered and I will never forget how I got to where I am today due to my experience with this electric guitar playing, tone-perfecting, hands-off-the-guitar-shout-outin' Marblehead legend! (Yeah, dude I said it...legend!...just don't let it go to yo head!)

So yes, Chad and I have a history, a musical bond and harmony that when lost can easily be picked back up again. After we graduated from Ringling School of Art Design, our creative ambitions lead us on different roads. Chad returned to Marblehead, MA where he built himself a small but effective studio in his bedroom, cranking out enough songs to catalogue two albums entitled Entropy and On Phoenix Wings In Flight. A couple hundred miles north, I was working on a film project with my long-time friend Travis VanAlstyne and spent the summer after graduating toting around cheap camera equipment to record a 45 minute documentary about ghostly activity in the Green Mountain State. Chad had his hand in this project by providing some sound samples and music arrangements for certain parts of the film. I even trekked down to MA a few times to work with him on a song called The Montreal Express that was to be the soundtrack to one of the stories featured in the film. It never was completed and used for the film but it was evident that we hadn't lost our touch collaborating together.

Throughout my movie making process, I was writing in my Vermont bedroom some of the songs that would one day be featured on my very first solo album. I wrote Stand, bought an Ovation celebrity roundback guitar, practiced vocals through my Peavy amplifier that Chad sold me for $40 from our practice sessions in his dorm room at school, and paved the way to my own musical style. At Ringling, I learned a great deal from Chad on acoustic guitar, picking up a lot of his technique and influence of our shared favorite band U2. In fact, the first chord progression song I learned was Desire...months after I struggled with an Everlast riff, a C-chord finger stretch and up and down strumming pattern. Frustrated, I stored my guitar away for a semester and only picked it back up after talking with a classmate about guitar playing and music on the flight back down to Florida.

From there Chad and I wrote our first couple songs together, recording them on a small 4 track that he had in this room. It wasn't really realized that I would be lending my vocals to certain tracks until Chad and his then girlfriend listened in on me singing in the back seat of his car one day when we were driving around. Who knew that years of singing Aladdin songs in the shower would pay off! haha After honing in on our technique, writing lyrics and finding our sound niche, Chad and I seemed to veer away from our course of study to something entirely new and exciting- writing and performing music! It was this turn of events that inspired our first collaborative album together to be named Detour. After some time of gaining popularity amongst our peers and friends and gaining a reputation for U2 cover songs at our shows, Chad and I pumped up promotion with photoshoots, flyers around the campus and a 2-man band name inspired by our frequent spotting of 11's in our life. We were The Eleven Project.

That seems like such a long time ago but in writing it all out, it is still so clear and the memories are great! After a good long run together in college and a humorous final coffee-house show (you know what I'm talkin about dude!), we parted ways with one last jam session in the back of his moving truck outside our hotel and went our separate ways.

Of course the years followed with ghost soundtrack work, new songs, music festivals and joining an already established band, Star Light Grey, to revamp our stage presence and rediscover that musical chemistry we've always seemed to have. Our styles changed a bit over the years but with that comes new ideas and well-rounded approaches to crafting our songs together. Bringing Chad on to my album project was not only a smart move in having certain energies and sounds needed to make the songs as best as they could be but also it was a gesture to honor our musical history and friendship; a loyalty and appreciation that without would make this album project seem sort of shallow and void of an understanding of my roots and growth as an artist.

I value my history, progress and current collaborations with the Mr. Macomber and know that without hearing his plucking on the acoustic guitar all those years ago in our freshman dorm, I would probably never have gotten to where I am to today. Thanks dude for one helluva a ride and for your hard work and dedication to helping me realize this album project after such a long time in the making! You rock, brotha.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Keeping What To Keep

I ordered myself a heavy duty back-up drive the beginning of last week and it came Friday. I have since put the entire What To Keep & Let Go project so far on one drive and currently the whole thing (with videos, pictures, media, posters, etc) is totaled at a little over 100 gigs. haha that's a lot and I assume it will climb much higher before the whole album and all of its documentation work is wrapped up.

Once it's all done, I plan on buying another drive that will house all the files, back it all up again, and store it away in a box where it will be safe and sound forever!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bird's Eye View!...Kinda.

Here's one of those angle shots I was talking about in a previous post. With my trusty "mic" stand, I was able to hoist the camera up into the higher part of the recording space to get a great shot of Aaron and me working through If Not Now, Then When. Check it out!


Revenge of the Loops!

On Saturday's introductory practice for Aaron's songs, Dave fed Passing Into August in through to the amps so he could play along to them and figure out his parts. On some sections, we decided to put it on a loop so he could just keep trying over and over again for what he really wanted, be it a certain drum fill or a time signature. On Tuesday, he had his revenge on us! For If Not Now, Then When, Aaron really wanted to figure out a drum roll down into the bridge after the 2nd chorus and so he had us repeat that part over and over again in the live practice. haha It was actually very hilarious because he'd stop midway and start clicking his sticks together for the new count in. I had to get it on video, which you can see here!

August Jam

On whole wheat toast..haha.

It's important that we stay fresh with Passing Into August as well as the new song so when both are ready, Aaron will feel comfortable recording both at the same time in the studio. Here is a follow up jam from Saturday's practice. Aaron is really gettin' it down and lots of practice on the 2nd verse got me thinking about the lyrics I still need to write for that part...As Aaron said "killin' two birds with one stone!"

Swivel Cam!

As you know, I am always trying to find new angles for the practice shots. During our session, I was surveying the room for any nook or cranny that would work to accommodate my little camera so we could get some great shots of all three of us playing. I was warned by Dave that the vibration would knock it off the wall on Saturday so I didn't want to put it back there again. Instead, I attempted to wedge the little guy between strings holding up the sound rafters. This failed. I gave up and sat back down only to realize that the mic stands serve as PERFECT holders or the camera, equipped with up and down motion for high angles and rotation as well! This clip is of the camera in position on the far corner of the room but I realized that the lens wasn't allowing me to get all three of us. So even though this attempt was fun, it was also futile. Oh well! I moved my new holding device out into the hallway instead (see other posts). This video attempt is just too funny to NOT post tho. ahha

Care To Listen?

*****SPOILER ALERT******

Reader beware. This is a clip of us practicing the newly added song If Not Now, Then When. It's not much right now but you can get the gist of the song by viewing below. We worked through this practice before Aaron showed up and then once he came aboard with it, it took a whole new life and I think it's safe to say it'll be one of my favorites on the record. Yay to track adjustments!

Getting To Know Our New Friend

If Not Now, Then When is the newbie on the track-list of What To Keep & Let Go, having kicked out Do What You Can for its spot because it simply jives better with the entire record. Sorry DWYC, we'll see you again soon! On January 12th, Dave and I sat down and hashed out the different parts to the song, him learning the bass parts as he will be taking up the instrument for the final recording. Since I capo the song on the fifth fret, we had to work through the notes to figure out what they really are for Dave's parts. Damn me and my capo- always confusing bass players! (Right, Marcin?) haha

Thursday, January 14, 2010

No Attacks But Snow Tracks!

It's been a while since the Weston Monster has reared its ugly head at the recording space but that doesn't mean that he isn't still coming around! On Saturday, I was outside enjoying the crisp air and waiting for Dave's arrival when I happened upon some tracks left in the snow, clearly made by the beast. He's still lurking in and around the studio alright.... I wonder where he's hiding out this winter and will we see him again?

Stand Up for Your Bass!

So on Tuesday Dave told me that our goal to have a stand up bass part for Bicycle on the Ice may become possible! Apparently he has a friend that plays one and said she'd be interested in laying down a track for us. So exciting! It'll really help to fill the space a little more and create that ambiance that I'm looking for.

I'll keep you updated on the possible new musician as well as any other random people we'll have coming aboard to polish off these songs. I think Chad mentioned he has a friend that plays the violin too....

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Aaron & Cullen & Dave, Oh My!

A different than normal mix of us flooded the studio space on January 8th, ready to start 2010 off with a new song and new ambition to complete the record! Dave and I began the day by adjusting some wood-block sound effects in the bridge of Stand, later realizing that we should see if Aaron Pring was available to start work on his songs. Sure enough, he was able to stop by to talk about Passing Into August and to run it through a few times. Earlier that week, I had mentioned to Cullen that Dave and I were going to be working in the studio that weekend and he said he might stop by, which he did! So on this sunny Saturday afternoon, the four of us crowded together in the recording room amidst amplifiers, pedal boards and sun patches with Aaron's red & black diamond clad bass drum sitting prominently in the middle of the floor, a couple of chairs surrounding it to frame our little jam session. Cullen graciously offered up some percussion advice to Aaron, talking of different time-signatures to play with and tricks to practice on his own, while Dave worked on getting Passing Into August fed through the amp from the console. It was a unique session, jamming for the first time with Dave and Aaron, while Cullen sat among us, taking stange-angled photos and lending a drummer's ear where he could. Jamming in a different space felt fresh and left me excited for the next practice where we three will be working through the newly added song If Not Now, Then When? Once Aaron is ready with these two songs, we'll bring him in to record his drum parts, leaving only Hello, Amy left to begin work on. Wow.

Here are some photos from the session taken by Cullen Corley.

Ready For Our Close-Ups, Mr. Corley

Like I have said before - give Cullen the camera and you just don't know WHAT to expect! haha In this particular clip Cullen decided to get up close and personal with each of us during our practice session of Passing Into August. My favorite is the cymbal crashes during Aaron's close-up because you can't hear anything else! It's just humorous to me. :)

Aaron Working Through Passing Into August

Dave set up a loop of Passing Into August from the computer to an amp in the recording room for Aaron to play along to in order to figure out his parts for the song. After he got the gist of the tune, we went into a few jam sessions with Dave on bass to really get Aaron ready for recording.

Vibrations Might Knock You Off...

....and then this video would not exist. haha

Yes, it's no secret to the guys that hang in the studio to work on the record with me that I'm always trying to place the camera in random spots, hit 10-second timer or record on the video option and take position for some shots for this here production blog! But it's not ALWAYS successful due to unstable surfaces, funny angles and places where sound vibrations could easily knock it down to its demise...and that would be bad.

Here's my attempt to capture Dave, Aaron and me practicing Passing Into August by placing the camera on a sound rafter high above our heads. I didn't even attempt this. haha

Bicycle in the snow? An Update!

Time for a video update! But instead of driving in the car on the way to the studio, I decided to take a stroll in the falling snow on Friday to tell you what is on the agenda for the next few months until What To Keep & Let Go is completed.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Practice Made Perfect: A Year with Cullen & Marcin

A year ago today, Marcin, Cullen and I gathered in the attic practice space in Weston to begin work on What To Keep & Let Go, namely Horizons & In the End. It's hard to believe that it's been a year since these songs started coming to life after about 6 years of sitting in demo form in my head and on the computer. Both Cullen and Marcin still have a little bit more work to do, Hello, Amy needs the full band treatment and Marcin will be playing some piano riffs on some songs as well as hopefully doing bass for If Not Now, Then When? Other than that, these guys have completed most of their parts! I was telling Cullen yesterday how happy I am with his work on Circles; he really captured the exact vision I had for the song. These guys have done a stand-up job at really bringing the songs to new level and showing me things I would have never thought to bring to the record. It's been a worthwhile experience working with these very talented guys and I couldn't have done it without them. (Chad, you'll get your 1 year post coming up later in the month...haha)

Btw,...can we talk about how different we all look in just a year?? haha

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

If Not Now, Then When?

Funny how this song is a question and it's also put into question as a possible replacement song for Do What You Can. That's right, after having such a solid track listing all year for What To Keep & Let Go, I'm reevaluating the flow and thematic consistency of the record and realizing that Do What You Can simply doesn't fit. It's a great song that has received a lot of attention for those that have heard it but all around it has never seemed to settle into the mix as nicely as the others. It's not a very personal song whereas all the others are written based on my experiences over the last 6 or so years...with love, relationships, loss and life's trials and realizations. Do What You Can would fit very nicely in a record designed to tell stories of the world, people and of things outside myself and who I am. I'm 100% positive I will use this song someday and it will most likely make the cut for The Let Go Tracks record I will put together later this year.

For now, I will work with Dave, Aaron and Marcin on If Not Now, Then When?...a song that was actually on the record before the final track list cuts but was taken off due to it being too somber and not upbeat enough. So it's my goal, given the placement on the record, to revamp this song that has SO much meaning to me and make it a little bit more pop-rock to break up the slowed down feel of the last half of the record. Dave seems to agree that it would be a nice addition to the track list. We'll see how it goes!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Let Go Tracks

I have been searching through my iTunes database for all the songs that I have written over the years and created demos for that never made the cut for the What To Keep & Let Go track list. There are a good 8 or 9 songs that were fully written and arranged that didn't really fit as well as the ones that I chose to be on the record. Such songs like Criticize, If Not Now Then When? and It's Over When You Go were cut from the list for flow purposes and didn't seem to mesh with the overall feel. The subject matter of the songs were similar and so could have worked nicely with the other tracks but it pretty much came down to what songs I liked better.

So I have decided it might be a good idea to honor these tunes in the future by creating a compilation record of all the tracks that never made it onto the What To Keep & Let Go album. I will call it The Let Go Tracks and most likely they will be presented to you in rough, acoustic demo forms. There's a good chance I will re-record them all so they sound a little more polished but I can't imagine getting these songs up to the same quality and performance level as the ones on the record. I'm not really sure as of now how many songs there will be but I think it'd be a nice little project to work on right after What To Keep & Let Go is completed and release it sometime toward the end of the year....stocking stuffers anyone???

First things first: What To Keep & Let Go completion!

"So this is the new year. And i don't feel any different."

Says YOU Death Cab For Cutie!

This year has already been filled with new puppy-stress, sickness and windy arctic air. Not to say that it's going to be a bad year at all but it certainly hasn't started out very peachy keen! No matter, this is the year that What To Keep & Let Go will finally be a reality and that makes me feel a whole lot better.

With the holidays and Dave's sickness (now mine) we haven't really had a chance to be in the studio for a couple weeks. January through May will be very productive while we add vocals to most all the songs that have been instrumentally completed, tweak existing arrangements and start a couple of the songs that haven't been really touched yet including a one-take version of Hello, Amy. All will come together nicely and I have a few ideas lingering in my head as far as transitions, flow and possibly even a hidden track? Who knows! Anything is possible! Wa ha!

So, Mr. Gibbard, I think I might disagree with you and say that I think I WILL feel very different this new year once things start rolling forward and we reach the anticipated finale of this project. It's been so much fun and I just know I'll miss the entire process.