Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Reflecting On The Project

On the way back from Marcin's on Monday night, driving down the rain glistened highway, I found myself quite nostalgic and reminiscent of the What To Keep & Let Go project and how it all began. Marcin and I were standing out on his porch after practice, recalling the orgins of the album project and how things all came together and it certainly got me feeling all sorts of emotion on my way home. I decided to capture my thoughts as a drove in the rain.

More Piano. More Laughs.

Towards the end of the night, Marcin really had a solid part down for the In The End opening section. We decided to keep it simple instead of cluttering it with too many piano parts...just enough to softly segue into the song. Of course we finished off the night being goofy idiots. haha No complaints here!

TV On The Radio & Massive Attack!

Marcin tends to introduce me to all sorts of new music including my current favorite, Bon Iver. So it was no surprise that in between practice takes he popped on some random tunes and gave me a listen through. At the end of the night, he loaded up a DVD with some Jose Gonzales, Massive Attack and Cat Power, to name a few. Thanks buddy for adding to my quickly expanding library of music! (Not sure I'll ever reach the likes of Cullen's collection but hey, it's a start!)

Pro To Sooooo Funny!

A one-on-one practice with Marcin wouldn't be complete without the occasional break from professionalism into some off-key, light-hearted humor. And March 29th was no exception. :)

The Beginning of In The End

One of the things that has been of interest to me for a while now is to strategically place a symphony like arrangement before In The End so the difference in style and intensity of the song versus the others isn't so drastic. It definitely is a departure song, presenting a darker tone and mood in relation to the somber and pop-like feel of the other songs. In doing a soft (still dark) intro to the song, it is my goal to help ease the listener into such a transition. I don't care that the heart of the song is darker than the rest because that is what it is and it's meant to stand out in that way. Once the transition is in place, it can come to life like it is meant to while still remaining cohesive amongst the others.

Here is some work that Marcin did on writing such a part that would flow into the song.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

One Last Kuc/Duncan Practice

Marcin and I got together last night for the first time in a long while to practice in his computer/music room with hopes of getting some piano parts solid for Bicycle on the Ice, In The End and Passing Into August. It was a night full of to-be-expected goofy antics, great beer and frequent digressions of movie trailers and music samples, basically the usual for our one-on-one practices. It is one of the last times, if not the last time, Marcin and I will be working on What To Keep & Let Go together in this manner as he has school coming up soon and won't be available as much. That and his parts will be completed after tonight's piano work. It's very bitter sweet and I will miss these moments a lot and I couldn't thank Marcin more for his involvement and dedication in this. Great times.

A Sketchy Kuc

As Marcin was playing around on the keys last night at our practice, I decided to grab the sketchbook and do a little doodle.

Monday, March 29, 2010

"Exploring Tranzzzitions"

hahah I know you're probably confused about this headline but if you had Singing For Dummies and the accompanying audio CD, you'd understand.

So yes, one of the biggest elements of this record has always been my vision for transitioning from one song to the next. By some fluke of design, it turned out that my proposed song order and their respective keys (capo determined) ended up matching dead on in most cases. For example, Bicycle on the Ice fits nicely after City Lights because even though the last chord of CL is different than the beginning chord of BOTC, the transition between the two is flawless due to the capo placement on CL (4th fret) which ended up creating the C#m chord needed to match up with BOTC first chord.

K. that even confused me.

No matter, it was becoming clear to me when we first started putting these songs together that I had accidentally written in certain keys that happened to make for perfect transitions between the songs that I had put in order based on either their relevance to the theme or the intensity of the music. I never knew that such an interesting thing would happen musically in between the songs as well.

So with that, it's important to me that we see this part of the process through. If this doesn't occur in every instance then sobeit. However, I would like to make it appear intentional in the important segments of the album which would make the record seem even that more cohesive not only in theme and story arc but musically as well.

I am confused whether this stage takes place in the recording studio or in the mastering process down the road. Nevertheless, it's something I'm excited to explore.

Release In May: Ye or Nay?


Yes that's right. I know I have forecasted a May release date of What To Keep & Let Go but with only an estimated 10 or so more sessions to go in the studio, it seems unlikely that the songs will be ready by then. After all the recording is complete, we still have mixing, mastering, transitional elements and of course the actual production of the albums to be made available for you. So with all this additional work, it seems to me that the record will be in your hand sometime mid summer...perhaps...Passing Into August? That could be a very real possibility....

Keep looking for more updates. I will be releasing a new poster soon with a more finite release date. And as always....thanks for your patience.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

What To Do on What To Keep...

With just under 10 weeks left set for production (not including mixing, mastering and the actual making of the records), it's important for us to really buckle down and figure out what needs to be finished up. I go into the studio about once a week so that means if we double up here and there and throw in a few Saturdays before now and then, we'll be sure to have it all worked out! Here's the breakdown on what we need to do!

Horizons - Finish up vocals including some back ups
Passing Into August - Sorting of Aaron's drum parts and adding piano arrangement that Marcin wrote
Stand - Back up vocals
City Lights - String arrangements over the chorus and perhaps the outro
Bicycle on the Ice - Re-record the keys on the real piano
Circles - Vocals, back up vocals, orchestral arrangements including the addition of possible tin whistle section
If Not Now, Then When - Vocals (possibly some other subtle instrumentation)
Electric Candle - Done
Hello, Amy - Vocals and add new ending verse section
In The End - Vocals, back up vocals and strings/piano arrangement for the opening
Ask You - Finish up alternate ending, record Chad's outro guitar, new vocals and back up vocals

So that's it!! As you can see it's not a whole lot but it's important that we use our time wisely.
I have been practicing vocals a bit to ensure successful sessions when it's time to finally do all
the singing. Here's to the home stretch.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Loyal Practice Space

It's been a little over a year since we first entered this house as a band to get working on bringing my song demos to life. Cullen's parents have had lots of experience with having a music filled house, Cullen and his brother Charles hosting many a band practice there, so it's no wonder that they let us storm into their lives on quiet Sunday afternoons and sometimes evenings to work on my record. Now that we have wrapped up all we need to with the full band, it's time to reflect and give thanks to Cullen and his parents for letting us use this space. It has been great and more than appreciated and I'll never forget frisbee warm ups in the front lawn, the green fish tank and the amazing smelling food always coming from the kitchen. The friendly greetings by Cullen's parents and the dogs were great too :)

Good times. Never will forget 'em. Thanks so much.

The Fantastic Four!! I feel bad for my Breedlove. I still love you, Breedlove.

But these guitars are amazing. Featured below is a showcase of David Ireland's custom made Taylor Acoustics and his 1985 Gibson Les Paul, all of which have found their place in some form or another on What To Keep & Let Go. The Les Paul became the driving force in Circles, and the three others made appearances in Stand, Hello, Amy, Ask You and If Not Now, Then When. Whether it was for an overdubbed guitar part to provide a fuller sound or as the entire acoustic guitar section to provide a different tone than my Breedlove, all four of these guitars served their purpose in their own unique way. I think it's great that these instruments along with so many others have helped make What To Keep & Let Go as richly diverse sounding as possible.

Thanks again Dave for all your support and lending these instruments to the studio!

The Sound of Dave Eastman

Dave's meticulous choosing of mics is a trait not to be overlooked as it has provided with some high quality recordings using a variety of different sounding guitars. I often watch as he sets up and wonder what he's accomplishing to himself when he stands and seems to watch the sound waves emanate from the guitar I'm playing. It's as if he's having a conversation with the instrument, stooping his ear close to the sound hole and back again as if to hear what she is telling him, what secrets are to be revealed in her sound.

So when I asked Dave his process, he simply told me that he needs to get close to hear exactly how much bass is coming from it because it will surely influence his decision on what mic he pulls off the shelf. From there, a trial and error process ensues whereby he picks (through a combination of knowledge and experience) the appropriate placement, angles, crossing and type of mic used for the particular sound "whispered" to him. Sometimes after sound tests he comes back in and makes some adjustments, swaps out mics or adds another one at a different spot in the room in order to fill out the sound even more. However, most time Dave seems to know exactly what he's doing. And it shows in the final product. You'll see :)

Stuck On That Pluck

One of the biggest losses from scrapping Do What You Can off the record, as Marcin had noted, was the way it came in as a plucking arrangement instead of my same 'ol strumming pattern. I agreed with what Marcin had said and so went at trying my hand with plucking the opening verse of If Not Now, Then When to break up the monotony of the opening sections of the other songs. I came up with some good stuff a while back but had to remind myself exactly how it went this last Tuesday before recording on Dave Ireland's (4th borrowed) Taylor guitar. Ultimately, studio Dave decided it'd be best to come in stronger as the ending of the song is reserved for such a treatment. Oh well. (Marcin, my next record is going to be MUCH more this plucking sort of style.)

Thanks to Dave Ireland for lending me this Taylor! Worked out great!

Updaaaating In The Rain

"...I drive down the lane with a happy refrain."

The Funky Dunky!

As I have mentioned in previous posts, it has become quite customary for the band to bust into an extended jam or two in between practice runs. Our space in Weston housed a great deal of jams over the year and congregating all into the studio space at Fat Dave's Place was no fact, it was to be expected. I usually try and jump in but most often times I sit in wonder at the guys' talent and I tend to either sit down and soak in the musical rays or pluck away in some modest manner. This particular jam towards the end of the night was by far my favorite as I watched across the way at Marcin's finger work dancing along to Cullen's intricate beats while Chad's funky guitar sounds bounced off the walls and into our tapping feet. The guys weren't aware of me recording and hence the celebration at the end of it when I told them that I captured the whole thing! Unfortunately, since Marcin was plugged in direct you can't hear his parts but you can use your imagination if you watch him play. Like I say in the clip "it was mesmerizing". I also claimed that it was my favorite jam they have ever done and so they named it "The Funky Dunky".

Whistle While We Work's more like blowing.

Haha long days can sometimes lead to silliness and this was one of those days. While listening back to some of the takes we laid down on Hello, Amy, we realized that each of our bottles contained just the right amount of liquid in them to be in exact key with the song and provide the necessary notes to "whistle" along. Check it out. haha

Can I Use This Chair?

While we waited as Dave set up drum mics and Marcin configured his bass amp, Cullen graced us with a reenactment of a genius skit he heard about a guy needing a chair. Just one of the many inbetween session stories or antics not always caught on film...this happened to be one of the exceptions! Thanks Cullen for entertaining us while we waited!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

First Day of Spring Brings An All Band That Sings

Okay that was forced. Fortunately it kind of makes sense!

Saturday, March 20th, marked the first day that our New England winter was over, bringing forth new spring air and a very beautiful and warm day at that! Before we set up for our sure to be all-day jam-a-thon, we ate Breugger's out on the sunny deck, fiddled around with Marcin's new Nikon and sipped some delicious spring ales. Once Chad arrived, we began work on Hello, Amy. Setting up was no easy task; cramming all four of us musicians into one space was the ultimate goal, to allow us to work together as one like we have done this entire year on What To Keep & Let Go. The tricky part was ensuring we'd get a nice, clean sound while maintaining that live, one-take feel. Dave, having a few good tricks up his sleeve, ended up putting Chad's amp in the hallway, barricading its sound from the mics that were stationed around Cullen's kit. Marcin was plugged in so any sound he made was going direct through to the console. And for me, I was set up in the corner inside two big pieces of boarded foam to blog any acoustic guitar noise from traveling towards Cullen's mics. I, too, was plugged in so everyone could hear me but I'd be re-recording my acoustic part more properly at a later date. Singing wasn't an issue either as it was something we had always planned I would do in another session. The goal here was to capture the essence of the band and our energies playing off of each other. And boy was there energy!
The takes went great. Starting off was a little rusty for all of us as we hadn't played the song together in a while. Chad came in to the studio having written an entirely new lead guitar section that I hadn't even heard yet with the exception of a rough mp3 he sent me a few days prior. I wasn't worried and with good reason as he ripped into his parts like they had been part of the song for the entire year. Having completed about 3 good takes out of maybe 5, we all decided to cool ourselves outside in the sun (yes, the shaded studio was much hotter than the sunny deck). When we returned, we got a SOLID take (the best one so far) followed by a few more decent ones and finally ending on what we ultimately chose together as the one we'd go with.

Although there are a number of songs on the record that obviously showcase these guys' talents, Hello, Amy is the one tune that I really wanted each player to have their own signature in the bridge part of the song...a chance to really shine and stand-out. So during the breakdown, Marcin and Chad each traded space in the rhythm to stand above the mix with their solos. Cullen was offered such a chance to solo but he felt it best to keep on rhythm. His percussion sections as a whole in this album are testament enough to his "standing out" so I was satisfied with his choice. (Did I ever mention how amazing his work on Circles is?'ll see :)) I accept Cullen's idea to sing out random "whoas!" and "wooo!"s as his mark. (Hence the All Band That Sings title...haha) Not to mention his persistent ambition to get this song as live feeling as possible. As great as the final outcome is, it still has an energy and life that bares no surprise to how we as a band were actually dancing and rocking out on our final take, as if we knew it was the "one" and so warranted a celebration and all-out unleashing of everything we had in us left of the day. It came out great and thanks to Marcin, Cullen, Chad, Dave and Melissa for spending the entire day making sure it did.

Check out some photos of us doing our thing.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dave's Place In Pencil

The battery on my camera died at the studio yesterday and so I abandoned technology for the evening, picked up a pad and pencil and sketched out what I saw in front of me.

Brendon Thomas' Sunrise

Brendon Thomas, good friend and contributor of What To Keep & Let Go, has released some unmastered versions of a few songs featured on his new record, Sunrise. Please go check them out and make sure to keep an eye out for his new record on May 25th!

Friday, March 19, 2010

St. Patrick's Day Update

This is a little late but I hope you all had fun that night! I sure did!

Here is my update on St. Patrick's Day (and yes, scheduled recording time for Hello, Amy tomorrow is STILL up in the air as of now...we're waitin' to see if Marcin will be available. Here's hopin'!)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cullen's Journey To Circles

Often times, Cullen Corley has to take some extra time as part of his commute to practice in Weston. Whether by T or by Marcin picking him up or a combination of both, a good part of Cullen's practice days are dedicated to finding a way to get there! (which, I admire and am grateful for!)

On this particular journey, February 28th, Cullen took it upon himself to keep a documented account of his travels from Mass Ave to Nash Lane by using what he described was a time-lapse camera to record garden growth. Clever way to capture real life situations as well!

Below is the footage he collected on his travels to practice as well as some of the different angles of us playing in the space. He put the sequence of video shots to the acoustic/bass part of Circles that Marcin and I did before he recorded drums to the song. So if you don't want at least part of this tune to be spoiled for you, watch the video on mute. It really goes well with what Cullen has put together here, tho! Great job bro!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Weston Monster "Spring"ing Out of Hybernation??

So the other night I was leaving the studio and I saw movement down on the ground from the 2nd floor deck. I took a snap shot in that direction only to come out with the following image....

Upon seeing the image, I knew I'd have to take it back to the computer to do some lightening and enhancing to see what was really there! Check out what I found! Sure looks like our notorious beast to ME! Except with one difference.....his eyes now glow green??....

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Guitar In A Quiet Room

Shortly after we arrived at the studio and were about to begin work on the main goal of If Not Now, Then When, Dave and I realized we hadn't yet sorted Aaron's drum parts for the song so it wasn't really a good idea to play my acoustic parts yet. No matter, it took a great deal of time figuring out mic position, style and composition for the secondary guitar part in Ask You.

As Dave worked in the other room to listen to the already existing acoustic part for proper mic choice, I played around in the quiet studio. It was nice.

Getting A-Customed to David Ireland's Taylor

Dave Ireland came to the rescue once again by providing a completely different guitar for my recording session. This custom-made Taylor Acoustic Guitar is made of rosewood and has such a rich tone that it seems to vibrate against you as you play it. Needless to say I was a little nervous in handling Dave's very first custom guitar as it's no doubt very precious to him. However, it didn't take long for me to relax and treat it as if it were my very own...which, I'm not gonna lie...I wish it was!! haha Thanks Dave for letting me borrow this beautiful instrument!

Car Talk!

....except I have no advice about that funny sound coming from under your '94 Chevy...

Anyway! Here is another update on the way to work!

Aaron Through The Looking Glass

er...or computer

Here is a quick clip of Aaron on If Not Now, Then When. He finished up the take in a little over an hour, I believe. Great job Aaron and thanks again for coming on board to join the What To Keep & Let Go family of musicians! You rock and hope you had a great time!

Sunday Morning Song

And that song is....If Not Now, Then When! Thanks Howie Day for giving me a post title.

Sooo on Sunday we returned to the studio to finish up Aaron's drumming responsibilities on the record. Having nailed Passing Into August two days prior, his musical palate was clean to tackle a little If Not Now, Then When. Now this song has a somewhat shorter appearance by Aaron than that of its predecessor so the task wasn't going to be hard to complete on this sunny Sunday. In fact, after the completion of the song, Aaron, Dave, Melissa and I stepped out onto the deck and cracked open a few beers to enjoy the air, talk about far away lands and celebrate Aaron's completion. If only I got some photos of that...

Alas, check out some shots of Aaron's day in the studio taken by none other than my talented girlfriend Melissa who came along to hang out!

If Not Now....

....then Sunday?

Friday night recording times are great but it's not likely that we'd ever extend too far into the late hours before the weekend hits. In this case, Dave had made plans to head up to New Hampshire to ski and was leaving around 8 and so after Aaron's wrap of Passing Into August, it was time to call it a night! However, before we closed up shop we decided to meet again on Sunday to get Aaron's next song completed and to better prepare we took the remaining time we had to figure out the exact beats per minute on If Not Now, Then When. As I played the song over a few times, we kept in mind the tempo that felt most comfortable along with my singing.

"..he remembers it pretty well!"

Aaron has been very dedicated, much like all the other musicians on this project, when it comes to practicing the songs he's on. With just about five practices for both Passing Into August and If Not Now, Then When over the course of a month or so, Aaron was able to hone in on his rhythm and get the parts down solid!

After a few reviews, he got right into recording and it sounded like he's known the song for months. Great job!

Drumroll Please!!! Aaron's Up!

Before Aaron began his debut recording run on What To Keep & Let Go, I peeked in for a proper drummer's introduction, complete with random solo and smiling face! Exciting times!

Boom..Boom..Boom..Cool. Doosh...Doosh...Doosh....

The monotony that is drum sound testing. haha

Setting Up Drum Mics

One of the most daunting tasks for Dave, I imagine, is setting up drum mics and getting the levels correct before we can get into the actual recording. Sometimes it can take up to a couple hours to get it right but with the results we have had with Cullen's sound, that is NO problem to me :) Things have sounded great and if it takes a little bit of time to get it right, then so be it!

On Friday, March 5th, Aaron spent his day off in the studio setting up his drums, tuning his new heads and banging away at each piece for Dave to get the levels he needed to begin recording. I left work a tad early and got there in time to hear the remaining sound checks. Once everything was all set, Dave began recording Aaron for Passing Into August.

Below are photos of Dave concentrating and adjusting the controls to get the most out of Aaron's drums. This down time is nice for me to just take the whole process in..

Singing City Lights

This is a tad humiliating but hey, holdin' nothin back for you guys!

I'm glad we got numerous takes of this. haha

Preparing For The Last Full Band Session...

So we're set to hit the studio as a group on Saturday, March 20th with a goal to get Hello, Amy and the Ask You ending wrapped. How we do it EXACTLY is yet to be determined. With mic limitations and a few parts not quite clear and decided, we're not sure a full live take of Hello, Amy is going to cut it. If not, we are prepared to do it in pieces but the idea of playing spontaneously, in the moment and just "feeling it" has always been my concept behind this song and with the guys in the band; being most likely the last time we all get together for this particular project, it feels like it would be extra special to get this song done as a whole, together and finished up- an homage, if you will, to our year of full band practices together! Of course, there are piano pieces left on some songs for Marcin to come in for but Saturday will basically be the last session for us as a band on What To Keep & Let Go. I look forward to working all day with these guys and documenting the conclusion of this musical journey together. It's been so incredible and worthwhile. Saturday will be a celebration of our collaborative efforts and a tribute to these guys' dedication in helping me realize this long awaited project of mine.

Here is a full practice take of Hello, Amy recorded on February 28th.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"To think that jammin' was a thing of the past..."

No way, Marley. These guys take every opportunity they can to rip into a hearty jam, filling the place with crazy bass notes, impossible drum beats and shocking guitar riffs. I often find myself putting down my guitar and just listening to the sounds of Cullen, Marcin and Chad as they fuel their musical talents inbetween the songs we're workin' on. I will jump in from time to time and try to come up with some vocal melodies to mesh with the music but on this particular day I decided to catch them all doing what they do best.

"I hope this jam is gonna last". Too bad it doesn't...More next time!

The Band From All Angles

On Sunday February 28th, the guys and I returned to the attic space on Nash Lane to run through Hello, Amy and the Ask You alternate endings. In addition to running through these songs and figuring out some structures, we slipped into some endless jams, drank some refreshing ales and picked at some some 7 layer dip that Cullen snuck up for us; all customary to our musical get-togethers. Towards the end of the session, I took an opportunity to get some shots of these hard working musicians from all angles.