Monday, February 18, 2008


recording demos is sort of like inking drawings in a sketchbook. the demos are not quite as rough as the initial sketch, but not nearly as polished as the final song. the purpose of a demo is to invoke the feeling and energy of the song, without getting hung up on specific arrangement ideas.

neil has this great new program for scratching out great drum tracks quickly. they are samples of real drums, so they aren’t quite as cheesy as the casio keyboard drums we used to demo the first album. it’s great because it gives us a pretty solid idea of the feel of the song. obviously when a real drummer comes into the studio to track, that’s when it really comes to life. but again, in the demo phase, this is just fine.
then neil throws down a guitar track and bassline. maybe keys or piano if he thinks the song needs that. i take this stuff into garageband until i figure out the melody and lyrics. it’s perfect for me, because it lets me play around with things, recording multiple takes until i get something i like. sometimes i just play with rhythm, no melody, no lyrics. when i get something that feels good i start scatting a melody of nonsense words. then its a matter of poring through my index cards, matching up phrases with the rhythm.

for this stuff, i’ve been sketching out a general format for each song. what i want to happen/say in each verse. progressing towards the them or meaning of the song. then i try to find the most concise or fun way to say what that verse needs. there’s a lot of back-and-forth going on at this point. push and pull. like a painting.
when i’m painting, it’s always a conversation between me and the piece. i’ll talk (paint) for a little, and then i’ll listen (look) for a little. i try not to push too much. i like to stop at points and see what the painting needs. it’s like that with songs too. sometimes i get stuck in the forest, and can only see tree trunks, and so i’ll bring it to neil. usually he’ll find a spot that’s out of place, or weak, or just not right. then i can go back in an rework that stuff.

then we record a scratch demo vocal, which of course sounds better than me singing into my macbook. everyday we burn a cd of our newest pass, and we listen to that in the car while we go out to lunch or dinner. that way we can start to make notes on what’s working and what’s not. and we know what to play with for the next day.

[studio shots] [audio clip? demo?]

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