Progress Report

Surprisingly, the “pre-demo” stage is nearly complete; I’ve picked up the drums faster than I thought I would.  As soon as the pre-demos are done, I’ll transition into musician/arranger mode and work with the (mostly) bare-bones pre-demos as if I were at band practice.  Once I’ve got some relatively firm arrangements worked out, it’s demo time!  All in all, I’m pleased.  Now, some pre-demos (disclaimer/reminder: these are rough and incomplete):

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Ground Bee Studios, Circular Saws, and the Virtues of Musical Autodidacticism

I’ve had it in my head for about a year now — ever since it became clear that I was going to be moving away from my L.A. apartment to a house (yay!) in a less urban (boo!) part of the country — to build a small (but proper) home studio.  My wife generously let me have full dominion over the shed in our backyard, and, after waiting until we had taken care of more important home improvement/repair tasks, I finally started “construction,” so to speak, last month.  Construction is now nearly done; here are the recording plans for the next year or so:

0) Name the studio.  Our backyard is sometimes terrifyingly alive with nature, perhaps never more than in the last couple weeks.  Although spring is technically still a few weeks away, birds have moved back into their nests after abandoning them late last year, lizards and frogs have returned in full force, and the ground bees that apparently live under ~40% of our yard have begun coming out to pollinate flowers.  The largest concentration of ground bee holes is in front of the shed, but there’s a fair number in back, too, which suggests that their underground “lair” extends directly under the building.  It seems fitting, then, to name the studio after the animal that’s come out of hiding at the same time it was being “built.”  Hence: Ground Bee Studios.

1) Learn to play drums.  I tried to find a drummer upon moving to Tallahassee, but it didn’t work out.  Plan B is, and always has been, to teach myself to play the drums.  I spent the last of the studio budget on a nice set of used Gretsch Catalina Maple drums (complete with cymbals, hardware, and throne), and I’m currently (very slowly) gaining confidence, it not competence, on them.  My drummer friends tell me it’ll take about 6 months before I’m decent, but they have no idea how low my standards are, or how simple most of the drum parts I have in mind are.

2) Record pre-demos and finalize arrangements for an album.  A band has the luxury of working out parts in “real time” during rehearsal, but someone doing it all alone with the magic of multitracking has to use some combination of imagination and trial-and-error in order to arrange a song.  To that end, I plan on recording pre-demo versions of the songs to use as “backing tracks” in order to figure out how to finalize arrangements.  These can be messy as hell and need not be “properly” recorded, but they need to have the basic structure of the songs and at least the outlines of the main rhythm parts so that I can play along with them.  I’m hoping to have these done by the end of summer.

3) Record demos.  Once arrangements are more or less finalized, I can record demos.  Here I’ll be a little more worried about getting the recordings and performances right, but the main focus will be on capturing the essence of the songs.  I’m planning on recording these in the early part of the fall.

4) Decide on a final song list and record “for real.”  The hard part?  I have no clue.  I’m hoping that by this point I’ll be pretty well rehearsed, and I can spend most of my energy tackling production and engineering issues.  I’d love to have this done by the end of the year (2012), but something tells me it’ll take a little longer.

5) Mix.  Probably the actual “hard part.”

6) ?  When I first hatched this studio plan, I told my wife that all I wanted was to remove the excuse of poor production from my arsenal, leaving me with “poor songwriting,” “poor musicianship,” or “no talent” as my only defenses.  Of course, those aren’t defenses at all, which is the point — I want to know whether, given a decent space to record and mix in and enough equipment to do a decent job, I can make something good.  If I can, I will try to get people to listen to it; if, on the other hand, the end result sucks, I will (hopefully) accept defeat with grace and go on happily writing songs for my own amusement.  (Knowing how I — and most people — work, I’m sure that I’d eventually convince myself that I could have made a great album if only I’d had even MORE equipment/time/help/etc.)  I think the songs I write are good as I hear them in my head, and the point of all this studio-building is to try to construct a mechanism for making a finished product be as close to that ideal as possible.  Assuming I can get reasonably close, if I listen to the finished album and think “oh, this isn’t…very…good,” I have faith enough in my own powers of self-awareness that I think I can refrain from inflicting it on anyone.  There’s a lot of shitty music out there; I don’t want to add any more to the pile.

The long and the short of it, then: I may try to foist an album on you in about a year, or I may not; in either case, I hope to be a little more certain of the merits of the project.  For the record (ha!), the tentative title is The Kin of Wireless, and the band name is, of course, Analog Mountains.

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Demos of Demos on SoundCloud

From now on, these are going up here:

I’m quite proud of the title “A Text Message To Pretty.”

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“JWowww,” “Warning Track,” and “Red Flags” Demos of Demos

The first song’s actually about Sammy Sweetheart, but it’s addressed to JWowww (Jenny to her friends). I have considered making a song cycle about all the cast members of “Jersey Shore,” but I’m not sure the 45 seconds of trashcan lid-banging that would be “Ronnie’s Tune” are really something the world needs to hear, or that I need to make.

“Warning Track” needs some real lyrics stat, and maybe some more drummy percussion, and certainly someone other than myself singing the high harmony part. All in good time.

“Red Flags” is a song I mostly wrote when I was 16 and obsessed with Guided By Voices, but I still like it all these years later.

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“Harmless” Demo

Need some female harmony vocals (I cannot harmonize with myself) and some mixing practice. Getting there. Song here.

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“Call Your Realtor” Demo

Sometimes granite is radioactive. Creepy. Song here.

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“Collective Bargaining” Demo

probably need to write more than one line for the verses.  ha.

rougher than rough.  drums eventually?  i dunno.

i will mention sports in every song i write, but my songs will be better than huey lewis’.

song here.

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