this is where the strings come in

10/21/09

Since my travels interfered with Writer Mondays on the blog, I’m going to do it today, except this time I’m really going to pull my pants down and put up a demo of a song I wrote a few weeks ago. This is hardly ever done, for the same reasons mentioned in last Monday’s blog about “Glee”: you might think you want to hear a demo, but the inherent lack of expensive production makes every demo a complete piece of shit.

That said, GarageBand has made things a tiny bit easier, what with the drum loops and various effects, and let’s be honest – nobody could possibly make more fun of me than me. Well, except for Lindsay, Salem, Jon and my brother Sean, and they can all fuck off. (← insert really cute “Hang in There” emoticon here)

I’ve found that a serviceable Garageband demo works a hell of a lot better in a band setting than just shouting out chord changes, especially since my songs are always a little bit complicated. Usually, I’ll let something ferment in my head for a few weeks, then make a demo, then bring it to the band and let them break it down and build it up again.

It all works great except for the vocals – not only am I writing from a female point of view now (since our lead is female), but the vocal line itself has to be in her range. I’m an okay tenor, but Lauren sings most of her stuff right at my “break” (the notes on the dividing line between a regular singing voice and a falsetto), and so my demos often sound like I’m trying to strangle a small woodland creature.

Remember, demos exist only so the band knows what chords are next, and therefore must remain oddly boring. Also, I’m not a guitarist. I just fake it.

With that in mind, here it is:

WrittenInStone.mp3

Planning road trips, buying cars

I learned to knit, I’m closing bars

It’s true

Tell me something else I can do

I can’t remember to forget about you

Check my messages again

Count the hours 7, 8, 9, 10

Eleven

It’s just a matter of time

You’ll be back and I’ll be in heaven

Hell no, hell no

Gotta leave it alone, ’cause it’s written in stone

They made a pact, now there’s no looking back

To the time when you’d roam, sleeping in on the phone

It came to pass by the sound of crushed glass

Gotta leave it alone, ’cause it’s written in stone

Taking Russian, taking Greek

Meditating on the beach

I guess

Every day keep getting dressed

Tonight’s the night you’re gonna say yes

No way, no way

And when you told me that you couldn’t fall in love

I took that to mean you need a little shove

Painting pictures, watching birds

Filling diaries with words

It’s true…

***

This song came from a band edict of the spring, when everyone agreed we should do more dance-ish songs. For weeks, I’d had “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder in my head, particularly that fantastic beginning riff, and started crazypantsing on the bass one night. Of course, since I’m me, what came out sounded way more like Steely Dan, but there are worse crimes.

I wanted the vocal line to sound like this completely random song from The Stranglers’ 1983 album “Feline”, called Paradise, and of course, it doesn’t really sound like that either. It’s a good thing it’s hard to copy the feeling of other songs, or else you’d end your quest for the grail early.

The verse is about those days you had when you were so seriously in “love”, so smitten by the romantic ideal of another person you needed to invent things to do with your day so you wouldn’t obsess over it. I borrowed a lot of stuff I actually do now (birdwatching, meditation) which is pretty ironic, given how unfathomably boring that would have seemed to me at 23.

The chorus tries to shake that dynamic a little by realizing the object of your desire is married, and he/she is never, ever going to leave the marriage. They might talk a good game, they may make nominal plans, but when push comes to shove, they will never act on it. It’s vaguely based on an experience I had 12 years ago, although the “crushed glass” of the Jewish ceremony is something I threw in there because I liked how it sounded.

We played this song live last Thursday night at the Joint in LA – and what was the verdict? Well, it’s really fucking hard. In the chorus, the immensely talented Lauren has to sing well below her usual range, even for the high harmony, and do “rave triplets” on the piano at the same time. I have to do a pulsating bass thing that is also contrapuntal to my vocal line. Andrew has to follow me for all the weird drum fills. And Jim rocks out on the guitar without any problem.

So for next week’s show, I’m writing a higher chorus vocal line for Lauren and trying to slow us down into a groove. It’s a high-wire act – it’s a song that dies if we’re tentative, but when we all hit our notes and the beat is solid underneath, it’s one of our tunes that separates us from the hordes of Mongols wielding axes.

0 thoughts on “this is where the strings come in

  1. CM

    That’s funky! I like it. I see where it conjures up Steely Dan.
    I still like “I’m a Nine” (or whatever it was from last time) the best…

    Reply
  2. Anne

    Thanks for sharing — I love listening to this stuff. The lyrics are awesome; am sending them with the MP3 link to my 17 year old son, who composes (angsty) lyrics by the truckload and puts them to music with fairly simple chord changes, befitting his guitar skills.
    Anyway, I like it. Can you put up the finished version (by the band) when you’re done tweaking?

    Reply
  3. Lfmd

    I was listening to your song again when my daughter came into the room. She is 10 now and quite picky about her music. She loved it! We had a lot of fun dancing together to your song. And I think the lyrics are great. Thanks!

    Reply

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