After tracking this first batch of songs we sent all of the band guys home so we could start overdubbing and adding the bits and pieces that I could do myself. Little parts of guitar and lots of vocals. Actually this album has more background vocals than any other record I’ve made. So we moved shop to a smaller vocal booth for a week or so and got cracking on putting the finishing overdubs on the songs we had done so far. Pretty long days of singing from about 11am to 9pm with a little break for lunch in the arvo. Joe is extremely precise when it comes to getting vocal sounds and we have found an old 50’s Sony microphone that seems to suit what we are going for. Sunset has a pretty impressive collection of mics but, as we found when here recording a Powderfinger record, none of the normal ones work on my squeaky voice. Not to worry… Anyway I am absolutely stunned by how BIG it is all sounding. After plinking away for a year and a half on my tinny Garage Band demos it is so great to hear what some one of Joe’s calibre can do without the soundscape.
It’s great to get some finished vocals down and hear how the songs are really starting to sound once they have some meat on their bones. So after a week or so of that stuff we are back in Studio One for some more tracking with the band.
Now we move on to ‘Tell Me How it Ends’ which came out of a jam I had with drummer extraordinaire Joey Waronker. I went to Joey’s and played him a riff to see what he would come up with. Being the master that he is, he came up with a broken hip hop beat that gives way to a big Led Zeppeliny groove in the chorus. He was an absolute pleasure to deal with and I have really been struck by the humility of all of these guys I have had the good fortune to play with.
So we set to recording it with the same bunch of hooligans who have been coming in here each day. it’s pretty up tempo and has a scooped out sound in the verses (Lyle was playing a Fano guitar I believe… as you could imagine the megalomaniac in me had me searching for one to buy immediately) with a stuttering funk beat that segues into a big fat round chorus. Lyle put some amazing African guitar styling into the second verse which took the song to a new place. This song has a classic pop structure (Verse/Chorus/Verse/Chorus/Bridge/SoloChorus) that is very standard but is designed to fit the lyric. It relentlessly returns to a chorus refrain over and over… the lyric looks at the idea of ‘first world problems’ that I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs. Looking at the sense of entitlement that we tend to have while living in a country as fortunate and rich as Australia. How the temptation is always there to have MORE, MORE MORE. Is there actually point where our appetite to consume and to ‘progress’ will be sated? NEVER!!!!!!!!!! And so it goes…”you don’t get what you want, you don’t want what you get, hard as I try to be satisfied, I haven’t found it yet…” Bad grammar I know, but I think it’s called poetic license. I’m very excited about this song and think it is one of the most fun sounding things I have recorded.
‘Battleships’ was the final victim in the tracking process. This song had a very basic beat and driving piano riff in the demo so Joe and I decided we wanted it to have a bit more character and feel more playful. The new version that we put together here has a quite different rhythm feel and swings a whole lot more than what had been done on the demo versions. It’s a mostly falsetto vocal melody that is pushed along by a bouncy Beatles style piano riff and again has a load of vocal layering. Also a big guitar lick and tremolo part has moved the song into much more modern territory. Again soul comes up as the reference point. But it is kind of a ‘twisted soul’ that is going on here. It was minced meat for this band as it is just a circular progression that keeps modulating up and back in key. As usual Lyle pitched in with some great colourful guitar ideas and long bow style notes that filled it right out. Matt spent a fair bit of time refining the drum pattern to remove it’s Beatlesy straightness and Mr Hurley played against that in a very McCartney style that took all of the plod out of the demo. This has turned out to be the most poppy sounding song on the record and is a pretty exciting prospect to give the album a bit more scope and texture. It turns out that this song will be the first single from this album and will be out in about a week.
When I was writing this album I made a conscious effort to step away from the way I had written songs in the past. I especially didn’t want to make another version of ‘Tea and Sympathy’. For me the most natural thing is to sit down with an acoustic guitar or at the piano and just get cracking. I figured that if I did that again with this record I would run the risk of getting stuck in dreamy singer/songwriter land and never make it out. I wanted to give myself the chance to reset what I was capable of both for myself and for other people. So I taught myself a whole lot of new stuff (mostly drum programming and bass) and worked very studiously for long periods, refining and revising parts and putting the songs together in a totally different way. I hope you guys all enjoy wherever it takes you. I appreciate all of the feedback you guys have given me so far and I look forward to you finally getting to hear it and let me know what you think.
Standby for some announcements about the album release and also some touring plans that will take in most of the country and New Zealand over winter.