Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Music Story: All Together



  • All Together

    The song I'm posting tonight is my guilty pleasure song on our album. It was written as a long winded jam out without any regard for simple form or conventional length. I know that sounds lame, but really after working on so many records for so many years and trying to fit all songs into a 3 minute window so they have a fighting chance of getting played on the radio, it's nice to write a song at 5 minutes and not give a fuck.

    We started this song really early in our writing process. It may have been the second song we started in fact. The guitar part (which Todd insists is "punky" but I never heard it as such) was about the best verson I could do at playing chords with attitude! I guess the crap way I played them makes them sound punky. Hmm.. oh well.

    Jesse drummed this song. I always wish he'd nailed the kick drum a bit harder which is why when the whole mess kicks in I triggerred a synth kick subtly in with his own. Jesse is a great musician, but he doesn't go for showing off or being untasteful in anyway. I wanted the beat to be just a tiny bit more dancy so I blended a synth in with his kick drum to give it that bigger, deeper sound. I think it worked. Anyhow, as soon as I got the drums pounding along, which did involve a bit of editing to make him hit the damn cymbals as many times as I really wanted to hear (it's funny, drummers hate the way I want them to play; it's too rudamentary I fear - I hear things in pretty basic terms. I just want the crashes to go on every bloody beat! That is a bit garish I admit, but once in a while the noise works) I had no trouble at all doing the bass and guitars once I rented a telecaster to do the chimey overdubs. My brother in law Vince pointed out that the rhythm guitars sounded a bit too robotic -and they did - so at his advice I re-recorded one side of the rhythm track. It really worked, gave it more movement and life. The other pleasent thing I discovered was that I could play the song from beginning to end without too much difficulty.

    The hard work lay in the vocal parts. When we initially figured out this song Isabelle was supposed to sing both verses and I'd just sing the chorus. But when it came to getting it on tape (hard drive if you must) she just couldn't give the accusative tone that our lyrics asked for. So I tried, but had to rewrite the first verse so I could sing it. That's why I'm bitching about lining up to get your medicine. You could safely say I'm fed up with western concepts of happiness and our fear of hardship or depression. The chorus was a bit of a different idea, it just came to me and I never really questioned what I was saying. I do think the ideas are connected.

    The middle eight came after a conversation with my brother Gary. He was telling me that too many songs on the album sounded the same: they kinda started, got going and then cruised on and on to the vamp out ending. (Well he was right too). So I rewrote a middle eight to give the song a summary before we get to the climax, the big choir sing along.

    The "We're All Together" had been written from the very first night. It's the reason we bothered sticking with this song at all. It was such a positive thing to build a track around. Such cohesion. In fact, on Christmas Eve 2005 when we were still working out the arrangement Isabelle and I started clowning around and singing overdubs in the style of our various family members. Those tracks are still buried way in the mix but you can't really hear them. The best part of this song is the massive gang vocal section we peak at.

    When we were in Mushroom Studio we had enough time on the second night to get eleven friends in to help out with the gang vocals. Barb and Erin showed up first and together the four of us sang the first couple layers of the choir part. Those two were great, they understood harmony and could sing in tune! We did a couple passes and then Phil Bell showed up (from the February March, lead guitarist, but he too could sing in tune). Now with five we covered four parts of the harmony a couple times each. Probably about 30-35 vocal tracks when you included all the bouncing. Later, when even more folks showed up, we went back to this song and really gave it a coating. By the end I'm certain we had over 100 vocals singing the various parts: it was glorious.

    So back at home and finishing the track, I added in the middle eight, rewrote the lyrics, resang the lyrics and got Isabelle to put her parts down. The funny thing was she laboured over her verse, it took three tries to get it right, but in one night, she sang the outro lyric ("Take the pieces of the puzzle"..etc) doubled and then triple tracked it! It was incredible the difference once she was singing her own words, she could nail it in one pass. Amazing to hear really.

    The mix wasn't too hard but I kept messing around with the levels and trying to fit all the parts properly together. Vince insisted that I'd brought the choir part in too loudly, he claimed it was like "a light going on in a dark room" but that's exactly what I wanted to hear! No easy listening crap, I wanted people to imagine a hugh choir suddenly appearing in a studio, singing along with a rock band. Thank you Roy Thomas Baker, Thank you Freddie Mercury. (Seemed cool to me at least). Then we have a big shout and disappear into the disco rock outro. If you listen really carefully you can hear Isabelle singing a harmony part right at the end and she gets a bit confused and laughes. That was her very first take! - I love keeping stuff like that in there.

    So there it is, I hope you like this song even half as much as I do. It's another anthem on our record but it is all inclusive. Isabelle's lyrics really deal with family, friends, and being connected, and I guess that's what we were going on about. The final breakdown outro is more personal, we always felt it got a bit hippy on that part, but I suspect it was the harmonies. My thing seems to be to point out a problem and Isabelle's is to find the silver lining. A good balance I think.

    Okay, have a good night.

    Mark    



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