Music Story: Back In Style (repost)
Wow, finally we have another new song. This one was another epic journey of recrafting and fine tuning, and though not nearly as arduous as Decay, it still it took quite a bit of fiddling to get it into this shape. I suppose it was really more about the mood and performance this time rather than the actual song itself.
We'd written Back In Style back in September last year and it stood as an acoustic demo for months and months. Back in March I started to play it with the band and we kinda worked out an arrangement that seemed right. The other parts have all been abandoned but Kevin's drumming stood the test of time and is on record now. I will admit it's a lot easier to have someone else do the drumming! Thank you to Kevin Jones: very nice work.
The lyrics are pretty stark on this one and it took both of us a while to come to grips with how it should/could be sung. As somber as they are, they were written last year and neither of us really feels the same way about the song as we did back then. A few mental adjustments later and we found this approach. We recorded all the vocals last night after dinner but it wasn't until this evening that I discovered the vocal melody for the chorus. (I'd been messing around with a strangely modal harmony part but it wasn't fitting in too well. I'm so much happier with the new line, Jordy said it reminded him of Elliot Smith but I reckon it's more like Simon and Garfunkle!)
Once again we've been blessed with the guitar work of Todd Simko on this track. He came over last month and spent and evening learning the song and coming up with the part you hear on record. It's been a cool process trying to get all the new songs to sound big with only one guitar part, and no doubling or other studio tricks. It ensures we can reproduce the songs live of course, but it's also just an interesting production discipline. On the first album, because I'd played all the parts, I was blurring some of my deficiencies with multiple overdubs. This time I wanted a more stripped down approach, and we both seem to prefer it: at least for right now.
Please have a listen: we'd love to hear what you think of it. Have a good night/day, afternoon, whenever. Thanks for reading.
Just posted the new mix of Back In Style on the page tonight. It's a bit different from the first versions in that I've tried to soften the overall approach a bit. Not as vocal heavy as it may have seemed previously. A friend of mine was insistent that it should be swimming in reverb, however this depth seemed comfortable. Never really loved the ocean sized vocal effects: Spiritualized could do it, but not me. I guess that's from all the years working with Todd and Jordy, they both leaned towards fewer effects, especially Jordy who still hates much more than a double on any of his recordings. So I learned to mix drier, or at least tried to - heh.
Back In Style is almost a year old now. We started it back in August last year, late summer and it was right when the weather started to get cold. That's why the lyrics refer to "your wooden floors all seem so cold." Ours were! It's easy to imagine when you're doing it at the same time. I'd demo'd the song with midi drums and a quick acoustic guitar outlining the changes. I think there may have been a piano part but it wasn't too essential and really only filled in space until there could be a real guitar part. The cool thing about this song is that I wrote it initially on acoustic guitar. I've never really done that since elementary school! It changes things which instrument you form your ideas around. So Isabelle and I would sit in the living room working out our parts over the winter months. It was quite a unique experience for us, because up until that point we'd always have to turn the computer on the work on the songs: there'd be so many parts to play it never really made sense until we could hear them all. It's a good thing to simplify your songs down to the point where you can perform them in the most basic environment. Makes them very portable.
So over the winter we changed a few of the words around, and messed with the structure a tiny bit. There had been a long break down then a crescendoing middle eight, but that seemed superfluous once we had the other parts figured out. In March we began trying to play it with the band and it really took on it's final shape when I heard it with live drums and electric guitars. Instead of piano being a central instrument it became the guitar, but not the acoustic anymore.
The first chorus of the song isn't really one of those big payoff choruses, I thought it'd be more interesting to have it blossom instead of crash open. Give the words "You seemed so much to me, did I seem much to you?" a bit of a softer interpretation. Plus it then leads to the big instrumental section, which I must thank Todd for, as it was Mr. Simko's idea to simply push it on E minor and C minor. Seemed kind of Souixie and the Banshees suddenly, took it right out of the vibe of the first verse and chorus.
The second verse is basically supposed to be the daytime version of verse one: the realizations one makes in their working hours. The harmony we came up with for the line "'cause honesty's coming back in style" is really fun. I love when I ask Isabelle to sing these kinds of parts because she always looks at me like I'm crazy, and then she prompty learns to sing them and always alters them just a bit. There's usually some strange little bluesy turn she puts on the melodies that I'd never heard or expected before. It always make the part her own. Quite cool.
The second chorus is bigger of course and then it goes to the big finale, and man did Todd ever come up with a great guitar part. I love that epic simple part, it's so Snow Patrol or something but it's still got his playing which is always a bit different. He can't possibly play something three times the same way, it will always have to have a tiny tweak to it, or a quirky note to make your head turn a bit. That's what Todd does: it's so fun to record with him again.
Cutting the vocals was my usual hellish chore but Isabelle really stepped up. We spent a bunch of time recording one night, using different mics, pre-amps, rooms to record in, but it turned out her first three takes formed the entire part, including her doubles! Very cool. Then it was just adding in those little single notes on the piano in the choruses and we were done. Except for the mix.
Which actually wasn't that hard, it just took a while to get the right mood. I think it works now, but would be very happy to hear what any of you may think. Always room for improvements right?
Thanks for reading, hope you have a listen. It's downloadable right now, in case you really like it. Feel free to spread the word if you do. That'd be great.