Monday, 15 February 2021

The Love Ballad

      At the beginning of 2021 I took over Ryan Dahle's studio in the Song City building here in Vancouver. As one of the tasks I set for myself Isabelle and I recorded the following song, "The Love Ballad". We had collaborated and written this song for another person to sing back in 2018 but that fell through so the song just kinda sat on a hard drive for the past years. Then, while we were in Hipposonic Studio this past summer (thanks again for the great session Rob Darch!) Isabelle suggested we try tracking drums and other instruments on the demo. In the fast paced session we blasted through 6 songs (including the ballad) and then took everything home to discover what we'd captured. 

After much reflection I decided the version we'd recorded was not the version I wanted to present to the world. Nothing wrong with any of the parts we'd tracks individually but the song didn't sound like our own yet. So over the xmas season Isabelle and I rehearsed it with just a piano to get the lyric into our heads and arrange the  song more to our liking. Then in January we started to create a new version from scratch, abandoning all the recording we'd done up to that point. 

I had the idea that we needed to minimize the arrangement so I started us with just a very simple pad sound that outlined the chord changes and we started tracking Isabelle's vocals on top of that. Then a few subtle beats started to appear and we sat back to ensure we enjoyed where we were headed. That basic core still holds the song together, as it is the opening sound and runs through out the mix. 

 However once I had digested the song for where it was at I could hear new ideas and parts and began adding, carefully, additional instruments. One of the first things we did was to add in a simple but distant sounding beat. There is a 2 track reel to reel in the studio so I printed a version through that machine to give it a more unique timbre. That done we started adding bass, but with each layer there was a moment when we'd consider if it was truly necessary and added to the whole production. 

I am a decent bassist and solid keyboard player but guitar has always been a challenge for me. However, having a studio to play with I knew I had to try something so set about adding an Andy Summers like part to the second verse and bridge and suddenly the whole song sounded fresh again. It was a personal achievement to find the part and sound of the guitar for the ballad. 

From there I could hear the build up in the mix wasn't happening with enough impact so I went back to the summer demo and reviewed the drum part that Jonas Fairly had done for us. Even though we'd tracked that version at 68 bpm and our new version was 69 I figured we could make it line up with some simple time compression: and it did! Layering in Jonas's drums over the looped pattern I had already placed into the song gave everything the punch and dynamics I was looking for. 

 As the mix was getting closer I could hear where we needed to sweeten up the vocals a bit so we tracked some double and triple vocals to the choruses to really widen and warm up the mix. Isabelle did a brilliant job nailing her parts and I spent more than a day going over my harmonies until I lined myself up with her and made the chorus parts stand out. It took several shots at it to get it right but we are both super pleased with how it's all turned out. 

Please have a listen to the ballad. We are very proud of it and would love to have the whole world hear it one day! 

 

Mark (and Isabelle)

 

 

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Tiny Pretty Things and new songs

 So back a month ago we had a song we'd composed for an Australian fashion magazine, Fa├žon, licensed to the Netflix series Tiny Pretty Things.  It is featured in episode one of the show and in a rather racy scene as well! We had never really intended on doing a proper formal release for the song but a few comments on various online sites suggested people wanted to hear it! So we made a lyric video with some nice kaleidoscopic footage to go with it. Please check it out below:



 

 

In other news we have been working really hard on a new love ballad. We shall be debuting a mix of the song tomorrow for Valentine's day on our soundcloud page. Please stay tuned, it is quite the big song!  

 

thanks for reading and checking out the music. We both really appreciate your attention and support!

Mark

Saturday, 12 December 2020

Wha'ts Going On In Your Head - New Single!

 We are really pleased to release our song "What's Going on in Your Head," this week. It has been a long journey to arrive at this release, starting from the Los Angeles living room of friend and producer Stefan Sigerson, to making the song fully twice over. The initial version took on a more full band sound, with live drums and electric guitar and rhodes piano in addition to our usual electronics. However, even after making a final mix and having it mastered we never felt the song connected properly. 

So even though we'd spent almost two years attempting to perfect that version I finally decided to scrap it and start over. Taking the drum stem from the original version we imported that into Abelton Live and build an entirely new song. This time instead of quoting so directly from the trip hop influences of Portishead and Massive Attack we took it more minimal and created a new synth driven riff to centre the song to. You can hear it in the intro, the icy slightly distorted synth arpeggio that opens the song. As soon as I hit on that pattern the lights came on again and I could hear how we should approach the song.  Then it became apparent that we needed even less from the drum track than I'd initially recorded. Muting and reducing things kept bringing the song forward and Isabelle's vocals got more and more prominent and smooth with each decision. Really stripping it back to just this one element made the later drum and bass drop at verse two seem much more epic. 

From there is was another year of messing around with the recording. I must have played the bass line 20 times of more. It kept evolving and I kept hearing how to refine it more. Then of course I needed to record my backing vocal parts and they too proved more challenging than I would have guessed. The reason of course for all this effort was the dissonant chord progression that I'd put into this song. Back on the night it was born it had a more simple chord sequence: A minor, C major,G major, F# minor. However once we'd returned to Vancouver and pursued the song I'd added in a spooky drone that changed the second chord to a C minor chord, adding in a diminshed 5th to the pattern. Because we didn't alter the vocal melody we had to find that perfect balance between dissonance and beauty. Isabelle and I worked on the part for years. The subtly in inflection and how my harmony part fit with the lead and against the music was really challenging to master. Finally we did it! 

We begin performing this arrangement live in 2018 and then again at the few shows we playing 2019. Each time it grew stronger and more direct.  This past summer we knew we had to get this song done so we could move on. It is with a great deal of pride we present this new one and hope you enjoy it as well.Big thank you's much go out to everyone over the past 4 years that's helped us find this record. From the initial guitar work of Don Harrison, the live drumming of Leigh Grant, the remixes from Mark Hjorthoy, and Paul Schroeder  to the advise and ears of Stefan Sigerson and Barry Flynn it has been a long road and we couldn't have found it without you. Thank you all once again, and thank you for reading this and listening to What's Going On In Your Head!

Mark and Isabelle

Combine the Victorious


Wednesday, 11 November 2020

New Single coming in December

 We are beginning to release the new songs we've been working on this year. The first is a song that had its initial seed planted in Los Angeles back in 2016! What's Going on In Your Head has been around for a few years now but we've never felt we had the definitive version until now. This new track is a complete reworking of our earlier version with ever element rethought, re-sung, re-played and rearranged. I think I can speak for both of us when i say we are finally happy with it! A dark and brooding trip -hop style song in the manner of Portishead, What's Going On In Your Head is a delicate balance of melancholy, melody and menace. 

Release date is December 10th 2020.  Video and single release, worldwide though Boutique Empire. 



Tuesday, 4 August 2020

New Music coming soon - and a demo!

Isabelle and I have been writing new songs for the past several months and we have studio time booked this coming weekend at the wonderful Hipposonic Studio here in Vancouver. I've asked several drummer friends to help us out with their talents and help record bed tracks for probably five songs (or more depending on how well things work out). Among the new tracks we will be tracking drums in the studio for the song below. We wrote it this summer after a fun night in the jam space, it was kind of a laugh at first but the song kept getting better. Then Isabelle shared with me a CFOX Summer Song Contest that we figured we should apply for (more news on the that later).

I know I should wait to see if we are accepted through the first round of judging but I'm rather excited about this track and though we could see who was listening by just sharing it on our blog (which I confess I have been terrible at updating much lately). So, if you have a few minutes please check out our song called "Canada" and let us know what you think of the demo. The video was made in just a couple hours so we could apply for the contest, so it's a very basic "studio performance" kind of thing. I hope the song comes through in its more basement studio form.

We had fun writing this one, and special thanks to our housemate Adam Bailie for his verse in the song and his full on Toronto Maple Leafs appearance!





Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Combine The Victorious (Pt 2) - Isabelle & Mark Perform a New Song Plus...

We performed 5 of our songs on the Isolation sessions of Onstage Live hosted by local celebrity Fiona Forbes yesterday. It was a real pleasure to play hope you enjoy!
Stay safe and healthy,
big hugs from Vancouver
Mark and Isabelle

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Embrace (piano version)

Well, Isabelle and I have been self isolating for the past month as most of the world seems to have been, and to keep ourselves feeling good we've maintained our rehearsals and writing sessions. In the course of having a month to ourselves I figured I should attempt to tune up the old Baldwin upright piano that I inherited from dearly missed friend Todd Simko many years ago. As I went about tuning the piano it occurred to me that we should revisit some of our early material again. This song, Embrace, was a favorite of ours from the debut Combine the Victorious album The World Over. The album version, which came out in 2007, is a much bigger production with a full band accompaniment and a rather epic crescendo at the peak of the song. We opted for a simpler and more direct approach with this video, something that could be pulled off with only a single piano and our vocals.

Last night we set up a camera, a microphone and a light and tried our hand at this song again. It took us a few takes but we found it again and I think the results are quite pleasing!

Thanks for checking it out!

Mark (and Isabelle)


Friday, 3 April 2020

Combine appear on Onstage with Fiona Forbes

Earlier this week Isabelle and I had an interview with Fiona Forbes (the former host of Shaw's cable show Urban Rush) on her new series "Onstage." The irony here is of course we are all in isolation due to the Covid 19 virus so the onstage portion has changed significantly. Our appearance is about 8 minutes into the show where we chat with Fiona about what's been going on and how we are coping with the shutdown. After that we have a two song live performance from our basement where we play the songs The Bolsheviks and Glasgow. It was a lot of fun to do and seems to be the way forward for the next month or so for all of us!  Please have a look and let us know what you think.

Mark and Isabelle


Friday, 3 January 2020

Benefit Gig - Feb 21 2020

Just a quick note to state we will be performing as part of a benefit for the West Moberly First Nations on February 21st at the Russian Hall here in Vancouver. This benefit concert is intended to raise money and awareness surrounding the displacement of the first nations by the construction and land clearing of the Site C hydro dam. More info to follow!

Monday, 20 May 2019

Next Gig! June 14th at the Rickshaw


We are excited to announce another live show!  We've been asked to open for The Gathering at their Ep release party down at the Rickshaw Theatre.  What is going to make this even more exciting than usual is the guest musicians that will be joining on stage for this show. We can't announce  anything yet but after a conversation last night with a certain guitarist I am very stoked about this night!!

Of course the wonderful Dan Walker is on the drums for us again, so it'll be a full band for first time in almost a decade for Combine the Victorious. Not a show to miss. Plus we'll be playing our new single and the unreleased single we have coming up. 

Big love to The Gathering for inviting us to join in the fun.

Friday June 14th
The Gathering
Girlfriends and Boyfriends
Combine the Victorious

The Rickshaw
254 E Hastings
$10

Link to the facebook event:

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Interview with Don's Hit List

I had the pleasure of chatting music with Don Thatcher last weekend for his show Don's Hit List. We covered music from my days with Pure as well as some of his goose bump moments in our Combine the Victorious songs.  It was a great interview and I had a really good time going over some of the recording sessions and ideas we've had over the years.  Please give it a listen if you have even been interested in old Pure songs like "Anna is a Speedfreak" as well as the story behind our latest single "The Bolsheviks."


Cheers!
Mark Henning

Thursday, 25 April 2019

New Single: The Bolsheviks

We shall be releasing our first new song in almost two years next week on April 30th. After a lot of woodshedding we've come up with a refined new sound. The song is titled "The Bolsheviks".   You can hear it on soundcloud today, or add it to your playlists on your favorite streaming site on Tuesday the 30ths.

Once again the brilliant Robert Edmonds has created another stunning cover for our music. After over 12 years he still impresses us!