The words and vocals for the new album "And The Light Goes White" was an unusual process. Last year, I spontaneously decided to make this new Dramedy album and there really wasn't a plan really in place. All I knew is that I wanted to release it in March 2021, which meant the whole album needed to be 100% recorded by the end of 2020, with January and February focused on mixing. Like I mentioned in my previous post about how writing the music was "loose," I came at writing with the lyrics with a similar approach. I also wasn't recording the vocals with Robert Frank (of Minor Chord Studios), so I had to work extra to make it sound how I wanted. Normally, I want to make sure that what I convey in my lyrics is clear: a process that can sometimes take days, weeks, even months to get right. I prefer to have the lyrics nailed down so that I'm ready for recording day (and so, you know I don't make too many changes :P). Also, I don't really think of myself as a writer, so sometimes I'm a little self-conscious with my lyrics. There are so many other artists that are so good that it's hard to not feel a little bit small compared to them. If anything I'm just a guy that can get the job done. I'm happy if my words make sense! I found the lyric writing process easier that anticipated, even with the pressure of my tight timeline. The lyrics came to me in a sort of "stream of consciousness" way (a process I usually NEVER trust, as I prefer to meticulous in my writing process). The words flowed, I wrote down the first thoughts that came together, using the previous line as reference. It was kind of my way of splitting the difference with my usual process, and I was satisfied with what I came up. It all comes down to how you sing something as opposed to what you sing (a lot of the artists I admire frequently don't have complicated/challenging lyrics). It's all integrity and conviction. Recording the vocals was another story, but much like the lyrics, once I delved in everything was fine. In fact, I found the process much easier and more comfortable than had I done it with Robert (I can be shy!). I had concerns doing it on my own, such as the bleeding of sounds, mic placement, volume, etc. Robert understood the limitations and was extremely helpful in teaching me the best way to utilize my equipment to get the best recording possible. I had a few odd technical difficulties, but nothing too problematic. Although, I found out that the mic that was using (while technically a good mic) wasn't good for vocals. It didn't capture any bottom end! Hence why the vocals have more "high end" on them. (Oh well... now I know for next time!) Vocal sessions were completed at One Man Garage Recording Facility in about 4 or 5 days. I had my work cut out for me, but there were some benefits to recording on my own. Because I was on my own, I had no pressure or restrictions on how much of the day was available to me and I could come and go as I pleased, which enabled me to experiment with vocal layers and harmonies. I adopted a more calm singing style as oppose to the "hard" style I normally use and that made things a bit easier, albeit interesting. (Another reason is that the guitars and bass were tuned to E flat, heh! To give me a break on hitting certain notes. Hehe.) I think it all turned out great! Lyrically "And The Light Goes White" continues the theme of loss and relationships as established in "StrAngr(S)tiL." Whereas the first album deals with it through anger, the new album is more in a calming / reflective way. What follows are some track by track notes to get a deeper look at "And The Light Goes White."
VOW Originally the lyrics for "Vow" started out as being the lyrics for "The Clock Strikes Heaven." But after singing them to the music for "Clock" they just didn't fit. Instead of abandoning them, I continued to finish the words as I thought they were off to a good start. Both "Vow" and "Clock" were inspired by a friend of mine who was very unhappy in their relationship, feeling that no matter how much they gave their partner was never giving back. (I'm sure we're all a bit familiar with a situation like that...) You start out willing to give because you love the person so much, but then you start feeling short changed and slowly stop giving because of fear. It's a story that happens too many times which is sad. There's about four layers of vocals going on. The way the vocals are mixed in the final version was actually how they were when Robert gave me a rough mix of the song. He did another mix later where the lower vocals were in the back and the higher vocals were upfront. But I found myself loving how they were in the rough mix, so we switched em back!
PARASITE "Parasite" is technically the first song that I wrote lyrically for the album. At first glance it may seem like it's about the pandemic, but other than the title and line in the chorus being loosely inspired by it, it's not. It's about feeling lifeless, trapped, not recognizing yourself and questioning on how you got in this situation. You can get help via friends or whatnot but sometimes that's only a temporary solution. Hence lines such "Outside there's nothing to hold on to" and "Get ready for the drop." The vocals that you hear in the final mix of the song was actually meant to be a test, but when I heard the playback they sounded too good to throw away. "Parasite" was much easier to sing during rehearsals, but very tough to sing in recording. During the test vocal I sang the whole song in one go and literally collapsed to the floor when I was done. It took a lot out of me (and probably another reason why I stuck with this take for the main!). I eventually recorded a couple more to add layers but the prominent vocal in the mix is the first test.
THE CLOCK STRIKES HEAVEN
As soon as I realized that the lyrics I wrote for "Vow" were not going to fit, I immediately started writing the words that eventually ended up being "Clock." I had the words for the chorus, so all I needed was to fill in the verse and bridge. What really set me off was the song "Salt Of The Earth" by The Rolling Stones. During the first verse of that song Keith Richards sings "Let's drink to the hard working people / Let's drink to the lowly of birth / Raise your glass to the good and the evil..." That gave me the idea for the first line "I raise this glass for you" that kicks off "Clock."
This is the one song on the record that I'm not 100% completely satisfied with vocally. I feel that there were things I could have done better, but didn't have the time to finesse due to the time restraints. I made do with what I was able to accomplish, and doubling the vocals helped a bit, but there are places in the song that are a bit... not up to snuff for me. Ah well. On ward to the next record!
As I mentioned in my previous blog, this song is the oldest on the album with the music being written in 2011. The majority of the lyrics however were written in 2020. I had the vocal melody (which pretty much stayed intact) and the first verse written which gave me a base to spring from. I had to shift around a few of the lines during recording to make them work better together, but for the most part the words stayed as is. The underlying sexual connotations are meant to be there, but really the song is about the nature of the Hollywood people and this game of doing anything to get ahead. If you think about it the two things go hand in hand.
I had a lot of fun recording this song! Singing the song utilizing different ranges was really cool. The album as whole has a more subdued vocal delivery than "StrAngr(S)tiL," so it was especially cool to cut loose on the screaming parts. Listening to the playback was very satisfying. (And maybe I am becoming a better vocalist?? :P)
This was the last song written lyrically and musically! Much like the music, I just could not get an idea of what to write. When the day came to finally record this song, I basically had a skeleton set of lyrics and finished the rest during the session. For the most part the words for "Days" are alright, but there are some lines that sounded good, but I don't even know what they mean, or what I was intending! ("Your lies my truth, bound in deep cement," what does that even mean?! Ha!) I suppose I could play it cool and say something like "oh it's an abstract commentary on blah blah blah" but honestly I'm just human. I tried, and maybe this song was not 100% up to my own personal expectations, but I tried, and I'll always jump in and do something rather nothing.
Doubling the vocals in different octaves for "Days" is what saved the vocal performance in my opinion. On their own both the high and low octaves don't work. Rather than do another performance I layered them together and to my surprise it turned out really cool! It's also worth noting that my inspiration vocally was Dave Grohl. I'm not a Foo Fighters fan AT ALL, but that doesn't mean I can't take influence from them. This is also the second time I drew a vocal influence from Mr. Grohl, the first time was for the song "Not The Only One."
WAITING ON YOU
So about 2014 / 2015 I was going through a rough time and one evening I had a very fruitful writing session that spawned many a song. This was one of those songs. Besides being inspired by my personal experiences, "Waiting" is also inspired by the live version of the Depeche Mode track "Death's Door." In fact, the "mother and father" lines is a slight rip off on one of the lines in the Depeche Mode song. My favorite part lyrically is what I sing during the "noise" part where I list all the things like the "local bars" and "evening strolls." This song is also completely autobiographical (and you can probably figure out the situation by listening to the lyrics).
Because this was the first song to be released, it was the first song I recorded vocals for. I was pretty nervous since I didn't know how things were going to turn out with the equipment I was using, not to mention I was singing in a completely different style than what I'm used to. Overall it turned out pretty well! (Of course, being my own critic, there are some parts in the song where I feel like I could have done better, but we'll keep that out of this part! ;P) Oh, that layered "radio voice" during the "noise" section was completely spur of the moment.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
Another song that was birthed during that all-nighter circa 2014/2015, and completely autobiographical as well (figure it out yet?)! Originally this song had more words and completely different music. After I rewrote the music, I edited the words down to something more manageable. In terms of the album, "What's Left To Say?" is the point where, if there was a "protagonist" they begin to see that there is no hope in salvaging the relationship. The only way out is acceptance.
I had a bit of trouble with the vocals for this song, not so much in performance but in the technical side of things. It was hard to find a good placement for the mic as well as recording level. Everything I did was either too soft in the mix or too loud. If you listen closely to the vocals on this song (and others on the album) you can hear a bit of static coming through. A lot of the technical difficulties were fixed during the mixing process but some we just had to make do. A part of me wanted to keep them in because it added to the vibe of the song and also shows that this album was a product of this time.
LIFE BITES ME
The title for this song was originally for another song for a different band I was in, except for them it was called "Life Bites Man." I changed it to "Life Bites Me" because it related to the overall theme of "loss and relationships" on the album. This song in particular is about panic, losing control as well as losing your sense of self. It's about feeling like life is just taking everything away and you have no choice but to let it. Love can bring you joy and happiness, but it is also something that can tear you down in the form of heartbreak. The funny thing is that we're all essentially in control of the situation, we just have to let go.
Like "Parasite," "Life Bites Me" is another song that was easy to sing during rehearsals but hard to sing straight through during recording. Each vocal section of the song was done separately because I couldn't consistently sing them all at once. I would be out of breath! In the end though I think the vocal performance is pretty good. "Life Bites Me" also contains my favorite part of the whole album: the scream at the very end! It was actually from a session I did with Robert recording guide vocals, and is my unofficial tribute to Bon Scott.
CIRCLE THE ROAD
This song was written around the time I was recording my first album "StrAngr(S)tiL." I had all the words but nothing concrete for the music. There isn't that many words but I think what's written says a lot. "Circle The Road" is basically running through the thoughts over and over and over again. What's happening? Why is it happening? Thinking about all the times you tried to salvage the relationship, all the times you saw things their way, etc. You're just stuck with all of this in your mind and it prevents you from moving forward. It's about regret.
This was the toughest song to sing on the album. I wanted my voice to sound gentle but still convey a sense of anger in it. I had the sound of what I wanted pictured in my head but I just couldn't get it right! For inspiration I listened to vocalists like Davey Havok, Billie Joe Armstrong and even Tom DeLonge of all people. I did my best and eventually I got it right. I really like the layered "shouting" vocals in the song.
ALL OUR YESTERDAYS
In my previous post I mentioned that I wrote this song in about 30 minutes, and that includes the lyrics. I remember singing random words over the chord progression. The more I sang the more the words took shape to what you hear in the final mix. I didn't even write them down until way later! I like the fact that the words pretty much repeat throughout the song, and like "Circle The Road" they say a lot. I literally cried after writing this song because the subject matter really hit home for me in my heart and soul. One of the goals for The Dramedy was to write a song that people could have a sing-a-long with and this song works perfectly for it. It's my favorite track on the album.
Caroline Blind did the back up vocals here. I also wanted Adrienne Pearson from the band Readership Hostile (which I did some time in handling the bass) to sing as well, but we weren't able to coordinate due to scheduling conflicts. Caroline does a wonderful job on her own. I told her to sing the parts in at least three ways in different octaves, as well as the option to do some harmonizing if she wanted to. I recorded my main vocals three times but kept the first two takes. Then I did my own harmonizing twice. I think our voices together really shine and really work well together in the song. And oh how they sound during the 1:53 mark! It really melts my heart. _____________________________
Stay tuned for the third and final part! Robert Frank from Minor Chord Studios joins in and writes his thoughts on working with The Dramedy on the new album!