New Song Alert! “Someone Came To Help Me”
Well folks, we finally have some new material to share with you. “Someone Came to Help Me” is a tune that was inspired by patients, donor families and caregivers at The Methodist Hospital Transplant Center in Houston.
We played acoustically at a “Donate Life” event at the hospital in 2007 and 2008. Both years we performed “Here Comes the Sun” and “Let My Love Open the Door.” Both great songs, but the event really needed its own tune. I came up with the words and melody, Jeff added some chords and we played it at the 2009 event to a very enthusiastic crowd.
This song started it out as a demo with Jeff programming drums and playing acoustic guitar and me singing just trying to get something together for the folks at Methodist, but we decided pretty early on we should produce it as a band.
Jeff and Chris cut the basic tracks in October, which included organ, bass, acoustic guitar and Chris’ great electric guitar part that weaves throughout the song. When that was completed relatively quickly, we tried a number of different vocals sessions afterward trying to get the right sound, but it just wasn’t coming together. After some time away from it and listening to some Steve Earle for inspiration, I completed the vocals at end of January. Chris and Jeff did some further tweaking to the instrumentation on the song as well.
Mixing commenced at Chris’ Rogers Recording in early February and after a number of sessions to fix the groove and the acoustic guitar track, we all felt like something was missing. Was it a guitar part? Another vocal? Then Chris found a trippy keyboard sound that felt like a mixture of a bunch of different noises and that did the trick. Jeff played it all the way through, Chris added some excellent effects and it really turned the track in the right direction.
This was our first try at mixing our own material and Chris really knocked it out of the park. He upgraded his entire studio last year and it has really made a difference in the overall sound of the band. We are almost done with a bunch of songs we started last summer with drummer Leesa Harrington-Squyres, our former drummer and current drummer for Lez Zeppelin. We hope to have those ready to release digitally in the next few months.
The song is also available for download on Rhapsody, Zune, Napster, Lala, Limewire, Nokia and eMusic.
Making a Record: Gimme Some Rivum Guitar
When you start making a record and you’re doing so without a drummer, the songwriting process can be different, especially if you are a rock band. After writing a huge batch of new material in the last six months, we knew we were going to have to arrange these on our own with little or no rehearsal.
We finished up the first batch of drums last week and decided our first instrument after that should be rhythm (rivum for you slangsters) guitar. We made a conscious decision on this record to stay away from too much acoustic guitar as it tends to be a little sonically messy. We wanted a tighter, more focused sound.
As an experiment, we decided that I should play one batch of electric rhythm guitars. Not only would it be a different approach in tone and in style from Chris, but it would be simple enough that George could easily reproduce it live on electric – something he’s been working on.
So, Chris and I sat down tonight to get started. We both felt his Fender Strat was the guitar to use since he’ll be using his Les Paul and his Gibson 355 for most of the record. The Strat is a nice contrast.
We also really wanted a very raw, barely distorted and kinda nasty sound for me. Think Neil Young or Tom Petty or Jeff Tweedy – something that would fit but also make sense for a front person. We got some really great, bright and biting sounds running the Strat through Chris’ Mesa Boogie tube distortion and his Fulltone Full Drive, alternating between the two. As usual, we ran through his 100 watt Boogie combo amp with a Sennheiser mic in front.
We managed to knock off five songs and they really sounded great. Adding rhythm guitars really helped to bring the songs into focus as ROCK songs, not just skeleton outlines of acoustic guitar, bass and drums.
It also re-emphasized just how great the drums are going to sound with the rest of the band. They are SO different from what we’ve done in the past, but the fit in SO well with what we are doing now and the whole thing just makes sense.
I’ve got a couple more to go in this batch before we’ll move on to other stuff and get ready for another batch of drums, but the results this time were really promising.
Recording Day 1: I’m a Drummer Myself
Day 1 of recording is in the books and it was quite a day. You can see the carnage that was Chris’ living room. As our engineer put it to Chris’ wife, “This isn’t a living room today. It’s a studio.”
Chris and I spent the better part of Wednesday making some drum baffles and planning on how to deaden the sound somewhat in this room with very high ceilings and concrete floors. Mission accomplished for the most part.
Leesa Harrington-Squyres, our original drummer and fresh off her stint with the well-known tribute band Lez Zeppelin, sat in on our initial eight songs. Steve Christian, who recently engineered the critically-acclaimed (aren’t they all?) Steve Earle album “Townes,” sat in the engineers chair. We managed to borrow drums and cymbals from our good friends Mando Perez (LL Cooper), Joe Araujo (Skillit) and Andy McWilliams (Scattered Pages) and got some killer tracks.
The sheer number of mics, cable and craziness was pure insanity. I’ll admit I don’t know much about the mic choices – that was for Chris and Steve – but they did an amazing job.
We worked from 10am to around midnight and had a good, exhausting time. Leesa was fantastic and we are really happy with what we have so far. Here’s the rundown of drum gear.
Pacific Drums 10″, 12″ and 14″ toms, 22″ kick
14″ Ludwig Star Classic
14″ Pearl (similar to an old Ludwig)
14″ Custom Maple snare (made by Joe Araujo)
13″ Zildjian A Quick Beat Hi Hats
21″ Zildjian A Sweet Ride
22″ Zildjian K Ride
18″ Zildjian A 18″ Crash/Ride (really old and awesome)
15″ Zildjian A Custom 15″ Crash
17″ Zildjian A Custom 17″ Crash
17″ Zildjian A Fast Crash
Big thanks to everyone that helped out mentioned above and to my friend, Mandy, for loaning us her awesome faux oriental rug!
Recording the demo…
Guero’s, Austin (SXSW) – March 21, 2009
A few months ago we were panicked because we had only three, maybe four new songs to record. Well, all that’s changed. About a month ago, we hopped on the the writing train and we haven’t yet pulled into station. We now have 19 songs to choose from, all of which, have very catchy hooks. I know every band says that, but we actually mean it.
It was Chris’ idea to build these songs from the ground up. In other words, record demos and build parts around them. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been in the studio laying down drum tracks. What I actually mean is that Jeff was programming drums and Chris and I were giving him our two cents worth. The process was long, but in the end it will be worth it because we will be able to give the tracks to a drummer (Steve Salazar is no longer in the band. Another story for another day) who will be able to play what we want, or at least close to what we want.
Last night, Jeff and I finished recording the acoustic guitar and vocal parts for ten songs and were happy with the results. Finishing this step will give me a chance to perfect the vocals before I record them and Chris a chance to work out guitar parts. It will also give us all the opportunity to “hear” other instruments and vocal parts that will work. I like this process alot. It gives you alot of room to be creative and find things in songs that you wouldn’t find any other way.
Normally, we book a CD release party before we are done with the disc to give ourselves a deadline. What has happened in the past is that we procrastinate and then have to rush at the end. We don’t want to do that this time around. The pace with which we having been working has been great and we made a pact not to rush things with this record. We feel this is the time to make “the” record, and we are going to take the time necessary to do it. The way things are looking, we should probably have something ready to release in the spring of 2010.
Stay tuned. It’s going to be a fun ride. Don’t forget to check us out on Facebook and Twitter.
New Pre-Production Videos
Monday night was another big night of pre-production, which has been great overall. As usual, we shot a bunch of goofy video, so here you go:
First up is what is destined to be our next big hit, “Soft Green Leaves.”
Jeff works on drum programming. It’s tedious.
…from the Greek. Chris and Jeff try to explain what quantizing is with not much success.
My favorite. George tries to explain to Chris the kind of drum beat he wants.
The Gods of “Something” Continue the Pre-Production
The act of practicing things that you are going to record soon is a pesky part of the recording process known as pre-production. Â It’s sorta like a football team doing a walkthrough the day before the game – kinda like practice but without the pain and blown knee tendons.
In our case, pre-production involves going through each song we want to record and making decisions about style, groove, sound, tempo, etc.
Last night, we worked on one of the songs and put together a couple videos with my new handy dandy little iFlip video recorder. It’s sweeter than winter molasses covered in sugar, gumballs and crushed angel wings.
The first video is some random drum stuff with a very stylish Star Wars theme intro. George Lucas directed and by George Lucas, I mean my cat, Dexter.
The second video is about how we have decided to name ourselves The Gods of “Something” with the “something” part being a variable like the X in an algebra equation or the speed of a drill. In short, we are awesome to the square root of X.
The truth is, this “pre-production” is really just time to goof off and pretend to be recording engineers. When we do this, I call Chris “Steve Albini” and he refers to me as “Daniel Lanois” because I’m dark, dirty and mysterious. George is “Bruce Dickinson” and is constantly yelling for more cowbell, which is sweet and sad all at the same time since George doesn’t know that was just a character on SNL and the real Bruce Dickinson is the singer from Iron Maiden.
As far as we know, unlike the SNL character played by Christopher Walken, the real Dickinson doesn’t put his spandex pants on one leg at a time like everyone else. He has them held in place by groupies while he leaps from a table directly into them. And THAT is why we call George “Bruce Dickinson,” not because of the cowbell thing, but don’t tell him because he thinks it’s HILARIOUS.
When I was significantly younger than I am today, I used to wonder what the fuss was all about when it came to pre-production. Â I thought, “Hey, we’re a band and we play this music all the time. Why do we need to rehearse specifically for the studio?”
Today, I saw the benefits of pre-production for a band like ours and didn’t question it for one second.
For the uninitiated, pre-production is basically the act of preparing your music for the studio. This usually entails going over the songs, working on how they feel, coming up with references (other songs by other artists) and making simple demos if necessary.
Tonight, we worked on a song called “Georgie,” that we’ve been playing for over a year. Â The feel for the song was just never right. Â On Monday, we played through it acoustically and decided we needed to change the groove. I played the guys a song by Paul Thorn called “Lucky 7 Ranch” and it was right on the money for what we wanted in terms of the overall feel for the song.
We went through the song this evening and put together a drum sample groove we could use to make a very simple demo. Â We can then use that as a reference when rehearsing the song with live drums.
Our goal is to have a groove or “feel” reference for every song we intend to record as well as a sonic reference. Â In essence, one reference that gives us an idea of how to play the song and one reference for how we want it to sound.
Now, the sonic references will be much more limited. Feel references could be anything. It doesn’t have to sound right or even be recent. Every song could have a different artist for a reference. Â On the other hand, the sonic references need to be limited to just a few artists and recently released albums so that our record has both consistency and a modern sonic palette.
This is the most organized I’ve ever felt before starting the actual recording process and I can really see the value of pre-production of this kind. Â I have no doubt it will make a big difference when we start actually cutting tracks.
If you are a journalist, you might consult the New York Times Manual of Style and Usage. Kids today often use Wikipedia. Those of you who have been around a while might actually remember the many volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica sitting on your parents shelves going up. All of these are reference materials and, when it comes to making records, musicians use references too. We just happen to use other people’s records.
Tonight, George, Chris and I got together at Chris’ house to listen to music and make a sonic plan for the recording of our new album. This doesn’t mean copying the sounds of others. It just means that you listen for sounds and general ideas that help you to shape the sound of your own record. Â It is common practice for artists, engineers and producers.
Like usual, Chris went for classics and I went for more modern recordings. This is perfect for us because we both end up in the same place while coming from different angles and it introduces both of us to music the other may or may not have heard before. Also, like usual, we had some common songs on our lists.
Because Chris and I produce everything, we tend to take the lead with stuff like this, but George is quick to throw his $0.02 or $0.10 into the mix. Â By the end, we were all on the same page.
Tonight, the consensus was we liked a pretty wide range of modern and classic stuff and we have a good starting point. The Raconteurs, Wilco, Tom Petty, Drive-By Truckers, Radiohead, Lucinda Williams, Kings of Leon, Guster and The Hold Steady were all on the list. There were of other artists too, but those seemed to be the general favorites.
They all have their own character and, sonically, they are very different. But they each have elements that are attractive to us musically and seem to appeal to our collective personality.
We also put together a list of musicians we’d like to call about playing on the record as well as a list of instruments and accessories we wouldn’t mind borrowing or renting when the time comes. We start putting the first pieces together next week and we’ll work slowly for a month or so before getting into the meat of the process.
We have no real timelines, but my guess is you’ll see a new record from orange is in by the end of the summer. Â We’re really excited to get started.
Recording: New songs on the way
It’s been a while since we’ve gone into the studio and recorded some new music. It seems like yesterday, but the last time we put anything out was our six song EP, Come and Take It, in July 2007. But that’s all about to change. Since last summer we have been playing three new songs live pretty regularly. “Georgie” is the tale of a nice, young boy who loses his soulÂ as he grows up, “Let It Flow” talks about the perfect girl and trying to figure out how to keep her and “Time Is My Enemy” is about trying to do allÂ you can before time runs out. We’ve received great reviews on all of these tunes and they will definitely be recorded.
About a month ago melodies began flowing into my head at a rapid rate. This usually happens when artists I admire put out new material. I don’t copy them mind you, they just inspire me. This is what happened when Bruce Springsteen began releasing tracks from his excellent new CD, Working On A Dream, back in November. From the batch of 12 songs (some are just pieces of things that are not quite songs) I have on my mini tape recorder that I take everywhere I go, we’ve worked out three; “My Town Is Gone,” “The Last Night of My Life,” and “Lipstick Smile.” The first two are rockers and the third is a ballad about a “cougar” who leaves her older mate for a “a guy with jeans down to his knees and a gangster’s backwards hat.”
There are also aÂ few tunes that are on the fence. One tentatively called “I’m Alive” is one that we started working on last year that still needs a bridge after the second chorus. Jeff is also not a big fan of the way the groove of the verse sounds, so we’ll also have to work that out. It’s a cool tune and in the end will probably see the light of day. Another possibility is “Please Don’t Cry.” It’s a catchy litle ditty with a cool guitar part and a hook reminiscent of Seal, but it might not fit musically with everything else we are recording. ItÂ could be oneÂ those “bonus” tracks at the end of the CD. We’ll see. Jeff also brought in a folky, country-esque tune that sounded cool, and I have another one that started out sounding like a Righteous Brothers song, but has since been turned into an all-out rocker.
We will have more information on all of these tunes as they begin to grow. In fact, we are going to begin taping rehearsals, both audio and video, and if we get a good take, we’ll put it up for you all to hear and critique, so keep checking back.
We plan on going into the studio in a couple of weeks to begin recording what we hope will be our best effort yet.