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mr|ten Originals and Covers, Part 2

25 October 2014 in [blog]

mr|ten has inspired some of you to go back and check out the original versions of the songs we covered for our 10th birthday.  In this series I’ll put the originals and covers side-by-side with commentary.  (Part 1)

In Circles

The Sleepover 2.0’s original:

  • Professionally recorded at ARC in Omaha by AJ; that was a pretty fun weekend.  The ribbon mic he used on Cory’s guitar was amazing.  I can hear so much detail in that tone
  • Constantly shifting texture due to Scott’s keys
  • We gave Scott the assignment of writing a lead part for the chorus, since the vocals were so sparse, and he wrestled with it for a while and came up with the killer part you hear
  • Cool weirdo non-linear reverb on the guitar solo
  • The verse/chorus tempo change is pretty unusual.  We demo’d exactly how the click track needed to change on those parts, how many bars long each part was, etc., so that we knew exactly what we needed AJ to set up when we started to record
  • Another point for Scott for writing the chorus vocal harmonies.  I believe the parts are Cory on lead, me on harmony, Scott on high harmony

Here’s Panda Face’s (Brandon McKenzie) cover:

  • While changing plenty of sounds, Brandon aces the feel of the original, which I love
  • Lots of cool details in the drum programming; the knocking 16th notes, the noisy open hat sound
  • Nice choice to maintain tempo throughout, instead of mimicking the original’s changes
  • More great synth/guitar textures.  Watch out of Scott and Brandon ever get in a band together
  • First part of second verse, drums drop out, vocals go up an octave…  !
  • Aaaand it ends with that same 7th as the original.  Good final touch

The Biggest Choice You Make (Every Day)

Original by Sally Ride:

  • This is one of my favorites, in terms of both songwriting and production
  • Matt’s on drums on this whole record
  • The wah-wah bass riff was done in ProTools with an EQ sweep, which helped me nail the depth of wah I wanted vs. doing it live
  • Only one backing vocal in the whole song, but I make it count!
  • And the bridge just flies off the cliff…  that’s the emotional peak for me, though the outro jams for a while

Cover by Jerry Chapman:

  • Jerry’s a long-time friend of MFR, though this is his first release on the site.  I met him in the early-’00s at Doane College, where his band Life In General would tour a couple of times each year.  Scott and I even opened for them, and I’ve followed his solo career and kept in touch
  • The first time I heard this, I wasn’t sure about it.  Something seemed ‘off.’  It wasn’t until my second listen that I realized he’d changed the time signature from 4/4/ to 6/8!  It sounded so natural, I didn’t realize what the change was on that first pass.  Once I wrapped my brain around it, I loved it
  • Jerry recorded this in a month when he also moved and got married.  That’s dedication to the scene
  • The way he transformed the bass riff into a guitar lead that has some of the same flavor, but is quite different… and then harmonized that lead at the end… so cool

Nature vs. Nurture

Beach-Puppy’s (Cory Kibler) original:

  • Possibly my favorite song of Cory’s…  One of my top five MFR songs ever, for sure.  I just love this.
  • Unusual for Cory to throw that odd meter hiccup in the instrumental version of the verse riff.  It sounds very natural; if you’re not counting or playing along, I don’t know if you even notice that a beat disappears
  • Also unusual, but less so, for Cory, this song as three main parts: verse, chorus, and bridge (or 2nd chorus, if you prefer).  He goes bridgeless pretty often
  • I loved doing the little harmonies and piano bits on this EP.  If we had time to burn and lived close, I’d love to perform this stuff (and Cory’s other material) as a duo

Mars Lights’ cover:

  • I’d wanted to cover this song with Mars Lights for years, long before we hatched the idea for mr|ten.  You could think of mr|ten as an excuse for me to get this cover to happen!
  • Obvious changes: slower tempo, deeesstortionnnnn, echo, extra guitars and drums, blowing out the end of the arrangement
  • Non-obvious change: I throw some Gs into the 2nd chorus/bridge riff.  I always heard them in my imagination
  • Non-obvious change #2: Drop-D tuning, tuned down to a reference pitch of A=432
  • Matt’s approach to the odd-tempo riff is perfect.  I couldn’t hear how it would work with drums until he did it, and then it clicked immediately
  • I loved having my guitar right on the edge of feedback.  I could control it a bit just by turning side to side
  • Matt and I tracked the drums and rhythm guitar together, live.  Drew dubbed his stuff in later
  • Drew’s atmospheric lead loops and layers!  Very cool.  As we finished his parts, he said he’d like to do more of this type of stuff in Mars Lights
  • I used the old Jimmy Page reverse a part / run it through an echo / reverse the echo for the vocal effects at the end.  We used that back on Cold Burn, too.
  • The vocals sound pretty clean, but they’re actually all run through the overdrive side of my GT500 pedal for a bit of grit, to put them in the same sonic space as the rest of the tune
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Moar Dabbling

19 October 2014 in [blog]

Part 2 of my dabble session with Jill is up at ClassyMcGraceful.  (Part 1 here.)

Rather than rambling about it here, why not just go read it?  Jill and Sandy to a great job with these posts, and it was fun to hang out, snack snacks, be interviewed, and sketch.

Still can’t parse the bangs, though.  -h

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mr|ten Originals and Covers, Part 1

12 October 2014 in [blog]

mr|ten has inspired some of you to go back and check out the original versions of the songs we covered for our 10th birthday.  In this series I’ll put the originals and covers side-by-side with commentary.

Am I Getting Through To You

To kick us off, here’s White Air’s “Am I Getting Through To You” from White Air:

  • I love the drum programming, and the weird, off-beat way it launches the song
  • This tune has a lot of background vocal layers, and semi-improvised guitar parts.  These posed a challenge for a solo acoustic version
  • The arrangement is basically variations over the main bass line; it’s pretty static, harmonically.  This was a second major challenge for the cover

Here’s my cover, as Sally Ride:

  • After learning the bass line and some of the guitar hooks, I tried to come up with several different options for the same main part, with different levels of intensity, to give the arrangement some ebb and flow
  • Without the crazy backing vocals to weird it up, I aimed to just play and sing with a lot of energy, kind of on the edge, to try and get some of that slightly un-hinged vibe
  • I recorded this track with a reference pitch of A=424, which turned out to be awesome for my voice.  This was the first vocal take!  (Though it’s only one guitar and one vocal track, I recorded them in separate passes)

Break This Dollar

Mars Lights’ original:

  • Tim actually wrote the original vocals to this track!  He’s featured on backing vocals in the recording, too
  • I couldn’t understand all of his lyrics on his demo, so the lyrics here are a combination of his originals (including “Break this dollar!”), my mondegreens of what I thought I heard him singing, and me writing some stuff around the edges, a line here or there, to fill it out
  • Matt and Drew brought some awesome edge-of-chaos punk energy to the recording.  I kind of anchor it

Timothy Scahill’s cover:

  • This was the first track I got back from an artist participating in mr|ten, and it really amped me up
  • Tim recorded all of this on an iPad!  Incredible.  I love the nutso drum programming
  • Tim captures the rushing-forward feeling of the original, while actually changing quite a bit and adding things – guitar parts, vocal hooks, arrangement details, the whole coda – of his own.  Very cool

Clockblocking

Robot, Creep Closer! from Real Awful, Real Quick:

  • The band holds the loud rock-out bit off until the end; this was unusual for R,CC!
  • This tune is really built on the rhythm section; bass riff and off-beat kick against the 1-2-3-4 snare on the verses, then the interesting drum part and guitar wacka-wackas on the chorus.

D-Rockets cover:

  • Derek nails this; he took a song that I’d never expect to hear an acoustic version of, and makes it his own, and makes it beautiful
  • Cool details; the slightly flamenco guitar riff, the chorus vocal harmony, the shaker throughout
  • Somehow, the verses become even creepier and sadder than the original (to my ears, at least)
  • Because it’s layered and doubled subtly, it doesn’t draw attention, but by the end I think there are at least three guitar tracks, four vocal tracks, and the percussion track happening at once

Those are my thoughts.  What jumps out at you between these originals and their covers?

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