Over the past few weeks I’ve started a massive demo project, the Shaker Demos. Basically caught up on Mars Lights and Sleepover stuff, I’ve been digging through my entire file of song ideas, deciding whether there’s enough there (or that I can re-figure from my old notes) to demo, and doing super-rough cuts into GarageBand with a backing shaker loop (which has a surprisingly good groove, after editing it to accent the off-beat!).
Some songs are finished (including “Lost” and “Cooky” from Furious Instance), others are just a couple of instrumental ideas strung together. There’s stuff I’ve put down this summer, all the way back to ideas from ’02-’03-’04 and everything in between. I think there will be about 40 pieces, total, all different kinds of things: rock songs, folky stuff, bass riffs, weirdo blues.
One thing I didn’t expect is that I’m re-writing some of the old ideas pretty significantly. Many of the things in the song file are there, and not finished, because there was both something that worked and something that didn’t about the original idea. I’ve re-visited some ideas several times, without getting a breakthrough, but this time I’m getting them. The reason, I think, is experience gained working on Mars Lights stuff with Drew; I’m learning to hold those original ideas a little more loosely, play around with them, try more variations, or try cutting a bar or extending a chord to make a phrase both more interesting and more organic. The result is a sound that sort of puts things I’ve done before (particular types of chord voicings or changes) with what I’m doing now; mixing them without necessarily blending them, if that makes sense. They exist together in the song, but are still identifiable, at least to my ear.
Come to think of it, I wonder if Mom planted the idea to do this in my head; a couple weeks ago she asked what I’d been writing, and I answered “A little of this and that, some Mars Lights stuff. I’ve been writing a bit more since I finished school.” Maybe that question kind of worked in my subconscious, until I decided to find out, concretely.
I’m not sure exactly what will happen with the demos. I’ll organize them somehow, group songs together, and finish them, I suppose. I may send some ideas off for collaboration. There might be albums, or EPs, or both, and I don’t know if I’ll end up grouping similar-sounding stuff together, or mixing it up.
Jill, perfectly, asked the natural question; what happens to Ventura? I still think Ventura will get done before any of this stuff is finished. I’ll probably update my Ventura demos now, too, and then tackle those first. Arrangements and tempos have changed over the years (!) for them, and one song (“Green Christine”) hasn’t been demo’d at all.