Serendipity

The nearly ten-year-old demo to “2013 March” (working title; now “Let’s Get Out Of Here” from Fight Songs) came up by accident – almost by mistake – in my workout mix on Tuesday. I’d used some weird genre tags to group the shaker demo/Fight Songs material, and this track happened to get tagged as 90s rock.

It had a great energy, something the full studio mix seemed to be lacking. I played it again and realized that in arranging the song for a full band mix and electric guitars, I’d lost the spark that came from bashing away on the acoustic and the harmonic complexity of the chord voicings in the demo.

So I recorded an acoustic track for the real mix, and bam; now it rips like it should.

I’m very lucky to have stumbled over my demo when I did. “First idea, best idea” is often true, and always worth checking.

One Weird Thing About Playing Bass

This started as an email to Cory, on the heels of finishing Fight Songs bass lines.

One weird thing about writing and playing bass lines is that, the way my brain works, it feels like I’m searching for the ideal platonic form of the bass line for each song. It feels like there’s only one mathematically correct answer and I have to play around until I find it; which notes and rhythms, which octaves for the notes, where to put the runs, etc.

It’s not entirely literally true; I can hear some spots where two notes might be equally valid, but 99% of the time there’s an obvious right choice and it feels right and moral, even, to play it. That doesn’t at all mean the first note I try is right! Often the first 80% of the line will come to me pretty quickly, on my first few plays through the song, but I’ll spend a good amount of time on the last 20%, especially the ascending / descending runs, to make sure I hit the exact right notes. It feels like working out a proof, and it’s very satisfying to get right (and frustrating to get wrong)!

On one little line in “Lost,” the very end of the chorus that leads back down to the start of the chorus progression, I tried a ton of different combinations of notes for that 4-note descending run before I found the “right” one.

“Right” to my ear does not always mean technically perfect according to the notes in the chord or scale, either. There’s an element of my “voice” to the “right.” It’s not actually objective, of course, but it feels like working out something that is objectively correct (and more correct than the alternatives) more than “being creative” or “writing a bass line.”

I do not feel this way about any other instruments or sounds, only bass guitar.

Early Recording Rigs

This is a leftover thought from the “A Life Without Fireflies” episode of The Long Play Listening Party that I found in the email archive.

Talking through my early recording experiments and gear I realized that prior to the purchase of my Digi001 ProTools LE system in November 2022, I had only ever self-recorded acoustic music with either my MiniDisc player and a computer mic or a 4-track tape machine. (howie&scott’s near and far was done by Fred Ritter, Jacob’s dad, on a digital 8-track.)

Just ten months after buying the 001 rig I was in Doug Van Sloan’s mastering studio with signs.comets, plus we had also recorded Shacker’s Pardon My Pretension…, Rob’s A Life Without Fireflies, and Blame The Game’s EP. That level of productivity is bonkers to try and wrap my mind around now! Plus, Scott and I were landscaping in Lincoln full-time that summer, we weren’t just making music!