The Long Write
Some songs seem to hangout in the writing process for months or even years. Like a painting that is never quite right, it’s essence is obvious but the details are in constant flux. When do you “call it” and declare the song finished? And I don’t mean when do you stop adding sections to it. I mean when are you finished chopping it up, rearranging it, trying the intro as the verse, the verse as the intro, changing the chorus progression, and repeatedly auditioning sections as “bar of 4, 2 bars of 7, bar of four”…
“Now let’s try two bars of four, accenting on the + of four, 2 bars of 7”…
”No, that sucked, back to 4-777.”
“Screw it, back to all 7, where we started an hour ago”.
These are the nights when we look at the clock and realize we’ve spent a solid hour on 10 seconds worth of music.
Sometimes the song painfully drags out of a group over a year or more, until one night… one night, new adjustments or a new arrangement just clicks. YES! THAT was it! It’s butchered and rearranged from its infant self, but it’s final version is now coming into focus. After repainting the den for the sixth time this year, it finally feels like home. Well, the work in progress that we’ve been calling “G minor” for nearly a year found itself last night. And we knew it.
I always love getting random brainstorming texts from Dave that say things like: “I’m thinking about totally changing up the Gm one. Moving the 7 intro in the verse… Think about it some.”
It reminds me as I go about my day that we are collectively conceptualizing new music constantly. Dave has crazy new ideas to move things around in this one or that one, comes into a rehearsal with a totally new arrangement, and we flush it out along with our own critiques. The writing on Gm took a great turn this week. Now that I think we feel the arrangement is closer to what it will be, we can start working the details and nuances. “That Gm one” might be the first song we’ve ever recorded in the studio before performing live.
And sometimes a song will just fall right out of you. You become simply a channel for this creation that is using a writer’s hands and voice to conceptualize itself into existence. A couple of months ago Dave sent us a text saying “Check drop box, new song I messed with last night.” We pulled up what was the original demo of “1,3,10” complete with Logic drum loops and overdubbed bass, guitars, and vocals. It was the first time the rest of us heard the song and it was 95% of what I would call the “finished” version (which seems silly to call it because it’s only a handful of performances old). We came into rehearsal, ran it a few times, made some tweaks, and, channeling Tenacious D, declared “NEXT SONG.” The song has ripened with the benefit of a few performances, but it’s a great example of a song that went from demo to performance in a matter of a couple of weeks. Look for that one on the new album as well.
These seem to be the songwriting extremes that our band encounters. The song that took a year to write vs. the song that appeared magically one week. Most songs fall somewhere in the middle, but these are the ones we tell stories about. :-)