Monday, November 24, 2008

2nd Gig Ever

So Bret pretty much guaranteed that we will play at Josie's Cantina in Port O'Connor on December 13th. It's B$'s B-Day. Come if you can; there will be plenty of beer, music, and Haweses.

I want to play a different set than we played at Hanover's, mostly because the atmosphere will be totally different. Hanover's was a large venue, and the crowd was made up of strangers. It was more of a concert atmosphere. This gig will be a small venue (they don't even have a PA) filled with people who know me and are used to hearing me play Old 97s covers and improv comedy tunes. Bret said he thinks we should plan on playing for about an hour, then his (future) brother-in-law will play a set of solo Texas Country, then Bret wants to have open mic. So, an hour gives us time for 10-12 songs. I've yet to clear it with Keith, but this is what I'm thinking our set list should look like:

1. Waste My Time (start things off with an original but funny song)
2. Ten Feet Tall (another original, one of our YouTube songs so anyone who watched those will recognize it)
3. Tyler (a Toadies cover that I think we do a good job of covering, a song most people will recognize)
4. Down Here Together (imho our best song)
5. Gettin' Busy (a funny song I wrote; I will play this solo acoustic while Keith takes a pee and/or downs beer--Bret's favorite song of mine, so I know he will want to hear it)
6. How Do You Like Me Now
7. Have A Beer With Me (a new alt-countryish song I wrote that will sooth all my family members who by this point are scoffing and wondering when I starting worshipping Satan)
8. Mission To Mars (Keith's favorite song, another YouTube one that some people may recognize)
9. here I will play an off-the-cuff made up song to make everyone laugh and think I'm cool
10. Have A Good Time (our 'funnest' song; the hook is "Don't worry, baby, we gettin fucked up tonight")

Then if there's time we can play some of our other songs or covers.

Hopefully Keith will go for it, because if we play our standard set, I don't think people will like us or have fun. The folks who show up aren't there for a Stevenson Road show, they're there to celebrate Bret's b-day, get f'ed up, and have a good ol' time.

Ok, hope to see y'all there. Have a good Thanksgiving. Peace.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

(more) Recording

Sorry (Matt) the post is a day late. I promise to post every Monday as long as the band is together.

Anyway, this one will be short; my day job is killing me.

So Kenny came over on Thursday and we laid down tracks for "Short Wheel Base", "How Do You Like Me Now", and "Ten Feet Tall". Next Thursday we will record "Have a Good Time" and "Mission to Mars" and then re-record tracks for any of the songs we need to fix. So, when it's all said and done, in a few weeks (8 or so I imagine), we should have a dem0 EP that looks like this:

1. Ten Feet Tall
2. Waste My Time
3. Down Here Together
4. Short Wheel Base
5. How Do You Like Me Now
6. Have a Good Time
7. Mission to Mars

We got a sneak preview of the work Kenny has done on Waste My Time and Down Here Together. I was really pleased with what he had done on Down Here Together. My voice has never sounded so good on a recording. Ever. He added a ton of reverb to make my high pitched whine have this fuller, further away sound. LIke I said, I was pleased. I think the track would sound really, really good if we were able to add bass, lead, and background vocals tracks. Kenny still had a lot of work to do on Waste My Time.

I'm getting really motivated to go into debt and finish the studio so that I can work on these thigns myself. We'll see.

Ok, hope you're having a good week. Thanks for reading. Take care.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Not much has happened with the band this week. Keith and I had our normal practice on Thursday. There's a good chance we have booked our 2nd gig. It will be at Josie's Cantina in Port O'Connor, TX on December 13th for B$'s Birthday Bash. If it is confirmed, that's what next monday's post will be about.

The hardest, most self-doubt-inducing part of being in a band is writing lyrics. Not only is it the most unique part of songwriting, which makes it the most memorable, it's also very personal. Lately, as Keith and I have been writing new songs, I've found that there are basically 3 ways songs get written:

1.) The music comes first. You start with a series of notes or chords, find the melody, then you play it. Generally this is how Keith and I write songs as a band. I'll start playing some chords on the guitar during practice, then Keith will start the drums. Eventually, we'll piece together a verse, chorus, verse, chorus, break, chorus, end, and there's the lyricless song. Almost every time during the course of all that, a chorus line, or "hook" will form. Whenever I play a chorus over and over again, I find that the same words sort of repeatedly pop up on instinct. The hard part is writing verse lyrics based only on a melody and hook. You have to invent what the song is about, but you're confined to the music you've already written. This is the main reason half a dozen of our most frequently played songs don't have finished lyrics. An example of a song Keith and I wrote this way would be "Waste My Time". I started off playing the G-B-C chord progression, and shortly thereafter we had our verse, chorus, verse, chorus, break, chorus deal written. During that time, the line "Don't waste my time!" had formed at the end of the break as a sort of hook. I decided that the song should be about how all these shallow douchebag 6th street posuers think. Anyway, here's what ended up coming out of it:

Don't know why you're looking at me
'Cause I'm not that kind of guy
Don't know why you're smiling at me
'Cause I'm not that kind of guy (I roll hard)

You know I've got feelings too
I just ain't got none for you
Don't know why you're looking at me
'Cause I'm not that kind of guy
Wait till I've had a few more beers
Then maybe we'll see
Don't know why your smiling at me
'Cause I'm not that kind of guy (I ROLL HARD)

Don't talk to me unless you're going to sleep with me
Don't talk to me unless you're going to sleep with me

Pretty simple stuff, but it works. It was a lighthearted melody, so it called for a lighthearted topic. I think "Don't talk to me unless you're going to sleep with me", since it comes during a break where the vocals are pretty isolated, is a memorable line that a lot of people will think is funny or identify with.

2.) The hook comes first. Sometimes, I'll spontaneously come up with a chorus line. If I have a chorus in my head, I can pick out the chords. Then, I basically progress just like if the music came first. It ends up the same, with the most difficult part being writing the verse lyrics, except it's a little easier since I started off with a hook, which instead of being some nonsense generated out of a hum during a chorus, it came first, meaning it most likely gives a decent topic for the song and the verse lyrics. A song we wrote this way was "Down Here Together". I actually wrote the hook for this song while I was in Iraq. It started off as just this:

You will cry into your pillow for me
You will sleep with someone else to get over me
But it won't work
Sweetheart we are down here together

Once I played it for Keith, we flushed it out. The topic was already there. This is how it ended up:

Ain't this a sweet thing baby
That we been in
Ain't this a sweet thing baby
That we been in
But now you're leaving
And I am believing
That you mean it this time
You moved in with that man
Some crazy Mexican
But that's not how it's gonna end

I will go back to where the boys go
You will go back to where them little girls go
You will cry into your pillow for me
You will sleep with someone else to get over me
But it won't work
Sweetheart we are down here together
Sweetheart we are down here together
Sweetheart we are down here together
Sweetheart we are down here together

You think you beat me darling
Don't you girl?
You think you won sweet angel
But you didn't
Just 'cause you're seeing
That I'm grieving
And I've been crying myself to sleep
You think you've got the upper hand
But babydoll you don't understand
That that ain't how it's gonna be




I'm proud of those lyrics because they flow, they tell a story (sort of), you can tell exactly what the songs about, and they have a catchy chorus. I'm happy with the way it works even though there are a lot of words. I really like the lines "You will cry into your pillow for me" and "You will sleep with someone else to get over me but it won't work" because I think it's something a lot of people have felt in the throws of a nasty breakup.

3.) The lyrics come first. I've only written 2 songs this way in my whole life. Both were written for girls who busted me up. This is basically like you write a poem and then try to find a way to fit music to it. This can be the most rewarding, because the only times I've done this were with lyrics that were very personal, and (at least to me) very well written. A song I wrote this way is "Short Wheel Base", which I wrote for my ex-girlfriend. She broke up with me before I ever got a chance to play it for her. Oh well. This is the poem the song came from:

"So here I am
Letting you in
I swore I'd never talk like this again
But I'm defenseless
When I'm in front of you
I'm not good with words but baby here it goes

I'm sorry that I freaked out
I always mess up somehow
But I'm still around
There's no such thing as perfect
But I believe you're worth it
So I'm trying to hang on
This ride has been a wild one

Your neck
Small of your back
And the tomboy scars all about your knees
Your collarbone
All of you
Showed me that love happens more than once"

All of that was written before I even picked up my guitar. I wrote a melody to it. In this case, we just left it as a guitar and vocals only song. I added a repeat of the middle part as a chorus and that was that. Short and sweet, but heartfelt and personal.

I like most of my songs to be much more Rhett Miller than Adam Duritz, meaning I like to use a lot of similies and metaphors but keep it kind of grounded. I like knowing what a song is about. As much as I love the Counting Crows' songs, they tend to be too much symbolism for my blood. They almost never tell a story or talk about specific feelings. Old 97s' lyrics do exactly that. Gems like "If my heart was a car, you would have wrecked it a long time ago" and "someday somebody's gonna ask you, a question that you should say yes to, just once in your life" don't leave themselves open to much interpretation. What does "coffee black and egg white" mean? (Taken from CC's "Colorblind".) Now that I really think about it, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's a topic thing. I'd rather write songs about drinking and heartbreak than loneliness and soulsearching.

Regardless, writing lyrics is certainly a skill I've yet to master. I only have about 4 songs that are completely finished that I am actually proud of. It's just so hard to make it all come together. But when you can get a song that has a catchy chorus line, a nice verbal flow, it hits all the beats correctly, and it just "works", it's a good feeling.

Thanks for reading. Start makin' yo' plans to be in POC on the 13th!

Monday, November 3, 2008


The bass player for the punk band we played with in our first gig went to this expensive recording school called Full Sail. He offered to record us, so on thursday he brought some of his gear over and we laid down tracks for 3 songs (Waste My Time, Mission To Mars, and Down Here Together).

Recording music is a very tedious (and many times expensive) process. You're making something that's permanent, so there's a strong desire to make it perfect. It is VERY difficult to get through an entire song without messing up at least once. The slightest hint of missed timing, a missed note, a buzzed fret, or an awkwardly hit drum can ruin an entire 5 minute take.

I've read a lot about recording online. There is a very good article about the Old 97's recording their latest album here: . I also have a moderate amount of experience recording my own songs on my pc using a shitty mic and CakeWalk Guitar Tracks recording software. When it comes to recording a band, there are several ways to go about it. You can try and record the whole thing "live", where everybody plays their mic'ed instrument together, or you can record one track at a time. Both have their positives and negatives, but I think the one track at a time method is used most often. That's how we recorded on thursday. Kenny (the guy who recorded us) mic'ed up Keith's drums first. Keith played along with my unplugged (hence silent) guitar. After Keith recorded all three songs, Kenny took down those mics and put them on my amp. I chose to play through my practice amp, a 6" Marshall, because it (in my opinion) has a better clean tone than my larger gig amp. When you record, volume and effects in an amp are many times not used, because those things are much more easily added later in editing on the computer. So the most important thing in a recording amp is the sound of the clean channel on a low volume. Anyway, I had headphones on, listening to Keith's drum track, and laid down my guitar track. This was hard for several reasons. First, I'm not a very good guitar player. Second, many of our songs start with the guitar first without any drums, making it EXTREMELY difficult to catch Keith's first tap in perfect rythm. The way I combatted this was to look at the computer monitor to see the track display, which would show when the burst in volume of Keith's drums was coming up. A better and much smarter method would have been to have Keith play a tap beat from the beginning and delete it later, but we're not smart. Lesson learned.

After I finished laying down the guitar we scrapped Mission To Mars because the timing was so bad (not to mention the lyrics are not yet polished). So I laid down vocals for Waste My Time and Down Here Together. Thus, the chorus of the 1st song my band ever recorded is this:

"Don't talk to me unless you're going to sleep with me."

I'm a regular Bill Shakespeare.

Anyway, the vocals went way better than I thought. I, like pretty much everybody else, cringe when I hear my recorded voice. I always think I sound nasally, pre-pubescent, and over-emotional. But Kenny had a really nice vocal mic, and I had one of my better "voice days", so it wasn't as bad as I had expected.

I LOVE singing. I wish I had more range and control, because if I could sing for a living it would be a dream come true. I mean I LOVE it. I'm always singing. I just cringe when I hear it played back to me.

So we took about 3 hours and came away with 2 1/2 songs. This is fast work. I was disappointed that Kenny wanted to record that fast, as I would have much rather set the goal at recording one song and getting 3 perfect tracks than recording 3 songs filled with fuck-ups. That said, I don't know what kind of magic Kenny can work in editing, because every time I caught an imperfection, his standard response was "no worries, I'll fix that in the mix down". He was great to record with, and seemed to really know what he was doing.

Anyway, in 2 weeks we'll get a mix back from him. If it sounds worth a crap I'll post it on here, YouTube, and/or the myspace page/band website. I'm really hoping it turns out good so we can use it to book more gigs.

One decision that was made was to just record guitars, drums, and lead vocals. We didn't add any bass, effects, keys, backup vocals, or anything. On the one hand this is good, since it means when we play live, it will sound just like the record. On the other hand, we may not end up with a full sound, and I think Keith and I would both agree that when we hear the songs in our heads, they have all those other elements. That said, we can always go back and add them in later.

This experience really made me want to finish the studio. I think I'd really enjoy recording and would be good at it. If I had my own setup, I'd never forget a song, and I'd be able to take the time to record it to my standards. My current personal economy prevents me from doing that in the near future.

Ok, that's all I have to say for now. Hope this finds you well. Thanks for reading. Peace.