Monday, June 15, 2015

Crayonifying the Weekend

See those squiggly line things? We call those waveforms. They are visual representation of recorded sounds, in this case tracks for our song "When I'm Gone". When one is working on music via a computer, it can be easy to be caught up in what the sounds look like, rather than the much more important aspect of what they sound like. The Crayon focuses on the sound.

Making an album -- writing the songs, making the arrangement and production decisions, and recording your ideas -- can be a tedious process. I don't mean that in a bad way; it's just a fact. This weekend, my band They Stole My Crayon hit what could be considered a pretty big milestone in the creation of our album. To understand why, here's a little background: we've written a total of maybe 25 songs as a band. Some of those were early attempts that happened way before we truly "found our sound" as a band, and they were eventually abandoned (or at least pushed back until they can be revisited). Some were worked on for awhile, only to have us come to the eventual realization that they simply weren't among our best stuff. So, we ended up with 14 songs that we felt were strong enough to be album-worthy.

As you know from following this blog, we've worked on them in dribs and drabs. This year, 2015, has shown us really kick into high gear; I'd say that 80% of the album was really created between April and June. Anyway, as of this weekend, we now have tracks recorded for all 14 songs. Does that mean the album is done? Hell no. But it does mean that from here on out, what we'll be doing is refining, rather than creating, the new music.

What Does That Even Mean?
Simple. It means that we have tracks that can get better, and we're going to make them better. Some drum parts that need re-recording. Some vocals that need better sound quality and will be re-done in a studio (rather than my somewhat poor excuse for a recording environment). But the parts themselves are done, and we are stoked. As of this morning, I can finally listen through the entire album, all 14 songs, and have a pretty close idea to what the final version will sound like.

That's huge. And of course, we'll make some more decisions between now and wherever we start handing off tracks to our mixing engineer Spencer Crewe. There will be little things here and there that we'll decide to change, or some small thing to add -- a vocal harmony, a percussion part, some synthesizer bed, whatever -- that will be apparent as we get closer to the finish line. But even if we were to hand off the album today, most of what we want to impart via our music is already in there. Again, that's huge, and I'm very happy about this, as is Christina and Bunny.

Saturday June 13: "Got Guilt"
Every once in awhile on a Saturday morning, Christina and I grab my teenage son and meet my dad at a local restaurant for breakfast. We go to the Redondo Beach Cafe, and it's always fun. So, it was one of those Saturdays this weekend. That was good, because for pretty much the entire rest of the day, we were in Crayon mode. As I mentioned last week, Bunny had re-recorded tracks for his song "Got Guilt", and for the first time we had everything in a format that allowed Christina and I to add our contributions. We loved the sparseness of the song, so the last thing we wanted to do was fill it with superfluous crap. Instead, we used his vocal harmonies as a guide, and recorded our own vocals. It came out fucking fantastic.

Out to breakfast on Saturday morning, here's me and my dad. This has little to do with The Crayon, but we did make some great music after this meal.

Later that evening, Bunny had requested to have mixes of a bunch of our songs that required some revisions on the drums. I provided a batch of them in one fell swoop, which made Bunny happy and gave him plenty to do. That's good, because we had one more song that needed some serious work.

Sunday June 14: "When I'm Gone"
This is a really interesting story, or so I think. When you create, one of the biggest challenges is knowing when to let go of something you did to make it better. "When I'm Gone" is a perfect case in point. I originated the music for this, while Bunny took a set of lyrics I'd written and gave them a melody and worked them into this tune. However, I must say, when I started the song was at a point where I'd only recently shifted the main software I use for music creation and recording. Listening to it with slightly different ears a few months later, it seemed that it wasn't consistent with our other music. It also seemed that I had settled for using some preset sounds rather than truly carving my own to create a unique sonic experience. The song was good; it just needed a vibe shift. On Sunday, that's what I did, changing around some parts and removing/replacing others. Also, we received Bunny's revised vocals for this song that, like "Got Guilt" on the previous day, allowed Christina and I to do our own vocals.

I really like the end result. I'm certainly much happier with the tune as far as how it fits in with the rest of our songs. By late Sunday evening, we had a mix that we all were digging. Hells yes.

Make no mistake; we still have a lot to do. But the point is that we know what we have to do, and are doing it. I can't ask for anything more than that. In this silly world where three people can have lives as hectic as any adults with jobs and families and all the responsibilities that go along with them, and still want to devote a good chunk of any free time to making some album that certainly won't make them rich or famous, the reward is the music itself, and I'm damn proud of what we're doing. It's good to be a Crayon.

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