Monday, August 15, 2016

Q: Why does it take four years to make an album? A: It doesn't, unless...

As I've told pretty much everyone on the planet (and perhaps a few extraterrestrial aliens), the debut album by my band They Stole My Crayon finally comes out this coming Friday, August 19, 2016. Because of the wonders of documenting every minute detail of life via this blog, I can tell you the very moment we started this band. It was at the end of September, 2012, as mentioned in this post from October 1 of that year. As I mentioned there, the plan at the time was to quickly knock out an album of music. It's laughable now, but I literally wrote these words in that post from almost four years ago:

"The plan is for us to write and record an entire album's worth of music -- call it 12 to 15 songs -- by Thanksgiving, and put the album out before year's end." -- Me, October 2012

So, yeah. We were going to just spill out a bunch of music, leave it very raw and unpolished, do the whole thing ourselves with no outside help, and put it out in December of 2012. There's actually a good batch of reasons that this didn't happen, and looking back with the clarity of hindsight, we're all glad that we chose a different path.

1. Who Are We?
It's easy to make music. It's harder to make good music that represents a unique listening experience. It took awhile before The Crayon found out who we were. There was a lot of back-and-forth in the beginning days, with many songs that were created and then discarded as we started congealing into something more interesting than the typical band. We didn't really find a groove for quite some time, when we got into a process of songwriting and music creation that worked for this particular band.

While we did some music creation in 2012 and 2013, looking back at the demo recordings that ended up being the songs that make up our album, almost the entire album as it stands today was written and recorded between late 2014 through early 2016. That means the first two years were really all about not only finding our unique sound, but falling into the process that worked for us to do our best stuff.

An early picture of The Crayon, back in 2012 while we were figuring out what we sounded like. It turned out that we sounded like us, but it took awhile to understand what that meant.

2. Got The Time?
Here's the big one. If we'd been some band that was bankrolled by a record label or some patron of the arts, we could have devoted ourselves full-time to music making. That might have been nice, but we'll never know. Instead, the three of us did it the only way possible for us, which meant we kept our priorities on our responsibilities in life of earning income and taking care of our families, and that kind of thing. Doing this meant that our available time to write and record music for The Crayon was severely limited. There would be certain time periods where months would go by while we couldn't -- despite our wishes and intentions -- do anything to move the album forward.

When those times came about, we worked like bats out of hell. For example, we literally did 100% of the vocals for the album over two weekend sessions with Phil O'Keefe at Sound Sanctuary Recording in Summer 2015. There were times where I'd shut out everything else for an entire weekend while recording various guitar and bass parts for the album from my home studio, getting instrument tracks for entire songs created over the course of a few days. Bunny and Christina also worked in these frantic spurts. Perhaps it would have been cooler for us to have done all of the work that was spread out over four years in four months instead, but the end result would have likely been vastly different. Maybe we could have done two or three albums by now, but would they be as good? Music is not something that's measured based on quantity; it's the quality that counts.

The Crayon in Joshua Tree, jamming and laughing in November of 2015. Our album was pretty much done being recorded at that stage, but we also had to take into account the time to mix said album, with single songs that sometimes contained over 70 tracks. Hats off to Spencer Crewe and his seemingly infinite patience in working with us.

3. No Hurry, No Worry
Frankly, no one has been on our backs to get the album done. We're not some well-known artist with a label that was counting on our album to be released on a certain date in order to meet some kind of financial obligation. Again, to be frank: no one cared how long it took, including us. And honestly, the process itself was fun. We are three close friends who enjoy spending time together. We took trips out to Joshua Tree to hang out and get inspired. We spent plenty of evenings holding band meetings that were as fun as they were productive.

The point is this: could we have sped up the process to finish the album? Unquestionably yes. But in retrospect, it might be a really good thing that we didn't. As it turns out, through whatever forces run the universe, the time is perfectly right for our album to come out right now. A number of our musically-inclined friends, both professional and enthusiast alike, feel that it's time for a sea change in music, and that perhaps the Crayon album might represent a new kind of sound that people will really enjoy after the saturation of soundalike music that's been the norm for a number of years.

So, that's why we spent four years making this album. I don't think the next one will take four years. But if it does, so be it. We just want to make music that we like and can be proud of, which is the case for our debut album that comes out at the end of this week. Set aside a little time on Friday to listen to what we've done. Time is a valuable commodity -- perhaps the most valuable -- but we think it will be worth it.

Rocking on Saturday night at Mike Gale's 48th b-day party, this may have been the first mini-reunion of the original Bad Boyz since 1989 or so. Good times! Photo by Christina.

In completely unrelated news, I wanted to give a quick shout-out to my friend Michael Gale. He hosted his own party to celebrate his 48th birthday on Saturday night at his lovely home in Garden Grove that Christina and I attended. Mike and I started playing in bands and writing music together when we were in high school, before we were even 16 years old, and most our our mutual friends are also musicians whom we've jammed with over decades and count among our short list of lifelong friends.

The party Saturday night was completely fun, and a huge departure from my usual solo acoustic performances as well as what we've been doing in The Crayon. We did everything from classic rock to reggae originals, and I got to show off on guitar, bass, and keys. Huge thanks to Mike as well as other great friends Dante Silva, Kirk Makin, Kevin Hicks, John Jurovic, and others who rocked out on Saturday night. Life isn't a destination; it's a journey where you try and make memorable pit stops on the way. This was definitely one of them.

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