Monday, March 28, 2016

Greetings from Crayonville

The Crayon in the desert, November 2015. Photo by Jess Smith.

It's been awhile since I gave you readers an update on what's happening with They Stole My Crayon, my band featuring my lovely lady Kat and our best bud Bunny. The short version is that there's a lot going on, despite all of the evidence that may give you the impression that there's nothing going on at all. To explain, let me give you a super-condensed version of how to make an album of music.

1. Write songs.
2. Record songs.
3. Mix songs.
4. Master songs.
5. Release album.

Pretty easy, huh? Well, it can be. If I wanted to create a really fast album, I could literally do all the steps above, on my own, by myself, over the course of a week or so. Seriously. It would be shit, but it can be done. But my honest opinion is that while some artists create music that actually benefits from a lack of overthinking (Neil Young comes to mind), we're not that kind of band. Not at all. So while it's not like we have people banging on our respective doors to harass us to get the damn album done and out, we still have a little way to go, and the one thing we're not going to do is hurry through these crucial final stages after all the work we've done to make the writing/recording parts exactly as we want them.

So Where Are Things Now?
Simple to understand, and I'm glad to tell you. Our album has twelve songs. Of those twelve, eleven of them have been fully recorded and handed off to our mixing engineer Spencer Crewe. Want to know what they are? Here you go, in order of them being handed off for mixing (or close enough):

- Got Guilt
- Underwater Underground
- Bag of Nothing
- River Shallows
- Again
- Longing On
- Disarmed
- Favorite Things
- Vendetta
- Blew The Dust Away
- Picked Up Off the Floor

The last of those songs was just being wrapped up this weekend. Here's a Crayon Fun Fact™: the only song that we haven't given to our mixing engineer is "Things Under Trees", which ironically was the first song that we "finished" as a band. There are still some last touches to add, which is happening very soon. Let me explain something about art that might help explain this. It's extremely hard to know when something that's just been created is "done", and music is perhaps the worst of all art forms in that regard. All three members of The Crayon are pretty particular in terms of the sounds and vibes we like. Anyway, that means that even after listening to a song in progress for a year, one of us might have a new idea for a background vocal part, or the addition of some strings, or something lacking in a certain drum part, and so on. In any case, within the next week or two, there will be nothing more for us to mess with. Everything will have been sent out for mixing, and we'll have moved on to working on the next album even before this one is released. Hell, we already have, to be honest.

Crayon shenanigans in Joshua Tree. Photo by Jess Smith.

The Harsh Reality
But the real reason this album has taken so long is actually much more simple, and kind of sad. Every single person involved in this project is loaded up with "real life" responsibilities. We have jobs for our income, and families to help take care of, and everything else that makes a typical life in the modern world pretty damn busy. So the question isn't, "Why is it taking so long to finish the album?" The real question is, "How the hell did you guys manage to make this album while juggling everything else in life?" I make no apologies about the fact that we seem to be taking our time with this album; in reality, it's amazing that we've come this far.

What's Next?
Spencer, our mixing engineer, is in the same boat as the other Crayons; he has a job, and he also has a one-year-old son who is adorable. But he also can't devote every waking moment to mixing our stuff. That having been said, he's given us excellent mixes of three songs, and has another eight (soon to be nine) to wrap up. After we approve the mixes, they need to be mastered. Mastering is a process by which the final mixes are made to be sonically uniform, so that there is a consistency in the tones and volumes throughout the album so that it's optimized for all typical playback sources (downloads, streams, CDs, radio, whatever).

There are many great resources for mastering, but we have not yet chosen who will do this. Like most things in life, there's a limitation of selections based purely on cost. Great mastering engineers/facilities can be expensive, and we have little hope of selling enough albums to see a return on that investment. So, like most independent musicians, we're figuring out the best choice that's within our budget. That will happen soon, while Spencer is wrapping up the remaining mixes.

What's After That?
We release the album. As to how that's going to happen, whether its on our own or through a label, there are many possibilities to choose from... too many to explain here. Our current estimate is that one way or another, the album will be available for people to hear by the end of June. Yes, of this year. Wish us luck.

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