Saturday, July 14, 2018
"Some days I hold you, some days I scold you, some days I bowl with you.."
A song about a relationship between a person and a severed head? Yep. The head can still talk, so it's not a one sided affair.
Before Austin added his new wave, uptempo drums and Rory his tasty, intricate bassline, Decapitated French Novelist started out as a super chill bit of shoegaze that was content to float away into the ether. Then a full band arrangement and lyrics grounded it into a good paced bit of catchy pop.
On this track I used a trick that I employed also on Ash & Apple, a pre-chorus. Normally when I write a song, I write the music first and then the lyrics afterwards. Sometimes I work off an arbitrary title and use it as a literary device or challenge. Can I write a song about X? Other times I'll ignore the title and write about something that has nothing to do with it. In any case, I usually write a melody on guitar or make subhuman noises vocally to rough out a vocal line. Next I'll rough out a story with a few key lines and then I'll do a bit of math and calculate the syllables per line. Lines get edited into form and I'll do a vocal demo. In this particular situation, I had written a long ass verse. A long ass verse can be boring and so I decided to add a repetitive pre-chorus:
"Some days I hold you,
some days I scold you,
some days I bowl with you
No shoulders to cry on
No arms to hold on
No legs to run from me
To run from me.."
Leading into the chorus:
"A box to put me in
A box to put you in
A box to put us in"
That leaves the verses to deal with the details of the relationship:
"When I first met you,
You were beside yourself.
I took you home and
Sat you on my shelf
I love your ego
I love your cortex too
Shellac preserves you
And leaves a tannish hue
They say your words can
Conjure a dream or two
But when I dust you
The words are often blue"
It's fairly absurd stuff. A bit Ray Davies mixed with Robyn Hitchcock.
For those keeping track, there are two demos versions and the released studio version of the song.
You can hear the song HERE.
But can you
Water ghouls. Lonely, murderous ones at that.
Games For May was written at the time when Murder Shoes and Witch Watch were operating at the same time. Initially, Witch Watch was demoing songs that Murder Shoes didn't want but then there came a change. Games For May I held specifically for Witch Watch as well as every song written afterwards. My "A" Game" was now going elsewhere.
I wrote the demo on the drums first, using a disjointed maraca heavy beat and added a few electric claps on the chorus (the cheesy 80's type.)For the album version, Austin re-arranged and re-interpreted all of those percussive elements into a more effective lean, taut, almost Prince style sultry strut. Add to that some 12 string chorus, delay, and reverb flashes, a dozen e-bows, and some Gala/Spooky era Lush style vocals with lyrics pertaining to supernatural aquatic manslaughter, and voila, a new track.
I might as well delve into this as they'll come up later- Lush was/is a band that continues to inspire me. An English group, formed in 1987 by Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson. Their high range vocals and interwoven chorused out 12 & 6 string, phased guitars struck me deeply. So much so that I recently discovered that my strumming pattern is undoubtedly adapted from theirs. "De Luxe" was probably the first song of theirs that I heard. There's so much going on melody wise that it sends you to so many places. Identifying the layers always provides lessons for me. A song of ours, "Transparencies", off our debut, is very much in this send-you-to-the-dreamy-outer-limits Lush style, eapecially the ending. I try not to put our singer, Anna, in the position of singing that high, but damn, it sounds so good and Lush-like when she does.
Lush would continue to change during their four album run, and I enjoyed going to the record store hunting down as many single b-sides as I could. I'm still pissed I couldn't find the "Superblast" single. But am I elated that I have "Carmen" on colored vinyl? Hell yeah.
The title, Games For May, is a reference to Syd Barrett era The Pink Floyd single "See Emily Play".
You can hear Games For May HERE.
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
No Place To Go is probably the oldest song on here. It was written prior to and rejected from the Murder Shoes debut E.P.
In it's original composition, No Place To Go sounded like a hazy and shimmery The Verve style acoustic/electric track. Some psychedelic guitars figured in there too. Anyways, I always loved the song and brought it to Anna when we started Witch Watch. She threw vocals on that same demo and we ended up NOT using it our debut either. The reason escapes me.
After the first album we went to Texas as previously discussed. We recorded A Song For Afterward, Discarded Rituals, and Trouble. We were now about to take another stab at No Place To Go. The last three songs we cut were acoustic driven, chill pieces, and we we're about do another, and that irked me. Shawn dialed in a super nasty distortion tone and Anna and I cut a ripping version. It doesn't have drums or bass on it, but you get the idea of where it's going. When we played the Texas tracks to Rory and Austin, it was this one they responded to most favorably.
Right around this time Robert joined the group. We worked it up as a band and tracked it in that first Underground session in August 2017. I'm happy to say that version DID make the album, and it's been in damn near every set we've played live. To me, the song now sounds like a mashup of an AC/DC song (pre-79) and Juju era Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Track two finds us at Emily Empathy. A song demoed in 2016 for the never officially completed 2nd Murder Shoes album. It was part of a bunch of songs that were freed up once that band split. Anna put vocals on it that same year and it had been tossed around as a song we'd re-track with Austin and Rory for our debut, but alas, our budget only allowed for eight songs to be recorded with Knol "mutt" Tate, and so we ended up choosing songs that we could learn in a day and a half before going in. All the more nuanced songs were held over the next Witch Watch album, which brings us up to date.
The origin of the song derives from a purchase. I had just gone to Twin Town (there's a pattern here) to scope reverb pedals. I traversed home with the Electro-harmonix Cathedral reverb unit. It gave me plenty of options sound wise and definitely upped the Murder Shoes live sound on my end. There's a saying that every time you buy a new pedal, you write three new songs just messing around with it. It's no lore, and Emily Empathy came out of it. I used it in conjunction with a Seymor Duncan 805 a Boss DD7 Delay, and a Boss Chorus CE3. I twiddled the knobs until I got a ferocious, swirly sound and used it on the intro and chorus parts and then opted for a more gentle chorus/delay/reverb sound on the 12 string for the verses. I was looking for a cross between The Cure's Pornography album, Joy Division's Still, and some Treasure era Cocteau Twins.
Knol captured everything better than the demo as per usual. Prior to recording, when we gathered on his porch to load in our equipment, I had my 5 string and 12 string acoustics in tow. Knol, in his usual serious/not serious manner said "what the hell is that?" while focusing on our wooden guitars. We hadn't used any on the first album (with him) and he probably thought we were going soft on him. Knowing he was fucking around, I shrugged and said "you'll see". As it turns out, Knol likes our non-rock shit the best. Listen closely to the verses for some subtle and tasty Buddy Holly style guitar licks from Robert.
Saturday, July 7, 2018
Well, we've been sitting on this puppy for quite some time and we've been making great progress on songs for album number three while waiting around. But while get into that, I'll instead sit down and tell you about the tracks on our 2nd album that just came out, one track at a time. Today we'll talk about track one:
"Again?" That's how I'll always remember it. Anna and I had just been down to demo tracks with my good friend Shawn Jones in Lockhart, Texas. This session happened in-between our first and second albums. But now we were now about to work up a full band version of the song for shows and possible re-recording with Knol Tate. Anna was unsure. The Texas version's pretty hot. Shawn plays some nice guitar and also helped us out with vocals. That was the second version, spooky.
The first version was recorded in my studio during the debut album sessions when Witch Watch consisted of just myself and Anna. My recording techniques are rather pedestrian and at the end of the day, Rituals (Version 1) was axed from Wandering and Wondering for being what I thought was "too thin sounding".
A third version was demoed with the full band (now including Robert Kramer) and then the fourth was tracked during the second session of the Underground recordings (February 2018). During the session we employed some pedal steel courtesy of Marty Lestock. He guested on three tracks, the other two being Seconds and Would You Know? Robert's guitar part on the song emulates the feel of pedal steel and so when both came together and clashed, we had to ultimately choose Robert's part. Lestock's parts do survive on the other two tracks.
Composition wise, the song was a rare moment in which it wrote itself. The riff fell out of a second capo position I had in place while rehearsing Happy Hollows. The melody came really fast and the lyrics possibly even faster. It appeared to be another of our neo-goth folk tracks. Most likely Bauhaus or Faun Fables inspired. It was written on an unvarnished 12 string Fender acoustic I bought from Twin Town Guitars for a cool $100. It solved my queries as to how The Go-Betweens/Smiths/R.E.M./Bauhaus got those dreamy/shimmery sounds.
Lyrically, it's a pretty straight forward reading. The "ritual" in this case being reckless spell casting to influence an organic situation, ie: relationship.
The Knol "mutt" Tate album version is available HERE.
The Shawn Jones Texas version is available HERE.