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Practice makes … all your songs sound different

March 25, 2013

If anyone’s wondering (all eight of you!) why I haven’t blogged in a while — well, I have. It’s just that I’m blogging in two places now, here and on “my” blog.

Joe Scala and I got together today to work on a few of the FAWM songs linked to in the last post.

It’s peculiar reworking songs for a band without everyone present: You get these weird gaps in the rhythms and music where you want someone to play a drum fill or you need a lot of extra noise and it’s just not there. Then you have to resist the temptation to add it all back in before hearing it in context with everyone else. Then you have awkward moments like this:

“Okay, this is the piano solo. Count out twelve bars and then we come back in. No, don’t play on those twelve bars, just count them out in your head. Piano solo. Solo solo. Okay, maybe some drums. And your guitar is NOT a drum.”

“Jon, you started too early. That was only 10 bars.”

“No, it was twelve.”

“Well, then, stop speeding up while you play.”

“It wasn’t me! the piano player sped up!”

And according to Joe, I don’t write “two-guitar songs,” which is probably true. Even though a piano fills a lot more sonic space than a guitar, it’s just not the same thing: A guitar can’t play complicated bass lines or really high tinkly parts, and just having another set of strings makes things sound more homogeneous. Or maybe I’m just not good at staying out of other peoples’ way.

But it was a good practice. “What Kind of Heart Beats (In the Black Breast of the Beast)” was very easy to translate; the piano sounds good in it, and the bass was a very easy addition. Joe’s “Grounded” is also sounding spiffy. We rewrote some of the chords, and I can actually play some bass on it for Joe. It’s also fun having some songs written by other people in the band in the works. It’s something we tried to make happen a bit in the past, but I didn’t spend time rearranging them to our sound, so they were always slightly out of place. “The Language of Flowers” is going to sound awesome as soon as we have that piano solo down.

We also worked on two more Joe songs: “No Man (is an Island)” (he started playing this live last summer when we did the “triple solo” show at Bread and Circuses) and “Just a Taste” (one of his best from FAWM 2012), and a couple more of mine that still need some work.

No recordings from this session, but we may post a few demos if we get something good.

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