Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fading Days


Who can go two months between posting?

I can.  Yes, I can.

Already almost a quarter of the way into 2011 with very little chance to catch our breath... because of mostly good things.

We officially released In the Morning this month, coordinated with a big college radio push to 300 stations.  Results so far seem good: the record has been added to and played at about 150 stations, and only rejected from 10.  Additionally, we've seen top 30 chart placement as high as number 3 on some stations, which is higher than Things We Would Rather Lose ever made it.  Looking forward to seeing how the next month goes and how many additional stations add and play it.

It's available on iTunes, Amazon, and online retailers including CDBaby and Quell Records.

It's always interesting getting a little distance from a recording project.  There is such an intense focus on it, from writing to pre-production to recording to pressing and marketing... you start to lose perspective on it somewhere in the process, and it's not until months after it's done, when you stop listening to and thinking about it all the time, that you can really assess what it means, how it turned out, and how you feel about it.

Sometimes it takes years to sort it all out.

So this week, as I've been working on press, radio, publicity and licensing, I've been listening to In the Morning again.

Maybe for the first time, actually.

And I like it.

A lot.

I'm proud of it and I think it says exactly what it means to say and sounds the way it should sound.

Actually, if I had to pick my favorite thing about all three Paper Arrows records, it would be that: a sense that each record (and really, each song) sounds the way it should sound.  And each record embraces its own unique identity for (mostly) better or worse, but always for the sake of honesty.

On a personal note, I'm especially proud of the lyrics.  They fit next to Look Alive and TWWRL, but I feel like I found a slightly different voice on this one... something both more personal and a little more universal, easier to grab onto.

So in honor of getting back into In the Morning, I'm going to finish what I started late last year, and do a little posting on each of the remaining 7 songs in the hope that it encourages readers to check the record out, and also because it helps me understand what I wrote and where to go next...

Today's song: Fading Days.

(Deep breath)

This one is a bear.

I think it qualifies as what I call a "kitchen sink" tune... I tried to throw everything I had into it, every meaningful image, every poetic device... every theme from the album as a whole.

I'll begin with the recording of it and then get to the lyrical content.

This is one of the few songs on which we started with a concrete idea of where we wanted to take the production and overall sound.  We worked a wonderfully simple arrangement... and this song contained one of my favorite collaborative moments... well, ever.  We got to the bridge and in about 30 seconds, everyone in the room contributed an idea, from the texture to the chord progression, down to leading tones on each instrument.

I wish this moment was recorded because it was just a beautiful example of everyone sublimating the ego for the betterment of the song.

Drew came up with a fantastic little variation for the double chorus at the end. And we had an organic and very live skeleton upon which to create the rest of the sound.

Darren added a second drum kit, and even with two drum tracks, the song maintained a certain amount of sonic space.  I believe Drew added an organ track to go with the live piano he tracked.  I was able to use my live rhythm guitar track in its entirety, which is always a nice feeling (all those lessons, finally paying off!).

This song has maybe the most involved guitar part on the record: a dense, Jimmy Page inspired lead track that fills up the choruses.  Jay and I wrote and recorded this two nights before the Chicago Triathlon.  I remember because I was abstaining from drinking for the race, which in the studio feels... different.  I generally really enjoy a beer while I record, especially for tracking guitars.  But in this case, I think I focused a bit better and the result is a simple but layered line which we doubled and put an octave pedal on for further impact.

I cut the lead vocals in Studio A and we did some cool layers on the choruses, making use of the space in the Vault... which Jay augmented with his typically great background parts.

And... we had it.  To my ears, an awesome combination of space and density (god, I sound like an idiot rock critic... oops, that's redundant).

Although I guess the space/density was what I tried to navigate with the lyrics.  As I wrote above, the verses have a certain labored over approach.  They all follow the same imagery pattern and somewhat tricky rhyme scheme.  Which is in contrast to the simplicity (both in verbiage and theme) of the choruses.

The basic idea, which pops up all over In the Morning, is that of just being "okay" with things.  Which sounds... simple? Trite? Boring? Stupid?

I don't know.  I think when we go through loss we tend to focus on being "good" again, when really we have to feel "okay" before we can be "good."  And we have to be "okay" with the stop and start nature of recovery, that even when we think we're "good," we're still going to have shitty days.

And Fading Days is a way better title than Shitty Days, and actually, as I write this I realize that Fading Days and Shitty Days are two different things entirely...

Wow.  I'm now having an argument with myself on my own blog about my own lyrics.

One more point and then maybe I should shut up and post the lyrics: this song also has instances of me writing something I thought I should believe, but wasn't really sure if I did at the time (or even now still).

Does that make sense?

Sometimes I write things that I want to believe in the hope that the act of writing it and putting it in song will make it true.  Or at least help me believe it.

Maybe like an act of prayer... which is something I'm starting to connect to the fourth Paper Arrows record, which I've been writing for the last few months...

Anyway, here it is:


If I could take your scars I'd lay them in a line
And stitch the skin with needle and thread
Like the thread that runs from your life to mine
And pulled us in until our damage met

If I could live your days I'd put them in the ground
And work the dirt until the colors bloomed
Like the red that runs in rivers in these rooms
Within my heart as it beats for you

Do the echoes ever keep you up at night?
Why did someone have to leave for us to get it right?
It's okay to still have fading days
I know you do

If I could catch your tears I'd drop them in the sea
Where they would mix and finally disappear
When they were gone you know our lives would be as clear
As the lights on the lines that lead us here

Do the echoes ever keep you up at night?
Why did someone have to leave for us to get it right?
It's okay to still have fading days
I know you do

Where there is none
Don't look for pain
You can call it love
'Cause all love's not the same
If we can stay
Then we'll both be saved

Do the echoes ever keep you up at night?
Why did someone have to leave for us to get it right?
It's okay to still have fading days
You know I do