Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pictures are Pictures (Skeletonskinandsky Redux)

Song number 7 on Look Alive is Skeletonskinandsky.


Here's a sequence of pictures that captures what went into writing this song. I hope you enjoy.


November 29, 2005

December 28, 2005

January 11, 2006 (1)

January 11, 2006 (2)

January 12, 2006

January 14, 2006 (1)

January 14, 2006 (2)

January 17, 2006

January 18, 2006

May 10, 2006 (1)

May 10, 2006 (2)

May 10, 2006 (3)

July 29, 2006

August 1, 2006 (1)

August 1, 2006 (2)

August 1, 2006 (3)

August 1, 2006 (4)

August 1, 2006 (5)

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Writing into the Dark Before the Dawn (Why I Had to Fall Redux)

Listen to Why I Had to Fall

Listen to My Vagrant Heart

Listen to Dark Before the Dawn

It's February.

February of the year 2012.

How did that happen?

I've got 5 more songs from Look Alive to revisit here, and given my snail-like pace of one (or less) per month, by the time I'm done we'll have new music to over-analyze. So maybe that's a good thing?

Yeah. It's a good thing. I'm sticking with that.

So today's song is Why I Had to Fall.

The first inkling of this song comes in February of 2006. Six years ago. How strange is that?

It shows up as the following couplet:

"It will come clear
Why you had to fall"

Over the next week of what was an important burst of writing, pieces of Why I Had to Fall weave in and out of another song, My Vagrant Heart.

And you know what? I'm going to post the demo of My Vagrant Heart above for no reason other than I just listened to it for the first time in about four years. And I like it. And it feels like a companion piece to Why I Had to Fall. The demo is from the living room session I did with Jay in July of 2006 and My Vagrant Heart was part of the original group of songs that eventually became Look Alive. It was (rightly) jettisoned at some point in favor of the some of the stronger material that followed.

How about that. Spontaneous sharing of media.

Anyway, poring over those couple of weeks in early 2006 is informative. I can watch my writing turn a corner from what it was for Burn Rome Burn to a sort of middle state, something closer to what it's become in Paper Arrows, but not quite there. I remember very distinctly feeling like I was writing into the dark, writing about things I couldn't see but could feel... not quite confident or strong enough to turn the light on and figure it out, but more throwing out things that moved me, images that evoked what I was feeling, without really getting to the truth of the matter.

That's what the lyrics to Why I Had to Fall are. A bunch of evocative images that wound up hanging together in the end, almost by accident.

This couple of weeks is also interesting because I was simultaneously writing these "new" "acoustic" songs (like Why I Had to Fall and My Vagrant Heart) alongside material that would eventually become the last Burn Rome Burn EP, recorded in 2007, but never released.

So on March 6, 2006, I have both the finalized lyrics for Why I Had to Fall, and the mostly final lyrics for the song Dark Before the Dawn.

Sometimes I wish I had Dark Before the Dawn back. This one was right one the edge, right before I finally got the courage to write what I was feeling and thinking with the light on. So it sounds like a close call, like something that could be even better. I'm willing to live with the vagueness of Why I Had to Fall, because I think that's actually part of the theme of it. With Dark Before the Dawn, I was writing about something very specific that I couldn't quite bring myself to say in a clear way.

So in the interest of... why the fuck not... I'll post the rarely-before heard Burn Rome Burn recording of Dark Before the Dawn. Which I actually like a lot, even if I just missed on the actual song. We recorded it in largely the same way Jay and I recorded Look Alive: tracked mostly in the same attic, mixed at the same studio. A friend/colleague of Jay's named Lindsay sings on it and it features some of the more restrained and beautiful playing by the whole band.

Speaking of the attic: back to Why I Had to Fall.

I love the recording of this song. Darren, Jay and I congregated in the attic and spent a little time playing through it. Darren was on banjo, Jay on mandolin, me on guitar. Once we had a suitable arrangement, we set up some mics and went after it live, all together, including background vocals. I think we did 5 or 6 takes at most and the only overdubs were Darren and Jay layering another set of backgrounds to fill out the sound.

So it's got a cool old-timey sound with lots of ambient noise (the highway!) and the feel of a bunch of guys playing together in a room. All the lead vocals are live and unedited, which was watershed for me. Things are slightly (but appropriately) out of tune. During the instrumental part, you can hear Jay sing along with his mandolin part on one line.

Very cool stuff.

So there you go... three songs, three different sessions... all from the same couple eventful days in 2006. Nearly six years ago.



And so the waiting begins
And outside the winter settles in
I'm still waiting on my wings
And outside the twilight starts to sing

It's why I had to fall
It's why I had to fall

We've all got something that makes it okay
Seems like it works less every day
So go to sleep and wait for dawn
Or pack your bags and just move on

It's why I had to fall
It's why I had to fall

They say "Sometimes you fly"
They say "Hey, you're still alive"
But while they're singing "hallelujah"
They'll put the nails right through ya

It's why I had to fall
It's why I had to fall