Thursday, October 04, 2012

Tell the Kids

The new Paper Arrows record, Days of Getting By, is out and available on iTunes and Amazon.

It's our fourth release but in some ways it feels like a new beginning, owing to the fact that it's our first on Madison's Slothtrop Records, the indie label with which we signed earlier this year.

It's also the first in what I hope will be a new thematic trilogy of records for us.

Our first three record arc, Look Alive, Things We Would Rather Lose, and In the Morning, was so satisfying to me from a writing and creative standpoint, that I'd like to try that conceit again, stretching a narrative or theme over a number of releases while having each record stand on its own.

Because we may now have the opportunity to record our second Slothtrop release sooner than I thought (this winter), I've already done the bulk of writing on it... and I'm really pleased with how it might sit in relation to Days of Getting By.

But that's getting a little (a lot?) ahead of it all.

We have a record to promote, and I'm really, really proud of it.

As a group of songs, Days of Getting By is a little scattered sonically, but that's generally by design.  We recorded it spread over about 6 months.  When we started, I intended to release the songs one at a time as singles with videos, but that plan got scrapped when it proved too expensive.  When Slothtrop got involved, we converted it to a more standard EP format.

For the most part, we recorded one song per studio day, starting in the morning with just my demo, rehearsing until we had a good band take of it, moving on to some overdubs and vocals, and then even trying to get a rough mix of the song to listen to.

Tell the Kids was the third song we did, convening at I.V. Labs in November of last year.
Whereas we had Luke around to play keys on the first two days, this song we recorded just the three of us, Darren, Jay and myself.  Which took me back to Look Alive on which the three of us recorded just about everything.

Jay had it in his head that this song would have no regular bass guitar on it, so Darren and I set up together and banged out a version just the two of us, with me playing acoustic guitar.  Once we had the drums I tweaked the acoustic part and we had a framework within which to work.

I added a couple simple electric guitar overdubs.  Darren added banjo (an inspired choice) and an organ which takes the place of the bass.  He also added a second drum kit.

I cut the lead vocals very quickly and added some low harmonies to the verses on the spot.

We had a working mix.

Then the song sat for awhile as we went through negotiating the record contract and figuring out how we were going to finish up the release.

When we came back and listened to the rough mixes, we liked the song, but felt there were a couple things missing.

The final mix fills in the spaces with some really nice background vocals in the chorus, a shimmery (technical term) programming sound, and what I think is a tremendous job by Jay of adding and subtracting instruments in the mix to shape to the song.

The format of the tune, three verses plus choruses, can be tricky to keep interesting.  There's no bridge, no solo... and all the verses and choruses are identical in length so... the task of engagement falls largely on the dynamics of the mix.

This somewhat bland format was intentional on my part.  I wanted the emphasis strongly on the words and the story they tell.

Their genesis was a misheard lyric from The National tune Vanderlye Crybaby Geeks.

I hadn't looked at the title and I thought Matt Berninger sang "I'll explain everything to the kids" instead of "I'll explain everything to the geeks."

But that got me thinking about how powerful the word "kids" is... how it can stand for so many different things beyond just, well, little people (not midgets, but you get my drift).

And I started crafting this lyric around the idea that every heartbreak has collateral damage, has little innocent things that get swept into the whirlpool that is loss.

So these three releases on Slothtrop are going to be about... love, faith, life... all the mostly good but still complex things that come after you resolve loss and you're left with yourself.

And away we go...


In the end, everyone loses everyone
Our castles come undone
My dear friend, before our glass returns to sand
Let's get out while we can

So go and tell the kids
Explain it all to the kids
He'll stay with me
She'll be with you
So go and tell the kids

When you're done, kill the lights and lock the door
This palace is no more
My sweetest one, we didn't go without a fight
We tried to make it right

So go and tell the kids
Explain it all to the kids
He'll stay with me
She'll be with you
So go and tell the kids

After all, a song still needs a voice to sing
A kingdom needs a king
In the fall, remember me for who I was
When you believed in love

So go and tell the kids
Explain it all to the kids
He'll stay with me
She'll be with you
So go and tell the kids


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