Thursday, November 15, 2012

Love, Faith, Light (Out)

The life of a song is a strange, strange thing.

At some point I started to get used to it but even now when I stop and think about the steps of creation it amazes me to no end.

It's possible I'm thinking about this right now because somehow we're already starting to put together the details of our next recording.  And between this new material and our current release I'm managing songs at just about every point in the process.

Which seems apropos for writing about the song Light Out.

Light Out is one of those songs that seems like it took forever to get right.  From a writing standpoint at least.  And then almost no time to get right in recording it.  And then a whole lot more time to get it out for public consumption.

I wrote it (or the first draft of it) in March of 2011.

I went through a couple rounds of complete rewrites (like, everything except the choruses) in July of 2011.

We recorded the song in August of 2011.

It was released as part of our first Slothtrop single in July of 2012 and on the new EP in September of 2012.

The tune was arranged, rehearsed, tracked, and mostly mixed in one day, including the lead vocals.  The only thing added afterwards were the background vocals.  It was the first song we recorded for Days of Getting By and in some ways I think it's the best thing Paper Arrows has done.  It's simple and moving, direct but complex in theme.

The coolest part of the process for me was recording the vocals in one take near the end of the day.  I had taken a couple runs through it and we actually had what we thought was enough to put together a good performance.  But I decided to give it one more shot and see if I could do something a little bit different with it.  And it worked.  Which is really, really rare for me when it comes to singing.  Usually the more I think, the more I "try" things, the worse it gets.  But somehow Light Out came together.  I found the intimacy it needed but also added a little bit of extra muscle for the choruses.  It was a great experience and even more meaningful to do it in front of a group of musicians I admire and respect.

The textures of the recording are very cool.  Luke did some great work blending simple piano and organ parts.  Jay plays a stoic but forceful bass line.  Darren plays a truly beautiful drum part with a nod to Steve Gadd (to my non-drummer ears).  And I added a ridiculously simple guitar part during the choruses as well as a couple of ambient eBow parts.  Jay's backgrounds are typically wonderful and the lyrics he sings for the counterpoint... let's just say they'll be coming back on the next recording and featured more prominantly.

The lyrics...

As I mentioned, these went through some serious reworking... somewhere in this process the song went from being about as vague as possible (just a bunch of images strung together) to being about something specific: the idea that love is faith.

This may sound simple, trite, cliche (all of the above) but for me, for where I was in my life, it was a revelation on a number of levels.

I'm not a religious person.  In fact I have a very uncomfortable relationship with religion both practically and theoretically.  And a lot of it stems from vocabulary.  I realized a couple years ago that I thought I was an atheist namely because religion has co-opted the word "God."  Religion owns the word.  So when I was saying "I don't believe in God" what I really meant was "I don't believe in anything I've heard attached to that word."  Subtle but very meaningful distinction.

And what I found when I started examining my beliefs and my life is that I behave in ways that indicate I do believe in a God.  And the more I dug, the more I realized that the language of faith in God and the language of falling in and staying in love are largely the same.

Here was this huge piece of life, the most important piece and the piece in which I've had the most struggles, in which I was expressing faith on a daily basis.

And so the song became an affirmation of that, of how faith in love (or anything) can be renewed every day, about how it deserves all the reverence normally apportioned to religion...

And this in turn became a kind of lynchpin for the next three records.

But there I am getting ahead of myself in the lifecycle of our music.  Again.




Maybe love is just as strong as we let ourselves believe
And in the days it fades away and leaves us on our knees
So upon the setting sun we lay our hopes to keep
That in the silence we'll be healed while we sleep

Turn the light
Turn the light out on me
Turn the light out on me now

In the dark we built an ark to carry us to land
We gathered all our things around and made one final plan
And in this dream I let you go and the end was drawing near
I was left knee-deep in the water and I was trying to catch your tears

Turn the light
Turn the light out on me
Turn the light out on me now

(One for sorrow, two for tomorrow, three for the show)

Won't you go to the river maybe you can save yourself
If you go to the river maybe I'll see you there
'Cause if love is faith then I'm all out of prayers...

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