Thursday, February 28, 2013

Days of Getting By

There are two more original songs from our last EP about which to write...

Which is interesting because just yesterday I heard the final mixes of our next EP (out soon on Slothtrop Records, natch).

So that means we're either really fast at recording or I'm slow at writing about what we've recorded.  Or most likely both.

But hey... things get done at their own pace and it seems kind of fitting to tackle the title song from one project as you start to figure out how the next one fits into the bigger picture.

Or at least that's what I'm going to go with here.

One of the benefits of waiting to write about these songs is that my ears and my brain (and my heart I suppose) get a little distance from them... which is almost always for the better.  When you wrap a project, you've heard the songs so many times, thought about them, obsessed about every detail, that you have zero objectivity in your assessment of how they sound and what they mean.

So this morning when I put on the song Days of Getting By it was probably the first time I'd listened to it in its entirety in 6 months.

And I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I liked it more than I remembered I did.  I was on the fence about even recording this song and then once we committed to recording it, I never felt like I was on firm ground as we pieced it together.

I changed the key a number of times, changed the approach, thought about using the band on it, decided against it... sang it one way, sang it another, went back to the first way, recorded a couple other instruments that didn't make the final mix.  It's definitely a tribute to the mix that it turned out as well as it did.

So why did I name the album after a song about which I was trending ambivalent?

Because the creation of it somehow captured the whole record both in substance and style.

When we started recording this group of songs, I had a grand vision of doing 11 of them, making a video for each, and then releasing them one at a time last year as something called "11 for '12" (11 songs for 2012).  At the end of the year we were going to collect them all with their videos and release them as an album entitled "11:12."

Which is a great idea in theory but then... the reality of making 11 videos (that is, the cost of making 11 videos) scuttled that.  Luckily, this was about the time Slothtrop came into the picture so we wound up having an outlet to release what we had recorded so far.

Because we had envisioned this group of songs as singles, we were recording them one at a time rather than as a group.  Which meant they had a little less cohesion than, say, In the Morning did, when we recorded all ten songs with the same 4 people in 3 days.

So when it came time for naming the record... it wasn't as obvious to me as it had been in the past with Look Alive, Things We Would Rather Lose, and In the Morning.

I've written before that I see the first three Paper Arrows records as having a thematic arc of loss, recovery, and redemption.

So naturally this record felt like the chance to start a new arc... but after listening to the seven songs that became this record, I had only the vaguest idea of what I was writing about.  I could tell I was wrestling with what comes after redemption, what comes after you work through loss... but I couldn't quite tell what that was.

And then, when I started writing the next record (the one I just heard yesterday for the first time), it clicked: I'm writing about love.  What it is.  How it is.  What it means.  How to shepherd it into the world and how to keep it close.  Not destroy it.  Fight for it.

Because love is what we're left with after we get rid of loss.  Love is what we're looking for when we're trying to get through loss.

And on this record, I can hear myself building the confidence to write about it in a more direct way.

So the tag line going forward for Paper Arrows (thanks to Slothtrop) is "Literate Love Songs."

And, as will become clearer with the release of the next EP, that's what this project Paper Arrows has come to be about.

(ed. note: for the first time I'm using Paper Arrows as a front for and synonymous with me, Joe Goodkin.)

If we have entire world religions dedicated to the concept of love, can't we have a middling midwestern rock band?

Sure, why not.

So Days of Getting By...

The second verse is where I'm seeing the truth of the matter.  After a quick telescoped run through loss and its ramifications in the first verse, we get to love is the second.  And then we get to the last line...

"Wait for spring like we used to sing in the days of getting by."

The "spring" is from "Look Alive" and the "days of getting by" is from "Skeletonskinandsky."

Strange how that comes full circle.

And speaking of strange, man, it's a weird sounding song.

The main instrumental track is three classical guitars with similar fingerpicking patterns played on different parts of the neck all layered over one another and then run through a rotating leslie speaker.  I think.  There's also some (heavily edited) glockenspiel played by me and some (heavily edited) piano played by me.  And then a high falsetto lead vocal with the lower octave  "harmony," also me.  At some point, I think the vocal gets run through a leslie speaker too.

The result is something weird, beautiful, and pretty striking I think.

And maybe just maybe almost by accident I captured exactly what I was supposed to on this record.


The ice is grieving and what remains behind
This winter armor wrapped around a heartbeat, a pair of lowered eyes
The price of leaving is what remains ahead
This summer shame is thick as smoke and hangs about our bed

Take me

Love is seeing what stays in the dark
Is autumn's breath and midnight's blood, a sea of silent hearts
Love is needing to stay in the light
And wait for spring like we used to sing in the days of getting by

Take me


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