June 11, 2011 @ 4:35 pm
Working in the studio to wrap up a few new songs as well as a few covers (and re-makes, announcement soon). We’ve recruited some help in the form of the incredibly talented Mikey B to assist with the recording process and to do a little producing. As we’ve been working together, I’ve found myself explaining (sometimes in great detail) how some of these songs came to be. It’s got me thinking that I should share some of that here. I always enjoy “looking behind the curtain”, so here goes nothing.
“That’s what she said” came together pretty easily once the gag hit me. I mean, lets be honest, it’s not exactly high brow comedy or incredibly original from a musical perspective. But it is fun, and was a good motivator. TWSS came right after PAX East during a real low point. The euphoria of it all (site traffic, feedback, twitter followers) had worn off and the reality of things had set in. The recordings sucked, people didn’t really seem to dig it, our QR code cards didn’t work with a lot of phones, and time to work on new stuff was getting harder to find. Dark times indeed.
It was late one night after I’d been partying with some friends that I sat down in my office with my 12 string. Shuffling through a stack of post-its with song or chord ideas scribbled on them, I found the notes I’d made after a Paul & Storm/JoCo show. The first verse and chorus came easily really, and then a few days of fleshing out the rest. I’ve got a page in my songbook full of TWSS lines that never made the cut. Michael Scott would be proud.
When it came time to record, I still wasn’t set on a style. While TWSS was originally written in a style very similar to what you hear today (maybe a little faster/edgier), I had this crazy idea of turning it into a Tim McGraw style country ballad. Something with that big epic sound and scale…strings, a key change perhaps. To this day I still laugh when I hear it in my head, but recording something like that with our meager setup wasn’t in the cards. I never could get the meter to fit right either. It always either felt rushed or far too slow and the joke was already stretched thin enough.
We laid the tracks as it was written with the exception of the bridge/break. It was supposed to be just a simple guitar solo break until I had the idea for the line “just might overflow”. I wrote the lyrics on the fly and Sully suggested that we try a synth instead of guitar to add some color. We tried a few patches and I was ready to scrap it until I found the Moog patch. To me, Sully’s keyboard solo is so wonderfully melodic and unexpected it almost saves the song from being a total bore musically. There is another patch in there that produces the feedback like sound that I love and a little glockenspiel, a nod to Pomplamoose I think.
The vocals and harmonies are all Sully. In the first demo we did of the song, we tried an accent harmony for kicks. After running the demo around to a few friends the one consistent bit of feedback was “more harmony!”. Back to the studio, I said “More of that!” and he delivered in a big way. As someone who can’t really sing, I’m always impressed by people who can harmonize with themselves.
To date, TWSS is still our most popular song (and that’s including the bunch we haven’t put online yet). I’m guessing it’s simplicity and subject make it more accessible than say, a song about the Thundercats. It’s also one of my favorites. It represents a turning point for MisCast. I can still remember listening to the final mix in the car and thinking “This is it”, and being excited to share it with people…without cringing or cursing every little mistake. There is still cringing, of course, but I don’t think I’ll ever make something “cringe-free”…I’m just not wired that way. Still, hearing TWSS and knowing we did this in my basement on cheap or mickey-rigged equipment and came up with something that people listen to and enjoy to this day will always be something I’m incredibly proud of, regardless where MisCast goes. -J
“I have been absent busy with work and feel I need to contribute in some way. So as a follow up to the piece Jay wrote about “That’s What She Said” I’m going to elaborate on my role in the creation of that tune.
Jay played me a rough version of it, and at once I knew it was more than meets the ear. As he often does Jay will record a demo and sing the songs himself because its the easiest way for him to give me an idea of how the melody goes. TWSS was no different and as much as Jay self deprecates, with some practice he can sing. So it really made my job with the melody a breeze. Because I dug the song so much and because i felt it so much hearkened back to our Better Off Dead days in terms of feel, I practiced the shit out of it.
When we did the first run through recording the first verse we stopped and Jay said something to the degree of “fuck” because he was very happy with how I was handling the song. We wrapped the original recording of the melody in a few takes and then sprinkled in some harmony that, as Jay said, we expanded upon when given positive feedback. The original harmonies were mostly fly by the seat of my pants things and are relatively easy from a music theory point of view, mostly 3rds and 5ths above. The bridge one though while still simple musically came at us almost by accident as I was trying to do one thing, missed and did that instead. It turned out so much better than my original idea that I”m happy to have failed. My favorite harmony idea never even panned out. It was a bit of a bold choice that would have been a nice flourish, but I couldn’t get it right and it just took away from the song more than it would have helped so it landed on the cutting room floor.
As far as the keyboard part goes, it would take me 2 solid days to figure out how to play that keyboard solo again. Most of my instrument history is jazz and improvisation so I just took the chords and ran through some basic jazz ideas. I am not a keys player. I am a trumpet and sax player and I think you can hear that in the solo as it listens like a wind instrument’s melodic line because my poor keys skills didn’t allow me to take advantage of the more advanced elements of a keyboard, like sounding 2 notes at once. I like the solo none the less and feel, like Jay does, that the melodic twist in the middle of the song breaks it up very nicely and increases the interest at a point in the song where many might have had enough.
I plan to make more time for MisCast and hope that allows us to get more songs, more podcasts, more posts and some videos up here for the masses to enjoy.