January 2020 Grapevine

It’s a new year, so what should we take a look at as far as new music? Sometimes in Grapevine we’ll take a look at music that falls in to a relatively specific style. Not that long ago ‘styles’ of music were relatively basic – music was lumped in to a few large categories: ‘rock’, ‘country’, ‘jazz’, ‘classical’ etc. As ‘underground’ music became more visible, especially with the onset of the internet, labeling music went in the opposite direction. Now you can probably find fifty different variations of thrash metal.

When you try to market your music, knowing where to group it can help reach your target audience. But it’s not that simple. Ten people can listen to the same song and categorize it ten different ways. So, what to do? With ERP we’ve been expanding (and will continue to expand) the instruments we use and the styles we incorporate. With the ‘Messin’ With The Music’ series so far we’ve been adding instrumentation that is probably most associated with Americana or Bluegrass. Except a lot of the songs we cover fall under different styles of ‘rock’. So we decided (definitely tongue in cheek) to try to come up with a music category and fit in to that. Soooo…… how about ‘Dark Americana Shoegaze’? I think we’ll work ERP style towards that. Absolutely serious, uh-huh.

So for January how about we look at some different shades of ‘shoegaze’? And yes, everyone can debate whether these songs actually fall in to shoegaze. Having a dialogue is the fun part.

First Up: DIIV – ‘Taker’

This song is from their newest album ‘Deceiver’. It has a lot of what you might consider basic shoegaze elements. Trippy, heavily effected guitars. Heavily reverbed vocals mixed in more as an instrument than in front of or on top of the music. I really like the guitar sound. Especially as they sometimes pull it back to somewhat clean and then double down with a second even more distorted guitar. Drums are also fairly deep in the mix in parts of the song and more upfront in other parts. They keep the tempo at a nice ‘sludge’ pace, so you can sit back and let the sound wash over you. I recommend listening to the entire album as they do touch on a bunch of styles throughout.

Next Up: Angel Olsen – ‘New Love Cassette’

Most people would probably not consider this shoegaze. The song is built on electronic keyboard and samplers, but adds strings to the mix. The drums sound electronic, although I believe it was recorded with a live drummer. Vocals and drums are relatively upfront in the mix. I added it for a couple of reasons. It keeps the spacey, slow burn, drone sonics. The vocals are heavy with reverb and effects, yet still sound crisp in the mix. And I just like the feel. I read a review that described this song as a tune from a David Lynch movie. I think that’s a pretty good description.

Finally: Bedroom Eyes – ‘Wire’

We’ll conclude with the song ‘Wire’ from Boston band Bedroom Eyes. It’s on their 2019 album ‘Nerves’. I wanted to add this to have a more uptempo version of the shoegaze aesthetic. I think this song falls more classically in to the genre. Ringing and effect heavy guitars. Drum track more in the background. Vocals embedded deep in the mix. Vocally it’s more about voice as an instrument. You’d probably have to look up most of the lyrics to know what they are. But the feel and impact of the song shines through the haze.

Retro: My Bloody Valentine – ‘Only Shallow’

If we’re discussing shoegaze, it would be hard not to include My Bloody Valentine, especially the album Loveless. This band and album are a huge touchstone if you’re discussing shoegaze. Loveless came out in 1991. Honestly, the first time I heard it I was blown away. The sound is almost something you feel more than hear. The emotional tone is amazing. You know I love melancholia, and this song is dripping with it. The guitar sounds created using volume sustain, effects and a whammy bar (in a technique labeled ‘glide guitar’) were pretty revolutionary at the time. The whammy makes the guitar fluctuate sounding in tune and somewhat out of tune. Very tight drum sound for live drums. I’ve also read that it was recorded mostly in mono to make sure the guitars were upfront and smacked you right in the face. So strap on some headphones, light some candles and sit back and enjoy.

Messin With The Music Part 6 – Jeepster

Welcome to 2020. When this song was written that date was the realm of science fiction. We’d be living on other planets, have flying cars and could teleport. Yeah, well. T. Rex released Jeepster at the end of 1971. The song’s chords and structure are basically ‘blues’ oriented. But throw in a few pounds of ‘glam’ and the song turns more psychedelic. Songs from that era are just so much fun to mess with. I think it’s how ‘loose’ they are. If you listen to the original there’s a drum beat intro, which starts at about 88 bpm. By the time we’re rolling in the first verse, it’s at about 95 bpm and it fluctuates throughout the song. It gives the song personality and makes it feel alive.

We stuck with the Messin’ recording rules to keep the live feel. The overall idea was to have the instruments doing intersecting ‘riffs’ with the vocals sort of floating on top. So instrumentally we have: six string banjo to carry the main riff, played twice for the stereo effect; twelve string guitar; two mandolin parts; fretless bass; five string banjo for fills and acoustic slide guitar. We have two different tracks for the vocal. One vocal track was spawned by our discussion of working on a Prince song in the future (‘how would Prince sing Jeepster?’) So instead of one vocal track being the ‘main’ track, we blended two together. More tracks also allowed better options to pan the tracks for stereo which allows you to hear the separate parts easier (and it’s fun for headphones).

So here’s Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs covering T.Rex’s ‘Jeepster’.

Wave Goodbye 2019

So we’re at the end of another year. Seemed much longer than a year. As always there was good and bad; ugly and beautiful. This was a year when I decided to consciously cut back on the ‘noise’. All the stuff swirling around that destroys creativity. Sooo……Newspaper – dropped. Cable TV – dropped. Staring at phone feeds – ehhhh…..work in progress, but improved. Have a basic idea of what’s what without drowning in it. There’s so much to do musically and with the site, and I needed some energy to work on it.

So my wife Lorena and I ventured to the national parks to do some hiking and photography. Two weeks in the parks works better than years of meds or therapy for me.

Glacier National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Grand Teton National Park

I even got to work on my ‘dislike’ of heights. Seems if you add jaw dropping views, my brain tends to ignore the height.

Highline Trail – Glacier National Park.
Highline Trail – Glacier National Park.
Grinnell Glacier Trail – Glacier N.P.

So when we returned at the end of September, I got back to work. Three features that were started – ‘Grapevine’, ‘In The Studio’ and ‘Messin’ With The Music’ will continue in to 2020. We’ll see what else we come up with. There are a bunch of new Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs original songs in the works. We may even get a new tune from Steaming Mulch. And we’d like to get more eyes and ears on ChurchHouse Productions. More contact with like minded folk (hint – tell your friends).

So ends our yearly update. Hope your 2019 was great and your 2020 will be better.

Bonnie of Velvet Wrinkle Wreckerds

December Grapevine

December in the Northeast. Daily weather report: cloudy with a chance of more cloudy ending in rain.

The Kids – Mesmerized by an unusual sunny day

So we need new music to listen to. Again, in another interesting coincidence I came across a style of music I hadn’t really listened to before in two different magazines (one was not even a music magazine). It’s often known as ‘desert blues’ and is associated with the Tuareg people of northern Africa. Think of combining blues music with African drumming and time signatures. I’ve included a couple of examples. And of course we also have……..other stuff.

First Up: Tinariwan – ‘Kel Tinawen’

This song is from their recent album ‘Amajdar’. A lot to love here. First, the majority of this album was recorded live. In the middle of the desert. Using a mobile studio in a camper van. The video has some great clips from the recording. The rhythm underpinning of the song is absolutely hypnotic. All the instruments flow through the song – almost like listening to a waterfall. The first song I listened to put me in a trance and I ended up spending the night on my tablet listening to song after song. You can feel the blues in the song’s vocals. It’s so strong language doesn’t matter.

Next: Mdou Moctor – ‘Tarhatazed’

Mdou Moctor has a bit more familiar blues sound. The band’s instrumental makeup is kit drums, guitars and bass. Again, what sets it apart for me is the rhythm. A lot of 4/4 blues is stomp (and I do love a good headbanger). This just flows. I wanted to show a live video for this band. The lead guitar by Moctar is amazing. On top of the hypnotic flow is absolute shredding. I’d rather hand play guitar than use a pick, so watching him hand blaze through notes was cool. Supersonic index finger. And since it’s live performance, no overdubs or punch-ins, just nailing it. Watch the whole video. About half way through they push up the tempo and really roll. So delighted.

Finally: Bodega – ‘Truth’

What’s a good ‘chaser’ for hypnotic trance? Sharp, angular new wave. This takes me back to the early days of ‘punk’ or ‘new wave’ (or whatever you wish to call it). Bands like Television, Wire, Talking Heads. An insistent, rolling drum line. Crispy guitar lines that cut though the mix. Listen to the lyrics – the joyful snap of a great sarcastic observation. Sing along with middle finger held high. A lot of people found the great part of ‘punk’ – the primal scream of singing along to bands like The Clash. Guess what – it’s still out there if you want to find it. Pull up the lyrics to ‘Truth’ and shout along.

Retro: Sly And The Family Stone – ‘Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)’

This song (and band) pulled me body and soul in to the joy of funk along with performers like James Brown, Parliament Funkadelic, The Meters and Prince. It also made me pick up bass guitar. Spent hours trying to get the feel of players like Larry Graham, James Jamerson, Bootsy Collins and Victor Wooten. Playing bass let my turn off my brain and listen to my body. Sit back and enjoy the slap and pop on this song.

Messin With The Music Part 5 – Novocaine For The Soul

Greetings. We’re back with another tune to be messed with. This time we’re honoring ‘Novocaine For The Soul’ by Eels. This was a fun song to work with. I really enjoy the anthemic, sing along nature of the song. Again, we stayed basically acoustic except for the bass guitar. The song has 12 string guitar, bass, mandolin, six string banjo and a little percussion with tambourine and egg shaker.

To give a wider, stereo feel the 12 string guitar foundation track was played twice and panned hard stereo left and right. I think giving a track a wide stereo sound is important and playing a duplicate instrument track is a great way to do it. The two tracks can be very similar, but will almost never be identical (unless you force that with computer manipulation) so you hear each track distinctly from each channel. We worked the same concept with the vocal tracks, recording the main vocal twice and adding two harmony tracks.

Another thing that made this song interesting was the key. We don’t usually change the song from the original key. Specific keys do give songs a certain feel. Major key versus minor key or in this case having the song in D flat instead of D. In the original song they did this by using capos on the guitars. We ended up down tuning the 12 string guitar a half note and transposing the chords so the guitar could be played in first position for a fuller, richer sound. A capo was used on the 6 string banjo. We also added a second mandolin track that acts as a ‘voice’, along the lines of playing a guitar lead.

We may not have said this before, but all the Messin’ songs are played by Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs. You can find these songs and the band’s original music on our SoundCloud account (we have links on this site). We’re also slowly adding all the band’s songs to our YouTube channel (here’s a link to our YouTube channel): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0vVN4p_KzvLg1DEuUSJoqw

This is the season for sharing. So please share our songs and videos with your friends. Add them to your Facebook feeds. Become a follower of our blog. Email us with questions or comments. We really appreciate your support.

In The Studio – Episode 8

Welcome to Episode 8 in the ‘In The Studio’ series. Today’s topic is how to create mixing options for yourself during the recording process. A couple things to add about the process in the video. In the video the guitar sounds you hear have not been EQ’d on the mixing board. You can magnify the differences in sound by tweaking the EQ on each microphone using the mixing board. You can also add more diversity by adding effects units in the line between the guitar and amp (this will make more sense after you watch the video). As always if you have any questions or ideas, let us know.

An Evening With Reverend Peyton

Finally. Thursday night at the Sellersville Theater I got to see Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. We’ve done several posts on them, first back around 2010 when ‘The Wages’ album came out. It’s been a long wait for a live show that I could get to. Summation of the show: great music, great performance, non-stop energy, absolutely worth the wait and I’d go see them again if they were back tomorrow. Crazy full live sound for a band with only one melodic instrument. This is the type of music I’ve really fallen in love with. Rev Peyton’s set up is simple – a guitar goes to an amp. No pedals, or extra electronics added. He plays mostly vintage guitars. Then you add Breezy Peyton on the washboard and Max Senteney on a small drum kit and make an amazingly full sound. They added a little more at the end of the show by having opening act J.D. Wilkes join them on butt kicking harmonica.

And they’re the kind of act you have to see live, especially at a more intimate venue. Loads of fun and personality. Audience participation requested and required. Non stop energy throughout the show. A good time is had by all. Stripping away instrumentation and effects makes it feel raw. It’s the total opposite of computer perfect songs and for me that makes the music feel alive. Blues you can head bang to. The Rev goes though multiple guitars from vintage resonators to three string cigar box, often switching guitars during songs.

Some photos:

I don’t really do phone videos when I’m at shows. I’m adding a couple of live videos that have much better quality than I would get. They’re two songs I really like, ‘Clap Your Hands’ and ‘Front Porch Trained’.

If you ever have the opportunity to see Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band live, grab a ticket when you can. You won’t be disappointed. I’d also say if you find a band you love, support them. Go to the shows, buy some CDs and merch (the Rev has some cool T-shirts). This band plays about 250 shows a year without a big label record contract. And puts out total energy each show. This is the kind of band that deserves support.

November Grapevine

I’m finding that sometimes the monthly grapevine songs fall in to a similar theme or style. I don’t know if it’s due to the mood I’m in, the weather, or just sheer luck. That seems to have happened this month. Or it could be my imagination………..or the voices……….ummmmmmm…… sorry got off track there (feel free to comment on similarities you see). Anyway, off we go…

First Up:

Saron Van Etten – ‘Memorial Day’

Nothing cheers me up more on a cold, rainy day than a good drone. Yes, I’m serious. I like the simple drums. The drone buzz here is carried by the fuzzed out bass. The keyboards have their own repeating rifts with a nice piece of droning noise in the background. The vocals play off of this, floating on top. And you get to see how it’s generated live. Always cool to visually see how parts go together. Putting all the relatively simple pieces together in their own little orbits makes the sound mesmerizing.

Next up:

The Willows – ‘False Light’

I liked the mix of sounds on this one. It’s built on a ‘folk’ feel. But it has the electric guitar layering in the background with a lot of sustain and reverb as well as a more standard drum kit. Although not truly a ‘live’ video, you do get shots of matched performance footage so you can see what/how people are playing. I like the banjo player playing it more like a guitar with a regular guitar pick style. Banjo is often thought of only in terms of bluegrass and it’s interesting seeing it put to different use.

Finally:

Baskery – ‘Wanna Tattoo’

So we have another video of what I call ‘matched performance’ playing along to the recorded song. I really liked the song when I first heard it. I’ve been in to good ol’ swampy blues music from Creedence Clearwater Revival, though The Gun Club and The Immortal Lee County Killers. So this simple, buzzy thump caught my ear. Then I saw this video. Now it’s even more fun. Fuzz on the double bass! Floor pedaled kick and snare! A six string banjo with distortion and slide (while playing the foot drums)! Recording wise, just enough reverb on the vocals and all the instruments are crystal clear. Now that’s a party.

Adding some retro:

Echo And The Bunnymen – ‘All That Jazz’

Sometimes I’m listening to an album I’ve heard a million times before and I have that little flashback of why I loved it in the first place and why it still sounds great. This song is from Echo And The Bunnymen’s first album ‘Crocodiles’. Starting with simple riffed bass and drums with vocals, it explodes in to heavily trebled guitar, drops back down and starts all over again. The vocals match the intensity of the parts being played. I did a lot of recording where I was working for that whip crack snare sound. Even the bass has a good amount of attack on it. All the components have their own clear space in the mix. This album will never grow old for me.

Messin’ With The Music Part 4 – Ballroom Blitz

So it’s time to throw another tune on the fire. We kept the same setup for this endeavor: same mic through the same pre-amp and compressor right in to the board – do the tracks straight through. To do what we wanted to with this song, we did add a few more tracks. So as you listen you’ll hear: 12 string guitar, 2 mandolin tracks, six string banjo (‘banjitar’ if you must), 5 string banjo, bass, washboard, tambourine, and cajon. We wanted to keep the fun feel so we tracked a bunch of vocals.

Soooooo………what does that give you? Our version of ‘Ballroom Blitz’ by The Sweet. I always thought the idea of Glam was over the top fun. Absolutely, wonderfully ridiculous. (If by some weird space/time issue you haven’t heard the original you must check it out). Hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed making it.

You can listen here on SoundCloud too: