For today’s post we’re Messin with another song for you. This time we’re taking on ‘Shout’ by Tears For Fears. The song first came out in 1984 on Tears For Fears second album, Songs From The Big Chair. It became one of the most popular and recognizable songs of that era of music. One of the best fist in the air, sing along choruses you’ll find. As I’ve said before we always pick songs we like to cover. I don’t think you can do an interesting cover unless you have some type of love for the song you’re working with. But you also have to be able to do something different and interesting with the tune. For ERP I don’t see the point of trying to do a note for note copy of a song. Who wants to do a ‘not as good’ exact copy of a song you love.
For ‘Shout’ it was easy to do something different. The song has a pretty ‘electronic’ sound to it, along with the drive from a full drum kit. So turning it acoustic gave it us a lot of choices. The basic foundation of the song was built on twelve string acoustic guitar. We did two tracks of that and panned them to opposite stereo channels. The other thing that gives these guitars some push and pull is that they are not completely identical throughout the song. If you’re wondering about how song arrangements are created, this technique is something to keep in mind. Before there were large multi track studios, you had to really think about how to place tracks in the song. If you listen to some Hendrix songs you’ll hear drums in one channel only and guitar or bass only in the opposite channel.
So for ‘Shout’ we used the two takes of twelve string guitar, mandolin, banjo and bass. There’s also some acoustic slide guitar and a second mandolin in the instrumental parts. For rhythm we used tambourine, washboard, wood block (the wood version of ‘More Cowbell’), egg shaker and a rattler that sounds a bit rain stick. We did four tracks of vocals, two for the verse and two for the chorus. The point is to highlight the vocals and lyrics. This was a one mic recording. We used the new ribbon mic for everything (see In The Studio – Microphone Basics). I’m pretty happy with the results.
Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs cover ‘Shout’ by Tears For Fears:
Summer is in full swing. Consoling myself for having to cancel our September National Parks trip (very depressing; once again, thanks Covid) by trying to delve deeper in to some different music. We’re re-watching Ken Burns great country music documentary. If you’re in to music and haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. You may not think you’re in to ‘country’ music, but if you watch the doc you’ll find so many influences for every type of music that has followed. It also shows the progression of how music recording developed. Early recording was live, raw, and, to me, the most emotional and ‘real’. Like all other genres, the recording lost me a little when all the edges were smoothed out and became more ‘corporate product’. But the ‘good stuff’ was always lurking in the background and all you have to do to find it is look a little deeper. This concept can really be applied to most genres of music. Let’s look a little deeper in to our lineup for this month.
First Up: Tall Tall Trees – ‘A Wave Of Golden Things’
As discussed in previous Grapevines, there’s many ways a song can touch you. The first thing that hits me in this song is the mood. The song strikes me emotionally before I even start to listen to the various instruments and production. I’m a sucker for melancholy. And melancholy does not necessarily mean ‘sad’. It’s a combination of lyrics, melody, music and delivery. If you’re a song writer, you find that’s not easy to do. Some beautiful lyric lines – “cuz you could warm the darkest hue the sun it came and knelt for you”. Then you have to hit the right melody notes. The music perfectly compliments the vocals. Sparse percussion topped with piano and keyboard. The bass line (sometimes played on the piano) anchors the song and provides a deep bottom end. Some nice background effects and vocals add mood. The cherry on top is a beautiful video which plays perfectly with the song. Watching the video helps you travel the path the song lays out, starting dark and lonely and ending up with a feeling of hope, even happiness.
Next Up: Lettuce – ‘House Of Lett’
So let’s take a listen to something completely different from our first tune. Lettuce is a funk band that originally formed in 1992. They started playing together after meeting while at the Berklee College of Music. Musically you can really hear their influences – 60’s, 70’s and 80’s funk/jazz bands. I’ve always had a love for this genre of music and it lead to me taking up bass guitar in the 80’s. There’s nothing better than finding the pocket playing bass on a good funk groove. If you break the song down and listen to all the separate instruments you can tell how technically accomplished all the members of this band are. To start try to hone in on just the drums and bass. This is the foundation of the song and allows the other musicians to break out individually on top of their groove. Great bass tone – very easy to pick out but not too ‘poppy’ or overpowering. The horns carry most of the melodic feel of the song. As with most good funk tunes, the song will break down to it’s simplest parts and build back up again. As with most good funk bands, Lettuce knows the importance of changes in dynamics during a song. I may be adding this album to my ‘bass play along’ collection.
Finally: The Heavy Eyes – ‘Late Night’
Let’s make one more hard turn for our final song. A little bit of sludge/stoner rock to complete our trio. There’s a number of things I like about ‘Late Night’. The mix is really well done to accentuate the different instruments. It starts with simple background percussion and a fuzzy, fuzzy guitar part. The interesting part of the mix is that they place this first fuzz guitar strictly in the left channel. Crisp drums are placed in the center with a second fuzz guitar coming in and out of the mix at different parts in the right channel. Another part of the mix I like is that the vocals are clear and out front where many bands recording this style of music will bury the vocals in the mix and drown them in reverb. Something that separates this song from others in the genre is the amount of open space they allow in the mix. I think the feel of open space makes each part more powerful when it enters the mix. This concept of dynamics is something they have in common with the funk of Lettuce. It shows how important some open space in both the writing of a song and in the recording.
Retro: R.E.M. – ‘Pilgrimage’
This song is from R.E.M.’s first album ‘Murmur’. I’ve listened to this album a few times recently and I’m always amazed at the depth of song writing for a band’s first album. There’s not a bad cut on it and there are a number of songs that are absolutely stunning. The album had the great first single ‘Radio Free Europe’. ‘Pilgrimage’ was the second cut and just blew me away. The song structure and mix are remarkable, especially for a band just starting out. It starts with the quiet background intro in to a kick drum driven guitar and bass riff. The build to the chorus and the vocal harmonies in the chorus are amazing. The chorus contains background ‘ahhhs’ as well the call and response harmonies. Dynamics play a big part in this song too. Change in dynamics may well be the theme for this month. The build to the chorus brings chills. Not many bands pull this off. R.E.M. is one of the few bands that lived up to the promise of their first album and maintained this quality of song writing throughout their career.
Our love of doing covers of our favorite songs isn’t new. We were messin’ with songs long before we started the current ‘Messin’ With The Music’ series. I thought I’d dust off one of my favorites for people who may not have seen it when we first put it out. Joy Division was a band that always had special meaning for me from the first time I heard them in the ‘punk’ era. Everything about them was different, from playing style, song structure, vocals and the way the instruments were used. Lyrics that had more depth and feeling than most. We went with ‘Isolation’ because of it’s great rhythm and bass line. Joy Division’s version used synths. We decided to do ours with guitar. The instrumental break sounds like a keyboard but is actually a fretless bass played through a bunch of guitar pedals. The mix and mastering worked out the way we wanted. We also were really happy with how the video turned out. I’m still happy every time I watch it.
So, from the vaults, Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs cover Joy Division’s ‘Isolation’:
This episode of In The Studio describes the basics of microphone functions and the different types of microphones. As with most episodes of In The Studio, I’ve tried to keep this from being overly technical. Since there are literally thousands of YouTube videos and blogs that are made for tech heads, I wanted to put out content for people who may not be deep in to the subject, but are interested in how recording studios work. So this video is set up like a conversation between me and you. This video is straight from the camera without editing software. As always, please feel free to comment or ask questions – discussion is always welcome.
Welcome to another entry in our Messin With The Music series. The recording of this song comes with an interesting history. ‘How Many More Times’ is a Led Zeppelin classic from their first album. It is also the first song we actually recorded for the series. Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs, like most bands, has gone through a number of band member changes. We had spent a lot of years always trying to have a full band together that was capable of playing live. Each time someone would leave or a new musician came in it’s practically like starting over. We had electronically released our ‘Celebrity Prostitution’ EP, staying with a garage rock, punk blues sound. This time we decided to just work on our own and concentrate on recording. The question became – what style of music should we do? On many sites or internet radio when you post a song you’re asked to pick a style of music it represents – usually from a drop down list. It’s difficult to categorize yourself. I’d much rather let someone else make that call. We’ve never stuck to a very specific style, although I guess you could put it generically under ‘rock’. So, just for fun, we decided to create a category and try to fit some music in to it. Thus was born Dark Americana Shoegaze. We wanted to work on figuring out instrumentation, arrangements and recording. We thought the best way to do this was to start by covering songs (although we do have a number of originals in various stages of completion). That way we could concentrate on aspects other than writing the song – and we’d get to play songs we already really liked.
We didn’t have any pre-conceived recording methods yet, other than keeping a ‘live’ feel – no autotune, no quantizing of drums or other instruments, no cut and paste of parts. With that in mind we got to work on ‘How Many More Times’. There was a lot of structural change to do. We certainly couldn’t copy Led Zeppelin’s eight minute and twenty eight second version. So we cut it down to a number of shortened verses, did a short piece to represent the long instrumental in the middle and another section for ‘The Hunter’. To keep the Dark Americana Shoegaze idea some verses are electric guitar based, some acoustic instrument based and some a combination. The vocal tracks tie all the different parts together. To get a big, full sound most of the instruments and vocals were multi tracked with multiple mics. If you listen you can hear a number of different electric guitar sounds, two bass lines and multiple banjo and mandolin tracks at different parts of the song. We stacked a lot of vocal tracks. When we finished recording we were looking at forty eight tracks. This was going to take a while to mix and master. We decided we wanted to get a song out quickly so we picked another song – ‘It’s Gonna Be A Long Night’ by Ween and moved to what became our more standard method to put it out quicker – one mic, one track for most instruments. That went well so we picked another song, then another, then another. ‘How Many More Times’ went on the back burner. When the pandemic put our recording on pause it seemed like a good time to finally put this song together. I will say that this is probably the ‘strangest’ cover we’ll ever put out, so it may be a ‘love/hate’ experience for listeners. Might do another Led Zeppelin tune in a bit more straight forward fashion in the future. It was certainly an interesting experience mixing it. So here it is. Hope you enjoy it. As always we encourage comments, feedback and suggestions.
It’s been a while since we did an In The Studio episode. We had some live performance ideas started, but as with much of our lives, that’s temporarily on hold. So I thought we might do some more episodes that simplify studio tech as we did with micing the snare drum. A good place to start would be with a quick overview of the studio. You’ll have to excuse some of the noise in the video – it’s literally live with me picking up the camera and moving around, no post recording editing. You know us – we love running it ‘live’. If you have any questions, comments or topics you’d like to see discussed in future episodes, let us know. So let’s get started……….
Below are some photos referenced in the video. This will give you an idea of how the main control room setup is changeable depending on the task. First two photos are of different mixing/mastering station setups.
A couple of photos of setups using the movable sound panels – Vocal booth and amp separation.
And finally a couple of photos of setups in the big room. All the mic signal goes back to the main control room in to the patch bay shown in the video.
June has arrived. We’re in to the middle of the year 2020. And everything is still weird. I guess we’re all just trying to make the best of what is turning out to be one of the strangest years I can remember. Part of me just wants it to be over. Fast forward to January 2021. But there’s no way to tell if things will be any better by then. And I’m too old to be willing to give up six months of my time. So thank goodness we still have access to music and art. I miss the energy of seeing bands live, but I still have the ability to search out and find new (and sometimes old) music that can lift the spirits or make you think. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what’s cooking this month.
First Up: Six Organs Of Admittance – ‘The 101’
One of the main thoughts constantly going through my head right now is “I wish I was……..”. I wish I was hiking the edge of a cliff, going to view a glacier. I wish I was on a deep forest trail. This song is ‘I wish I were on a two lane road, cruising up the California coast’. Route 101 runs up the west coast from Los Angeles, California to northern Washington. The song captures that windows down, cruising feel. Nice mix of acoustic and electric sounds. The acoustic repeating riffs create that trance like repetition with bursts of electric jam noise rolling in and out of the mix. The vocals are buried in the mix and maintain the trance inducing effect, like singing words to a song when you don’t really know the lyrics (yup – do that all the time). I also like the video. The idea of hauling my guitar rig in to deserted woods and jamming away (yeah, I know, no electricity – remember, this is ‘I wish’). Great shots of the strange and beautiful sights you see on that road. Roll down your windows and smoke ’em if ya got ’em.
Next Up: Fire In The Radio – ‘Tulare’
Tulare is a great example of classic indie rock. The mix is exactly what I would want in a song. Instruments and vocals all hold their own clearly audible place in the mix. The guitars have a nice buzz but are crisp and sharp. Perfect snap on the snare drum, high enough in the mix to drive everything forward without over powering it. Changes in dynamics pull you in to the song. The band said they were trying to create a feel of nostalgia with the song and video and I think they absolutely achieved their goal. The video mix of band performance and old video scenes are a perfect background for the song, enhancing the feel of nostalgia the song is trying to deliver. There are many ways to enjoy a song. The movement and sound of each instrument, the sonic kick of a well placed chord or a change in dynamics. But one of the best is the emotion a song can make you feel. ‘Tulare’ certainly delivers that emotion.
Finally: Smoke Fairies – ‘Disconnect’
We’ll finish up with Smoke Fairies ‘Disconnect’ from their album ‘Darkness Brings The Wonders Home’. It seems that I’ve put in three songs this month that all carry some emotional weight. In this song the emotion really comes to the front in the vocals and lyrics. They are put out in front of the musical elements of the song. The main vocal has a sad minor key feel and is presented in a lower register. The harmonies drift behind the main vocal. The music is carried by a guitar riff in the verses that turns to a more distorted chord pattern in the chorus. The drum sound in the back is pretty dry without a lot of reverb that would usually make the snare sound bigger. The main vocals are also relatively dry, which puts them more ‘in your face’. It was a good choice for this song. Little mixing choices like that are really important in making a song ‘feel’ a certain way. I think they made all the right choices in ‘Disconnect’.
Retro: X – ‘The Have Nots’
X has to be one the most underappreciated bands to come out of the punk era. They put out a string of consistently amazing albums beginning with their debut album ‘Los Angeles’ (note – X just released a new album with the original line up). They mixed punk with rockabilly, indie rock, Americana and variety of other genres to create an amazing sound. On top was the always strange and interesting vocal mix of Exene and John Doe, with lyrics that ran more towards beat poetry than punk screaming. I’ve always felt that Billy Zoom’s guitar playing was far above what you would hear in most rock bands, especially for bands that were put in to the ‘punk’ category. If you’ve ever worked at a job that was just a ‘job’ and remember surviving the day so you could meet your friends at the local dive, this song was written for you. Truth in lyrics = “Dawn comes soon enough for the working class. It keeps getting sooner or later. This is the game that moves as you play”.
We’re back with another ‘messed’ song for your enjoyment. There’s a bit of a story with this one. ‘Seven Nation Army’ was actually recorded before most of the other songs that have been posted. Recording these covers did start with one idea we have maintained with all the songs – recording the tracks straight through to keep it having a more ‘live’ feel. With this song we did what we often do with our own studio songs – record multiple tracks of each instrument for a more ‘full’ sound. So most of the instruments on ‘Seven Nation Army’ were tracked several times (although each separate track is recorded straight through). We also used multiple mics on the acoustic instruments, adding even more tracks.
This tune has twelve string guitar, mandolin, banjo and six string guitar. The percussion is the floor tom from our drum kit and a shaker. Each instrument was tracked several times (except the percussion). Two more mandolin parts were added in the one instrumental section as a ‘lead’ instrument. When we finished recording I realized it would take a while to mix correctly so we decided to record another song without all the multi tracking and multiple mics. And when we finished that song we thought of another, then another……… So it took quite a while to get back to mixing ‘Seven Nation Army’.
As we continue messin’ with songs I’m sure more electric instrumentation while come in to play along with a bunch of other ideas. As always, hit us up with comments and questions if you have any. Hope you enjoy.
Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs play The White Stripes ‘Seven Nation Army’:
Welcome back to another Grapevine recent listening post. Like most cautious people we’ve been hunkered down in our houses as much as possible trying to ride out the storm. And like most people that cuts us off from some things we’d like to do. We have a number of new ‘Messin’ songs and other videos and tunes that are almost completed and we’d like to finish. But our families come first and we’re taking no chances so we do what we can through the internet and the rest will be completed when the time is right. For all our readers please stay safe.
So let’s see what we have for this month. I got to listen to a number of bands I haven’t heard before (along with some I have) and these are the ones that stuck with me the most.
First Up: The Haden Triplets – ‘Memories Of Will Rogers’
This song is from their recent album The Family Songbook. This is another instance where I would recommend listening to the whole album. The sister’s musical background is really interesting. Their father is well known jazz bass player Charlie Haden who played with Ornette Coleman and others. Their grandfather was Carl Haden whose Haden Family Band played with The Carter Family and other ‘backwoods’ country bands of the time. Quite a legacy to live up to. This album covers songs from that older era, many of them with spare instrumentation and beautiful three part harmony. I selected ‘Memories Of Will Rogers’ for it’s fuller band sound and the fact that it brings back memories of late 60’s, early 70’s country rock. Listen for the vocals flowing behind the slide guitar on the break.
Next Up: Sonny Landreth – ‘Mule’
The first reason I selected this tune is simply the absolutely awesome slide guitar. Landreth is one of the best and has some unique techniques like fretting chords and notes with his other left hand fingers behind the slide and really crisp right hand finger playing work, sometimes tapping and often using a thumb pick. So smooth. Landreth is from Louisiana and this song brings a New Orleans zydeco feel to the mix. The vocals are a great match for the song. If you listen there are some other cool instrumental parts in the mix like the organ after the lead break and a great accordion part at the end. Couldn’t stop tapping my feet.
Finally: Mush – ‘Alternative Facts’
This song would have been right at home during the mid to late 80s post punk era. Think in terms of bands like Wire, Television and Pavement. Crisp, stinging guitar share the spotlight with the spoken/sung vocals. Some twisted, gnarly guitar runs come in and out as the song progresses. Several times the guitars feel like they’re about to fall apart towards a song ending. Nope. Everything just cranks back up again. The song even has a nice dynamic change where the guitars drop out and the vocals are centered. At the 7:00 minute mark everything stops. But they’re just kidding – there’s more slamming guitar to be had.
Retro: Blue Oyster Cult – ‘I’m On The Lamb But I Ain’t No Sheep’
Here’s this month’s look in the rear view mirror. I’ve always loved Blue Oyster Cult. Never could figure out why they weren’t a bigger band than they were. This song is from their first album which I still play along to when I want some guitar finger exercise. Of course there’s the sterling guitar work of Buck Dharma. But everyone in this band could bring it. Check out the drum work. Not just straight with fills but intricate work through out the song that doesn’t stomp all over the song itself. The song title is classic. And lyrics about the Canadian Mounties? Gotta have some fun. The band was from Long Island NY and even mixed in with the punk crowd – Patti Smith wrote lyrics for several of their songs. Finally, listen to the riff and tempo change at the end of the song. The band actually took this riff and reworked it more up tempo on their second album and called it ‘The Red And The Black’. Awesome.
April is the month most people see as the start of spring. You know “April showers bring May flowers”. As has become the weather ‘custom’ in our area, April is just, well, weird. It’s 70 on Monday, it’s 45 on Tuesday, possible tornadoes on Wednesday, out cutting the grass on Thursday. And we’re still staying in. There’s a million things I want to do yet with my life, so no chances are being taken. Fortunately our access to music while stuck at home is almost limitless. On the internet you can start with one song, then decide how far down the rabbit hole you want to go. Here’s a few different entry points you may want to try.
First Up: Ghost Funk Orchestra – ‘Seven Eight’
So what musical ‘category’ does Ghost Funk Orchestra fall in to? The fact that you can ask that question is one of the reasons I like this band. The way all the separate instruments have their own little riffs that weave in and out of the song makes analyzing how this song was put together really interesting. I chose the live video version of this song because you can actually see all the players and instruments and what each of them is doing. It’s also pretty cool how all of them are crammed in that little room and still keep all the pieces tight yet separated. That many different instruments could easily turn a song in to a big ball of mush, but GFO pulls off something that is both snappy and smooth without missing a beat.
Next Up: Old Crow Medicine Show – ‘Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer – Live At The Ryman’
Old Crow Medicine Show has been around for quite a while, since the late 1990’s. They have some well known songs (Wagon Wheel) and have been at the forefront of the Americana movement for quite a while. Their music is a great combination of ‘old time’ sounds mixed with the raw edginess of more modern Americana, Folk and Country. The song is a few years old, but the band just released a ‘Live At The Ryman’ album so I wanted to put this version in. Why? Live. At. The. Ryman. I’d love to be dancing in the aisles during this show.
Finally: Psychedelic Porn Crumpets – ‘Cornflake’
So we’ll veer off in to different territory for the third song. How to catch someone’s attention as they’re reading through album reviews? Name your band Psychedelic Porn Crumpets. How could I see that and not pull up some songs? The song builds from fuzzy space guitar hooks to quieter interludes. Also has cool reverb swimming vocals, a nice change from some songs in this genre that rely on shouted vocals. I also liked the video. It fits in perfectly with the music: strange, colorful and mesmerizing visuals. It’s always good to go from floating in space to banging your head in one song.
Retro: Supersuckers – ‘The Evil Powers Of Rock N’ Roll’
So I think it’s a great idea when cooped up indoors to end with a bang. Straight forward, high energy, butt kicking rock n’ roll. This album and song came out in 1999. I’d often play it while driving, although it would give me a tendency to drive a bit too fast and a strong desire to throw the bird at anyone that got in my way. So much fun to play jamming along with the record, or better yet play live with a band. It has the guitar sound I like – crispy crunch. And it ends with a strange slowed down death metal type sound. Classic.